Sometimes I Need God to Be Male

Hugo Schwyzer doesn’t mind a gender-neutral God, but the last thing he wants is for people to think that only a female God can be nurturing and compassionate.

 In one of the first religious studies courses I took in college, the professor made a point that the God of the Bible is neither male nor female. We learned that to call the Lord, “He” misrepresented the original intent of the Torah, and that we’d be better off not using pronouns at all. If anything, my professor said, citing Genesis 5:1-2, God was both male and female—and more as well. After all, how could both men and women be made in God’s image if God didn’t have a feminine aspect?

A few years later, when I was auditing courses at the Graduate Theological Union and exploring a possible vocation to the priesthood (an idea that didn’t last long), I encountered feminist theology. I learned about God’s feminine aspect. For example, Hosea 13:8 describes God as a mother bear robbed of her cubs, while Jesus compares himself to a mother hen in Luke 13:34. I remember one of my classmates, a woman studying for ordination as an Episcopal priest, remarking that the more she studied Scripture, the more she realized that God was more female than male. “God is a nurturer,” she noted, “more like a mother than a father.”

While considering that career as a Catholic priest, I saw how the refusal to acknowledge the feminine aspect of God led to an intense devotion to Mary. The Virgin, I was told, was the tender intercessor who could plead for humanity to a more judgmental (or at the very least, less gentle) masculine God. The implication was clear: not only was God male, God’s masculinity was a barrier to empathy—hence the need for a woman to intercede to remind Him to go easy, like a mother pleading with her husband to lighten up on the discipline.


What I found frustrating was that the feminist theologians arguing for the primarily feminine aspect of God and the conservative Catholics wrapped in Marian devotion were essentially saying the same thing: maleness can’t be nurturing. My friend, the liberal Episcopalian, believed God was tender—and therefore female. My traditionalist Catholic buddies believed that a thoroughly masculine God had largely outsourced His compassion to Mary. Both ignored the obvious other possibility.

Of course, many people have excellent reasons to be put off by masculine language and imagery for God. For men and women who’ve had strained or abusive relationships with their own fathers, calling God, “Father,”doesn’t happen easily. For many straight Christian men, the romantic vocabulary of evangelical culture can also be off-putting. (One of the standard critiques of contemporary praise music is the ubiquitous “Jesus is my Boyfriend” theme in so many worship songs.) For people who have been wounded by father figures, or who struggle to imagine intimacy with a man, using exclusively male language for God can be a real barrier to spiritual connection.

But at the same time, we need to acknowledge the radical and simple truth that men can be as tender as women. A father can nurture his children with every bit as much love and devotion as their mother. A fully adult man doesn’t need women to intercede to remind him of his responsibility to be compassionate. But when our only vocabulary for gentleness is feminine, we don’t acknowledge men’s capacity to be gentle. And when we label every loving action of God as evidence of God’s femaleness, we miss the point that God’s male aspect is every bit as kind.

From both a spiritual and historical-grammatical standpoint, God is neither male nor female—and at the same time, both male and female. It’s vital that we listen to what feminist Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Wiccan theologians are saying about the feminine aspect of the divine. Yes, God is a mother figure. But that’s only half the story. The paradox is that God is also a father figure—just a very different kind of father than the one celebrated in Western culture.


We need to see that from a biblical perspective, God isn’t “being male” when he gets angry and “being female” when he weeps over human suffering. God is both when he does both. In that light, perhaps the rigid gender roles we prescribe in our culture aren’t God’s plan, but instead a man-made consequence of our inability to discern God’s intent for our lives. By embodying what are stereotypically male and female characteristics simultaneously, God just may be reminding us that we too are called to break out of the gender straitjacket.

In a world where so many men do abandon their responsibilities and where violence (almost) always wears a male face, there’s something revolutionary about acknowledging that a father figure can be forgiving, empathetic, gentle, and reliable. There’s also something equally significant about acknowledging that a mother figure can be a passionate, bold, relentless—even angry—advocate for justice. Anything less not only robs God of God’s full divinity, but robs us of our full potential as human beings.

I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the gender of God. But I do know that following God means moving beyond the confines of traditional, limiting roles. As a dad, I appreciate the reminder that papas can and should be every bit as tender and loving as mamas. And so sometimes, this professor of gender studies calls God “father.” Not because that’s all God is, but because those of us who are also daddies need a reminder of just how loving, passionate, and tender we are called to be.

About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website


  1. John Anderson says:

    “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other Gods before me.” If there is one God and two genders, one gender won’t be represented unless you look to the hermaphrodite. I grew up in the Roman Catholic tradition and God was always referred to as male. Even the sign of the cross started with in the name of the father, which referenced the God of the Old Testament.

    I understand that you’re a feminist and feminists routinely distort the truth, but unless you never said the Lord’s Prayer starting Our Father or unless you made the sign of the cross differently, you could only mistake God (at least in the Roman Catholic tradition, which it seems that you are claiming) for female by following blind feminist dogma.

  2. I don’t worship men, and I most certainly don’t worship a male god. I think we have had enough of little male gods running around, or male tryanny in the face of “male” being the norm of everything.
    Mary Daly said that god was a verb, and I really don’t see men as kind or compassionate at all, I see them as terrorists who need to get off the streets at night…. either that, or men get the other men off the streets. The male god is the very cornerstone of patriarchy, and as Mary Daly so famously said, “If the god is male the male is god.” So no, I never want to hear “he” used for god, and goddess will do fine by me. I don’t want to think of males in a worship of a divine being, because I believe men are the oppressors of women, and “he” just adds more fuel and disrupts my spiritual life. Nor do I want to worship with men either…. I think women need a male free spiritual zone to recover from 5000 years of male gods.

  3. Black Iris says:

    I think one reason women want to call God She is so that we can identify with her.

    I believe that God is something way beyond male or female, but for us limited humans we have to think of God as being more like us. So we need to say She or He sometimes. Different words will work better for each person, but a Church needs to try to use all of them and to be a place where people can feel comfortable using the words they like.

    I agree with your main point, though – we should try to talk about about God the He is loving and compassionate, not just powerful. The great spiritual teachers were like that.

  4. Hugo, interesting to see you write about this here. I’ve seen some of your spiritual writing on your website, but I’m happy to see it on GMP as well because I think you have an interesting voice to contribute. One of the problems that I have with some liberal theology is the “God is just my buddy” view, which seems rather belied by the horrific suffering experienced by essentially all creatures. And the view of somebody who merely nurtures my needs seems somehow…less holy. I have a personal relationship with God through Jesus and thus believe absolutely and totally in God’s tenderness and love and joy. I also believe in God’s wrath/anger and his holiness. I feel that many more liberal conceptions of God (particularly some feminist conceptions, e.g. Mary Grey’s), while very attuned to the connectedness between creator and creation (a stupendously important relationship, to be sure) sort of miss the sense of utter awe and a little fear in the face of the sacred. I appreciated your acknowledgment of a God who gets angry but is also loving. I hope to read some more of your spiritual writings on here.

  5. Anonymous Male says:

    The Judeo-Christian god, as generally portrayed, doesn’t have sex and will not reproduce sexually. It is a god without genitalia or hormones, so God is essentially sexless. I know sex and gender aren’t the same thing, but it seems to me if there’s no sexual identity at all there’s no real basis for an intrinsic gender identity. Seems more appropriate to refer to God as an “It.” Or, hell, make up a whole other pronoun that refers only to God.

    If everything that happens is part of God’s plan, and nothing happens that God doesn’t want to happen, I don’t know how the hell anyone would think that God is primarily nurturing. I have no problem with the argument that there’s an omnipotent being running the universe, or at least I admit I can’t disprove it. The idea that the being is completely rational, morally good, and loves people is another story. Unless we’re saying that “nurturing” includes abusive relationships….

    • Black Iris says:

      I’m not so sure about your first point. Genesis talks about man being created in God’s image, which would imply that God might have genitals and hormones. You could argue that what is meant that we are like God spiritually, but at least some people have interpreted it quite literally.

      Mark Twain has an interesting perspective on Heaven that you might want to check out.

      As for God as nurturing, not everyone believes that everything that happens is part of God’s plan, etc. If you believe in free will, then we have been given the ability to do bad things. Following God’s plan or not is a choice we make. Some people believe in the Devil and I assume that means they think God isn’t the only one pushing a plan, although maybe their views are more complicated.

      Thinking of it in terms of parenting actually makes sense to me here. A good parent eventually lets go. You stop your child from doing wrong, but someday they grow up and move out. They know what you think and if you did a good job, maybe they’ll remember it and try to be good because they love you, but you don’t follow them around keeping them in line.

      • Being created in God’s image isn’t about having male hormones or genitals. (Besides, “man” includes women.) Being created in God’s image means that we are capable of loving and giving and being co-partners in creation and in the stewardship of the earth. It means that we have free will to choose to act or not to act. God’s creation of the world was totally unnecessary, since God is defined as being perfect and self-sufficient. Creation was thus an act of free will, a choice to love and hopefully have that love returned. The God of Judeo-Christian tradition is not a remote and isolated God, but one of relationship. We show that we are created in God’s image when we too choose to love.

    • “It” won’t cut the mustard as a response to God, because the neuter pronoun makes God seem like an abstract, impersonal force, not one you can have a personal relationship with, or one that could be active and present in human history. “It” flies in the face of several millennia of Judeo-Christian tradition, at any rate.

      • Black Iris says:

        Yeah, I’ve never been able to refer to God as “it.”

        • I have no belief, however I like you both I find genderising an intelligent First-Cause odd. So instead of eg ‘he did’ or ‘she did’, I prefer to use the term ‘the Godhead did’

  6. wellokaythen says:

    I’m an agnostic. This whole debate about the gender of God makes me think that maybe polytheism is the way to go. With polytheism you also dodge the whole omnipotence/free will paradox.

    • Black Iris says:

      But then you have to deal with figuring out what to do when the different gods collide in what they want.

      Some Hindus say that all the different gods are really manifestations of one Godhead, so polytheism isn’t always polytheism. And then some monotheist religions have things that make them seem not so monotheist like believing in the Trinity or praying to saints.

      I think free will sort of solves the omnipotence/evil paradox. I give you free will so you can have a real life, but some of you abuse it.

  7. What people call “The Bible,” and the way that people have defined “God” have both been in a state of flux for thousands of years, changing over time. It’s hard to say what God was “originally” supposed to be thought of because most of the scriptures were written long after the events they are supposed to describe. Karen Armstrong, among others, describes some of the evolution of the concept of God in her biography of God. Sometimes He’s been a jolly companion, sometimes He’s been a vindictive asshole.

    If God exists as a unique omnipotent entity, then the gender doesn’t really matter. If there is only ONE of something, and there is nothing remotely like it, then why does the sex or gender matter? God’s not going to mate, presumably. (That does raise the issue of how God gets the Virgin Mary pregnant — does that require a male deity or not?) If there were only one brontosaurus in the world, would it really matter long-term if it were male or female?

    • Pretty sure if God can create the universe, he can figure out a way to impregnate a woman without a penis or sperm.

      Karen Armstrong’s work (at least in History of God, which is the only book of hers I read) is pretty weak, and shows a clear ideological bias away from the traditional Christianity which so bothered (and bothers) her. It’s interesting to note her obviously increasing sympathy moving from Christianity to Judaism to Islam, and how much more comfortable she clearly feels dismissing traditional Christian views out-of-hand while assuming that traditional Jewish and Islamic views are worthy of respect.

    • Karen Armstrong’s History of God was an interesting read, a fascinating new look at the God of the Bible. However, I remain convinced that it is not God Who changed, but man’s (mis)perception and (mis)understanding of God. The Bible was written over the course of many centuries, and during that time, people grappled with the great questions of existence in many different ways. There are kernels of spiritual wisdom and truth in the ancient texts, but we must interpret and apply them to our place and time. In short, we must answer the question Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do men say that I am?” We must decide for ourselves what our answer will be.

  8. Tom Matlack says:

    I have to admit that the idea that gender and faith are in any way related is hard for me to get my arms around. Perhaps we have to deal with it in terms of how prophets are thought of and their gender–Jesus, Buddha, etc–but my concept of god is far broader than the male/female dichotomy. When I am praying I really don’t much give a shit the gender of my higher power (gender is a human construct after all), I am really just trying to get in touch with the Devine inside me.

    • Tom, that’s really cool. I respect that. But do you think that maybe you imagine yourself praying to a male power, simply by default? Have you tried to imagine praying to a female higher power? How did that work out for you?

      I realize that the gender of the deity in this sense doesn’t matter. And that’s great that people say that. But it’s been my experience, as mentioned above, that those same people who say that the gender doesn’t matter can’t help but refer to god as “he” and when asked to refer to god as “she” they simply cannot do it–women have been a symbol of weakness for too long in the eyes of our collective cultures to imagine a divine being in charge of everything that is associated with feminine values; unless it is an entirely separate (and inferior) part of the deity that can be dealt with separately, and even sometimes called by a different name entirely. I’m just saying that these old constructs basically tell us man = power, woman = compassion. Just like Hugo says. It’s not accurate but at this point we’ve been believing it for so many years that it’s almost impossible to separate in our minds, even if we desperately want to.

      And as I also mentioned, I am open to the idea that I live in a completely different world than a lot of you, including Hugo. So you folks might have a different concept of christian or other religious psychology that I am not familure with. I am, after all, working within the confines of the bible belt.

      • BMF, I think that, yes, most of us are more comfortable using male pronouns when praying. This is particularly true when praying to Jesus who was actually a male. I don’t think this says any deeper truth about Christian theology; it just shows that habit is powerful in Christian practice. I would not challenge anyone who prayed to a female God(dess) and called themselves a Christian, assuming their beliefs were orthodox. But doing it myself seems odd. I suspect this is just habit.

    • Woops, sorry Tom. I am still getting used to the format of this site and for some reason thought your comment was a reply to mine.

  9. What I find to be most interesting is that many Christian people, when presented with the argument that their traditional notion of god is a sexist one, continue to assert that their deity is neither male nor female and that it doesn’t really matter…yet they continue to refer to god as a male. So, when challenged to start referring to god as a female, they shrugged the suggestion off and wouldn’t do it. I think that says something about their subconscious beliefs regarding the gender of their deity.

    I think Hugo must live in a completely different world than I do. I rarely hear that god is a female and that we should always refer to Her as such. I am surrounded by the idea that the supreme god is definitely male (and the writings of apostale Paul absolutely support this idea–if god is female, why force women to be in subjection to men?) and that women are too weak to rule and be in ultimate power. Of course men can be compassionate, the same as women can be strong and assertive and agressive. Men are just as held back by the patriarchal power structure as women are; they too are expected to live by certain roles. I think though, that it has been assumed that god is a male for far too long in western culture, and it may be too soon to start saying things like, “God can be male, too.” While of course it is true, it gives the impression that god is now widely assumed to be female and the male god is somehow the underdog, now.

    Yes, Hugo, you sometimes need God to be male. So does the majority of the world.

    • Roger Durham says:

      BMF – check out the references to Sophia in the Old Testament. It is a word that translates to Wisdom; it is inferred as the feminine expression of Yahweh (God).

      • I realize that, Roger. I also know of many other expressions of distaste for women in general in the biblical sense and while I recognize it’s very possibly the king james translation’s error, I think there are more references to God “himself” as being male in the Old Testament. When there is a reference to femininity of God, it is referred to as a separate expression and has even been implied that at one point the Hebrews weren’t monotheistic, but that they also worshipped a Goddess by the name of Sophia.A separate being. All together. In other words, god is SO separated from femininity that there almost needs to be an entire different aspect of the deity, or another deity altogether.

        • Roger Durham says:

          BMF – it is hard to separate biblical images of God from historic interpretation. Most of us who grew up in the church did so with a largely, if not exclusively, patriarchal frame of reference. When you pull away that frame, and read the Old and New Testaments from a more netrual perspective, you see that, at the very least, there is something of an internal argument taking place about the role of gender in a full understanding of God.

          Hugo’s article, at least for me, offers a shift of the framework that at least challenges the stereotype.

          • Well Roger, I think I’m going to have to take your word for it. When I tried to do that, I was too turned off by all of the horrifying stuff in there to care to continue read it much longer. I couldn’t get beyond the clearly homophobic, sexist, racist, and trivial rules that are in the text itself, and not just in the church.

            It is possible for God to exist outside of the Judeo-Christian perspective of course. For me to get a better “understanding of God”, I had to put the bible down and grow in a greater sense.

            You’re right, though. His article does challenge the stereotype. I do like that, a lot. I enjoyed the article, like I enjoy all of his articles. I guess I just felt that while this one said all of the right things, the general tone of the article felt uneasy to me.

            • Oh, that being said, I’d like to add that I can read the bible as a historical reference and magical story of fairy tales. I can read it from an anthropological perspective and learn a lot. But I cannot approach it expecting to find any semblance of some all-powerful and perfect truth. When I look at it from the anthropological perspective, this oppressive patriarchal construction makes perfect sense.

              I think I understand your position, though, and respect what you’re saying.

              • Roger Durham says:

                We’re on the same page. Looking past the horrifying and homophobic, there are some really powerful stories that I have found useful in writing my own story.

              • Black Iris says:

                I think there are some powerful truths underlying the rest. Jesus was actually fairly mystical in a lot of what he says.

                There are insights into life and spiritual truths in Old Testament stories, too. While I have doubts about how long you could stay alive in a whale’s stomach, I see it as tale about what happens when God calls and you don’t listen. You can run, but your shipmates will throw you in the ocean, a whale will eat you, and you’ll still end up in Ninevah.

    • Black Iris says:

      I think it’s really important to acknowledge that we often do live in different worlds. What needs to be said in some places is different from what needs to be said in others.

  10. Let’s be clear. The reason the scriptures describe God as our “father” is the same reason it sometimes mentions God’s “eye”, “hand”, “arm”, etc. These terms are used to help humans understand certain aspects of his personality and actions. God does not necessarily literally need hands, eyes, or arms.

    Likewise, the use of “father” to describe God and male pronouns are to help humans understand God’s nature based on something we are familiar with. Everyone (except for feminists evidently) understand can and does encompass qualities such as love, compassion, kindness, mercy, forgiveness – but also power, justice, wisdom, and similar qualities.

    Stop using the tired stereotype that men have not historically manifested all of those qualities.

    • Maria Pawlowska says:

      Wait, so why isn’t God called a mother? Because mother’s don’t somehow “encompass qualities such as love, compassion, kindness, mercy, forgiveness – but also power, justice, wisdom, and similar qualities.” Or maybe I just don’t understand because I’m a feminist…

      And Hugo – great post! Thank you

      • Exactly what I would have said. All humans possess the potential for all those qualities. I don’t believe in God, but if I did, it would be beyond gender. Or I’d go more pantheistic like the Greeks and have male, female, and in between images of god like humans with various flaws and powers that anyone could see themselves in.

        • If I believed in a god or gods, it would be because I actually came to the conclusion that he/she/they actually existed based on reason and evidence — not because I liked them, or because they conformed to my feminist ideals, or because they were warm and fuzzy and supposedly offered me a personal relationship and the promise of salvation.

          All of this blind speculation about the nature of an ill-defined, invisible, immaterial, cultural meme we refer to as “God” is utterly, spectacularly beside the point. Is there any reasonable, independent evidence that such a being has any existence outside of human psychology?

          • Stutz, I don’t think this discussion is really aimed at people who think the whole idea of God is absurd. If you’re really not familiar with the many philosophical arguments of God, I would suggest looking at the works of William Lane Craig, Thomas Aquinas, and many of the other various philosophers throughout history who have argued for his existence. But this discussion, I think, is primarily geared toward people who already accept the notion of God in the traditional Western formulation.

      • Wait, so why isn’t God called a mother? Because mother’s don’t somehow “encompass qualities such as love, compassion, kindness, mercy, forgiveness – but also power, justice, wisdom, and similar qualities.”

        In the context of Jewish culture at that time , it was the father, who was typically the head of the family, who personified those characteristics.

        • True, the attitude of the Bible toward women, especially in the Old Testament, is that women are more or less cattle. Which is one reason I could never be a Christian.

          • Yet the Old Testament dedicates two of its books to women (Ruth and Esther), at least one woman was a judge (Deborah), and two women saved the Jewish people from their enemies (Judith and Esther). The Song of Songs is a hymn of a bridegroom’s love for his bride. In the New Testament, Jesus certainly treats women with dignity and respect, far more than his contemporaries (such as the Samaritan woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery). The Bible must be seen as a whole, not as the sum of its parts, and we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

      • “Wait, so why isn’t God called a mother?”

        No. However, if asked to pick who would be more associated with physical “power”, men or women, most people would answer men. So, it makes sense from that standpoint. It’s not a slight against women since God is not a man or a woman.

        Similarly, at 2 Thess. 2:7, the simile of a mother nursing her baby is used describe how tender God is. Does that mean a man can’t be tender? Obviously not. However, few people argue that a mother nursing her baby is not one of the best possible ways to illustrate ultimate tenderness, but it’s not a slight against men.

      • Hi Maria,

        I think you (and critical thinkers of both genders!) would be interested in books such as “The Chalice and the Blade,” “When God was a Woman,” and videos like “The Goddess Trilogy.”

        Thought I was pretty well educated but just very recently learned about the three centuries of witch-hunts and burnings that occurred in Europe and the role played by the Catholic Church and Popes. The adoption and acceptance of the solo “male” God of patriarchal religion only came about after centuries of destruction, murder and intimidation of anyone who believed otherwise. By destroying and demonizing religions which worshipped Gods AND Goddesses.

        Women who were formerly revered for their life-giving ability and feminine strengths were reduced to that scapegoat Eve, who wasn’t even a complete person but was created from the rib of Adam.

        Now Men had that life-giving ability: God created Adam without a female, out of dust and then even Adam gave birth! Eve came out of his body, lol. Womb envy much? Only after then did the male God say Eve could have children but added the pain of childbirth as punishment for her sins and it became a “curse” not a gift.

        Patriarchal religion justifies misogyny and sexism: (“I know it doesn’t seem fair, Honey, but geez that’s the way “God” wants it. . .)

        Also, sites below:

    • “Everyone (except for feminists evidently) understand can and does encompass qualities such as love, compassion, kindness, mercy, forgiveness – but also power, justice, wisdom, and similar qualities.

      Stop using the tired stereotype that men have not historically manifested all of those qualities.”

      Wow, did you even read the article?

  11. Hugo – I really appreciate the way you framed this. I am far more convinced by a both/and undersdtanding, both of God and our masculine/feminine natures, than I am an either/or. When we are our most whole, we are clearly both masculine and feminine, tough and tender.

  12. Hi Hugo … Here’s my take on God and gender, in a recent post on my own blog … Paul

    The pronoun “He”, referring to God, and biblical images of God the Father, have been stumbling-blocks for many who might otherwise believe. They have certainly irked feminist theologians, such as Mary Daly.

    Theologians talk about God being a Person, or three Persons in one God. Protestants often speak of having a “personal relationship” with God. If we must use a pronoun to refer to God, surely it should be an intimate “you” or, better yet, a reverent “Thou”. This shows that we believe God is not dead but alive, not abstract or impersonal, but present and active in our lives. We see God in Creation. We hear God in Revelation through Scripture.

    Buckminster Fuller said, “God is a verb, not a noun.” When God revealed the divine name to Moses, it was a verb: “I am”. Who are we to gainsay the Lord?

  13. The problem is that the God of the Bible was primarily a war god, despite efforts to attach some other qualities to him.

    I think you have to look to other religions like Buddhism to find examples of beings who embody qualities of total compassion and empathy (like Mary) but who transcend gender. Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin) is a Buddhist bodhisattva who has both male and female manifestations and is known and loved by Buddhists for his/her compassion, loving-kindness, courage and wisdom. On the opposite side, there are pagan goddesses who are seriously scary and kick-ass.

    • I like this comment. I’m an agnostic myself, but believe that were there a greater power, it would transcend gender completely. Humans are limited so we project ourselves (and how much greater we’d like to be) onto a human version of God. It makes God relatable. But if there is a creator of the Universe and more, I can’t see how it could be relatable to us any more than we could be to a single cell.

      The problem comes with Dogma. God is LIKE THIS. That’s also a human failing or trait. Men can be nurturing and women can be warriors. And they can be both, both of them, at the same time. It’s our political structures (and I will never be convinced that the church (no matter the denomination) is not a political structure, that trip us up. God doesn’t. People do.

      And should I ever decide to believe, I don’t want my god to be limited to anything human.

    • Black Iris says:

      @Jill – I think if you look at the New Testament, God and Jesus are very much not gods of war. In fact, that was one of the things that disappointed some people about Jesus. He did not overthrow the Romans for them. He told them to walk two miles with their oppressors. He said the meek were blessed. He didn’t pray for victory or money, just daily bread, forgiveness, and being led away from doing evil. (Yeah, I think there are some modern people who could learn from him on that one.) Jesus also healed people, stopped a stoning, and shared food with the masses. He told his followers to visit the sick, fed the hungry, and clothe the naked.

      The Christian faith has at various times and places in history led to people becoming pacitists. That was one big reason the Romans kept throwing them to the lions.

      If you see God as transcending gender, then the God of the Bible can be for compassion and nurturing too.

      Buddhism is more or less ungendered depending on who is practicing it. Buddha himself was clearly a male prince who lived the life of a playboy at tone time. I think most Buddhist theology goes beyond male or female to other principles, but at a practical level, there are people who practice Buddhism more concretely and pray to statues of a male figure. I think the lives of monks and nuns may be different. I believe there are arguments within Buddhism about whether a woman can achieve Enlightenment in this life or if she has to be reincarnated as a male first. There are also traditions of warrior monks in some countries.

      I don’t think that’s a reflection on Buddha or Buddhist theology, just our human natures and cultures, but I don’t think you can ignore it and say Christianity is warlike and gendered and Buddhism is better.

      • Black Iris says:

        sorry, Buddha didn’t live the life of a playboy at tone time, he lived it a one time.

        And my sentence on God and gender should be clearer – The God of the Bible stands for compassion and nurturing based on what Jesus said. So while Jesus is male, there is a non-gendered being promoting compassion. Although if you see God as male, then I guess you have a male promoting love over war.

      • @Black Isis, I agree that there are many different schools of Buddhism and some are more sexist than others. Religion reflects culture and Buddhist cultures in Asia are strongly patriarchal. Also, if women have harder lives than men, according to Buddhist belief, they must have worse karma and are farther from enlightenment. (Though Mahayana Buddhism teaches that both men and women can become enlightened. There are many stories about Guanyin reaching enlightenment while in the manifestation of a woman.) Unfortunately, the idea of karma can be used as a justification for sexism. Persons with disabilities, the poor, and the unlucky can suffer discrimination for the same reason in Asian cultures. I wasn’t saying that Buddhist cultures are less sexist than Christians but Buddhists do believe that gender like everything else we perceive in this world is a illusion, and so you can have characters in the religion like Guanyin who are both male and female (or neither). I think we can agree this is something of a foreign concept in the Judeo-Christian religion, at least as it is usually practiced and interpreted. Gender is seen as something fundamental about human beings (God made man and woman) not as a something that only exists in our minds as a result of our ignorance. I was raised in a Christian household and God was most definitely male.

        • Black Iris says:

          Hey, I like thinking of Quanyin as a female. Isn’t she more often seen as a female, though? I’ve heard of people naming their daughters after her, but not their sons. And the statues look female.

          There’s a definite difference in the theological understanding of gender if Buddhism sees it as an illusion (I think a lot of Buddhists outside the US see gender as part of nature), but I think Christianity is more complex than what you grew up with.

          God can be seen as both male and female and the first creation story support this. Some groups of Christians have also seen women and men as equal spiritually. Souls are not gendered, although there were times when the Church said they were. Then there’s the Bible quote: “In Christ there is no east or west, male or female.”

          My guess is that the current emphasis on the God-ordained difference between men and women in some American sects is partly in reaction to the changes in sex roles in our modern society.


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