Between A Rock and a Hard Place 2: The Gendered Language of God – Speaking Into The Silenced Pain

Henry_Ossawa_Tanneran_Annunciation

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, is she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15: 8-10

God as Mother: She is revealed as such throughout both the Old and New Testament – Her Mother’s love is nurturing and guiding and She is tender in her ministrations as She feeds and comforts Her children. But Her love is not quiet or submissive; indeed it is a love that is roused to ferocious anger in defence of her children, and is as powerfully protective as Mother as it is as Father.

God is She and She is mighty, and she has laboured mightily indeed.

*********

So often, the mark of the abused is silence – silenced imposed, by the abuser; by a society structured to support the abuser, and by the secretive manner in which abuse is perpetrated. Silence is also internalized: when the abuser is the one with the power, the hope of being heard – of being believed – is as fragile as flame in the path of a tornado, and it is easy for the abuser to manipulate that.

Society enables those who abuse, not simply in upholding the patriarchal, colonial, binary structures which controls human beings and denies them autonomy and voice if they do not conform to the norms imposed. There is a powerful undercurrent of arrogance too: we mock cultures and religions that demand of victims that they produce witnesses to their abuse, because we know very well that it is the secret nature of abuse which protects the perpetrators – yet we too quickly dismiss those who speak up, claiming the word of the victim is not evidence enough.

We paint a picture of abusers as cartoon-like monsters, unable (or unwilling) to comprehend that they are ordinary people living otherwise ordinary lives: when these ordinary people are revealed, rationalisations and justifications then abound. Cloak upon cloak is layered over the abuser, silence upon silence is heaped upon the abused. The innocent become the accused, and myth takes the place of truth.

The Church, with its dominant structural patriarchy and language, repeatedly makes the same mistakes: the focus on the abuser and the lazy theologies fall prey to ‘we are all sinners’, giving rise to a culture that blames the victims because the abuser ‘couldn’t control’ themselves; over and over again, the abuse is minimised (or worse, swept under the carpet) as reputations are prioritised before the victims.

Justice, which should roll down like a river, is stoppered at its source, and the communities of those who are already the most vulnerable and marginalized are silenced by the deafness of those who have not ears to listen; their wounds are left untended and their tears left unheeded.

*********

Make no mistake – the inability of the Church to confront the systemic culture that leads to this debilitating and ever decreasing spiral will not, in and of itself, be solved simply by confronting the reality that God is revealed as Mother as well as Father. Culture and attitudes do not change over night.

But changing the language we use – the language of prayer, the liturgical language that dominates the rhythms of the daily life of the Church – will help to create a space in which both the silenced can speak and be heard, and the reflection and prayer can start to move and evolve thoughts and – by consequence – actions.

The voices of straight white men dominate in the Church – a Church which fails to recognise abuse, fails to stop it, fails to protect the abused – but succeeds in protecting the abuser.  But God is not only a straight white man.

God is the terrified child being abused, whose abuse is photographed for the gratification of others; God is the black transgender woman who was murdered for being black and transgender; God is the woman who shakes when you touch her, because her husband or father beat her all the time; God is that gender fluid, bi-sexual person who asks you to respect their pronouns, and are weary to the bone of the endless mocking they get for being themselves. God is the girl with the ‘troubled’ past who wasn’t believed when she said that ‘nice’ man was abusing her, whose past was measured against that ‘nice’ man and found her wanting.

We need a church where a victim can speak up and the church will say ‘I believe you’. We need a faith to which creates a space that will provide the abused and oppressed with the liberation and redemption promised to them. We need a church that remembers that Christ condemned those who abuse children. We need a church that remembers its calling is not to protect the powerful, but the weak.

We need a revolution.

Our Mother in Heaven

Hallowed be your name…..

Advertisements