Creating God

by Richard on January 27, 2011

PamBG has decided to make God in her own image

I’m coming out of the closet: I have decided to create God in my own image. Really, I have.

I’m going to call Her Godde. Godde is a white middle class woman. Or, in your case, Godde might be an African-Caribbean young woman, or a disabled elderly Latina.

Someone else’s God might be a 3-month old Asian boy with a congenital heart defect or even a white, middle-aged, middle-class man.

I’m absolutely, utterly serious. Here’s the deal.

But you’ll have to visit her site to find out what the deal is…

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Just Call Me Godde (Creating God in Your Own Image) « Ramblings from Red Rose
01.28.11 at 9:38 am

{ 120 comments… read them below or add one }

1

doug 01.27.11 at 8:06 pm

Still have problems with this “Godde” thing. God also isn’t a her but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t value women. If one reads Genesis 1 one can see the “created He, them” in the creation which is NOT man over woman, etc., etc.

2

Will Grady 01.27.11 at 9:16 pm

Doug, why not go on her blog and talk to her about it?

3

doug 01.27.11 at 9:20 pm

because Richard posted it here. Can’t it be talked about in multiple places? Isn’t that what blogs about?

4

Will Grady 01.27.11 at 9:49 pm

Oh, doug. I’m torn between attempting to type an answer and just forgetting the whole thing because it would be a waste of time.

You will have to ask Richard, but I assume that he linked to the article so you could know about it and if you wanted to, engage with Pam on her post on her blog. It’s her thoughts and Richard, while I am sure can discuss it quite ably, he is unable to give a full account of what is going on in her head.

I do apologise for what I have done, as my suggestion has been understood to be a direct attack on your freedom. This was the furthest thing from my mind. I am sure that blogging is about many things, but I would have thought that when a person posts something on her own blog and invites comments, the best place to do that is where the author has posted such thoughts. But, if you see that as some sort of limitation to your freedom and a chiselling away of the very heart of blogging, then please comment where you like.

5

PamBG 01.27.11 at 10:01 pm

HaHaHaHaHa!

Seriously, I’ve let out one long, hearty laugh!

A woman can’t even have her own blog, but she needs a man to blog for her!

:D

Some things you really just gotta laugh about!

I’m really glad that God is a man who values women. That must be so affirming to egalitarian men and it “should” make us women feel so good too. ;-)

6

Kim 01.27.11 at 10:02 pm

It should be noted that the idea that God really is a Father, and therefore male, has an ancient pedigree: it was the view of many Arians. Thus their conclusion that Christ the Son - also taken literally - was not pre-existent, i.e ., was non-existent before he was “begotten”. In other words, Doug’s view is an old heresy. Orthodox tradition has always insisted that to call God “Father” is a metaphor (but not, of course, in the demotic sense of just a metaphor, i.e., ornamental and therefore expendable) . Alas the theology of the matter has not prevented the gross ideological distortions of patriarchy and misogyny - to which repugnant and oppressive ecclesial cultures I take Pam’s “Godde” to be a cri de coeur (maybe even a spoof? ;) ) and not a project.

7

PamBG 01.27.11 at 10:15 pm

Kim, actually, no it’s most definitely a “project”.

I’ve been looking inside myself for a male Holy Spirit for 53 years. I’m learning to stop looking for an alien invader and see the Spirit of God within me as She is. I’m sure it makes a hellva a difference.

As a thought experiment, try imagining that thousands of years of matriarchy, female status and male subordination demand that when you look inside your own heart and soul for the Holy Spirit (the one for whom your body is a temple) that you may only see a woman, only see the feminine and that all sense of masculinity within yourself be decried as anathama and heresy.

I’m totally, utterly serious.

8

Richard 01.27.11 at 11:08 pm

I got that you were serious, Pam. Good on you.

Doug — I can’t object to this conversation happening here, but I did set this post up so that it would more naturally happen at Pam’s place.

9

doug 01.27.11 at 11:11 pm

Pam, I never stated that a “man has to blog for her”. I read it hear so I comment hear. If I read it somewhere else I would comment there. Call me lazy but it seemed easier for me to comment here than there. If that somehow hurt Pam that was not the intent.

Kim, I’m not an “Arian” and I’m definiately not that with a “y” if you get my drift. I have never ever thought of Jesus being non exsistent before He was “begotten” for Scripture says “I and the Father are One.” also Matthew 1 goes into detail, Genesis 1 goes into detail, etc. I understand the underlying God is not man or woman. However, I will not change Scripture to be “she” when Scripture doesn’t state “she” and I would definitely not refer to God as “Goddess” for Scripture doesn’t refer to God as being a “goddess”/”godde” or whatever you desire to call the One True God (if that is what you are in reference to).

Just because Scripture refers to masculine, etc., etc. nowhere does Scripture denegrate woman or states that woman are less than man in the sight of God.

10

PamBG 01.27.11 at 11:22 pm

doug, I’m certainly not surprised that you hold the opinions that you hold.

Now, I imagine if we try to have more of a discussion, you’re going to give me more of the same argument about how God is portrayed in the bible. And I’m not going to take back what I said on the basis of that statement.

So I doubt our conversation is going to get too much further.

11

Kim 01.27.11 at 11:42 pm

As a male, Pam, who feels implicitly complicit in the baleful history of patriarchy, I certainly respect your seriousness and intent, but, in good faith, I do think that simply complementing or displacing male imagery with female imagery in God-talk actually has the effect of endorsing patriarchy in new forms (not least due to cultural stereotyping of the imagery). And I have come to this this view largely through studying the works of women theologians themselves like Sarah Coakley, Janet Martin Soskice, and Kathryn Tanner.

Pax

12

Richard 01.27.11 at 11:42 pm

But Doug, if you only “read it hear” (sic) then you haven’t read it. I only posted a teaser, as I made clear.

13

PamBG 01.27.11 at 11:58 pm

I do think that simply complementing or displacing male imagery with female imagery in God-talk actually has the effect of endorsing patriarchy in new forms .

Kim, you’ll forgive me for thinking from this remark that you may not have read my post. Either that or I have failed monumentally to communicate. Perhaps you can point out to me why you think that my post is recommending displacing male imagery with female imagery in God-talk. I actually thought I was fairly clear about not doing that.

14

Tim 01.28.11 at 1:30 am

‘And I have come to this this view largely through studying the works of women theologians themeselves like Sarah Coakley, Janet Martin Soskice, and Kathryn Tanner.’

Arrgghh!

Another educated theologian who thinks that ‘women’ is an adjective! ‘What do they teach them in these schools’!!! Doesn’t anyone learn grammar any more???

(OK, I’ll take off my grumpy curmudgeon hat now)

15

PamBG 01.28.11 at 1:37 am

Me, I loved the bit that sounded like “I’m the educated theologian and I’ve just demolished your silly viewpoint” and ended in “Pax”. But I’m hard surprised. I’m waiting for Kim to next tell me what it was that I really meant to say as I am obviously not qualified to interpret myself.

(Where is the bug-eyed icon from SOF when you need it?)

16

Allan R. Bevere 01.28.11 at 2:27 am

Pam, I’m going to chime in with Kim on this one. I think his points need to be taken seriously.

And now, I am going to post the same comment on your blog, because I am I am rather upset that this conversation is happening here and not there.

… which rather demonstrates your point…

17

Richard 01.28.11 at 7:37 am

Can I just say that I’m a bit bewildered by this conversation?

18

Kim 01.28.11 at 8:47 am

I am too. I have tried to say something constructive, even supportive.

@ Tim. Would you have preferred me to use the term “feminist” theologians? That would not be accurate. In any case, you know my point: that as a male in a sinful cultural position of privilege and power I have tried to listen to women on this liberation issue in the same way that I have tried to listen to Latin American, Asian, and African-American theologians on the issue of liberation, race, and ethnicity. Would you go, “Arrgghhh, another white North American who thinks that Latin American, etc. is an adjective”? If so, I think you are being rather uncharitable, to say the least.

@ Pam. You are going to call God “Godde” who is “a white middle class woman”. That sounds like displacement to me. If I am wrong, I am sorry. But I suspect that it sounds like displacement language to most people. And to continue on the topic of successful communication, if you really are serious that you have a project to create God in your own image, I think you are going to have to explain why this is not an exercise in idolatry (as I think I’m on safe ground in thinking that creating God in your own image is a pretty good definition of idolatry).

And as for qualifications to interpret oneself, well, all I can say is that I am too Augustinian to think I have the qualifications to interpret myself. I need all the help I can get.

That’s it. I don’t want to fight with you.

19

Tim 01.28.11 at 9:05 am

Kim, ‘Latin American’ is an adjective. ‘Women’ is not.

Sorry if I got this out of perspective. I’m so sick and tired of hearing British Anglicans debate ‘women bishops’. No one talks about ‘men bishops’; they talk about male bishops (by the way, it was a female bishop who first pointed this put to me).

Yes, it’s only grammar. What can I say; I enjoy good English.

20

Kim 01.28.11 at 9:55 am

“Female” theologians then? I suspect not! What word should I use? I’ll try to comply!

21

Rachel 01.28.11 at 10:24 am

Kim: fortunately the word is unnecessary in it’s context - though if the theologians were called Chris and Frankie you’d still have a problem :o)

22

Richard 01.28.11 at 10:37 am

>> “though if the theologians were called Chris and Frankie…”

…or Kim :)

23

PamBG 01.28.11 at 11:04 am

You are going to call God “Godde” who is “a white middle class woman”. That sounds like displacement to me. If I am wrong, I am sorry. But I suspect that it sounds like displacement language to most people.

Quite seriously, did you actually read the rest of the post?

So, when I invited you - and everyone else - to find the image of God inside you without having to conceive of God as a “better” gender or a “better” age , or a “better” status or a “better” sexuality, that was still me saying that God is actually a middle aged, white female?

When I invited us all to bring our images of God together into the world and for each of us to see the image of God in our Self, it was me displacing one image with another?

Seriously? That’s what you thought?

And you think that this some kind of a systematic, “objective” (in scare quotes because I don’t think that there is any such thing as objectivity, but I know that some people think that there is) theological statement about who God is and what God looks like rather than a statement about how we relate to God? Seriously?

24

PamBG 01.28.11 at 11:09 am

That’s it. I don’t want to fight with you.

Well, at the moment, I want to fight with you. Of course, do you don’t have to reply.

When you whip off your dismissive remarks in the tone of “I’m so much more educated and than most of you stupid people here and I clearly have God sorted out unlike most of you idiots”….What the hell do you expect? And, for what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re sexist n the least. It appears to me that you think most of the people here are idiotic most of the time. I trust that you don’t come across that way in person.

But, **** me, if you’re going to dish it out, then you ought to be able to take it too.

25

Kim 01.28.11 at 12:19 pm

Before reading your last two comments, Pam, I posted a comment over at your blog. Now after this mauling I will retire to my tent and tend to my wounds.

26

Richard 01.28.11 at 1:00 pm

I’m more puzzled than ever now. What on earth is going on in this thread?

27

Paul F. 01.28.11 at 7:08 pm

I would add two things I learned from two very intelligent men, that I think might help the discussion:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” - A.W. Tozer. So critiquing mental images of God are always in order.

“We need many images, especially conflicting images [of God]. We need lots of images lest we suppose that any of these images is God, lest we worship any one of them.” - Herbert McCabe.

I don’t deny that popular western Christianity has produced a very riduculous image of God as a bearded middle-aged man in the sky. It’s astounding - in a sad way - how many atheists think this is what we all actually believe, and scoff at our faith on those grounds.

28

Paul F. 01.28.11 at 7:09 pm

Oh, boy. “riduculous”. Gotta watch for those wavy red lines.

29

Paul F. 01.28.11 at 7:14 pm

One last thing, I would ask those who take a traditional stance on this issue: what kind of God-language would you recommend to a Christian who has suffered from a devastating, abusive relationship with his or her father?

30

fat prophet 01.28.11 at 7:28 pm

I can not believe how many comments this post has generated given it is not really the post that people are commenting on. I am not sure that makes sense any more than some of the comments here but I know what I meant.

31

Kim 01.28.11 at 8:05 pm

Two great quotes, Paul (and your comment after the Tozer). As Calvin said, we are idol factories. Thanks.

32

Pam 01.28.11 at 9:42 pm

Re comments 24,25, & 26.
Pam - spunky!
Kim - licking your wounds, I didn’t think tough guys like you ever got wounded. You learn something new every day.
Richard - puzzled, as ever. Kim’ll fill you in.

33

doug 01.28.11 at 10:18 pm

“One last thing, I would ask those who take a traditional stance on this issue: what kind of God-language would you recommend to a Christian who has suffered from a devastating, abusive relationship with his or her father?”

Well I would say that God the Father in the Bible is a perfect Father who says to those who have Faith in Him “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” and all of the many, many promises of God the Father toward His people. As opposed to the human fathers who are all faulty by the nature of sin. At the best, for those who have not been abused, we can get “an idea” or a limited understanding of the nature of God the Father. However, it is limited. However, we do know that Jesus used the natural father as analogous to the heavenly Father with the “parable of the prodigal son”. :)

So in conclusion: What kind og God-language would I use? “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

34

PamBG 01.28.11 at 11:12 pm

@Paul I was going to facetiously propose that to the person who has been abused we should give them the correct understanding of God and then tell them that our picture of what is inherently unknowable is the only permissible view and greater minds than theirs have sorted this all out before they even thought of it. But someone beat me to it.

I do find that dealing in cold logic and hard facts always helps deal with our emotions. ;-)

35

Tony Buglass 01.28.11 at 11:41 pm

” what kind of God-language would you recommend to a Christian who has suffered from a devastating, abusive relationship with his or her father?”

Friend? Lover? Personally, I don’t much care what gender comes to the fore when folk commune with God - I call him ‘Father’ ‘cos it worked for Jesus and it works for me, but I’d hate anything I say to come between anyone and the God who loves them. Any one of us contains both masculine and feminine attributes - there are some lovely female images about God in the Bible: if I remember correctly, it’s Jer.31:3 which uses a word for the love of God which is usually only used of the feeling a pregnant woman has for the unborn child she carries - especially in the early stages when she is the only one who can feel its presence. I’ve lain in bed beside my pregnant wife and felt the bump move, but this is something only a mother can feel. No man has ever felt that. How much more feminine do you want?

None of us can legislate for the ways God will touch us, or the images that will speak most clearly to us. The Bible gives so many, which have often been overlaid by generations of translation and tradition. I’m sorry people feel the need to be more prescriptive about their God-talk than God feels about it - if only we could just relax into God, and let him show the way, instead of dragging folk back to our own particular ‘biblical’ or ‘traditional’ view. I put ‘biblical’ into quotes, because often the folk who are most concerned to be biblical who manage it the least, because most of us work in translation, and fail to catch the nuances of God’s God-talk.

Trust me - there is *always* something lost in translation.

36

Tony Buglass 01.28.11 at 11:42 pm

“I do find that dealing in cold logic and hard facts always helps deal with our emotions. ”

Yeah, right. ;)

Just how far in your cheek can you get your tongue…?

37

Pam 01.28.11 at 11:47 pm

Tony expressed much better than I did a point I was trying to make on Pam BG’s blog about the use of “father” and “mother” in relation to God. Pam didn’t seem to get what I was saying (my fault not hers).
We all meet God in the circumstances of our own lives, and essentially we travel alone. No teacher can take us there.
Thanks, Tony, for the best comment (in my humble opinion).

38

Tony Buglass 01.28.11 at 11:55 pm

Thank you, Pam. You’ve just given me a lovely warm feeling, much deeper than the nice warm glow I’m getting from the wee dram I’ve been enjoying. Bless you.

39

PamBG 01.29.11 at 12:25 am

Just how far in your cheek can you get your tongue…?

Um, pretty far! :D

40

Kim 01.29.11 at 9:55 am

One last thing, I would ask those who take a traditional stance on this issue: what kind of God-language would you recommend to a Christian who has suffered from a devastating, abusive relationship with his or her father?

Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger has some beautiful and astute things to say about this and other similar issues, with moving case studies, in her brilliant Theology and Pastoral Counselling: A New Interdisciplinary Approach (1995), which (some will be surprised!) actually brings the theology of Karl Barth into conversation with clinical psychology. But then only a liberal fundamentalist would ignore or sneeringly dismiss “the pastoral function of Christian doctrine”, the subtitle of By the Renewing of Your Minds (1997), another important book, this one by Ellen T. Charry, or smear the attempt to think seriously about good and bad God-talk, precislely in compassionate concern for the healing of wounded people, as “cold logic”, or imply that a colleague’s care might take the form of a lecture. That’s pretty fucked up.

I think a clerihew is in order!

Pam and Pam,
Two lovely mams, yet so damn
Touchy. But, hey! -
Godde moves in a mysterious way.

41

Richard 01.29.11 at 7:37 pm

I don’t know whether my adding to this thread is entirely wise, but I think it needs ‘wrapping up’ somehow, in a way I’ve rarely felt about a comment thread. Clearly there has been significant misunderstanding along the way and more than a few hurt feelings. Call me a wuss if you will, but my experience is that the pain caused by conflict on t’interweb is every bit as genuine as that in the ‘real world’. Relationships are relationships. I don’t accept the distinction that’s sometimes made between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’. So if any of my friends are left with bruises after this conversation, I regret that very much.

42

PamBG 01.29.11 at 8:36 pm

Richard, I’ve noted your post and have no idea how to respond in any way that could possibly be helpful. So, whatever.

43

PamBG 01.29.11 at 10:03 pm

But then only a liberal fundamentalist would ignore or sneeringly dismiss “the pastoral function of Christian doctrine”,

Can you point to where there is being done, please?
Richard replies: I’m pretty sure Kim had this comment in mind. If I’m wrong, he can correct me.

or smear the attempt to think seriously about good and bad God-talk, precislely in compassionate concern for the healing of wounded people,

I assure you that my original post was a serious attempt at “good God-talk”. If you didn’t like it, then addressing the substance of what you didn’t agree with would have helped immensely. However “What a load of rubbish, why don’t you go read these serious authors who really know what they are talking about”? isn’t particularly helpful.
Richard replies: Kim acknowledged the seriousness of your post. He also offered some constructive critique. You interpreted that critique as condescending and dismissive, but I’m as sure as I can be that that wasn’t Kim’s intention. He certainly never said anything remotely like “What a load of rubbish, why don’t you go read these serious authors”

44

Pam 01.29.11 at 11:50 pm

Kim at comment 40:
Kim Kong - king of the jungle!
Maybe a poem will help us cement this wonderful friendship we share:

It Seemed The Better Way

It seemed the better way
When first I heard him speak
But now it’s much too late
To turn the other cheek

It sounded like the truth
It seemed the better way
You’d have to be a fool
To choose the meek today

I wonder what it was
I wonder what it meant
He seemed to touch on love
But then he touched on death

Better hold my tongue
Better learn my place
Lift my glass of blood
Try to say the Grace

(Who else but) Leonard Cohen

45

PamBG 01.30.11 at 2:04 am

Richard, I’m sorry, but I really don’t know how to try to explain this without making it worse. I really don’t feel it’s easy (possible?) to have a discussion with Kim even though, ironically, we usually hold the same views. It always feels like a points-scoring contest. I’ll leave it at that. I get that you think my point of view is wrong and that I’m crazy.

46

Pam 01.30.11 at 3:38 am

To Kim,
Before you reply (as I hope you will) know that if I didn’t feel that friendship (note that word) with you was important and precious, I wouldn’t take the trouble of trying to find a way through to you. But you have to meet me halfway, kiddo. Don’t make me fail on my one New Year’s resolution.
Pam (the Aussie one)

47

Richard 01.30.11 at 7:29 am

@PamBG “I get that you think my point of view is wrong and that I’m crazy”

???
Where did that come from? It’s absolutely not what I think.

48

Pam 01.30.11 at 8:18 am

Richard,
One thing I couldn’t help but notice is that when Pam BG threw a turn, the regrets came forth. When I had trouble, I was told “no more discussion on this one”.

49

Richard 01.30.11 at 8:34 am

I don’t know how to respond to that, Pam.

50

Kim 01.30.11 at 8:35 am

Sorry, I was out all yesterday and feared that if I logged on before I went to bed I wouldn’t get to sleep. In fact, I was going to wait until this afternoon, after leading worship, but we will be commemorating the Holocaust in two hours and I thought, Good God, man, get the depression you anticipate into perspective!

I really appreciate Richard’s moderation. I also appreciate Pam PG’s more measured anger, or perhaps frustration is the word. As for the other Pam, what can you do when someone cites Leonard Cohen except say, There is a sister!

Now a shower, porridge (with blueberries this morning!), and worship - for some proper cross-talk, confession about pretending to be a Christian, and supplication that the Holy Spirit (dove, fire, wind, friend-maker, …) will turn us into proper ones.

51

Pam 01.30.11 at 8:54 am

Thanks for the understanding, compassion and caring.

52

Pam 01.30.11 at 9:25 am

Also, Kim is just jealous of Leonard Cohen because:
a. women love him
b. God loves him
c. he writes things that actually sell a lot of copies.
Pax
Pam

53

Kim 01.30.11 at 9:47 am

d. he’s taken a greater variety, if not quantity, of drugs than I have. :)

54

Pam 01.30.11 at 10:26 am

Probably makes his perspective a little more attuned to ‘real’ people.

55

Pam 01.30.11 at 10:28 am

btw, I had scrambled eggs this morning for breakfast. When we get to know each other we’ll like each other I’m sure.

56

doug 01.31.11 at 3:45 pm

drugs doesn’t make people more “attuned” to him. It just makes people walk outside of reality. I have never taken drugs so how can Cohen be more “attuned” to me? I’m a real person. I don’t listen to people who are addicted to drugs.

57

Beth 02.01.11 at 10:36 am

Pam, Pam, Pam. You’ve clearly never met Kim, or you’d know that he’s way sexier than Cohen. Admittedly, he’s not the most musical of God’s creatures, but he has a fine behind and a gorgeous smile!

And I’m going to do the horrendously risky (but well-meant) thing now, of putting words into his mouth. Kim is a good guy. Saying “well, I think this and I got the idea from Wittgenstein” is not his way of saying “Ha - I’m cleverer than you”. It’s his way of saying “Maybe you don’t think I’m right, but I didn’t pull the idea out of my ass - if you want to understand something that I may not be expressing properly, go take a look at Wittgenstein.”

Sure, he can be curmudgeonly and patronizing and sarcastic. He’s as stubborn as all get out, and sometimes he doesn’t even realise it. He plays devil’s advocate when what you want is the good angel, and picks at sores that you really want left alone. But he is a good guy. He loves people, he loves God, and if he hurts you, I can guarantee that it wasn’t his intention.

58

PamBG 02.01.11 at 11:06 am

It’s his way of saying “Maybe you don’t think I’m right, but I didn’t pull the idea out of my ass

Fine. I don’t generally expect that people “pull ideas out of their asses” when they disagree with me.

The thing is, this post was about how I and we all personally create our own images of God. And the post acknowledged clearly that we all have different images of God and that’s OK. It wasn’t a theological treatise about “my image of God is better than your image of God”. It didn’t need quotations or support from scholarly authors.

The one fascinating thing about the whole exercise is how many progressive people were very threatened by the idea that I might sometimes image God as a female. The fact of the matter is that I’ve been so steeped in the image of God as male, that it’s pratically impossible for me to do that. So all the people who feel that one cannot image God as anything other than a male because Jesus called God “Father” can rest assured that my God is male. And, apparently, that won’t contribute to patriarchy in general. Go figure.

59

Tony Buglass 02.01.11 at 11:23 am

If it’s still in print, I recommend “Motherhood and God” by Margaret Hebblethwaite. It’s an amazing book, a mix of personal experience and thoughtful theology. Their second child had problems, and her experience of being a mother led her into further reflection on what it meant to call God Father. And to reach more deeply into the heart of God than previously. I read it when our children were all pre-school, and I was still getting used to being a dad. I had always called God Father, and it worked for me because I knew about being a son. This book helped me to get deeper into God, because I now shared the vantage point of being a dad. Wonderful.

It also showed that the gender thing isn’t really the issue - it’s the ‘me and God’ thing. And that comes across loud and clear to me from your blog, Pam. It felt like the kind of insight you share out of a real spiritual breakthrough, and you will go on being blessed and stimulated by it whoever else does or does not get it.

60

Kim 02.01.11 at 11:45 am

The one fascinating thing about the whole exercise is how many progressive people were very threatened by the idea that I might sometimes image God as a female.

I just hope, Pam, that you now accept that doesn’t include me, as I said - and repeated - at your blog that I’m all for a huge range in our God representations. I was just trying to deepen, not debunk, the conversation by problematisng it, positively, thinking along the lines (for example) of Rosemary Reuther when she says: “We cannot simply add the ‘mothering’ to the ‘fathering’ of god, while preserving the same hierarchical patterns of male activity and female passivity. To vindicate the ‘feminine’ in this form is merely to make God the sanctioner of patriarchy in a new form.”

Again, we really are on the same side here. And not only do I really like you, but I really respect you and admire you for the way you feistily stick your neck out in the struggle for liberation in all its forms.

61

Beth 02.01.11 at 12:15 pm

Pam, I appreciate what you say - but as soon as you start talking about your “image of God” you are, like it or not, talking theology. Let’s say I wrote something about how I can only read T. S. Eliot while listening to Brahms because I see Eliot as a romantic. Someone might write and say “Oh, that’s interesting - but I think you’re wrong about Eliot being a romantic. I see him as a postmodernist, an idea I got from reading such and such a critic, who also looks at Eliot through the prism of music.” [Disclaimer: I'm not actually expressing any of these views.]

Now, my original post was about my emotional reaction to Eliot - but that doesn’t mean it’s uninteresting to hear how scholars have discussed the same topic. Nor does it mean that what I’m writing precludes a scholarly approach. Talking about God is theology, just as talking about music is musicology. The application of other people’s theories and ideas to what we say will, hopefully, help us to progress in understanding - even if it’s by annoying, disgusting, or amusing us. What you’re saying is that we all have our own way to God - I agree, and I appreciate what you say. But versions of that theory itself have been both propounded and discounted by so many other thinkers that it seems a shame to refuse their input.

62

PamBG 02.01.11 at 5:51 pm

@Tony, thanks for the recommendation and thanks for understanding “the place” from whence I was coming.

@Kim, I was just trying to deepen, not debunk, the conversation by problematisng it, positively, thinking along the lines (for example) of Rosemary Reuther when she says: “We cannot simply add the ‘mothering’ to the ‘fathering’ of god, while preserving the same hierarchical patterns of male activity and female passivity. To vindicate the ‘feminine’ in this form is merely to make God the sanctioner of patriarchy in a new form.”

My comment about “progressives” was a general one. I thought that there were a number of folk, on my blog and on Craig Adam’s Facebook link, who expressed some level of discomfort with the image. And it really surprised me and made me continue to think about the whole matter.

I think that there is a difference between “vindicating the feminine” – which is quite a loaded term on a number of fronts – and an individual coming to a place where he or she can sometimes conceptualize God as a woman. A number of people expressed the view that they have never visualized God as male which I have to say that I find inexplicable given that we constantly refer to God as male in our liturgy and hymns.

Your purely academic point is one that I agree with. However, I was not making an academic point.

@Beth What you’re saying is that we all have our own way to God - I agree, and I appreciate what you say. But versions of that theory itself have been both propounded and discounted by so many other thinkers that it seems a shame to refuse their input.

I don’t really disagree with what you say. But this post comes across as a milder version of Kim’s to me. Which seems a lot like “Don’t have a felt experience of God until you filter it through your intellect and read a lot of complex thinkers.” Well, I do felt experiences of God that are unfiltered and I’m not going to pretend that I don’t; and I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that. If you do think it’s “wrong”, we’ll agree to disagree.

63

PamBG 02.01.11 at 5:57 pm

Oh, and as a general point, can I continue to insist that I - PamBG - am a different person from “Pam” who is, I believe, an interesting Australian woman?

It’s frustrating enough being misunderstood without also being confused with someone else. I’m sure that not all Pams in the world want to own each other’s statements!

64

Richard 02.01.11 at 6:04 pm

Pam should change her name to Sheila to avoid confusion. ;)

65

PamBG 02.01.11 at 6:22 pm

Or Matilda?

Need to think of a quintessentially American name for me. (BTW, I was accused again of having a British accent the other day. The mind boggles!)

66

Richard 02.01.11 at 9:13 pm

Doesn’t surprise me. When I was in Florida more than one person commented on my Welsh accent. It gave this Yorkshireman a smile.

If you’re serious about changing your name, we could give it some thought. Are you open to suggestions?

67

Pam 02.01.11 at 9:38 pm

Beth @ Comment 57: Since you have met Kim ‘in the flesh’ I cannot discount your interpretation. However, in the sensitivity stakes I would rate him C-.

Richard @ 65: Sheila as a name I do not like. My husband calls me ‘She who must be obeyed’ (he did like Rumpole). I can be Belle, my middle name (after my mother) but reminds me too much of ‘Gone With the Wind’. I like Pam BG’s suggestion of Matilda though - Pam
BG - Pam Bloody Great!

68

Richard 02.01.11 at 10:32 pm

I like your suggestion for PamBG. But on balance, I reckon it’s best to stick to the names you’re used to: we’ll have to live with the occasional ambiguity. What’s a bit of confusion between friends?

69

Pam 02.01.11 at 11:34 pm

Confusion is never a big problem between ‘friends’. It’s when Pam and Kim collide that confusion can be a major issue. Beth said Kim can be “curmudeongly, patronizing and sarcastic” - those ‘qualities’ would never pass muster in a pastoral relationship, as well as in any profession where personal interaction takes place. I am married to a retired school headmaster who was as tough as nails (and my boss for a long period of time) but he was accountable to the Education Department, parents, teachers and most particularly to the children under his care. And also to any other children in the community no matter what school they attended. We are accountable to others for our behaviour and we need to respect other people enough to give their perceptions validation. Kim is in a more ‘powerful’ position than I am in this online setting whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

70

PamBG 02.01.11 at 11:40 pm

Are you open to suggestions?

Could be amusing! :D

The quintessentially American name I can think of is one that is considered old-fashioned but by no means lewd. One actually sees it a lot around these parts advertising establishments considered to be old-fashioned and homely: Fanny. Somehow, though, I think not! :D

Open to your suggestions, then.

71

Richard 02.01.11 at 11:47 pm

@PamBG: I was going to suggest Daisy, in homage to The Dukes of Hazzard. What do you think? (You were too long in Britain to believe we’re going to call you Fanny)

@Pam: We all have our shortcomings. Let’s leave it there.

72

Pam 02.01.11 at 11:57 pm

I guess the decision I need to make is either ‘toughen up’ where Kim is concerned. Or just comment on blogs where I feel more comfortable.

73

PamBG 02.02.11 at 12:30 am

“Daisy” is not objectionable.

It does remind me of something I heard on the radio the other day. It was a mother of an infant girl talking about how she wants her daughter to grow up to be strong and daring and courageous and not limited by feminine stereotypes.

And the mother named the child “Daisy”. I have to admit that I raised an eyebrow!

I may be too much of curmudgeon to be a “Daisy” but you can give it a try! :D

74

Pam 02.02.11 at 12:40 am

Pam - your advice please.
I’m having trouble reconciling ‘christian’ values of acceptance of each other’s ‘faults’ and when those ‘faults’ hurt other people in a public setting. How far does forgiveness go? If I say something mean-spirited to you on this blog we are on an equal footing and you can come back and tell me off about it - fair enough. But a co-blogger on this site, to me, is in a different position. I don’t think tolerating bad behaviour from a person in a position of authority is particularly christian. You and Richard can have a silly name-deciding conversation over the top of me, that’s okay. But really, just talking to me about the problem may be a better way, don’t you think?

75

Pam 02.02.11 at 1:09 am

Gee, Pam, Richard looks like he’s gone to bed in the middle of your conversation. You’ll forgive him of course. You’re a much Christianer Christian than I am. Or was the comment just for my benefit?

76

Richard 02.02.11 at 7:59 am

@Pam, re ‘your advice please’

I just don’t think it is helpful or appropriate to have an extended public conversation about someone else’s shortcomings. I’d really rather leave it there. Except to say that the recent slightly silly diversion was intended, I believe, to include you not ‘over the top’ of you.

77

Kim 02.02.11 at 10:47 am

Pam, I think that Richard and Beth, who know both me and my church (whose minister I have been for 28 years) will look askance at the allegation of insensitivity in my pastoral care (my own self-accusations are another matter). On the contrary, I think it is precisely the warm, trustful, and respectful mutual relationship that we have as God’s family at Bethel that has made it possible for my brothers and sisters to put up with the rest of my ministry, including the radical disturbance I try to cause week by week from the pulpit. Of course I may be completely delusional. On the other hand, perhaps some unpleasant pastoral relationship(s) of your own are leading you to do a bit of projecting. Only perhaps - I think doing that kind of character analysis on the basis of blogging is rather presumptuous, often uncharitable, and quite unwise.

And Pam BG, I have never understood this divising between thinking and feeling, theology and spirituality. It seems to me to be a Cartesian fiction. Personally, I feel thoughts and think feelings. For me feelings without thoughts are empty, thoughts without feelings are blind.

78

Beth 02.02.11 at 11:05 am

“Don’t have a felt experience of God until you filter it through your intellect and read a lot of complex thinkers.”

Not what I was saying. Rather, have as many felt experiences of God as you are lucky enough to receive. And when you discuss them, accept that others may come along with “oh, yeah, didn’t Simone Weil say something about that?” and “I disagree - look at Bonhoeffer’s interpretation to see why.”

79

Beth 02.02.11 at 11:10 am

“curmudeongly, patronizing and sarcastic” - those ‘qualities’ would never pass muster in a pastoral relationship.

Nope. But, as Kim’s said, his pastoral skills are top notch. But we’re not really here in a pastoral capacity, are we? We’re here as feelers, thinkers, scholars; in short, as human beings. And if we can’t be let off the hook occasionally when we’re less than perfect, when our most human side comes through, then God save us all.

N.B. I should clarify. Kim comes across as patronising because he’s a pretty intensely clever guy: sometimes he forgets that other people don’t work as quickly as he does; other times, he tries too hard to compensate. You (in the plural, readers) may take this as elitism, special pleading, or in any other way offensive. It’s meant, though, as a simple statement of fact.

80

PamBG 02.02.11 at 5:31 pm

And when you discuss them, accept that others may come along with “oh, yeah, didn’t Simone Weil say something about that?” and “I disagree - look at Bonhoeffer’s interpretation to see why.”

Beth, that’s fine. I just don’t hear the “oh yeah” part a lot. It often reads like “Your view is incorrect and here is a lot of evidence to back up my position. (Geeze, I wish other people weren’t so slow.)”

I appreciate that it may very well be the case the Kim’s pastoral care is great in person, but sometimes the writing does come across to me as “you are wrong to feel the way you do”. He thinks *I’m* a liberal fundamentalist and sometimes I think that about him too, so I guess we’re even! ;-)

And, again, please don’t confuse me with the “other Pam”. I do understand that internet communication is fraught when you have never met the person with whom you are corresponding. Knowing someone in person makes a big difference.

I suspect that part of the “problem” here also is that I’m a “feel first and think later” sort of person. And I grew up being told this was a horrible way to be and that I “should” try to get rid of all feeling as much as possible (feelings may lead to dancing and sex). So, yeah, I react to that.

81

PamBG 02.02.11 at 5:35 pm

@Pam - I’m sorry that you feel that your viewpoint and feelings are being ignored and minimized. I too don’t think that “dishing the dirt on Kim” is appropriate and even trying to explain things in this sort of forum often causes more aggro than it probably would do in real life.

My take on Kim, for what it’s worth, is that he is committed to the unvarnished truth and doesn’t much care if speaking it upsets other people. I personally think that there are sometimes “softer” ways to deliver the same messages. We (Kim and I) have disagreed on that in the past and no doubt will continue to do so. Hope that makes sense.

82

Richard 02.02.11 at 5:54 pm

Fwiw, I’m pretty sure Kim is in favour of both dancing and sex. :)

83

Kim 02.02.11 at 6:12 pm

As long as the dancing is foreplay. :) :)

84

Richard 02.02.11 at 7:26 pm

!!

85

Pam 02.02.11 at 9:44 pm

ok, I get the message. I’m the only one who thinks Kim is a complete disaster!! You may be right about events in the past, Kim, but I can assure you it was not a pastoral relationship that was the culprit. Enough said. The best I can say is that if I get upset over something you’ve posted I will not comment and will stick to those people I feel will be a bit softer (anybody out there, soft & cuddly??).
Also, I can only hope never to be in the position of having to dance with you. :)

86

Tony Buglass 02.02.11 at 9:56 pm

I’m soft, cuddly, and hairy. So I can pretend to be a Teddy bear.

87

Pam 02.02.11 at 10:23 pm

You’ll do. :)

88

Kim 02.03.11 at 12:04 am

Jeez, Pam, now I’m a complete disaster? I thought we were, through cold and choppy waters, making progress. Now I find that I’m rather like - Hardy’s Titanic!

89

PamBG 02.03.11 at 12:10 am

I’m soft, cuddly, and hairy. So I can pretend to be a Teddy bear.

And you have the singularly most wonderful Facebook photo ever. I shall be incredibly disappointed when it is replaced.

90

Pam 02.03.11 at 12:55 am

Pam BG, I hope you can live with the fact that we share a name. I know it can be incredibly confusing sometimes, and I know my comments cannot be compared to yours. I have only positive feelings towards you and my final words - Go Sister!

@Kim - I put the poem up for a reason. And, if you don’t watch out, I have plenty more Leonard Cohen poems. Too bad if you don’t like him, I do. :)

91

Beth 02.03.11 at 9:34 am

PamBG - re. the mother and her child; what would you have preferred? Maybe “Bruce”? Do you really think that giving a child a name that is entirely traditional and happens to be the name of a flower somehow precludes the possibility that the child can grow up to be “daring and courageous and not limited by feminine stereotypes”?

“Pamela”, of course, comes from the Greek for “Honey”. Has it held you back, honey?

92

Tony Buglass 02.03.11 at 9:45 am

“And you have the singularly most wonderful Facebook photo ever. I shall be incredibly disappointed when it is replaced.”

So many folk have enthused about that picture, I don’t think I can bear to replace it! It was taken during the sponsored ‘Men in Heels’ walk for the White Ribbon campaign (http://www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk) - I had just walked round town with a bunch of other blokes all wearing high heels, some of them were in outrageous drag, I was wearing cassock, bands and cape (my ‘best dress’) and the whole thing was hysterically funny. Hence the ‘laughing Tony’ shot. Wonderful!

Glad you like it.

93

Richard 02.03.11 at 9:56 am

Beth: ‘Do you really think that giving a child a name that is entirely traditional and happens to be the name of a flower somehow precludes the possibility that the child can grow up to be “daring and courageous’”

Probably not if one has time to think about it. But truthfully? It isn’t a name I’d instinctively associate with daring and courage. There’s a bit of prejudice rising to the surface!

94

PamBG 02.03.11 at 11:04 am

@Beth, re your last post, Richard has answered well. I’ll leave it at that.

Yes, I think that how others receive what we are “giving out” - so to speak - has an effect on how we are perceived. This thread is a case in point. You lecture me about taking Kim too seriously and you lecture me about my light-hearted comments. Which to me just proves that there is no such thing as objective truth that stands above the giver and the receiver.

95

Richard 02.03.11 at 11:08 am

“…there is no such thing as objective truth that stands above the giver…”

Apart from mine, obviously. ;)

96

Beth 02.03.11 at 3:26 pm

Once a lecturer, always a lecturer, it seems.

I thought the mother you quoted was talking about the child having personal courage and daring? Who cares if some other people think “oh, she’s called Daisy - she must be a wuss”? It’s Daisy’s own attitude to life that matters. Do you think that she’ll grow up thinking “I’m called Daisy. I have to be nice and pretty.”? It’s also a pretty popular name, at least in the UK - it was 17th most popular for girls born in England and Wales in 2010, so maybe the critical mass of Daisys (some of whom surely have to be courageous and daring) will help change the name’s image!

I’ve taught women with traditional, girly names, and ones with quite masculine names, and everything in between. I’ve honestly never noticed a correlation. (Though interestingly the few gay women I’ve taught had quite resolutely “feminine” names. is there a message in there, I wonder? Perhaps only about the significance of small sample sizes…)

Anyway, Kim has a “girl’s name”, and you appear to think he’s an overbearing patriarch. So maybe we shouldn’t worry too much?

97

Kim 02.03.11 at 4:20 pm

“Kim” means chief, leader of warriors, kicker of butts. :)

It’s a duh that we need to deconstruct gender difference.

98

Kim 02.03.11 at 4:33 pm

Simone Weil,
By the way,
Far from being a flirt,
Was known as “the Categorical Imperative in a skirt”.

99

PamBG 02.03.11 at 7:07 pm

@ Beth. Truly, I’m sorry I said anything. This discussion is frustrating beyond belief. Can we please let it go?

Or, put it this way, if you want to tell me what I’m thinking (which isn’t what I’m thinking) and why I shouldn’t think that way, do feel free. But I’m done responding.

100

Beth 02.04.11 at 11:58 am

Dear PamBG,

What can I say, except the perennial favourite of my favourite fourteen-year-old - “Whatever”.

I’m sorry you find the discussion frustrating; I find it interesting. I’m sorry you think I’m trying to tell you what you think, but the response to that is to say “you’ve misinterpreted me - this is what I meant”, not walking away in a huff. It appears that you find me confrontational and aggressive. I don’t really mean to be, but I’m used to debating things with people who really enjoy defending their position and want to help me understand where they’re coming from. Your behaviour in this thread leads me to think that you prefer to say what you say and leave it at that. Fair enough. But why write it on a blog with a comment thread, in that case?

101

PamBG 02.04.11 at 2:56 pm

OK, I’ll play.

Why do people say anything to anyone unless they are willing to have a three hour debate about anything and everything that comes out of their mouth? Er….being social…having fun…relating to others?

OK, so names don’t matter in the slightest.

So you’d be willing to name your son Adolf or Willie or Wally? Or your daughter Fanny? There is absolutely nothing at all in my thought that others might see these names negatively?

102

Richard 02.04.11 at 3:31 pm

Certainly there are some names that parents shouldn’t give their children. If I’d had a son, it would probably have been unfair to have called him Albert, for example. The BBC have a few more examples

103

Kim 02.04.11 at 3:47 pm

Or Giles. Fanny? Certainly not in the UK!

[After 103 comments, this one could really take off again!]

104

Richard 02.04.11 at 4:53 pm

I think the world is ready for Biblical names to make a comeback. We have Jacobs, Rachels, Ruths and Jameses. Why not Obadiahs and Dorcases?

105

Bob Gilston 02.04.11 at 7:06 pm

I once had a colleague whose name was Hashbadana. Only mentioned once in the Bible. It was aname passed on from father to son over a number of generations. I wonder whether it was originally chosen because it was rare or because it was he who sat at Ezra’s left hand?

106

PamBG 02.04.11 at 8:34 pm

Ok, so I went into a pediatric patient’s room and mom and dad were there.

The hospital record said the patient’s name was “Kaleeb” so I walk in and say “Is this Kah-leeeb”? And mom and dad look at me like I’m a moron and say “Caleb!”

This “spelling thing” happens a lot around these parts. I had an Antoin that was spelled “Antwun”

107

Richard 02.04.11 at 9:00 pm

Hashbadana? That’s a great name? But I bet your friend gets tired of being asked how to spell it! I can see that the spelling and pronunciation of names would be an issue in chaplaincy. Very easy to make assumptions. But how do you get from Kaleeb to Caleb? Did they have a strange accent?

108

Beth 02.06.11 at 8:16 pm

Fanny: no, because it means “vagina” in the UK. Wally: no, because it means “idiot”. Willy: no, because it means “penis”. Adolf: no, because it reminds one of Hitler.

Does Daisy mean any of these things? Does it mean anything insulting or offensive? Was it the name of one of the worst mass-murders in history? No. So where’s the comparison?

109

Richard 02.06.11 at 8:21 pm

C’mon Beth. Why so serious?

110

PamBG 02.06.11 at 11:07 pm

Really, What Richard said.

I don’t particularly think “Daisy” is the kind of name you give a child if your goal is to make certain that she is strong and independent.

Do you want to tell me why this opinion offends you so much?

I didn’t say “How dare this woman do that!” I didn’t say “What an idiot she is!” I said: “And the mother named the child “Daisy”. I have to admit that I raised an eyebrow!”

Wow, I mean how blinking intolerant could I be?

I tell you what. I suspect that “Daisy” isn’t the real issue, so why don’t you email me on PamBG1 at gmail dot com and say whatever you want to me?

111

Tony Buglass 02.06.11 at 11:47 pm

Daisy is a popular name for cows. And a girl’s name in a music hall song, sung by Hal the computer in 2001 as he is going down. It’s sort of gone out of fashion as a girl’s name these days. So it would be a silly caricature. What else is there to say?

112

Beth 02.07.11 at 8:43 am

Because I’m sick of PamBG taking instantaneous offence at everything everyone says, sniping at you and Kim as though you’re the embodiment of Western Patriarchy (TM), and running off to snivel in a corner when anyone’s mean to her. I’m sick of the kind of crappy pseudo-feminism that says that a mother can’t name her daughter a traditional and otherwise unoffensive name without being the enemy of Wimmin Everywhere. I’m sick of this attitude that says “I can make a comment, but as soon as you disagree with it you’re being aggressive and mean”. I don’t like it when people dish it out but can’t take it. I don’t like it when people are unable to frame a justification for themselves and instead hide behind ad hominem attacks. I don’t like it when people pretend to know how to have a discussion but actually are incapable of doing anything other than putting their fingers in their ears and singing “you’re wrong, I’m right” really loudly.

Hence so serious ;)

113

Richard 02.07.11 at 9:02 am

Golly.

I really didn’t read Pam (BG) doing any of that. One of us has the wrong end of the stick, and I’d rather it were you.

114

Tony Buglass 02.07.11 at 9:48 am

Before Pam went back to the US, she was serving as a Methodist minister in the UK, and was a member of the ministers’ egroup that I moderate. She was a good participant in discussions and debate, able to contribute and receive thoughtfully. Since she set up her blog, the same has applied. My reading of her contributions to Connexions is the same - I don’t recognise Pam from your comments, Beth.

I do feel that this thread has generated a little more heat than usual with reference to relationships between the contributors (as opposed to exchanges between the contributors, if you catch my drift). I wonder how much of that heat is being fuelled by other tensions and pressures - perhaps we should be aware that none of us knows anything of the situations of most of those with whom we debate here.

115

Beth 02.07.11 at 10:05 am

Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry if I was immoderate, intemperate, etc.

In fact, let’s be honest, I was immoderate, intemperate, etc. Given that I’ve found this thread and others a bit more wearing than usual, perhaps the best conclusion is that it’s my perception that’s the problem rather than anything else. There’s part of me that thinks there’s a clash of (online) personalities going on, but that could equally be about whatever’s going on with me offline at the moment rather than any fundamental difficulty. I don’t know.

I apologise if anyone has felt hurt or offended by me. PamBG, that’s to you in particular. I really am sorry. I overreacted to your comment about the name (I still disagree with what’s been said about that, but that’s a different issue). People who know you in real life tell me that I have misinterpreted you quite badly, so I also apologise for any disservice I’ve done you. I was genuinely reacting to things I thought were there, but I would rather believe what Tony says and accept that I’m wrong.

Erm… yeah. I should probably lighten up.

116

Richard 02.07.11 at 10:47 am

That’s very nicely put, Beth.

117

PamBG 02.07.11 at 11:09 am

Thanks, Beth.

For the record, I don’t think that people should draw conclusions from names, but I think that people do draw conclusions from names.

I also don’t think that, on something so subjective, I’m going to convince you or you’re going to convince me. That’s why I didn’t want to continue the conversation: I really didn’t think it was going to get much further.

I do recognise your right to hold your opinions but I also happen to think that, for many matters in life, there is no One Right Way To Believe and hence no way to “convince” someone else of what a name means or whether or not a piece of art is attractive. Hence, no real point in continuing the conversation.

If I may add. I am operating with the assumption that you feel the need to “get at me” on behalf of Kim. And I admit that I am suspicious that you are also conflating me with the other Pam.

118

Beth 02.07.11 at 12:07 pm

I’m not conflating you, PamBG, I promise - though there have been times when you and Pam have said similar things and I may have replied to you both at the same time, which I can see could look like conflation.

I feel the need to defend Kim, certainly. He’s my godfather, I love him, and just as Tony stuck up for you when he felt you were being maligned, I do the same for Kim. If that comes across as “getting at you”, I’m sorry.

119

PamBG 02.07.11 at 12:47 pm

If that comes across as “getting at you”, I’m sorry.

I’m actually not that sensitive!

As you say, I think this conversation ran it’s course a long time ago. And sometimes continuing a conversation just makes things worse as I think it has done in this case.

120

Richard 02.07.11 at 1:25 pm

Perhaps now is the time to draw a veil?

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