“Father, we love You
We worship and adore You
Glorify Thy Name in all the earth”
(Composed by Donna Adkins 1976)
That is until he hits you and bashes you and rejects you! The Judeo-Christian image of God as Father is a very hard pill to swallow for some. For some, terrible childhood experiences are projected upon this image of God the Father. There are attempts to feminize God and offer prayers to Her instead of He. It is true that in the Old Testament ‘wisdom’, one of God’s attributes is seen as feminine. It is argued by some that our religion should abandon any gender reference. One argument that is made is that of a person who experienced an abusive Father (or Mother) in such a case their experience of a parent evokes sorrowful memories or even high anxiety.
I know a young very devout Christian man who worships on a regular basis. He came from a rigid Roman background where authority was to be feared. At least some of that fear came from a father who would beat him with some regularity for the least infraction – seemingly because he was around and someone to hit. His story of pain is not unique. The projections we allow ourselves to make about a faith that calls God – Father, Jesus – Son, and the Holy Spirit – who knows! Maleness infers aggression decisiveness and the feminine nurturing and wisdom. For sure, fear and loathing, manipulation and hurt seem to run rampant in such a way of being and thinking. What seems to be lacking in all of this?
I was once told that when a person preaching refers constantly to God they subversively evoke a male persona. When they constantly used the name of Jesus they evoke a feminine persona: one judging the other nurturing. Yet, it is precisely this sense of gender-biased division that often results in withdrawal and rejection or at the very least a fear of acceptance. Happy Father’s Day! Maybe not for all: some maybe dead; others abusive; others still disinterested and thus rejection. What seems to be lacking in all of this?
A whole person just as a whole deity must by definition be a fully integrated person. All of us have attributes that are feminine and masculine. Nature dictates which is dominant and which is not. Culture then props that up and society begins to lay out rolls for each of those gender orientations. What seems to be lacking in all of this?
The idea of God the Father is, at the very least, an archetype. True it is historically based in general role assumptions but so what. What is the archetype of faith that Jesus embraced? It is a God that is a protector and that is just. It is what a Father should be. It is not what your or my father necessarily is/was. This Father that we acknowledge when we say “Our Father who art in heaven” is fully integrated. This Father is just and compassionate, this father is neither male nor female in the sense that we project onto him/her. This Father has the wisdom of the women of the ages and the strength of universe. This Father is the father that we all wanted and did not completely have – none of us did – even those that had/have good fathers.
Within our community there are fathers, perhaps call them Abba, for surely Abba speaks to a gentle spirit that is strong, wise, and filled with wisdom and kindness. Abba is precisely who Jesus prayed to. I know several men and women who are Abba. Alice Brady was Abba to generations of lesbians and gay men who sought refuge, protection, and safety. Louie Crew who lives in New Jersey and founded Integrity a gay rights organization in the Episcopal Church is Abba to hundreds who needed someone to give them voice and again safety, protection, and dignity. There is a woman at St. Anna’s Church, Diana, who is married with two adult children. She works 12-15 hours per day insuring that medical care is provided to the uninsured. In her “spare time” she shows care and an embracing nurturing for those who work with her. She is a safe emotional place yet she is strong and loyal – she is Abba to many.
On June 17th do not seek to despise he that hurt you. Do not try to reinvent a Judeo-Christian God with genital attributes but rather seek out the Holy Abba that our Lord Jesus knew and trusted – even so much that he would die for him based on a promise of eternal life. If your father was a good man then celebrate your good luck and good life. If your father was abusive and hurtful – find the Abba in your life and celebrate and give thanks for that person who more closely resembles the strong and protecting God of Jesus and celebrate them. Name your Abba and tell them so.
When we do this we move from gender biased gut responses founded in fear and loathing and we hold our own council. We are no longer manipulated by a society so fear driven that we become amorphous beings but rather celebrate humanity and diversity. Just as there is something to be said for the divine feminine there is equally something to be said for the divine masculine. God is Abba and secure in whatever gender based attribute God has offers us. Find that shining light that is your Abba not by genetics but by words and works and holy presence and above intimacy and trust.