Devotion Twenty Seven
We say ‘they’? I recently heard that there is a movement within Christianity to use the pronoun ‘they’ not only for groups of more than one and for transgender people, but, I learned, for God.
I have been thinking about this. We know that there are problems with using male pronouns for God. It undergirds and reinforces a patriarchal social model that treats women and others as less than. There are problems with using female pronouns for God. That excludes others, as well, though it may lean into the idea of more balance.
Some people have been adamant that the concept of God has no actual biological gender. God is neither gender. God is genderless. Then there are those who see God as both genders, incorporating the diversity of humanity. It has been accepted in many expressions of the church that using male pronouns for God is just linguistically convenient.
There are others, myself included, that want to see moving away from the anthropomorphizing of God. We want to move away from talking about God as a super human. So we may prefer no pronoun for God.
In the midst of all of these different perspectives on the pronoun and gender issue, apparently, the use of ‘they’ for God is emerging.
Well, what about ‘they’? It eliminates the use of exclusively masculine pronouns for God. It eliminates the use of feminine pronouns for God. It really eliminates a gender orientation for God because ‘they’ can be male and female and neither. We might use ‘they’ for a group of cars or trees. No gender implied. So ‘they’ incorporates all genders AND no gender.
It is also the pronoun preferred by people who are transgender, for some of the very reasons cited. I like the idea that a pronoun used for God is also associated with the transgender community. It connects people who are transgender more closely with the image of God.
‘They’ also moves away from the anthropomorphizing of God. ‘They’ can include animals and plants and mountains and seas. It can more closely associate God with all of creation not just humanity.
And there is another reason I like ‘they.” It’s Biblical. God is referred to in the plural in Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness. . .’” And that is what ‘they’ did according to the story!
Can we say ‘they’? As a pronoun for God? It is something to think about. It is something to try out. Something to experiment with. Is it something we can get used to? I think it is worth finding out! So don’t be surprised in church if we say ‘they’!
Lent is a time to expand our vision, to see more of the landscape around us and within us. I think that ‘they’ is a way for us to expand our concept of God and the community of life. Let us embrace the wildness of mercy and try saying ‘they.’
We know that we can never fully understand God, the concept, the word, the force. There is always mystery. Ancient teachings guide and inform us so that we can enter new territory in the geography of the spirit. Let us be willing to explore and experiment so that we may more fully experience the embrace of Love and our oneness with all of Creation. Amen.