Part I is here if you need it.
I happen to have been conditioned to think of God as male. I’m an attempt at Christian indoctrination, after all – an ongoing experiment in fumbling faith during an Age of Great and Terrible Reason. One of the first things you are asked to consider as a Christian is God’s gender, and there is a general consensus in the Christian faith about that… and so then: what kind of Christian are you going to be?
I have a hard time mentally dispelling the flowing, cosmically windswept beard of God – imprinted by the likes of Michelangelo and Gary Larson – though I have made an effort to give Him darker skin in my mind. This would fix some things I think; consider where in the world Jesus walked and it seems more plausible than not that his father was also not likely a very-white man. If we’re going to ascribe Human features one way or the other, I mean. Maybe God is colourless, or all of the colours, or maybe She or They or He is all-in-all fully see-through.
And maybe God has a gender, and maybe They don’t. I would love to know how Humanity would have fared if, all else being otherwise equal, some cheeky scribe had managed to switch all the He‘s and Him‘s into She‘s and Her‘s, just before the Bible went to press. Would women have called more of the shots while we were all growing up? Would a male God have minded if we got His gender wrong back then? Would a female God mind any more or less, if we had gotten it wrong all this time?
The printing press wasn’t to be seen for some time after the Bible stories were written down, so no number of renegade feminist scribes could have managed an eleventh-hour re-gendering of God anyway, and they would have most likely been burned or stoned or both for trying. The Bible is apparently written with a healthy dose of metaphor. It’s no great surprise a patriarchal society would produce Leading Men in their religion’s key roles (with some nice exceptions).
Part of this is English’s fault. I don’t know other languages, except for some French – which is even more obsessed with the gender of things – and some programming languages, which don’t support any notion of gender. If computers got together and discussed God, they wouldn’t have the language to wonder whether God was a He or She – God would just be this, at best – a process or environmental context. God’s gender would be irrelevant to their discourse. But it has not been at all irrelevant to ours. We are less rational than our machines.
I view God’s maleness the way I view Santa Claus: a good visual, nothing inherently wrong with it, until it gets co-opted for commercial purposes. I could never as a child bring myself to personally believe that Santa Claus could fit down a chimney and travel faster than light and eat all those cookies in such short order, and I also personally believe that God is probably both Male and Female – or else, our Mother is Mother Earth, and the Bible maybe just assumes we must know that, so that it need not state the embarrassingly obvious.
Maybe. That metaphor works for me too. Not that it’s about what works for me, but you know, it also kind of is.
Hey! I managed a part III to this series. That almost never happens…