GOD IS FEMALE
Essay
miriam berg
July 6, 1980

One of the salient facts about the theology of the Bible is that God is pictured as being exclusively male. This picturation has been generally uncommented upon and accepted virtually universally throughout Western culture, and is prevalent in Eastern religions as well. Males have for thousands of •ears held and been expected to hold the reins of power; women have been considered inferior, possessions, subordinate, consistent with the masculine image of God portrayed by nearly all religions. Even today most of us have been brought up with the sense that the power and the glory belong to men; the exceptional woman has been seen as an exception, inexplicable, but in no way challenging this sense of masculine superiority.

Now I am tempted to blurt out at once, NONSENSE! More distasteful epithets also corne to mind. And I think we are fortunate in our day in seeing a great rise of appreciation and acceptance of women as at least equal to men, victims of thousands of years of subjugation to males based on false premises. However I have corne to feel, and expressed myself so more than twenty years ago, that women are superior to men not merely equal. And here I am out to show that God herself is female, not male, that the images of God as male, as Father, as Lord, as Master, are false and misleading, that in fact the only true view of God is that of the feminine or female principle, and henceforth I shall call her She, I shall call her Mother, Lady, and Mistress.

She brings to birth all creatures, through time and natural process, not by arbitrary creation and supernatural intervention. She nurtures all creatures making the least of mothers violentl• defensive of her own, and the lesser creatures who never know their mothers amply provided with air, water, and sunlight. She imposes no rules, requires no obedience gives no commandments, but accepts all her creatures and creatednesses equally, the destroyer as well as the destroyed. She is like water, which benefits all beings and does not seek to control or exploit them. She is like the tree, which refuses not its shade to the axman at its root. She is like the rain and sun, which fall upon all alike, and do not require forms of worship or forced behavior. Verily, a female God is the only one capable of infinite compassion and love; a male God who wants everything his own way and punishes some and rewards others cannot ever be a God of unlimiited caring and forgiveness.

So there can be no doubt at the outset that the traditional picture of God as exclusively male is d1storted and incomplete, and that the female element is at least fifty per cent of the Great Spirit or Being of the Universe, as many of the Gnostic Gospels affirm. Nor is this strange or new. Have we not all been brought up to speak of Mother Nature of our earth as "she", of the Goddess Providence? But you ask, is not the masculine element equally fifty per cent of that same Great Being, must not the Godhead be considered as both male and female, as it were neither predominating, each participating in the great chain of life and ebb and flow and process of growth and change of the Universe? I answer, No, the male element is subservient to the female, the male exists to serve the female, it is the role of the male to give support to the female and not to dominate. To use a biological analogy, it is the female who bears and nurses new life, whereas the male protects and cherishes but does not bear or nurse.

Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas discovered in 1946 is reported to have said, For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew we are told, There are those who make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake; let him who can receive it, receive. Jesus' entourage included many women as well as men, and though Jesus is not reported to have designated any women as disciples he is reported to have spoken approvingly to Mary who sat at his feet to hear his words, and to have appeared first to Mary Magdalene, at least in John's account, and to have commended the woman or women who anointed him, proclaiming their love to be greater than that of others. But the question is, did Jesus say and what did he mean, that women must become male and.men must become "eunuchs"?

These paradoxical remarks may be contrasted with the writings of Lao Tse, the Chinese sage, who proclaimed that the Way was Female, and that the way to unite with the Way was to let the female element express itself in your life. Of course we may debate what this means and we may question the traditional dichotomies of masculine and feminine as Creative and Receptive, or aggressive and accepting, active and passive, and so on.  Surely women are just as active and assertive as men, though the society tries to teach them not to be, and men are just as capable of affection and devotion and unconditional acceptance as women though again the society encourages, even pushes them in the opposite direction. But even so, this stark characterization by Lao Tse must bring us up short, to consider again whether the emphasis upon male superiority is valid, and whether it makes any sense for Jesus to have said, the female must become male.

Although it may appear to be an aside, I would like to address this problem by examining one of the little known and seldom commented upon differences of expression of one of Jesus' statements. In Matthew we read:
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; nor is he that loveth son or daughter more than me. (Matt. 10:37)
But in Luke, this is expressed more harshly as:
If anyone cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Now did Jesus preach hate, or not? If we read Luke only we would have to conclude that he did, if we take everything in the Gospels literally. But Matthew's formulation shows us that Jesus was merely insisting that love of God was the supreme commandment, as he says elsewhere (Mark 12:29-31; Matt. 22:37-40), and was contrasting such love with familial love, which is a common experience for us all. He was saying The amount of love due to God is greater even than that you have for your parents or your children. This became distorted in the Lukan version, misreported and misrepresenting Jesus as having preached hate. But Luke's quotation here is inaccurate in the light of the other teachings of Jesus, and so we need not accept it verbatim. Nor need we be bothered by Jesus' referring to love of himself; his use of "me" can be clearly understood as meaning "Me", the great "I Am", the common Hebrew formulation for referring to God.

The point of this digression is to show that since the Gospels are translations, not only from Greek to English but from some previous form, Hebrew or Aramaic into Greek, we need to be wary of taking any words literally, particularly when they are paradoxical or jarring with other statements. Perhaps the most glaring example is the oft-mentioned "camel" going through the eye of a needle. As George Lamsa has pointed out, the Aramaic words for "camel" and "rope" differ only by a vowel mark, and ther'e was a Hebrew proverb regarding a thing being as "difficult as a rope going through the eye of a needle", so we can feel certain that Jesus meant and said "rope" and not "camel" when he was saying that entering the kingdom of God was as difficult as something going through the eye of a needle. Likewise we can wonder whether "eunuch" meant "castrated person" or perhaps simply "celibate" and whether "male" in the context of women becoming such meant simply being concerned with the ways of the world rather than only with the ways of the home and again whether "celibate" meant any more than that either. I am not enough of a Greek or Hebrew scholar to know or discover this, but it makes infinitely more sense than for Jesus to have been proclaiming male supremacy, especially since Jesus himself denounces such an attitude in his teachings of nurture, givingness, and forgivingness, and against seeking to be great.

So now we are back at the beginning of our investigation: if God 'is to be characterized in anthropomorphic terms as a being with thoughts and desires and personality is it He or She? I cannot accept God as male. As I have written elsewhere I cannot accept God in anthropomorphic terms at all, as any kind of supernatural superhuman with a personal relationship to each person or being. But if we are going to anthropomorphize God, it is a travesty to think of Her as Him. It is Mother Nature who has created uS; not a whitebearded man-thing snapping his fingers. It is the Goddess Providence who cares for us and sees that we have what we want and need and gives us fishes instead of serpents and bread instead of stones. It was some devil, some male devil, who led the Israelites on a rampage in the Middle East slaughtering women and children as we read in the Old Testament. It was some devil that has driven men to subjugate and exploit women over the centuries and treat them as chattels instead of people.

That same devil must have prompted Paul to deny women the right of speaking in the church and to order them to be totally submissive to their husbands as if men were God's chosen people. She was too wise, however; She gave women bottomless reserves of strength to endure. Why She allowed men to rape women, both literally and figuratively, I do not understand. But then, Her ways are mysterious and She lets creatures take their own course, even if it leads to their own destruction. Now it is time for women to refuse any longer to submit and for men to recognize their sins and the rightful superiority and importance of women. It is time for us all to recognize the essential feminnine nature of God. She will smile more beneficently upon us all when we treat each other in the same way She treats us, equally, with all the love a mother has for her children. As Lao Tse says, What we need, is to suck the breasts of our Mother Tao!

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             TWENTY-THIRD PSALM
 
     Lady's my Mistress, I'll not want
     She makes me down to lie
     In pastures green She leadeth me
     The quiet waters by.
 
     My soul She doth restore again
     And me to walk doth make
     Within the paths of blessedness
     E'en for Her own name's sake.
 
     Yea, though I walk through shadow'd vale
     Yet will I fear no ill;
     For She is with me, and Her rod
     And staff me comfort still.
 
     A table She prepareth. round
     In presence of my foes.
     My head with oil She doth anoint
     And my cup overflows.
 
     Goodness and mercy all my days
     Shall surely follow me.
     And in my Mother's house alway
     My dwelling place shall be.
 

(originally published under the name of John Fitz)