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Here’s another quote from “A God Who Looks Like Me” by Patricia Lynn Reilly. See the previous post for the first one.

The following insights inform our woman-affirming spirituality:

We have come to believe that the ultimate truth, wisdom, and mystery of the Universe is far deeper, higher, wider, and richer than any name or image we use to refer to it. We know now that every name and image has its limitations and must be held loosely. Mystery cannot be confined within a language.

We have come to believe that elevating only one image of the divine is idolatry. It limits the vast potential of our imaginations. We have looked squarely at the wounding of women as a result of the dominance of male God language. As we have begun to glimpse a God who looks like us, our healing has deepened. We are now free to choose which aspects of the God of our religious past we will weave into our unfolding spirituality. God the father has become one among many potentially healing images.

a god who looks - bookI’ve let this passage simmer in my mind for a few days. I love most of the ideas, especially the part about mystery being greater than any label. I also like calling an elevation of an image idolatry. However, if “elevating only one image of the divine” is idolatry, how is a movement to multiple images not idolatry, too? This is the problem I have with any gendered — any anthropomorphic — image. If the use of multiple images is not idolatry, it is at least misleading, in my opinion.

I should be clear at this point that I’m not trying to wrest anyone’s personal, meaningful metaphors away. It’s when we are attempting to educate, to advocate and stimulate growth, and to encourage maturation that I think we should lobby for moving beyond gender language. To say that the sacred may, at some time, FEEL like a mother or father or whatever, is one thing. To
teach that the divine actually possesses any anthropomorphic attribute is to encourage the latching-on to that attribute. Which is precisely what Patricia Lynn Reilly eloquently argues against when she writes that our images “must be held loosely.”

There is a fine line here that is easy to cross, and I’ve been lamenting the following for YEARS. See if this scenario sounds familiar: Someone is speaking about some theological and/or spiritual topic. They are questioned about the particular words they are using. They respond with something like, “Of course I don’t literally MEAN [such and such], but you know what I mean.” Well, piffle! (as my grandmother used to say) Why don’t you (we) just go ahead and USE THE WORDS THAT MEAN WHAT YOU’RE SAYING???

For a long time the Church has been teaching things, especially to children, that parents or the church have to reteach later saying, “Well, no, that wasn’t literally true.” Progressive Christianity will not ever be truly progressive as long as this happens.

What are your thoughts on all this? Make a comment!