GOD’s Radical Mastectomy
Recently, I found myself in conversation with a young woman who insisted that inclusive language for God is nothing more than political correctness that has been imposed upon the church by feminists. She insisted that because women have now achieved equality with men, the need for inclusive language for God has served its purpose and need no longer be of concern to worship leaders. I am grateful that my age afforded me the maturity not to explode on this young woman who can well afford her opinion as a direct result of some of the language battles that I and my contemporaries struggled to overcome while she was but knee high to a grasshopper. Our conversation has stuck with me and caused me to review some things that I wrote long ago about the impact our language has not only on our images of the Divine but on the way we live together in community. What follows is a portion of a piece I wrote about the disappearance of the Breasted One as a name for God.
“We believe in one God, the Father the Almighty… We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father… We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. In this God: “We believe” and “His kingdom will have no end!” God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our blessed Trinity. As we proclaim our faith in the words of the Nicene, Apostles’, or (heaven forbid) the Athanasian creeds we proclaim a particular image of the Triune God. For generations, a majority of Christians have assumed all three persons in this Trinity are male. Until recently this assumption has resulted in the exclusive use of male images, symbols and pronouns to represent the Triune God which Christians worship. God has been declared to be male. This is not an easy declaration to make. In order to make such a declaration, many of God’s attributes which are revealed in the biblical accounts have been eradicated from the Christian tradition.
Long before the Christian church began to formulate its exclusively male image of the triune God, the Hebrew people used several words to refer to God. The earliest of these words is “El” which is the generic Semitic word for a god.