Posted by: smstrouse | January 6, 2018

How Can We Dismantle Patriarchy and Still Call God Exclusively “He”?


17190893_10211025597129161_1724137338447503191_nIt’s time to march again! The 2018 Women’s Marches are fast approaching. Time to get to work on a new batch of pussy hats for the ongoing work of dismantling patriarchy in all its pernicious forms.   click here for a list of march locations

It’s also way past time to get to work on our language about God. Think that these are two separate topics? Think again.


When the only pronouns we use for God in church and in our own speech are male, what image do we convey? When we use only “Father” to name the Divine, what are we promoting?  C’mon, it’s so obvious; God is male. And the patriarchy that is inherent in much of our sacred texts is reinforced by our refusal to dismantle the patriarchy lodged in our church’s hymns, prayers, sermons, and everyday speech.

I began reading a recent article that wants to make the case for not dumbing down Christianity. OK, I’m for that. But then the author goes on to say:
“I have found that the more I learn about God, His Word and theology which describes Him, the more I can love and worship Him, because now there is that much more to adore and be amazed by. If my ability to worship God is a fire, learning more about Him only adds more wood to the blaze. After all, if you really loved God, wouldn’t you want to learn as much about Him as possible?”

At that point, I was gone. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not picking on this particular article. It was just the latest example that set me off.

I should say that I’m also not a big fan of exclusively female language for the Holy One. I prefer to use a variety of names. Years ago I came across a great list of Names of God put together by Ruth Duck – one of the best sources for this kind of work. Some names she includes (and this is just a small sampling) are: Breath Within Our Breath, Poet-Creator, Bond Of Peace, Holy Fire, Creator Of All Time and Space, Holy of Holies, and Giver of Life. 

So when we wanted to include a new liturgical greeting in our worship service, I wrote:  The wonder of Divine Creativity, the Justice and Truth of Love Incarnate,
and the Wisdom of Breath Within Our Breath be with you all.

I have long said that words matter. The words we use in our worship service – and the theology that underpin them – matter. If we in the church are going to put on our pussy hats and fight the good fight of dismantling patriarchy, we have got to do it within our own domain.

Next post: rethinking hierarchical names, such as King and Lord.

Here are two of my previous posts on the subject:

Inclusive Language: Words Do Matter

Reimagining “Our Father”

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