God in a Male Box

Contributed by Rev. Debbie Kelsey

BoxwithGradientMen’s brains have the capacity to think of one thing at a time, they tell me. Their brains are like a series of little boxes, and they open them one at a time. Women’s brains are an intricately woven network of wires, all of which are connected. When women think of one person or thing, they automatically think of another person or thing related to the first person or thing. Buzz; buzz; buzz our brains go! This is a generalization, and it is true that a few men and women work mostly out of the model that is considered atypical for their group.

As misogyny made the news in May in the U.S. based on a shooting rampage in California, I wondered how this theory might get our brains buzzing to formulate an appropriate response. What occurred to me will not be a new idea for many, but perhaps it is time to speak up for the connections that exist between words used, thought patterns, and behavior.

Until I was in seminary, I only heard God referred to in masculine forms. The Sunday school pictures of Bible stories portrayed God as male. To top it off, I was taught: “Man is a word that can mean human. Yes, sometimes it means one man, but it can also mean all of us—men and women.” I bought into this box-like approach for a time. I thought that to hold this way of communicating and listening in my head, although odd to me, was just a matter of being smart. It was a box, but I had the capacity to store the box back in the corner of my mind.

Now, I am a woman, and like the Ford Mustang, I turn 50 this year. I have carried and given birth to two children. My body produced the only milk they knew for their first three months of life. Together with my husband and by God’s grace, the children are both adults now.

I will no longer deny the connection: There is something holy in being female. I have worked with women exploited in prostitution and seen how the abuse of their sexuality tries to distort the femininity God gave them, but being female is sacred. Nothing about the sacredness of being female excludes the sacredness of being male.

But, when we connect to God only as “He” or “Him” and call God’s attributes only “His”, we connect godliness to maleness in our brains. Why would we hotwire our children’s minds in such a way? When we talk about humankind as “mankind”, we fail to make the connection for girls and for boys between the equal blessing of being human whether male or female. While inclusive language and gender-neutral language for God can seem bulky, does not the ongoing problem with misogyny in our country, even among some young people, call us to put in the extra effort?

God, forgive us for putting you in a male box. Forgive us for failing to teach respect for all people made in your image demonstrated in the sparkling brilliance of being made a sexual being. Birth in us a word that will bless your world that struggles to let go of hierarchy. Lead us to a day of shared life under your sheltering wings. Amen.

Kelsey, DebbieRev. Debbie Kelsey is Intentional Interim Pastor of First Baptist Church, Syracuse, NY. Prior to pastoral ministry, Debbie served with International Ministries, ABCUSA, focusing for many years on ministry to women in prostitution and on addressing human trafficking.  

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A Prayer and a Mile in Their Shoes

Contributed by Tansy Kadoe

womensbiblestudy2How do we walk in the shoes of those with whom we minimally share common life experiences? How many of us have had our villages burned, our livelihood robbed, or our lives threatened? How many of us managed to escape those nightmares to eventually re-settle in a foreign land where everything is different— language, food, culture, attire, life style…?

A good way to take a peek into the lives of the Karen refugee women is to meditate on their prayers. It is like reading David’s psalms and getting a glimpse into his heart.

While studying the book of Nehemiah in the weekly women’s Bible study held at Arizona Karen Baptist Church, the ladies took on a group assignment of writing a prayer in the format of the prayer stated in Nehemiah 9, in remembrance of their plight and God’s mercy. (Words from Scripture in italics.)

Blessed be Your glorious name! You are the God that granted favor to our ancestors. They were honest, loving, and above all, they sought You. You promised them the Book of Life. You kept Your promise and sent Adoniram and Ann Judson to deliver this precious Book to us. We were the first to embrace the Good News of Your grace. Your Book of Life is a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night for us.

“But we became arrogant and stiff-necked. We sinned by worshiping idols, committing violence, coveting dishonest wealth, and defiling our bodies. Our sins separated us from You; we were given into the hands of the enemies. We faced crushing oppression; constant fear made us flee in desperation; illnesses and starvation compounded the wretchedness. Our hearts shattered as we watched the untimely death of our loved ones and young children.

womensbiblestudy“We cried out to You for You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love. Therefore You did not desert us. You heard us from heaven and delivered us to refugee camps, where we were cared for and fed. You then brought us to the Land of Milk and Honey, America. Our children can go to school. We are employed. We worship You in freedom. We eat to the full and are well-nourished; we revel in Your great goodness.

“But Lord, rebellion rises against You, although Your Spirit warns us. We hold a false sense of security in materials. We no longer come before You in truth and spirit. Sufficiency has bred indifference. Some   were led astray to false gods and they abandoned their faith in You. We do not teach our children Your word, making them susceptible to ungodly influences.  As we watch them poorly adjusting to the new environment by making bad decisions, we shed tears.  Depression leads our husbands to drinking, and sometimes to prison. Once again, we are in great distress. Father God, please do not let all this hardship seem trifling in Your eyes.  Our hope is in You alone. We promise to love You and draw near You. Please rescue us for You are a gracious and merciful God.”

What better way to walk in the shoes of refugee women than by joining them in prayers?

Tansy Picture 1smTansy Kadoe is a member of Arizona Karen Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona, and she leads the women’s Bible study at her church.