Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Good Good… Parent.

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I know I’m starting to become the guy who is always cranky about worship music, But I have issues with Chris Tomlin’s latest song that is popular in all the churches right now, and it helps me get at an issue I have been dealing with for a long time. The song is called “Good Good Father” and you can hear it here.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been going to seminary for the last three years at a place that is very touchy about what they call “inclusive” and “expansive” language for God. Meaning avoiding male pronouns and descriptors whenever possible, in favor either of more neutral language, or feminine language that shakes up preconceptions.

The thinking is that God, who created all people male and female in God’s Image is not a member of either gender, and indeed represents and displays attributes of both. At many points in the Bible you see god described this way, with allusions to both genders, such as in Psalm 123:2

As the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
until he has mercy upon us.

female_jesus_screen-1But the truth is, among my peers, I’ve tended to be one of the conservative holdouts against our unilateral commitment to expansive language. I’ll pepper my speaking and writing with the occasional expansive description because I agree with all that reasoning above, but I’ve seen it taken to an extreme that is awkward and unhealthy. Pronouns are mostly replaced with the name “God” again, creating awkward sentences like “God will work our God’s purposes according to God’s will” and hymns are even worse “And God walks with me and God talks with me, and God tells me I am God’s own”

The other progressive alternative is better in my opinion, to use feminine pronouns, based on the thinking that male pronouns are overused and the she and her will balance the scale. But it still feels very Dishwalla or Robin Sparkles “Tell me all your thoughts on God, cuz I’d really like to meet her” Didja see what I did there? I’m so edgy. Ignore my content think about my pronouns.

And what do we get for all this awkwardness and careful wording? What problem is solved? Does anybody really believe that God is male to the exclusion of being female? I certainly don’t. Can’t we just explain to people that in Greek and Hebrew and even older traditions of English the male pronoun was used generally? To refer to persons of unknown or undetermined gender? Whose actually trying to paint god into a corner?

Then I heard Tomlin’s song. You’re a good good father, it’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are”

And I just felt dirty

There is no way I could get those same churches to sing “Good good mother” for a verse. It’s practically the 16x9_series-coverpurpose of the repetitive chorus that you are not allowed to do that. God is like a father and that’s all god is like. The three males who wrote and recorded the song all see themselves as being like God to their kids and that’s good and right so lets everyone sing about it. It goes too far, and it fails to appreciate people with serious issues around the idea of fatherhood and masculinity. Maybe if they listened to more of the thousand stories they heard they would be more empathetic.

You don’t sing a song like that if you also think God’s the Mother of all beings. You just can’t.

There has to be a happy middle. A way to talk about the Kingdom of God without making up words or becoming pedantic that also reinforces the Biblical truth that God is spirit, and our worship of masculinity and fatherhood is self-worship. It is idolatry.


Written by RyanGaffney

January 7, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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