A Male View of the Female Side of God

Author's note: My 90th birthday will be June 8, 2013. Should I call it a lifetime experience? I'm in pretty good shape. A retired Episcopal priest (ordained in 1955) I remain very active, spending quality timel offering spiritual direction to a fine mix of people and continuing my lifetime of writing. My ears perked up when the thought surfaced that I might write quite personally about a few crucial American religious moments in which I'd particiipated.

When editor Gloria Steinem invited a male to write a cover story for Ms. magazine, I was him. The story in the December 1974 edition was "Who's Afraid of Women Priests -- and Why Are They Afraid?"

I wrote that if any men harbor fear of possessing a female side, accepting a female side of God can be even more threatening. Yet the sheer maleness of God is an ongoing characteristic of Christian art ranging all the way from Michelangelo to Holllywood biblical cinema. In fact, we've not seen a depiction of deity that even suggested an Eleanor Roosevelt or Marian Anderson, a Dorothy Day or Barbara Jordan. There is a locked door here. Why is this unknown or forbidden territory?

I remember an evening in Indianapolis in 1958 when the Catholic Worker's saintly Dorothy Day was scheduled to be a guest speaker at the inner-city St. George's Episcopal Church where I was rector. It was a rainy, stormy night. Could we send a car to drive her to church? "No, thanks" Dorothy Day said. She preferred getting a seat on a bus.

How utterly typical this was of her. She knew her church history, too. Dorothy Day was more than aware how a female side of God and Christ, including refererences of it in various Gospel references, had been repressed for 2,000 years.

Jesus said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not?" (Matthew 23:37).

Jesus wept for Lazarus, related easily to women. On the cross he was neitlher an angry man nor a stoic. His male and female aspects were manifested simultaneously.

Today's church cannot speak effectively to society, especially its youth, as long as it maintains a caste system that denigrates women and denies the meanings of both baptismal and civil rights to anyone.