Calling God “Mother” – Do You Preach a Sexist Jesus?

Calling God “Mother” – Do You Preach a Sexist Jesus? June 3, 2015
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Apparently, support is growing among Anglicans to revise official liturgy to refer to God as “Mother.”

Now, when I first came back to the Church I was pretty green. I was away for over ten years so I came at issues like this with an open mind and a clean slate.

I did not magically agree with Church teaching the minute I returned to the Church. Instead, I slowly grew into orthodoxy through prayer, research and discussion with people I respected.

But I still did and do find lots of positive things in communities on the fringes of the Church that are not always exactly in line with Church teaching. I feel that the Church in the United States has been greatly damaged by a highly divisive political atmosphere that forces Catholics to choose between very important issues. In my view this has pushed some people into heterodoxy who in other cultural contexts would most likely have been orthodox.

You probably see traces of this empathy for people who disagree with Church teaching in my blog posts. It drives all kinds of people crazy. But I am grateful for my perspective. It is one of the many good things that God brought out of my more than ten year hiatus from the Church.

But there are some issues for which I have little sympathy.

One of them is the “gender inclusive” language for God that seems to be gaining more and more traction in the Church of England.

I once asked a religious sister I knew who was fond of “gender inclusive language” why anyone would think that the word “Father” that Jesus himself gave us for God was not good enough. She responded by telling me that Jesus preached in a context that was patriarchal; the people would not have been open to Jesus preaching God as “Mother.”

I was dumbfounded.

I do not see how calling God “Father” is an affront to women. Perhaps I am too completely in love with my own femininity to even consider the idea that calling God “Father” would somehow mean that I am less than. Being a woman is one of the greatest gifts God has given me besides life itself.

I replied, “I am not sure which Jesus you are talking about, but it sure is not the Jesus I know. Jesus did not withhold truth simply because it was uncomfortable or because people couldn’t take it. If Jesus believed that “Abba” was the closest word one could use to humanly understand our relationship with a genderless God, then that is what he would preach and that is what I accept as truth. Jesus did not preach a watered down truth.”

I run into this same argument when I defend the Church’s position barring the ordination of women.

“Jesus didn’t institute the female priesthood because of the times he lived in, of course he would support it now.”

Of course?

So, let me get this straight. You believe in a Jesus who was either sexist or had to hide behind chauvinism because he didn’t want to rock the boat?

Do we believe in the same Jesus?

The Jesus who spoke to women in public, even though that was completely inappropriate at the time? The Jesus who had women followers in his inner circles? The Jesus who appeared to women first after the resurrection, even though at the time women were not considered credible witnesses?

This is a Jesus who treated women as equals.

Or how about the Jesus who preached that by literally eating him, one would come to have eternal life?

He basically preached what sounded like cannibalism to his audience!

And some people believe he was just too wimpy to suggest that women should be priests and God should be called “Mother”? Please.

Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He instituted the sacramental priesthood for men and used the word “Father” for God, not because men are better in any way but because gender means something. God is called “Father” because that gender most appropriately describes God’s relationship with his people.  If Jesus thought so, I think so.

God has sewn us a beautiful tapestry of salvation in which gender plays a crucial role, all for the purpose of teaching us about God. About love.

This is the Jesus I believe in.

How about you?

 


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  • guest

    I believe in a Jesus who was a product of his time and place. I also believe religion is a tool for people to use and so if some people want to call God mother, they should go for it.

    • PalaceGuard

      In short, therefore, you truly believe in nothing.

  • mgcruss

    “God is called “Father” because that gender most appropriately describes God’s relationship with his people.” How so?

    • Norman

      GREAT, great question! I had a girlfriend once who wanted the man she married to take her name. She told me that it’s because the traditional way was just another trace of “a time when women were considered owned by men”… It occurred to me at that point to ask her two things – 1) Why she thought God came as a man and not a woman. She didn’t have an answer and that was perfectly ok. The other question was 2) what do you think the Catholic Church’s teaches as to why God came as a man and not a woman is?… She realized at that point that it was really unlikely for the Church to think and teach “because God couldn’t have done it as a woman”… However, it’s such a big answer that an entire book has been written about it, several actually. The answer lay in John Paul II’s theology of the body, it has to do our studying anthropology as well. Enjoy!

      • Norman

        Correction: “the Catholic Church teaches” (not Church’s)

      • mgcruss

        1. I’m not asking why there was a male incarnation. For all I know, God tossed a coin (heads – male, tails -female) and heads won.
        2. Can’t you summarize some of the points from Theology of the Body that would explain why thinking of God as male is the most appropriate or do I really have to read it?

        • Norman

          I can’t do it any justice, he’s a smarter and more pious guy than I’ll ever be. Christopher West can give it justice, but it’ll sound stupid coming from me…

          • Andre B

            Not trying to pick on you, but I never understood this line of thinking. It seems like you’re either not giving yourself enough credit, or you’re giving the other far too much.

            Put another way, if you think you’re so far below JPII’s intellect, then why should we put much weight on your evaluation of his work? On the other hand, if you aren’t able to summarize his points, maybe he didn’t do such a great job of making his arguments.

          • Phil Steinacker

            Have you ever tried to read Pope St. John Paul II? No brag here, but most of the extremely intelligent and well-read people I hang with have found that reading a paragraph of his often necessitates a re-reading – sometimes more than once.

            Most people need to read and re-read Theology of the Body, discussing it with others and reading articles an blog posts about it before the vocabulary intrinsic to it becomes second-nature sufficient to overcome what Norman describes.

            Seems pretty clear you haven’t traveled that path yet. Before you advertise your cockiness by insulting others, you might try taking a run at some of John Paul’s works of philosophy, his encyclicals, letters, etc.

          • Andre B

            Phil,

            Before you advertise your cockiness by insulting others, you might try taking a run at some of John Paul’s works of philosophy, his encyclicals, letters, etc.

            I mean, thanks for the response, but I was hoping to have Norman give himself more credit than he appeared to.

            Ta

    • Steve

      One way of answering that question is to start by recognizing that gender isn’t simply an accident. The male and female forms are something God intended. The way men and women work together to create life can tell us something about God.

      How does a woman create? First she receives something from a man. Then life is created inside herself. The environment in which the baby finds itself is the mother.

      Apply that to God and creation and what do you get?

      It would say that God must first receive something in order to create. And then the resulting creatures find themselves in an environment which is God. That view is called Pantheism – the idea that the God is the universe, and the universe is God.

      Well, pantheism is not compatible with the Judeo-Christian understanding creation. God is not the universe or a thing in the universe. Everything we see around us is created and not to be worshiped.

      How does a man create? He initiates a process by giving something. His part in creation is from outside the environment where the creature grows. This is more like the manner in which God creates. God is other than the universe – on the outside.

      One of the classic images of the people of God is “the Bride of Christ”. This image is usually easier for women to envision than for men. Tell a guy that he is part of the bride of Christ and you’ll likely get some confused looks.

      But the marital bond is a core analogy of the way God relates to us. God gives, we receive. All humanity is spiritually female before God. Thus, Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians: “Man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” – 1 Corinthians 11:7

      It’s not that men are better or holier than women. We are both works of art, but we represent different things. And while it may not please those wedded to the cause of gender neutrality, God gives us the Holy Spirit so that we might cry out “Abba, daddy.” [Galatians 4:6]

      • mgcruss

        “His part in creation is from outside the environment where the creature
        grows. This is more like the manner in which God creates. God is other
        than the universe – on the outside.”

        When you say “outside” I assume you mean God encompasses the universe as well as whatever exists outside the universe. Since God supposedly created the universe and the universe is part of his being that sounds like a perfect metaphor for a feminine deity.

        • Howard

          “… and the universe is part of his being….” This is where you go astray.

          • PalaceGuard

            Panentheism is, unfortunately, very much a flavor of the day.

          • Howard

            Yup. In fact, I think most “atheists” are really more “low church pantheists”.

        • Steve

          Uh…no. That’s exactly what I was trying to NOT say. It is precisely the thing the masculine theological language seeks to avoid.

          The universe is not part of God’s being – if it was, it would mean the universe is divine and worthy of worship. That would be completely incompatible with Christian patrimony, which makes it absolutely clear that the universe is God’s distinct creation, not a part of God. This is why feminine Goddess worship inevitably leads to nature worship.

        • TerryC

          Well for “universe” one should probably substitute “creation”. The universe is all that has been created, including space and time and all that occupies creation. Be default then God is that which is outside the universe and has not been created.
          The feminine creates life from within herself, but she can only create life after her own nature, and only in cooperation with the masculine and with God, who provides the spark of life.
          God creates that which is not of his nature and separate from himself.

  • Howard

    Agreed. By the way, it is interesting that the honors traditionally given to priests and to women are so parallel. A man was expected to watch his language around priests, and also around ladies. A man was expected to remove his hat in the presence of either. And although both could and did give aid the to the wounded in battles, it was regarded as something peculiarly horrible for either to be either a shedder of blood or deliberately targeted.

  • donjohn9

    Interesting. I think there is much about the times and actual events we don’t know. The entire catholic religion, in fact the entire Christian religion, is really based on faith. The events described in the gospels were written down decades after Jesus lived. There is no reason for me to doubt that Jesus had many more apostles and many of them were women.

    I’m thinking that the religion is a product of the times that it grew in. In the famous words of James Brown, “it’s a man’s world” and it was especially true in Jewish and Roman culture of the times.

    If people want to call God, she, I doubt he cares. If Jesus came as a woman, there would be no religion and the world would be a very different place. If I’m not mistaken, the three major mono dietist religions all have males as their heads. It’s not a surprise.

    • johnnysc

      “If people want to call God, she, I doubt he cares. ”

      He definitely cares as He commanded to Baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Any other form is not valid.

      • donjohn9

        My point is that the Gospels were written well after Jesus dies. The first one, generally attributed to Mark, was written somewhere around 70 CE. That’s around 40 years after Jesus’ death. I can’t remember what I did last year and the person writing this was not a witness. I’m sure it wasn’t written by a woman.

        The times dictated that everything be from a male perspective to be accepted. I really don’t think God, the Father, cares, as he is not male or female.

        • TerryC

          There are many Biblical experts who disagree with the dates you have sited. The fact is you are assuming that the person who wrote the Gospel was not a witness because it advances your argument.
          Your date of 70 AD is based upon the belief by some that the Gospel was written after the destruction of the temple. Since the temple was destroyed in 70 AD and the destruction is prophesied in Mark 13:1 then if you don’t believe in prophesy the conclusion is that Mark was written after 70 AD.
          Of course if you do believe in prophesy and ask the very logical question of why doesn’t the Gospel actually mention the Temple was destroyed. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say Jesus prophesied the temple’s destruction and it came to pass? But it doesn’t. That suggest to many serious Scriptural scholars that it was written before the destruction of the temple.
          There is no reason that has been verified that the Gospel of Mark wasn’t written by the person whose name it carries. We know who Mark was. He was a companion of both Peter and Paul and was one of the seven disciples sent out by Jesus as described by Luke. This was verified by the writings Hippolytus.
          That makes him a witness.
          Yes I know Hippolytus lived in the second century. But I don’t doubt Weir’s biography of Henry VIII just because she lived several hundred years after the Tutor King.

          • donjohn9

            Good write up. I liked the way you posed 2 scenarios, belief in prophesy or not. I agree that the person writing the gospel may have been a witness. I’ve read nothing that said he was and because people simply didn’t live that long in those days, I assumed that tidbit to be correct.

            Are you posing the argument that the Gospel of Mark was written around the time of Jesus’ death? That would be something that I have never read, seen or heard, but I would be interested in reading more about that.

          • eddie too

            read the work of father Bernard orchard, o.s.b. he was a renown biblical scholar. he taught that there is much to doubt in modern biblical theory. he taught that matthew was most likely written first. that is was written before the apostles left Jerusalem to begin their ministries. that is was written primarily for catechetical purposes but also served as the framework for the other three gospels.

          • donjohn9

            Very historically radical but I agree with you that it’s worth the read. I will check it out.

    • David Charkowsky

      We can know a lot about Christianity with no faith at all because of the great number of writings that Christians left behind. There is a great deal of consistency and continuity in the tradition despite the fact that Christians were geographically dispersed. Like witnesses separately interrogated, this makes any tampering with the tradition obvious. Moreover, can you imagine someone being sloppy with transmitting a faith that they were willing to die for? That seems a little unbelievable to me. As Tertullian said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”

      • donjohn9

        Thanks for commenting.

        I do know that there was considerable debate over whether Jesus was even divine up until the council of Nicene. That’s almost 300 years after he died. What we believe is more a product of Emperor Constantine than Jesus (exaggerating). Whether some people want to call God mother instead of father seems trivial. What’s important is the message, not so much the gender.

        • dougpruner

          NOW you’re in trouble! 🙂 The belief of the mainstream churches (including the one represented on this blog) is that Jesus, the son of God, is also God. If so, that would certainly make him as “divine” as God is. I don’t buy into that- and you’re correct about the very late date for today’s “trinity doctrine”- but as the son of Yaweh he certainly had a different background from you and me. Anyway, I avoid using “divine” in talking about Jesus just because of this controversy.
          BTW the Council of Nicea is very much after the period of the gospel writings, no matter which time frame we use. Nothing at all biblical about those deliberations.

          • donjohn9

            Dougpruner.

            Trouble is my middle name! I’ve done some research regarding early Christianity from an historical point of view. I’m Catholic but I’m also interested in it’s roots. Many times they don’t square, but that’s what faith is all about. Check this out:

            In 312 AD, a Roman emperor named Constantine, a pagan who worshiped multiple gods, claimed to have a vision of the cross before a battle. After his victory, he became a convert to the religion of Christianity, eventually making it the semiofficial state religion.

            Constantine wanted to harness this new religion in order to unify an empire that was falling apart. At the time, Christianity was a loosely organized religion, a collection of churches with diverse beliefs and diverse scriptures. The Emperor intended to change that. He noticed that these people weren’t very well organized and if it’s one thing the Romans knew how to do was get things organized. In 325 AD, Constantine convenes the council of Nicaea, to decide the basic tenants of Christianity. He brings together the most powerful church leaders from around the world to discuss legalizing a formal Christian religion. Constantine’s main goal is unity. He wants the Christian religion to provide the ideological basis for the empire.

            His intention was to unify the faith, both religiously and politically. After weeks of debate, the various bishops and priests agree on a set of principles that unify all of Christianity and place the religion firmly under the control of the emperor.

            Under Constantine there is a complete redefinition of how God was to be understood. God now is the protector of the state which then seeks to use the religion for its own purposes which is to unify everything. After all, you can’t have much dissent and run a state.

            Constantine also unified the Christian gospels and limited the gospels he felt were fit for the state religion. Though the council did not officially decide on the content of the Christian bible, Constantine made it clear which gospels he considered acceptable. He commissioned 50 copies of a Christian bible which contained only the gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

            In 382 AD, another church council banned Christians from reading any other gospels. Under the emperor Theodosius, all other gospels were considered heresy. They were banned and their owners arrested and sometimes killed. At the time these other texts were the ones that believing Christians loved. That ended with the bishops instructing everyone on what they should read.

          • Morrie Chamberlain

            You are wrong on practically every point you make. You need to start reading some real history. Read the Early Church Fathers. Go to New advent and click on the Fathers tab.

          • donjohn9

            Morrie. Interesting.

            I wish I could say you are wrong as you have said I am, but you really haven’t said anything. What I did get from your tone is an attempt to belittle me with phrases like “You are wrong on practically every point you make”, as opposed to “I don’t agree” and “start reading some real history”.

            Regarding the sources you state are “real history”, New Advent is mostly a Catholic opinion page. The title “early church fathers” doesn’t inspire objectivity.

            I posted what I wrote to discuss it. If you have other facts, let’s discuss. To just out of hand say I am wrong without one piece of fact supporting your assertion does nothing, except enlighten me as to your thinking processes.

            A piece of advice…never tell someone they are wrong…say you don’t agree and then state why. What you wrote came off more like, “You’re wrong because I say so”.

          • Morrie Chamberlain

            I guess I should have said “great Copy and Paste” . I found the earliest copy of what you posted back in 2012 on an Islamic blog. I mentioned the Fathers page on New advent since it is informative that Constatine is not even mentioned. The Fathers are the actual writings of the earliest Christians. That is what historians do. They read. They don’ copy and paste. New Advent has a long article in its Encyclopedia (you say your Catholic) that covers Constatine in great detail. He was not baptized until just before his death. When someone brings up Constatine in a blog totally unrelated to him, it is usually from anti Catholics that want to present the following fantasy:
            1. After the time period of Acts the early Christian Church was very simple with no hierarchy, no doctrine, and just the bible.
            2. Constatine came along and added all sorts of pagan ideas and practices.
            3. These accretions continued throughout the Middle Ages.
            4. The “reformers” scraped off all the barnacles and brought Christianity back to its virgin state.

            Trouble with this theory is that we have plenty of writings from early Christians way before Constatine. They were all very Catholic. Read for example The First Apology written by Justin the Martyr and addressed to Emperor Titus written in the middle of the second century.

          • donjohn9

            Thanks for the response. I will comment on what you’ve posted later as I have to go out now.

            Whatever you found on an Islamic blog 2012 has nothing to do with what I wrote. I didn’t write my thing until March of this year and I used no internet sources.

            When you say “They don’ copy and paste.”, are you implying that my copy and paste was not my original content? I can tell you that I wrote that and posted it on my Facebook page for my friends. What I posted is clearly my writing style. I simply referenced my own writing on this blog.

            Am I correct in assuming that you think I lifted my Constantine Story from an Islamic blog?, because that’s what I’m understanding

          • Phil Steinacker

            You are wrong simply because your facts are wrong. Try doing objective research using solid sources. I note you fail to identify yours, in which you profess great, though unfounded, confidence.

            Your challenge to discuss based on facts is deceitful and perhaps lazy, as you have yet to establish your “facts” as actual. No sourcing, no stipulation of your “facts.”

            No one here is responsible for according you credibility when you fail to carry your own water. With knowledgeable Catholics you have to do better than that. Otherwise, (speaking for myself), you are simply not worth my time.

            Others may feel like working that hard, but I’ve found trolls like you come to Catholic cites to argue – as you seem to admit. Experience shows such proclivity usually indicates a tightly closed mind.

          • donjohn9

            All I’m trying to say is that there may be a different point of view regarding women in church development. I posted the Constantine story to show that decisions were being made as late as the three and four hundreds on bible composition. There’s much in the historical record that doesn’t square with our notions of what happened. We know very little about Jesus and his times, and I’m suggesting from that there is no reason to think that women did not play a bigger role in his ministry and subsequent movement (that’s what the original post by the nun was about). I am suggesting that the one’s who put the ideas into force hundreds of years later were men, and they therefore did it because it was “a man’s world”.

            Since sources and little details have become more important to this discussion than the general point I wish make, let me say that I culled most of this information from documentaries which are widely available on the internet and TV. Much of what I posted came from the mouths of church officials and biblical scholars, who’s interviews I watched. I can not remember the names of the programs but I wrote down the information at the time I watched them (unlike the bible that was written hundreds of years after the events (trying to be funny)). I also got material from a book that I don’t remember the name written by a professor of religious study. The book was on the three monotheist religions and their origins and development. Extremely dry book but very consistent with what I wrote. I also crossed checked this information to see if it was blatantly inconsistent with the Catholic encyclopedia and found that it was not (I read that a lot).

            We’re getting too hung up on Constantine’s role while my point is that Christianity was a smorgasbord of beliefs until it was unified, simply meaning that the gospels and the bible are simply books of faith, not necessarily fact.

            Now if you don’t agree, I’m interested in why. But I’m not interested in insults and if that’s what you’re gonna do, then don’t waste my time.

          • TerryC

            You are pretty much parroting the late nineteenth century Enlightenment propoganda which was created to discredit Christian teaching.
            Whether Constantine was a pagan is unknown. His mother was most probably a Christian. His father might have been a pagan, but was most probably a non-believing public practicing pagan. Which basically means he did the required public worship but had no real religious belief. It is possible Constantine was the same, or he might have always favored Christian beliefs, but been unwilling to receive baptism. In those days it was not uncommon for people who knew they might have to sin due to their political position to forgo Baptism, since Confession was not yet established as a routine sacrament. As a matter of fact Constantine was actually not Baptized until his deathbed and at that time by a bishop who was a member of the Heretical Arians.
            Which books were canonical was not set by the Church until the Council of Trent in the 16th Century. However Pope Innocent I, who was pope while Constantine was still a child was asked which books comprised Scripture and he produced a list identical to that used by Catholics today. Constantine had nothing to do with determining what Scripture is canonical.
            Neither did the First Council of Nicaea “vote of whether Jesus was God”. Everyone but the Arians already thought that Jesus was God. Constantine’s only association with the council was calling it.

          • donjohn9

            Polly want a cracker. Hehe

            Council of Trent, that’s about 1500 years after Jesus died so that’s when they decide to “set the record”! I’m confident in the historical accuracy of what i wrote but if they did as you state, that only makes my original point more valid, that’s there’s a lot we don’t know about the actual times of Jesus

          • Phil Steinacker

            I thought I recognized some shadings in donjohn9’s comments on early Church history. He gets a little of it right but the fundamental gist is totally wrong.

          • DianaFeb

            So what?

          • donjohn9

            About what? There’s a number of comments and I’m not sure which one you’re commenting on

          • DianaFeb

            The one where you “explain” Constantine’s motives, etc.
            Terry C and Morrie Chamberlain say it better than I would have anyway, though.
            Thanks, though.

          • Lyncmar

            Could you provide a citation for this? I have heard this type of thing used against Catholics all the time. It sounds dubious.

          • donjohn9

            I don’t mean to use it against Catholics. I’m one of them. All I’m doing is trying to set forth that there’s much in the historical record that doesn’t square with our notions of what happened. We know very little about Jesus and his times, and I’m suggesting from that that there is no reason to think that women did not play a bigger role in his ministry and subsequent movement. I am suggesting that the one’s who put the ideas into force hundreds of years later were men, and they therefore did it because it was “a man’s world”.

            I culled most of this information from documentaries which are widely available on the internet and TV. Much of what I posted came from the mouths of church officials and biblical scholars. I also got material from a book by a professor of religious study. The book was on the three monotheist religions and their origins and development. Extremely dry book but very consistent with what I wrote.

            We’re getting too hung up on Constantine’s role while my point is that Christianity was a smorgasbord of beliefs until it was unified, simply meaning that the gospels and the bible are simply books of faith, not necessarily fact.

          • eddie too

            I reject this characterization. I believe and I think the evidence indicates that Jesus knew exactly what He was doing at all times in His ministry.
            Jesus intended to found an hierarchical Church. Jesus knew the doctrine of the Trinity perfectly and taught it explicitly to His apostles (the Twelve). Jesus knew He was the Second Person of the Trinity and taught that to His apostles. Jesus knew all of the laws of the spiritual realm and explicitly revealed those laws to His apostles.
            while history tells us that there were Christians who were confused about these doctrines, it does not tell us that they were confused because these doctrines had not been revealed by Christ. there were always Christians who knew these doctrines explicitly. others were confused because those who had introduced them to the Gospel had not been fully instructed by the apostles.
            the human condition that exists today wherein people are confused about the teachings of the Church has always existed because we humans are simply not capable of transmitting the truth precisely to everyone at all times. but, Jesus was NOT confused about these doctrines. nor did Jesus try to confuse His twelve nor did He leave these mysteries unexplained. the Twelve did however suffer from what all human beings suffer, imperfect memories and imperfect understanding. even now, our understanding of the Trinity is far from perfect.

          • donjohn9

            Your faith is strong

          • Idler

            I don’t know where you get your information from but it is mostly not true. There was a Roman Emperor named Constatntine who did convene the Council of Nicaea. But beyond that, your information is mostly wrong. The Council of Nicaea did not place the Christian religion under the firm control of the Emperor. Constantine, who died in 337, was not around in 382 to ban Christians from reading other Gospels.

            The emperor in 382 was Theodosius I who in 390 ordered the slaughter of 7000 citizens of Thessalonica. The Church was so much under the control of the Emperor that Bishop Ambrose of Milan refused to meet with him until he had performed public penance. Which the Emperor did.

            If God was the protector of the State, then that would in effect make the emperor infallible. No where and in no time has the Church ever taught that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the State.

            As with Theodosius, throughout her History, the Church has not failed to call Kings and Emperors to task for the sins that they have committed. Henry VIII is another good example.

            Pope Leo X called Henry the “Defender of the Faith”. This did not prevent Pope Clement VII from excommunicating him for divorcing his wife Catherine. An action that ultimately led to the death of St. Thomas More.

            These are two quick examples from more than one thousand years apart to show that the Church has never allowed itself to become subservient to any master other than her bridegroom, Jesus.

          • donjohn9

            “The Council of Nicaea did not place the Christian religion under the firm control of the Emperor”. You’re absolutely right. The opposite was true. It was Constantine who placed the religion under his firm control. I also never stated that Constantine was around in 382. My last paragraph only referred the rule of Emperor Theodosius and the solidifying of the gospels. I didn’t know that the number was 7,000. That’s a lot. My opinion is that the Church of that time was complicit with the Emperor in consolidating the faith (opinion, not fact). I don’t mean it necessarily in a bad way. They may have used the Empire to strengthen their position and as a result was able to survive after it’s fall. But none of that was in my Constantine post.

            God as protector of the state is a metaphor for the state usurping the religion. In no way did I mean to say that God now protected the Roman Empire or even that the religion wanted it so. It was simply how Constantine used the religion for his own purposes. I thought the theatrics of the statement was pretty obvious but I’m sorry about the confusion.

            You mention Bishop Ambrose of Milan, but he may have been the exception, not the rule. The pope at the time was Damasus I (1 Oct 366-11 Dec 384). He was indefatigable in promoting the Roman primacy, frequently referring to Rome as ‘the apostolic see’ and ruling that the test of a creed’s orthodoxy was its endorsement by the pope. In 378 he persuaded the government to recognize the holy see as a court of first instance and also of appeal for the western episcopate. In tune with his ideas, Theodosius I (379-95) declared
            (27 Feb. 380) Christianity the state religion in that form which the Romans had once received from St PETER and Damasus of Rome; for Damasus this primacy was not based on decisions of synods, as were the claims of Constantinople, but exclusively on his being the direct successor of St Peter and so the rightful heir of the
            promises made to him by Christ (Matt. r6: r8). This succession gave him a unique juridical power to bind and loose, and the assurance of this infused all his rulings on church discipline.

            That’s from the Oxford Dictionary of Popes by J.N.D. Kelly.

          • eddie too

            where does one go to find the evidence that reveals the mind of Constantine? does it exist or is most of what is attributed as Constantine’s motives derived from historical evidence and is more correctly termed speculation?
            from where do you suppose Constantine gained his information about Jesus?
            why should we believe that Constantine’s faith was purely a political pretense designed to enhance his earthly power, ditto as to Constantine’s efforts to make the Church more substantial in the world?
            surely, God also wanted His Church to grow and prosper.

          • donjohn9

            This is stuff historian’s come up with. The Catholic encyclopedia has a lot of this too but they are easy on Constantine. Historians not so much. I totally agree with your last sentence.

  • johnnysc

    ” I feel that the Church in the United States has been greatly damaged by a highly divisive political atmosphere that forces Catholics to choose between very important issues.”

    The choice is between their political ideology or the teachings of Jesus. You would think that would be an easy choice but as your article illustrates the choice for many is for the political by having Jesus conform to their ‘feelings’. We have those that vote for staunch pro abortion politicians as example.

    • dougpruner

      You are close to something when you say, “…political ideology OR the teachings of Jesus”. In fact, his idea for us followers was to stay entirely out of politics.
      “It is for them that I pray. I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, because they belong to you… I passed your word on to them, and the world hated them, because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world… I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the Evil One… They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”

      John 17:9,14,16, NJB
      But many say, ‘Christians should engage in politics in order to counter the acts of Satan.’ Jesus, again, had another idea, expressed in the Paternoster: “…thy [God’s] kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth…”
      If God himself can’t cause that to come about, then no one else can.

      • TerryC

        The teaching of the Church has always been that it is rightly the province of the laity to be involved in the political sphere. Sister rightly says that it is not correct to blindly follow one political party on narrow issues, but that is different from not being involved.
        As the 2 James says, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and
        one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but
        you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? ”
        One can practice personal charity, surely and should. But if no action in a political sense is allowed the next day that person will again be naked and hungry.
        Certainly when subjects like Just War and immoral acts supported by government is concerned the Christian must be politically involved.
        We are not called to hide under a bushel, but to stand on a light stand. Sometimes that requires being politically involved.

  • Constance King

    Sad this showed up in my feed. I do not agree in any way. I know of a little girl who only wants to become a priest and cannot, that is a shame and a sin. Catholicism has it’s own way of seeing things, but that doesn’t make it the truth. It is wrong that a faith would block anyone, male or female from a calling – a man is no better than a woman, vice versa, it is yet one more way to continue a very sexist ideal.

    • Jacob Suggs

      Which leaves you at the same question. Was Jesus sexist or a wimp? Or is it more likely that a particular human is confused about their calling and about the priesthood?

      That is, if you equate “only men can be priests” with “men are better than women,” then that’s clericalism. And a calling is not merely what we want to do/feel attracted to at a particular time, when little or otherwise, but literally what God calls us to do. That’s not to say that our feelings about a vocation aren’t important in discernment, but they aren’t the whole story – and one thing we should all know from being human is that we sometimes strongly want things that aren’t possible and which may be good for others but that aren’t for us.

      • DianaFeb

        Very good response, Jacob. Thanks for that.

    • DianaFeb

      Sad that this comment showed up here.

      Someone who claims to “teach” Holy Mother Church about sin.

      Yet, who does not undestand the difference between a contraction and the possessive form of the gender-neutral pronoun. — BTW, Holy Mother Church is not ‘it’ but SHE.

    • Justin

      This can be frustrating (as a married man, I can’t be a priest, either), but as our local priest actually discussed with us tonight, *all* baptized Christians are called to priesthood- the sacramental priesthood which is limited to a very narrow part of the community is only one facet of our priestly duties! But the priesthood is commanded of us all, from the gentlemen in the robes up front to those of us in the back pews. Organizationally, this certainly can (and far too often does) get lost in practice, but it is encoded into our Catholic doctrine, and we forget it at our own risk! Btw, if a Catholic ever tells you a man is better than a woman, they are way out of line, and probably need to be scolded by Sister Noble!

    • Phil Steinacker

      You confuse a desire for something or to do something as equivalent to a calling.

      That is a false belief. A priestly vocation IS a calling from God which requires discernment that it is not merely one’s own desire. That takes both guidance and time.

      Authentic female priesthood is impossible but not because of any deficiency in women. Rather, it is because that Jesus chose only men as His Apostles. That reality is further developed on a number of levels too complex for discussion in a combox but can be found online after patient searching.

      Women have a separate calling in the Church, but I wouldn’t expect non-Catholics likely to view such things through a secular political lens to grasp any of that discussion.

      As for disappointing little children, that is something for a responsible parent to help them learn how to overcome; good practice for the reality of life.

  • dougpruner

    A strange post, from a practitioner of a religion that calls the mother of Jesus “our mother”, when its own scripture says, “But the Jerusalem above is free, and that is the one that is our mother”. Gal 4:26, NJB

    • TerryC

      Not sure of your point here.
      Should we be incapable of apply any nuance to the Scriptures?

      Psalm 45 is often applied to the Church as the bride of Christ. It can also be applied to Mary as the Daughter of the King (God) honored with her virgin companions and receiving sons in place of her fathers (Christians in place of the Jews) and being sought for favors.
      Mary is often compared to the tabernacle, because just as God was in the Holy of Holys so was Jesus in Mary. So Scripture written about the Temple and the Arc of the Covenant (which was kept in the Holy of Holys) is applied to Mary.
      Scripture is layered and full of nuance.

  • Justin

    This comes at an interesting moment. On the one hand, we are right now being told that not accepting the chosen gender terminology/adjectives selected by one contemporary person is rightly punishable by complete social castigation and derision, while on the other hand we are being told that we should take the initiative to change the gender terminology/adjectives selected by Christ (for himself, btw, provided your beliefs are trinitarian). The juxtaposition, and for that matter the relative aggressiveness of the respective orthodoxies, is well worth contemplating.

  • KarenJo12

    How about Jesus knew that he wouldn’t be here in the flesh to perform miracles, and that the Apostles were only human and products of their time and place, and that after the Resurrection, the believers would go out into a grusomely patriarchal world that would not accept women as leaders? The church had be close enough to the existing system to be comprehensible to the people of the time, but revolutionary enough to start creating a world in women could be leaders equal to men. Jesus wanted a church that would last thousands of years; not a church tied forever to the customs of the 1st century.

    • TerryC

      I think you need to prayerfully review the writings of the early Church. Women were in unprecedented positions of authority in the Church. I did my undergraduate work in first century Roman history. Women in the empire, especially citizens had an enormous amount of power. While the husband was the final judge of life and death in the household a divorced or widowed woman could own property, conduct her own business and own one.
      Paul and even Peter appears to have followed this practice and both Scripture and early Church writings show women as leaders of Christian communities.
      What they never show is a woman as a priest or bishop.
      For that matter contemporary Roman and Greek religions contained both priestesses and religious organizations which were run by women, who exercised power, sometimes over men. While not the practice among Jews, the knowledge of such groups was well known to early Church members. This gruesomely patriarchal world you seem to believe in simply did not exist as you envision it.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Nice construct, but it places you in the untenable and potentially uncomfortable position of reading the mind of Jesus, Who is God, that He actually felt limited by what you think you perceive.

  • Great post Sister. I am sure God does not have the same sexuality as humans, but we were given a convention – God as Abba – by Jesus Christ Himself for reasons we don’t fully understand. So let’s be understand that God is not male as we think male but it is some approximation. So even if Jesus fudged for His time and culture, what makes them think it should be mother?

  • ignatius
  • Andy James

    It’s ignorant to think that the same Jesus that overturned all kinds of social constraints in his day (like dining with tax collectors and hanging around former prostitutes)…the same Jesus that had the courage to go to his own agonizing death…would not have the courage to use the correct pronoun for God, if that were indeed the will of God.

  • Alicia Simpson

    Jesus called God; The Father as a metaphor. The Jews did it as well. The metaphor is simple, back then people believed that all that a child was, all that the child became, came from the father’s ‘seed’. They did not know about ovaries and eggs, meiosis, gametes, and all that stuff we understand today.

    God is the Father because all that we are, everything down to the basic particles that make us up came from God were created by God.

    I am not against changing the language as long as two things happen first: 1.) we all learn WHY we call God the Father (and, as indicated, it is NOT because we think he is male) and 2.) that the new term offers a similar metaphor.

    Once you have done that, go for it.

    • Phil Steinacker

      The problem with your conditional willingness to accept this language change is that your conditions would not continue to be applied to successive generations – IF they are complied with from the start.

  • Greg Parent

    As I recall, God as Abba did not have much of a history in Judaism before Jesus although it had been mentioned. It was his specific revelation to mankind. Also, the word “patriarchy” is a red flag which often indicates the speaker is imposing an ideology and thereby has lost connection to Reality. To attribute to Jesus one’s own ideological prejudice (in common parlance to put words in his mouth) is in fact blasphemy.

  • DavidLakeview

    “The father who embraces his lost
    son is the definitive icon of God…. The merciful father of the parable
    has in himself …. all of the characteristics of fatherhood and
    motherhood. In embracing the son he shows the profile of a mother.” Pope Saint John Paul II, September 8, 1999

  • DavidLakeview

    “God is Father, and even more, He is Mother.” Pope John Paul I, September 10, 1978

  • Christopher Noble

    The term “Father” in an ontological designation. God is Father, he is like a mother. He is called “Father” because he is a Father. What separated ancient Judaism and Christianity from pagan religions was God was considered masculine. Pagan religions considered God as masculine and feminine. God is not male, he is masculine in relation to creation which is feminine in relation to him. It is not sexist to call God “Father”. It is revelation. God did not call himself mother. His self-revelation is God as Father, He is like a mother hen, he is not a mother hen. These distinctions may seem unnecessary but it is crucial to hold to what God has revealed to us. We can enter into the mystery of God if we related to him as “Father”, but I don’t believe we can if we related to him as “Mother”. Mary is our mother and she reveals true mother hood to us.

  • Therese

    You could even go biological on this, since males have BOTH an X and a Y chromosome, they are inclusive of ALL human beings, whereas XX females truly do represent only half of humanity.
    Additionally, it was the X chromosome of a simple human that Jesus carried, so that is enough to convince this female that, indeed, FATHER knows best. 🙂

  • eddie too

    in the usa and much of the rest of the west, there is a movement to eliminate gender distinctions. I suspect this effort by some in the CofE is a result of that.

  • eddie too

    maybe one reason that Jesus called God Father was because Jesus’ mother was a human being. some might find it confusing if Jesus had taught us that He had two mothers and no Father.

    • captcrisis

      Good point