Dear Mother God

Guyana Chronicle
May 9, 2000

SO PERVASIVE has been the concept of gender correctness, that today, almost half way in the year 2000, celebrants, both male and female of very respected, well-established churches, are openly addressing the Supreme Deity as `Dear Mother God' or `Our Mother'. And this may be so because in the 1990s, a formidable army of feminist theologians began shaking the foundations of Christian churches with the view, that God, who for millennia, has been perceived as a white, patriarchal male figure, is actually a woman, a Goddess, a giver of life and love.

Those feminists are of the view that the centuries of subjugation endured by women, were as a result of the given doctrine that an all-powerful male Deity was in charge of the universe and that woman's place was to be subservient to the men in her life in every aspect from intellectual expression to caring and rearing of children and wifely duties. The women's liberation movement of the 1960s spawned in the following decades a body of research into the origins of patriarchy. Many women who studied religions and anthropology discovered that the power of patriarchy had roots deep into Christianity and Judaism and that up to the time of the early Christian church, even those women, who laboured in propagating the gospel were somewhat circumscribed in their activities. The brilliant liberator Saint Paul, who acknowledged the work of the early Christian women, was constrained to pen the lines that women must be silent in the church. The old Testament is explicit in its instructions on the way women must conduct themselves even in the confines of their homes. All those references to the "uncleanness" of women have left their mark on gender perceptions in much the same way as those orthodox churches which regard women, good or bad, as "an occasion of sin".

The advent of the 90s witnessed a blossoming of literature by feminist writers and theologians, in which body of work, the "divine feminine" is released from 1,000 years of captivity. Writers including Merlin Stone, Carol P. Christ and Christine Downing are of the view that certain religious symbols have both psychological and political effects because they create inner attitudes and feelings that lead people to accept social and political arrangements that correspond to the symbol system. Writing an essay in the book `Womanspirit Rising', Christ points out that religions centred on the worship of a male God create moods and motivations that keep women in a state of psychological dependence on men, while at the same time legitimising the political and social authority of fathers and sons in most institutions of society.

However, some feminist theologians do not subscribe wholly to the reversal of the traditional perception of God. Reverend Dr Janet Wootton, a lecturer of Hebrew and New Testament Greek, would like God to be viewed as both female and male. "People who have no knowledge of the original texts of the Bible do not know that God is at various times described as `Mother' and `Midwife'. Parts of the Bible have been suppressed and other parts deliberately mistranslated to keep women in subjugation," opined Wootton, an Englishwoman who visited this country a decade ago as a guest of the 108th Assembly of Congregationalists.

Rev. Wootton said she was one of a group of women and men who are writing hymns in an effort to redress the male image of the church. One of her hymns, which was set to music by an American man and was part of a presentation of new hymns sung in Westminster Abbey was titled, "Dear Mother God".