My relationship to God changed when I accused “Him” of everything I thought “He” had done or let be done to women—from allowing us to be beaten and raped and sold into slavery, to not sending us female prophets and saviors, to allowing “Himself” to be portrayed as a “man of war.”
In the silence that followed my outpouring of anger, I heard a still small voice within me say: In God is a woman like yourself. She too has been silenced and had her history stolen from her. Until that moment God had been an “Other” to me. “He” sometimes appeared as a dominating and judgmental Other, and at other times as a loving and supportive Other, but “He” was always an “Other.” I as a woman in my female mind-body definitely was not in “His” image.
After I expressed my anger to God, God transformed from an Other into what Whitehead once described as “a fellow [or should I say female] sufferer who understands.” Although I had already been searching for a “God in my image” or “in whose image I could be,” I had yet to find Her. In the quiet after the storm, I came to believe that I would.
I have written extensively about the importance of that moment and the need for women to express our anger at God.* However, it is fair to say that feminists have not exactly embraced this suggestion. I have often wondered why. I have wondered how feminists can continue to participate in worship services with traditional God language and readings from the Bible without getting angry.
When I was still a Christian, anger rose up from my belly and caused my shoulders to tense with every “He” and “Him” and multiplied when God was portrayed as the author of violence, as for example in Exodus and the prophets, or in Christian visions of the last judgment. Do my feminist friends simply avoid going to Church or Synagogue, do they shut down their bodies, do they close their ears—or all of the above at different times? I have never been sure how they manage it, because so few write about their experiences of God.
Sometimes I think that the notion that “God is a liberator of the oppressed,” which Christian and some Jewish feminists repeat like a mantra, functions to close their minds to what the Bible and liturgies are actually saying about God. It takes very selective reading to extract the God who is a liberator of the oppressed from the dominant and warlike imagery through which God is understood in Exodus and the prophets and even in some of the images of the “kingdom” of God proclaimed by Jesus—not to mention in images of eternal punishment in hell or of “onward Christian soldiers marching as to war with the cross of Jesus going on before.”
Sarah Sentilles wrote about her “love affair with God” and her subsequent “breaking up” with Him. I resonated to her words, because like me she had a passionate engagement with God. Sometimes I wonder if the failure of other feminists to get angry with God pushes “Him” out of their experience altogether. What would happen if we all got angry with God? Would the world split open?**
**With thanks to Muriel Rukeyser for the poem in which she wrote: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the fields of women and religion and feminist theology. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. One of her great joys is leading Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete through Ariadne Institute.