So the church sent out ambassadors to represent her,
As handmaidens of the Bride she sent them
Female and male she sent them
I have been considering the ways in which Christianity can legitimately be said to have both a Lady and a Lord. The Second Epistle of John opens with an address to “To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth”. From the context it would seem that the Lady in question is the Church; that John sees us her as our Holy Mother. This echoes other allusions in scripture to the Church as the bride of Christ and to Israel as the wife of God. It is following such allusions that the prophets spoke of Israel’s idolatry as covenant adultery and that Isaiah could declare, “as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you”. In truth this is not so far removed from Jewish mystical speculation about Malkuth and Shekinah. And it’s not so hard to see how the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Mother Church and the presence of Christ in the womb or arms of Mary could become conflated in Christian iconography.
If you think Christianity is too patriarchal by far, consider the heights to which these Bhutanese Bhuddists have taken it.
For them, images of the phallus are an essential aspect of traditional ceremony. They were introduced the 15th-century Buddhist teacher, Drukpa Kunley, who’s unconventional Tantric teachings made a deep impression on the Bhutanese.
Curiously, the sexual balance I would normally expect from a Tantric teacher seems to be missing here. Here the focus is all on the phallus. It is believed to promote fertility and (one could make many insinuations here) silence gossip.
Seems like the gender inclusive language debate is on for young and old again with the announcement that the TNIV is to be discontinued and that a new version NIV is scheduled for 2011.
Personally I think this is one conversation where the old maxim of God giving us two ears and one mouth, to be used in that proportion, may be something to take note of. Few who argue for formal equivalence would deny the need for some translation, short of everyone learning to read ancient Greek and Hebrew. Few who argue for dynamic equivalence would deny the need to treat the ancient text with integrity, lest we think we can make it say anything. Let us at least acknowledge some boundaries to the debate!
I think there are few who would argue that New Testament use of αδερφοί (brothers) to address disciples of both sexes is not problematic. So let us acknowledge we share this understanding, let us acknowledge that about one another.
For me personally, one of the language issues I find most difficult is how to deal with the issue of personal pronouns for God. He, him, his, I find these words very difficult, as using them gives many the impression that masculinity encapsulates God, when it does not, not at all. But the alternatives, she, her, hers or it, it’s create just as many, if not more problems. So generally I avoid pronouns altogether. But this approach is not without its difficulties either. So, let’s listen before leaping to conclusions about people’s intentions.