Sunday, April 3, 2005

Reflections on Mother Godde

First of all, a little parental brag--my 9 1/2 year old daughter sang with her youth choir in church today and she totally rocked. In a robed, Episcopalian way, I mean. Okay, "rocked" is kind of a weird word for it, but it's the first thing that comes to mind in attempting to describe the parental pride welling up inside me. She sings with a church youth choir, and I am already impressed that she is learning how to sing in "parts" (soprano, alto, etc.) which is something I didn't do until high school. But today there were only three girls present, and she was the only alto, so she effectively had her first "solo" for a couple lines. She got through it by thinking about her kitty-cat, she says. When it was over, she beamed at me, and I responded with a burst of silent but enthusiastic applause.

It's amazing to see how grown up she is getting to be--especially in contrast with the baby being baptized at today's service. Wow--has it been that long? Three different priests were in attendance, and each of them said a portion of the baptismal prayers/blessings. I found my attention riveted on the Associate Rector, Mother Rebecca, in her robes and very pregnant. I couldn't help smiling at this distinctly motherly image of God. I thought back to something I read by by Marcus Borg that has really stayed with me...

"...watching my wife in her role as an Episcopal priest distributing the bread of the Eucharist one Sunday morning. Among the people kneeling at the altar rail was a four-year-old girl, looking expectantly at my wife's face as she bent down to give her a piece of bread. My wife has a beautiful face and a wonderful smile.

As I watched the young girl, I suddenly wondered if my wife's face was filling her visual screen and being imprinted in her mind as an image of God, much as the face of the male pastor from my childhood had been imprinted on mine And I was struck by the difference: an image of God as a male authority figure shaking his finger at us versus an image of God as a beautiful woman bending down to feed us."

I really love the way Borg expressed that--his thoughts about images of God as well as the obvious affection and pride when watching his wife "at work". More and more, I have been making a conscious effort to say "She" when talking about God. The moment at which this really became a conscious decision was one Sunday afternoon when I was driving through town and saw the Kerry/Edwards signs for the first time...the ones with the words "For a stronger America". I thought "Wow--that's just testosterone-y, isn't it?" And for me, well, just everything is connected--one thought leads to another and another. These big concepts of leadership and authority, whether we are talking about religion or politics, just sort of blur together for me. (Makes it hard for me to write a diary in any sort of linear fashion!) But it troubled me to see how much we have accepted that, of course, leadership of any kind has to be "male"...even to the point of defining Ultimate Reality as male.

And since everything we do or say starts ripples that can affect everything else, calling God "She" seemed as good a place to start as any.

At this point, I suppose I should explain my "misspelling" of God in the title of this diary. This is how Katy Scott explained it:

Dear _ and others who have not yet read my explanation for the spelling of Godde. Christian Feminist writers became very uncomfortable with the traditional God. It was understood in the present RCC/Christian environment that God=Male connotation. Now we all say we understand that God the Creator/Sustainer is a Spirit and has no sex, BUT we humans, being who WE ARE, through time "inferred" maleness to God. One of our common sins being our giving to Godde OUR human qualities and foibles (same as the Greek and Roman, etc. -- all the great Pantheons of gods throughout time) and not letting Godde be Godde, Mystery.

[ note: The acronym RCC refers to the Roman Catholic Church.]

So the Feminist writers introduced the word Godde: God for the "male characteristics" and de extending the meaning toward Goddess for the "female characteristics;" but wise women as they are, they stopped the spelling here.

I really like this spelling as the best I have read, Godde is inferred to be "not only male and/or female, but more -- open ended into eternal Mystery." To our eye when we read it, the spelling is "incomplete" just like our knowledge of Godde, who is Mystery, and who is more than male and female and all that our present theologies can describe.

Just some thoughts I wanted to start to share, as much of the world is focussing on the death of the "Holy Father". Being a mother has had a very important effect on the way I think about the One in Charge. One thing Demetrius and I discussed a while back, when we were both going to the Unitarian Universalist church in Columbus, was this whole notion of God as parent and faiths/nations as squabbling children. I know this isn't terribly original, and many other people have certainly expressed something similar, but the significant thing was that this was a shared "aha" moment between two people who had always thought about religious matters from very different perspectives.

Anyway, it went something like this. As parents of small children, it's not that we are "good" and they are "bad", but that we can understand some things that they just can't "get" from their own limited perspective. Our job is to care for them and guide them the best we know how. And at their stage in life (preschool/early elementary at the time), there was really nothing material we needed that they could give us. Sure, if they made us something with glitter and glue and paper, we would say thank you and gush about what a lovely thing they had done for us. But did we need it? No. (And I'm sure Demetrius would be happy to share with you his feelings on the subject of glitter.)

If you asked us, though, what we wanted more than anything from our kids was for them to just STOP FIGHTING FOR TEN FREAKING MINUTES!!

I imagine Mother Godde feeling much the same way--surely she appreciates the sentiments behind our glitter and glue creations (rituals, prayers, observances we follow) but she doesn't need them.

But, a few minutes of peace? Seeing her children interact with kindness and respect? Now that would be priceless!