Monday, February 14, 2011

Shug on the male god

I’ve had discussions lately with people for whom God is an anthropomorphized god. Having been conditioned to “Father” and “Lord,” it distresses them to hear more scientific, philosophical, and mystical terms for what we call “God”—Source, Consciousness, Infinity, Void, and so on. I think it gives them real pain to hear that a Christian does not pray to “The Father,” an individual being who, they imagine, rules the universe—“the big guy in the sky,” as a Buddhist Christian minster called the anthropomorphic god.

“Anthropomorphic” means humanlike. Anthropomorphism attributes human characteristics to things that are not human. Children delight in stories about animals that talk, trees that walk, winds that rock, wily foxes, wise turtles, and laughing lizards. Religious mythology teems with divine beings in human form having humanlike personalities with humanlike thoughts and making humanlike decisions.

We learned to scoff at pagan deities, but “The Lord” in the Bible behaves in equally human ways, very noticeably in Genesis 2 and 3. He forms humans out of clay, speaks to them and asks, when they hide from him, “Where are you?” He’s jealous and punishes people for disobeying him, commanding and reacting in petty human ways. He expropriates the exclusively female faculty of childbearing but acts like the ruthless male tyrant-rulers familiar to us (For a contrasting picture, see my Goddess in the Bible ).

I dare say most Christians imagine “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” as three distinct human personalities, although they would be quick to deny it. I expect they find it befuddling that I call myself a Christian, do not pray to Jesus, and yet have an intensely personal and warm relationship with my inner Beloved. I like what Shug in The Color Purple tells Celie, a victim of incest,
Whenever you try to pray and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to get lost.
She explains to Celie that God in traditional churches is a white man’s god.
God ain’t a he or a she, but a It. . . . I believe God is everything.
That’s what I believe, as I stated in Mind & Matter.

I can have some compassion for and patience with those who cling to Jesus out of the need for a personal relationship with Divinity; I even tolerate their “he/him/his” terminology. I also realize that many priests and ministers cannot distinguish between the anthropomorphized god and the transcendent God. I have less patience with Church leaders who understand that “Father” and “Son” are images rather than facts, but who go along with conventional language simply because it’s easier.

There would be less sexism and fewer atheistic materialists if Christian leaders listened to Shug.