I’m coming out of the closet: I have decided to create God in my own image. Really, I have.
I’m going to call Her Godde. Godde is a white middle class woman. Or, in your case, Godde might be an African-Caribbean young woman, or a disabled elderly Latina.
Someone else’s God might be a 3-month old Asian boy with a congenital heart defect or even a white, middle-aged, middle-class man.
I’m absolutely, utterly serious. Here’s the deal.
Christian theology has long asserted that God has no gender and that God is neither male nor female. Yet, if we’re being honest, Western Christianity traditionally pictures God as a powerful white male who is not elderly but old enough to have power and influence and still be physically virile. The CEO of Exxon, perhaps.
Jesus, despite his ethnicity and cultural context, we have pictured as a younger version of the CEO-God. Of course, Jesus was certainly male. And we’ve also been happy to envisage him as white and powerful, a sort of up-and-coming CEO to God’s Chairman of the Board image.
So, if Jesus is divine and male then God must also be male. And Jesus called God his Father, so that must be the way that Jesus wanted all his followers forever after to refer to the first person of the Trinity, right?
British Methodism – I speak only for the tradition in which I was ordained rather than trying to speak for other traditions – affirms that every person is made in the image of God and that we each bear that image within us.
Bearing the Imago Dei does not mean that any one of us bears God’s complete image. Scripture tells us that God created both male and female in God’s image. Thus, woman is not a complete image of God. And man is not a complete image of God. But together we complement each other and bear something that is closer to the image of God than one gender or the other on its own.
Many conservative Christians are not only happy – but indeed eager – to point out this complementarity of gender when it suits their purposes.
So, tell me why tradition, and much of conservatism, insists that we must think of God as male and that we must conceive of the male human being as being a complete image of God and the female as representing no aspect of God whatsoever?
But here is why I am really creating Godde in my own image: because I realised that I have spent over 50 years not being able to get in touch with the Imago Dei in which I was created because “everyone knows” that God is a man.
Did I think that God is a man? No, I did not think that. Did I believe that God is a man? I didn’t believe that in my head, but I sure believed it in my heart and in my gut. God could not be part of me because God is not a woman. Even if I have “received the Holy Spirit” and the Spirit is in me, the Spirit is a man (not in Greek or Hebrew, but certainly in popular Western thought).
Of course, God is not black either. Or disabled. Or gay. Or transgendered. If you’re any of those things, you have to think that the Imago Dei inside you is a straight white male. A foreign invader. Not really part of you. You bear no image of the divinity. But if you are ready to confess to God your sin of being female, black, gay, disabled, or whatever, then God will be happy to put his “normal” corrective image within your field of vision, even though you will never be able to change the way you are.
So, I have decided to create Godde in my own image. And I hope that you too will create God/Godde in your own image in the same way. I’m not going to pretend any more that God is a powerful, white middle class male CEO. And if you don’t believe that either, maybe together we can begin to change the world one person at a time.