Expansive Language for the Divine: Come, Holy Power Within! Help us Thy Names to sing!

by Dr. Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

I was very excited when GCSRW invited me to write a blog about “expansive language for God.” Excited, honored, eager, motivated! The September focus on this newsletter issue sounds absolutely fantastic, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the articles! I’ve spent the past month happily working away on this topic. There’s just one problem…..

I’ve come to the realization that the word “God,” itself, is hopelessly, restrictively male. Words such as ‘Spirit,’ ‘Wisdom,’ or ‘Holy One’ seem flexible, able to symbolize female, male, intersex, or neutral divinity. But the word ‘God’ subconsciously translates to maleness. I wrestled with whether or not to admit this opinion— I do not want anyone to stop reading in horror or to dismiss everything I have to say because they disagree with this one conclusion— but I decided that perhaps if there are voices challenging the very use of the word ‘God,’ then some of the more moderate ideas gently urging consideration of the topic of expansive language might seem more attractive in comparison. If people dismiss me outright, maybe they will turn to more moderate proposals in relief, and we will make some progress, anyway!

trelawney-shamrock

Dr. Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

Patriarchal Origins

The Christian tradition did not inherit a specifically male ‘God’ by accident. The religious leaders of the early Hebrew communities chose a male deity in order to convince their adherents to stop worshipping local goddesses. Like any patriarchal culture, maleness was considered more powerful than femaleness, as well as higher in stature and social value. In addition, Tikya Frymer-Kensy notes, as the Hebrew community became monotheistic, Hebrew gender roles became more distinct and rigid, and the identity of the supposedly genderless YHWH became increasingly male.[1] Thus, the very choice of maleness as inherent to YHWH reveals the patriarchal violence present from the very beginning.

It makes sense, given the predominantly male language and symbolism for the divine in scripture, that in translating the Christian tradition to European languages, the religious leaders chose the inherently male word “God.” In a pagan polytheistic context with competing gods and goddesses (similar to the ancient Near East), patriarchal cultures continued the tradition of choosing, as their main symbol for their monotheistic divine being, a male word. And 2,000 years later, we still wrestle with the many injustices, wounds, and griefs that have arisen due to that originating, seminal[2] misogyny.

Efforts to save God

I deeply respect modern efforts to transform the word “God” into a symbol that allows women and men equally to claim the divine image, the imago Dei… but wait, “imago Dei” is also an inherently male phrase. To express being in the image of a female divine, one would have to say imago Deae. Perhaps a Latin scholar could help find a gender-neutral phrase, such as imago Numinis (in the image of the divine/Spirit). How can women truly believe we are equally in the divine image when even the words for “divine image” are male? When even our most progressive seminaries still use the term imago Dei, what hope have we for our churches?

Many self-identified “progressive” pastors occasionally pair the (male) word “God” with neutral pronouns in liturgy, but only in the unofficial parts, such as the Pastoral Prayer or Call to Worship. Scriptures, hymns, Eucharist, Psalms, and the Jesus Prayer remain predominantly or entirely male. Thus, worship services in our most progressive churches usually express the theology that the divine is decidedly male, but sometimes that maleness does not need to be explicitly stated.

Rarely, progressive pastors will pair the (male) word “God” with female pronouns— again, in the unofficial, less central/traditional parts of worship, and usually as a metaphor rather than a form of address (“God, who is like a mother…” rather than “Heavenly Mother, we pray for…”).  Often, these female pronouns combine with carefully gendered notions of female roles, such as mothering, nurturing, comforting, or gentle wisdom. These worship services express the theology that the divine is decidedly male, but sometimes (such as on Mother’s Day) certain disempowered traits that our patriarchal society defines as appropriately “feminine” can be attributed to our (male) “God.”

I do not mean to disparage these efforts. In fact, I applaud them as a necessary step forward from a time when even these minuscule hints would have been far more controversial than they are today. Furthermore, I have often paired “God” with female pronouns, and I have enjoyed and appreciated the scriptures, hymns, and liturgies that do so. But I wonder whether there is any point to these timid, barely perceptible nudges against the Mighty Patriarchal Monument.

For starters, people tend to translate neutral pronouns about a male word, to be male. Thus, we hear people say, “God is not male or female; He’s spirit.” Of course, this statement also demonstrates the use of male pronouns as generic – sometimes including women, sometimes not. Generic male grammar is just as violent as any other sexist language; it indicates the erasure of females to a subhuman category. English has largely moved beyond the use of masculine pronouns as generic in common speech because we finally figured out how violent it is. Our church can learn to do without it, as well.

Perhaps using only female language for the symbol “God” for a few centuries would tip the balance such that people would stop subconsciously interpreting the (male) word “God” as male. However, for that shift to happen, the idea of goddesses would have to vanish, and the word “god” would have to be used to describe all female divine symbols. With the rise of various forms of neopaganism, the phrase “gods and goddesses” continues to circulate. The word “God” will probably never transcend its inherent maleness

Why does it matter?

It can be hard to convince modern Christians, even progressives, even self-identified feminists or allies, that the issue of sexist language is worth rocking the boat. Very few pastors or laity want to touch this topic. So, why all the fuss? To help answer that question, I turn to a scholar commonly known as the “Father of Peace Studies,” Johan Galtung. Galtung developed a brilliant taxonomy of violence, which he divides into Cultural, Structural, and Direct violence. Direct violence is obvious violence, such as rape, infanticide, wife beating, honor killings, human trafficking, etc. Structural violence comes from systems that oppress, such as glass ceilings, wage inequity, and exploitation. Galtung defines Cultural violence as: “…any aspect of a culture that can be used to legitimize violence in its direct or structural form. Symbolic violence built into a culture does not kill or maim like direct violence or the violence built into the structure. However, it is used to legitimize either or both.”[3] Use of predominantly male language about the divine is violent.

When I read the GCSRW website, I am inspired and delighted by the way our Methodist Church is working hard on issues of sexual ethics: “Raising awareness, preventing sexual abuse, promoting healthy boundaries, bringing about justice and healing.”[4] Clearly, the UMC cares deeply about structural and direct violence against women. Does the UMC understand that all the goals of GCSRW, all the goals of the Sexual Ethics program depend on healing the cultural violence at the root of these problems? Our beloved UMC has a terrible disease right around its heart, which hinders and hamstrings our beautiful efforts. Our worship continually insists that the divine is, primarily, a male being with coercive hierarchical power; this cultural violence justifies and perpetuates every kind of violence in this world.

Power Plays

Even our best, most beautiful efforts to reject the violent strands of our tradition fall prey to being undermined by sexist cultural violence. For example, the beautiful book Worship in the Spirit of Jesus: Theology, liturgy, and songs without violence by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and Bret Hesla, which I highly recommend, argues that Jesus tried to teach his disciples that the “kingdom of God” is like a mustard seed – humble, tiny, everywhere. However, the gospel writers revised the message by insisting that the mustard seed grows into something big and powerful.[5] However, the authors never mention that the very use of the word “kingdom” is inherently violent, implying coercive, hierarchical power imbalances. The authors do change the word ‘kingdom’ to the nonviolent word ‘realm’ in most (but not all) of the worship resources they provide. Furthermore, while the authors exclude the “petitional prayer” from their liturgies because it implies that the divine is a being who grants favors to certain, chosen subordinates,[6] the liturgies include many phrases in songs and other readings, which exactly express petitionary prayer to an external being with superior, coercive power to grant favors.

The “kingdom of God” will never achieve the “realm of JustPeace;” nor will it achieve the “reign of Love,” nor the “commonwealth of divine wellness,” nor any other nonviolent prophetic vision of our ultimate purpose. The word “kingdom” itself undermines the ability of the reader/listener to hear the subversive, nonviolent messages Jesus tries to deliver. The word ‘kingdom,’ like the words ‘Lord,’ ‘King,’ ‘Master,’ ‘Ruler,’ ‘Governor,’ and even ‘Father,’ arose from a patriarchal culture in which those symbols represented a way to align oneself and one’s community with the most powerful strongman in order to pay for protection from the other mafia. Similarly, use of female pronouns for the church (similar to female pronouns for cars, boats, and Earth) represent femaleness as a disempowered receptacle to be dominated, driven, and directed by controlling males. This language is cultural violence, which reinforces and justifies the idea that the divine is a distant being with coercive power, and we are lowly supplicants along a hierarchical ladder of relative privilege and oppression.

Is this what we want to say? Is this what we mean? Do these violent ideas represent the theology we hope to announce as “Good News” to the world? If not, how do we say what we actually mean? Galtung’s theory of cultural violence is another way of understanding how language shapes reality. What reality do we want to build, and what language do we need as the right building blocks? What structures in our worship and church – power imbalances, distant authorities, separations – also fail to embody the “Good News”?

Why is it so hard?

These conversations hurt, don’t they? We Christians do not wear our Christianity as one of many groups we belong to, like pieces of jewelry we can take on and off. Being Christian is often at the core of our identity, our deepest and strongest sense of “who we are.” When central symbols of our faith tradition are called “violent” or “oppressive,” we have to work hard not to feel as though we, ourselves, are being called bad people for belonging to this tradition. That said, we’ve let go of many other violent strands of our tradition, yet progressives seem to struggle to admit or engage the issue of sexism more than they do with other injustices. I know scores, perhaps hundreds of moderate to progressive clergy who speak out about racism, homophobia, economic injustice, immigration, and environmentalism, and the ways in which our Christian tradition and communities have failed to live our faith commitments. They would never use prayers, hymns, or readings that expressed the idea that the divine is inherently white, but most pastors I know shy away from naming the sexism woven into our traditions, much less working with their congregations to move forward.

Why?

Why, when paintings of a white Jesus are no more historically accurate than paintings of a female Jesus, are our churches so empty of female Jesus paintings?[7]

Why, when the concept of Christ as eternal Logos comes from the Hebrew Bible’s female symbol for divine Wisdom, do we exclude female Christ language from our lexicon?

Why, when highly intelligent, articulate feminist theologians and biblical scholars have been writing for decades about the sexist violence of our language, have we made such minuscule progress in our churches?[8]

Why are we so terrified of Goddess?

We cling to male divine symbols for the same reason the Hebrew leaders decided YHWH had better be male: we want security. Part of the reason we want security is that life is terrifying and uncertain. If we can believe that among all of the other coercive/reward powers in Creation, we have aligned ourselves with the mightiest coercive/reward power, the King of kings and Lord of lords, we feel safer from the harm those other kings and lords can cause. The world has changed in the past few millennia, but we still live in a society that rewards power imbalance, and rich male oligarchs still run the show. Religious leaders still want power, too. Throughout the centuries, Christian leaders have taught us to be scared of losing power, based on the exact same basic power differential violent structural approach that caused them to define YHWH as male.

The other reason we want security is that we want to feel good about ourselves.        You know that expression, “the way you hear a song sung the first time, is the “correct” version.” Or something like that. We all know that feeling – the inner righteous indignation at hearing a “wrong” version of a song we love, but which someone else sings to slightly different words or music. I have been thinking about that concept recently because of the resistance to changing words in worship. I’m wondering how much resistance to inclusive language comes from this simple psychological phenomenon, and what it means. It seems to me that when we love a song, that song becomes part of identity. So if someone sings it differently, we can react as though we are being told that our version, our community, our ingroup identity, is “wrong” somehow. Maybe we associate the song with a certain group of people or time in our life, and that sense of belonging, solidarity, and security becomes tied up with the words and music as they live in our memory, a felt experience of safety and worthiness.

The Harvard Negotiation Project says that we each have three core identities that we want to believe about ourselves: I am good; I am competent; I deserve respect.[9] In our world, men with more coercive/reward power are generally still considered the people most competent and worthy of respect. Aligning ourselves with the King of kings and Lord of lords persuades us that, by association, we can see ourselves as sharing some of that competence and respect. When annoying feminists come along and tell us that those parts of our tradition cause harm, that idea challenges our core identity “I am good.” We want to believe that our tradition and customs are all good because then we can believe that we, ourselves are good. We have trouble separating our group identities from intrinsic goodness as beings in the imago Deae. Even if we can know, logically, that every community, tradition, and ideology, religious or secular, is flawed, imperfect, and heavily influenced by patriarchy, we struggle to believe, emotionally, that the flaws in our communities do not make us bad people. So we deny that flaws exist, minimize the harm they do, and dehumanize the victims of that harm.[10]

Finally, the reason patriarchy still has a stranglehold on Christianity (and most of the world) is that patriarchy has taught us all not to care about women. The problem is not that people do not understand that sexist language is sexist. The problem is not that no one has pointed out how violent sexist language is, or how much harm it still causes. The problem is not that seminaries, clergy, and laity cannot comprehend the concept of how cultural violence works, how symbols of coercive male dominance justify and reinforce coercive male dominance. The problem is that almost no one cares. They consider it unimportant, a low priority. Patriarchy, in protection of itself, has convinced society to deny flaws exist, minimize the harm they do, and dehumanize the victims of that harm. Women, as much as men, believe that the divine is more male than female, and that that’s okay. It is morally acceptable to have a coercive male divine only if women are not fully human. It can be okay for women not to be equally in the divine image, only if women are inferior to men. Patriarchy has convinced us that violence against women does not matter because women do not matter.

Where do we go from here?

We have two tasks before us, we who would heal the patriarchal violence of our traditions and our world. First, we must keep changing and refining our language and symbols for the divine. Second, we must meet people where they are, paint a vision of where we want to go, and connect the dots to help us journey there together.

To say that we human Christians cannot come up with expansive, nonviolent symbols and words for the divine that respect our tradition, embody theological truth, express poetic beauty, and satisfy spiritual needs, is to say that the Holy Spirit is limited and weak indeed. John Wesley would not approve! While we should never pressure individuals about their private devotional language choices, we can certainly ensure that the official liturgical language that unites and represents our faith in communal worship progresses steadily toward our most beautiful, faithful ideals. Seminaries and denominational leaders can provide resources with ideas for expansive language and how to help congregations accept changes— and be sure those resources are getting well publicized, distributed, and implemented. Clergy need support! They need to know that if they go out on a limb and change the Jesus Prayer, or Ye Olde Favorite Christmas Hymne, their denominational superiors will back them up all the way. And one of the best ways to help congregations is to invite them to go ahead and use their preferred version instead of what is printed in the bulletin. Reassure them that the choice is theirs, each and every time, so they believe it. Eventually, they will love to sing:

Hark! The herald angels sing, hear the heavenly anthems ring:

“Peace on Earth, and mercy mild; all the Earth is reconciled!”

Joyful, all Creation rise, join the anthems of the skies;

With th’angelic host proclaim: “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! The herald angels sing: songs of Hope to us they bring![11]

 

As Paul Tillich has pointed out, our limited, finite language and symbols for the divine can never entirely capture the infinite divine mystery. Tillich defines idolatry as replacing the infinite divine with a finite symbol.[12] Use of exclusively male pronouns for the divine, the symbol of “Father,” and even the inherently male word “God” become idolatrous when they try to substitute for the infinite, unknowable, eternal mystery of the divine, who is male, female, both, neither, and every other possibility. Allowing any one symbol to replace that open, indefinable mystery will limit our ability to access divine wisdom and healing. For modern Christianity, use of the symbol “Father” has become idolatrous. Jesus, the Jewish reformer, saw that his community had gradually symbolized the divine as increasingly transcendent, such that they had lost touch with the truth of divine intimacy. He taught his disciples to pray to “Abba” in order to help his tradition find truths they had lost.[13]

Jesus was not telling us to call the divine “Abba” forever and ever, Amen; rather, he was modeling how to be faithful. Jesus’ use of “Abba” teaches us that when we realize our symbols are inadequate, we must change them. The most faithful way to pray the Jesus Prayer is to call it the “Jesus Prayer” rather than the “Lord’s Prayer,” and to open the prayer “Our [Something More Expansive And Liberative Than Father].” Whatever symbols we choose may someday need to be replaced again. As James R. Lowell wrote in 1845, “New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth; They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.” You may recognize those words from the old Methodist hymn, “Once to Every Man and Nation.” That hymn did not make it into the “new” 1989 version of The United Methodist Hymnal, most likely because of the sexist use of “man” as generic. Lowell’s own hymn became obsolete because of the exact changing nature of truth he describes in his hymn.

The most faithful way to honor Lowell’s work, and the work of every writer of songs, stories, and prayers, is not to let their work die with the changing consciousness of time. Instead, we can tell yet another Garden of Eden story (there are two different versions in Genesis already):

Then Mother God/ess came and realized that Eve and Adam had chosen to eat the fruit. She sighed. “OK,” she said, “I guess maybe you were ready. I wanted to keep you as my sheltered little children awhile longer, but I guess it is time for you to be free to learn and grow in wildness and wisdom. I want to warn you that sometimes it will be very, very painful. But I will always be with you, and my healing Love will always surround you. You are very brave already, and I know you will grow more and more wise and strong. I am so proud of you. I love you so much. I give you my blessing, always.”[14]

And we can sing “Once to every soul and nation, comes the moment to decide/ In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side…” Just as Jesus did, we can change the words, all the words that time has made uncouth. Hymns, prayers, scriptures… just as the biblical writers did, we can change them, wash away the mud of patriarchy to help our communities access the pearls of divine inspiration inside. We will keep the versions that were handed down to us and discuss how we have changed them; thus, we will continue to learn from our heritage and the living Spirit, speaking now.  “God” can become “Goddess” half the time, and God/ess,[15] and new words we have not even created yet. Kingdom can become kindom,[16] a realm of kindred liberation, equality, inclusiveness, and JustPeace. This work is our “new duty,” as Lowell writes, and it is indeed a choice between truth and falsehood.

 

The kingdom of this world is become

The kindom of all Love, and of all Life, and of all Life!

And Peace shall reign for ever and ever!

Kin, all kin! And Love, all Love!

And Peace shall reign forever and ever![17]

 

Change is usually scary and challenging because every change always involves some kind of loss.[18] Thus, one of the most important jobs of any prophet is to paint a vision of our destination. For example, men may lose significant privilege in the kindom, but they gain something much more valuable: their full, beautiful, divine humanity. Men suffer terribly under the violence of patriarchy. High suicide rates among young men represent the poison of teaching boys not to cry, not to need help, not to be soft, caring, or sensitive. We must not continue to harm men by defining female attributes of the divine as emotional, “nurturer” and “comforter” while defining male attributes of the divine as rational, aggressive, violent, hierarchical, or emotionally remote. Our symbols can heal the wounds of patriarchy as they enable us to reject societal gender roles in order to affirm femaleness and maleness as equally holy.

I think fear of change ultimately comes from fear of our own mortality and finitude, fear of death and nonbeing. So I wonder how much resistance to different versions of songs we love comes from the fear that if we change these songs, these symbols of a community that has survived the ravages of time and will endure when we are dead, we are chipping away at the continuity of the community in a way that erodes our own ability to cheat death.

So I am wondering whether modeling an embracing attitude toward change, can help children sidestep this “my version must be the right version” mentality a bit. I remember when I first learned about inclusive language – I agreed with the theory. But I did not want to change the words to my favorite songs. That felt painful. Those songs held such memories! But my children are different (so far)…. they change songs all the time. We’ve really encouraged that idea, without consciously intending to model an embracing attitude toward change. When we hear a song, we talk about whether we want to change any parts of it. Sometimes we sing it one way for a long while and then change it based on a suggestion from any of the four of us. Same thing with stories – we change endings we don’t like, we add characters, change names, genders, all kinds of things. We play with all of it, nothing is too sacred to change. In fact… it is BECAUSE stories and songs are sacred, that we change them.

That is what the Bible does – it presents multiple versions of stories and songs, the products of writers who decided that the version they received needed tweaking in order to convey the truest Truth. We’ve lost that idea, somehow, that empowered freedom to claim stories and songs as our own, as for us, gifts to be treasured and used to their fullest potential.

I like it when the “original” (as best we can guess) versions are kept on record somewhere, and when changes and edits are acknowledged as such. And I like it that my faith teaches me not to seek the living among the dead…. it is not there. Living songs and stories are symbols of the most basic messages of my faith: Life is stronger than death, Love is stronger than hate, Good is stronger than evil.

All privilege, all chosen-ness must pass away in the kindom; that includes false symbols that pretend humans are chosen above otherkind, somehow separate from other animals and the rest of the natural world. “Nature” is not out there somewhere; we are Nature. Our symbols of the divine must include all the messy glory of our cycles of life, death, and rebirth: the holy, mysterious Womb, which is both our Eternal Creator and the living soil beneath our toes; the mighty, divine Vagina, which is both our Reconciling Christ, through whom we are born again, and the towering tree friends, who connect Earth and Sky.[19] At first, releasing our privilege to embrace our natural kindred may feel awkward or frightening; but, it will soon become a tremendous relief of liberation and joy. Through reconnecting with these lost symbols of Nature in the imago Numinis, God/ess will help us move beyond tidy, fearful anthropocentrism and the ecocide it causes. We will learn how to grieve again, honestly and authentically, as our communities hold us, and our messy, wild tears mingle with the rain streaming from our hair down to the mud on which we sit.

Every eye shall now behold it,

All Creation’s majesty;

See the Earth as one, united,

Welcomed, reborn, healed, and free,

Deepest healing, deepest healing, deepest healing,

Joins the Earth in unity.[20]

 

Change is indeed difficult; however, change comes, will we or nil we. While Christianity is still flourishing among oppressed and underprivileged peoples of the world, mainline churches in the USA flounder. Younger generations look elsewhere for community, activism, and spiritual growth. Membership in the United Methodist Church has been declining for decades; if we keep declining at this pace, our church will be gone in just a few decades.[21] What have we got to lose? Why be timid? Why cling to our violent, respectable path toward extinction? Again I turn to Lowell’s timeless message: “Then it is the brave one chooses while the coward stands aside, Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.” Change will always, always, always come. Sometimes it can be painful and scary. But the living stories and songs of my faith can keep me grounded in hope and strength, able to face forward into the future with courage and joy.

People are as hungry as ever for meaning, community connectedness, and tidings of comfort and joy. Can we yet announce the kindom in a compelling, honest, living voice? Churches have enormous potential: to be centers of community in natural disasters and in the coming unstable climate and economic insecurity; to teach a repressed, fearful, porn-addicted society the beauty of healthy, nonviolent sexuality; to spread liberation, hope, and healing. Perhaps, just as Jesus shocked the respectable folks of his day, it’s time for Jesus-followers to shock ours. Perhaps it is time to be bold, to be fools for Sophia-Christ. If we are unafraid, if we have the courage to step forward without shame, we can weave the kindom of JustPeace for all Creation.

Rewriting hymns, liturgies, scriptures, creeds, and bible stories can be quite challenging and tricky. However, we must choose between “challenging and tricky” vs. “violent and oppressive.” We must not accept the exclusion of half of humanity, dismissing it as too challenging to fix. I look at the incredible, beautiful richness of our tradition, and I believe it is worth saving. I do not want to abandon our tradition to the violent, patriarchal mistakes of leaders long dead. I want to honor their best impulses, the times they got it right, the parts of their work that truly represent divine inspiration – these liturgies deserve to be liberated from their patriarchal chains and set free to soar in glory and lead our church forward into a new promised land. And the Goddess of Sarah, Ruth, and Mary will guide us: “Let the word of Sophia-Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to the Holy One. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of our Beloved Jesus, giving thanks to the Eternal Womb and Form and Breath of Creation:”[22]

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;

Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;

Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,

Love, you stand within the shadow, ever watching o’er your own.[23]


[1]Frymer-Kensky, Tikva  In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Mythin. New York: Free Press, 1992, p188-89.

[2] Seminal is, of course another inherently male term, coming as it does from the word “semen,” meaning “seed.” But semen is not a seed, as Aristotle and others thought. It is half of a seed. In this case, my use of the word is intended as irony.

[3] Galtung, Johan. Cultural Violence. Journal of Peace Research, 27(3) 1990, p291.

[4] http://umsexualethics.org visited 27-August-2017

[5] Nelson-Pallmeyer, Jack, & Hesla, Bret. Worship in the Spirit of Jesus: Theology, liturgy, and songs without violence. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2005, p60.

[6] Ibid., p97.

[7] For some wonderful artistic depictions of female Jesus, see http://jesusinlove.org/art-that-dares.php

[8] For example, see:
Johnson, Elizabeth A. She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Discourse. New York: Crossroad, 1993.

Moltmann-Wendel, Elisabeth, & Moltmann, Jurgen. God: His and hers. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1991.

Ramshaw, Gail. God Beyond Gender: Feminist Christian God-Language. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1995.

Ruether, Rosemary Radford. Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology. Boston: Beacon, 1983.

[9] Stone, Douglas, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. New York: Viking Penguin, 1999.

[10] Castano, Emanuele. (2008). On the Perils of Glorifying the In-group: Intergroup Violence, In-group Glorification, and Moral Disengagement. Social and Personality Psychology Compass,

2(1), 154–170.

[11] For this hymn and more inclusive rewrites by Tallessyn Grenfell-Lee, see https://www.facebook.com/notes/tallessyn-grenfell-lee/inclusive-christmas-carols/10151853925066238/?hc_ref=ARQN__ti1J_yV6WO26i8cytu77szhPN71KY72QOYLBSaFRKO8r8-wPYTq-AlZbrctVE

[12] Tillich, Paul. Theology of Culture, p53-67, c.f. Neville, Robert C. The Truth of Broken Symbols. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996., pxi n.

[13] Neville, Robert C. The Truth of Broken Symbols. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.

[14] https://feminismandreligion.com/2016/06/11/garden-of-eden-retold-by-trelawney-grenfell-muir/

[15] Ruether, Rosemary Radford. Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology. Boston: Beacon, 1983, p45-46.

[16] First made public by Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, who learned it from her friend Georgene Wilson, O.S.F

[17] For my complete rewrite of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, see https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=444770262528715&id=353900694949006

[18] Dr. Carrie Doehring taught me that in her Pastoral Care course at Boston University School of Theology.

[19] For a more expanded discussion of the concept of Christ as a Cosmic Divine Vagina, see:
Grenfell-Muir, Trelawney. “Christ, the Cosmic Vagina: Liberation and healing from Christian Violence of Fear, Power Imbalance, and Separation,” in Alvizo, Xochitl & Messina, Gina, Women, Religion, Revolution. Cambridge, MA: FSR Inc., 2017.

[20] Original hymn is “Lo, He Comes With Clouds Ascending” by Charles Wesley (1758), verse 2: “Now redemption, long expected, comes in solemn splendor near; all the saints this world rejected thrill the trumpet sound to hear: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! See the day of God appear!”

Rewritten by Tallessyn Grenfell-Lee: https://www.facebook.com/tallessyn/posts/10155669746569931?comment_id=10155669749124931&notif_t=comment_mention&notif_id=1504234442754419

[21] http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/economist-united-methodist-church-in-crisis

[22] Col. 3:16-17, which I have revised with expansive language for the divine

[23] For the complete revised version of this hymn, see https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=507222069616867&id=353900694949006


Dr. Trelawney Grenfell-Muir teaches courses about Sex, Dating, Marriage, and Work in the Religion and Theological Studies Department at Merrimack College and about Cross Cultural Conflict in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A Senior Discussant at the Religion and the Practices of Peace Initiative at Harvard University, she holds an M.Div. from the Boston University School of Theology with a concentration in Religion and Conflict, and a Ph.D. in Conflict Studies and Religion with the University Professors Program at Boston University. Previously a fellow at the Institute of Culture, Religion, and World Affairs and at the Earhart Foundation, Grenfell-Muir has conducted field research in situations of ongoing conflict in Syria, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland.  Her dissertation explores the methodology, constraints, and effectiveness of clergy peacebuilders in Northern Ireland. She has been an invited speaker in community settings and at MIT, Boston University, Tufts, and Boston College on topics of gender violence, economic injustice, and religious or ethnic conflicts and has also moderated panels on genetic engineering, cloning, and other bioethics issues. She currently writes articles, book chapters, and liturgical resources about feminist, nature-based Christianity.

 

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2 thoughts on “Expansive Language for the Divine: Come, Holy Power Within! Help us Thy Names to sing!

  1. Trelawney, I notice that you were, “Previously a FELLOW at the Institute of Culture, Religion, and World Affairs and at the Earhart Foundation.” Your thoughts on being a fellow?

  2. Pingback: How Do We Heal Rape Culture? Part 2: How to Help Men Become Safer by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

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