Mother-Father God

I’m still reading through Sexism and God-Talk by Rosemary Radford Ruether, and seriously, y’all, this book is breathing new life into my dying faith. There’s another quote I’d like to share with you all today because it feels particularly relevant to my life.

Ruether is continuing her discussion of images of God–whether they reinforce existing hierarchies that oppress the weak and thus become idolatrous, or whether they empower the oppressed of society to find freedom by asserting that God is their only master. One image of God that she discusses is the image of God as parent.

According to Ruether, the model of God as parent, especially when it includes images of Mother God as well as Father, has positives. “Parents are a symbol of roots,” she says, “the sense of being grounded in the universe in those who have gone before, who underlie our own existence.” Parents, family, heritage are all important and potentially empowering.

However, the parent image of a “Mother-Father God” can be used to control people as well.

It suggests a kind of permanent parent-child relationship to God. God becomes a neurotic parent who does not want us to grow up. To become autonomous and responsible for our own lives is the gravest sin against God. Patriarchal theology uses the parent image of God to prolong spiritual infantilism as virtue and to make autonomy and assertion of free will a sin…To that extent parenting language for God reinforces patriarchal power rather than liberating us from it. We need to start with language for the Divine as redeemer, as liberator, as one who fosters full personhood and, in that context, speak of God/ess as creator, as source of being.

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