Mystical Masculinity: The New Question Facing Women -- By: Faith Martin

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 12:1 (Winter 1998)
Article: Mystical Masculinity: The New Question Facing Women
Author: Faith Martin


Mystical Masculinity:
The New Question Facing Women

Faith Martin

Faith Martin was a founding board member of CBE and author of Call Me Blessed. Priscilla Papers, 6:4, Fall 1992

A few years ago I took a course entitled “Women in Religion” at a state university. The purpose of the course was to survey major world religions with regard to how they valued women. We started with the pagan religions and ended with Judaism and Christianity.

A significant feature of the pagan religions, we noted, was that all their deities had a sex. Most interestingly, the sexual identity of these gods and goddesses was not limited to their names or titles, but entered into their strengths and weaknesses and was mocked in their foibles. I could not help thinking how superior the Christian religion was.

So when class discussion arrived at Judaism, I was unprepared for the professor’s matter-of-fact statement that the Judeo-Christian deity was male. I protested, offering the explanation mat I had been taught since childhood: God is spirit; Gad’s being called “he” is simply a necessity of human languageonly abstractions are called “it.” The name “Father” is meant to communicate specific attributes of God and describes our relationship to himnot his sex.

My explanation fell on the ears of the professor as so much technical “inspeak.” She could hardly bear to hear me out. When I turned to my classmates for support, I found complete agreement with the professor. The Judeo-Christian deity was male.

I dropped my campaign at that point because the purpose of the class was to survey the position of women in various religions — not debate Christian theology. Furthermore, since most of the participants were either Jewish or Christian, their perception of their own religion was as valid as mine.

Culture vs. Revelation

Our culture is filled with illusions to God’s maleness. I couldn’t help but be familiar with the idea. Popular references to God most often imply a certain masculinity, but I had always interpreted them as playful anthropomorphisms, endearments meant to humanize God just enough so people can speak comfortably yet respectfully about him in secular circles. We all know who The Man Upstairs is meant to be.

Sylvia’s prayer in Children’s Letters to God is always good for a smile: “Dear God, Are boys better than girls? I know you are one, but try to be fair.” There is a genuineness to Sylvia’s prayer that forces the reader to mentally answer her. I had always supplied her with a bemused but tender parent gently explaining that God was neither male nor female. Now I had cause...

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