Well, why not? Couldn’t God be a woman just as easily as a man? I think so. We’ve made God a male so we can have a pronoun to use when referring to “him.” We could, just as easily, refer to “her.”
The Hebrews gave us “Yahweh:” Third person singular of the verb to be: (Ehyeh) I am, (Yahweh) he, she, — is.”
So Yahweh could have been a “she.” The neighboring Egyptians had a female god, so did the Hittites, but the Hebrews were a warring nation and a male warrior fit in better with their imaginations. So they made Yahweh masculine, the better to lead them into horrible wars against their neighbors.
This divine masculinity tumbled down unchallenged through the centuries until we find the Jews and then the Christians calling God their “Father.” When the Trinity is designed, it becomes the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Didn’t anybody raise a hand and ask: “Hey! instead of God the Father, how about God the Mother?”
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There is a slight male-hiccup when the Wisdom Literature began in Israel. The words “wisdom” in Hebrew (Hokmah) and in Greek (Sophia) just happen to be feminine nouns, and when they start personifying wisdom in the book of Proverbs (8:22) she sounds a lot like a divine being, “formed before the earth began, before the mountains and the hills,” and full of feminine traits.
It’s all a matter of imagination, isn’t it? Whatever gender we want to imagine God to be, that’s who God becomes for us. But when we stop to consider what we’re doing, we realize that God cannot have either gender; genders are for humans. We “genderize” God because we’re trying to deal with or pray to an entity that is simply impossible to imagine without a gender. Genesis tells us that God made us in his image and likeness; but not by gender. The male writers of Genesis made God in their image and likeness: a man.
Over the centuries, billions of Catholics rebelled. Their imaginations simply didn’t work that way; they just could not relate too well to this male-oriented God, and while their all-male leaders set about to create an all-male clergy, Catholics turned to Mary, the Mother of God. Now nearly every country has its own Madonna: United States, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, South America, etc. There was a time a few years ago when simple peasants all over the world claimed they saw her in a vision. “Miracles,” were discovered through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God.
Of course, how could God refuse his own mother?
The Catholic bishops, and the pope himself, were very careful to say that Mary was not a God, but Catholics treated her (and still do) as close to a God as they can get. Besides the Mass, the most popular prayer any Catholic can pray is the Rosary. You’ve seen it — much like the Muslim prayer beads, and just as repetitious. “Hail Mary, full of grace,” etc., over and over 50 times. These are the words Luke (1:28) put on the lips of the Angel Gabriel when he announced to Mary that she was going to be the virgin mother of Jesus. And these are the words billions of Catholics use when they want to contact Mary’s “quasi-divinity.”
And look at the hundreds of Marian cathedrals. St. Mary Majors in Rome is consecrated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and the pope himself says Mass there on all the big Marian anniversaries; it’s huge — almost as large as St. Peter’s in the Vatican, and usually full of Catholics praying to the Mother of God.
And pilgrimages. There’s a Marian pilgrimage every year to over 61 shrines and basilicas sprinkled throughout the world. You’re familiar with Our Lady of Lourdes in France and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. But the most popular is Our Lady of Aparecida in Sao Paulo, Brazil. By 1999, they had welcomed 6.6 million pilgrims.
What does this say about “divine gender?” Nothing, really. We still don’t know a thing about God that indicates a gender. We can still refer to “him” if we want to, but it seems obvious that our imaginations creep — ever so gently — to that feminine, womanish, ladylike, mother-image of the person who loved us more than anyone else in the world.
Who is more God-like than our mothers?
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His blog is www.progressiveheretic.com.