Did the artist intend to show a gay Father God? God’s halo is a pink triangle, an LGBT symbol, in “Heavenly Father,” a stained glass window at St. Virgil Church, Morris Plains, NJ. Photo by Loci B. Lenar © 2010.
Reimagining God the Father may lift the spirits of some LGBT people and our allies today (June 19), which happens to be both Father’s Day and Trinity Sunday.
Can God the Father be as gentle and caring as a mother? Is He like a gay father? Do LGBT people have unique ways of redefining fatherhood that can enlighten others? I have no definite answers, but I share the following resources on alternative and even queer ways to re-envision God the Father.
Today, on Father’s Day, I dare to consider the fatherhood of God again -- by reimagining what it means to be God the Father. I seek a Father God who is as warm and nurturing as a mother… or a gay father. Trinity Sunday is also a good time to re-evaluate God the Father because it celebrates the doctrine of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (or, in inclusive terms, Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit.)
Many people, myself included, have turned away from the traditionally masculine Father God who is cold, distant, strict and domineering. The concept of God the Father may be hopelessly poisoned for some people who were abused by fathers or father figures. I honor the need to find other images to build a loving relationship with the divine… and the need to find empowering new models of sacred fatherhood.
I came to spiritual maturity at a time when “God the Father” was a dirty word in my church. We needed liberation from the old male-dominated, top-down religion that oppressed women and LGBT people. We read feminist theologians such as Mary Daly, who wrote in Beyond God the Father, “If God is male, then male is God. The divine patriarch castrates women as long as he is allowed to live on in the human imagination.”
At my church we took the offensive and cut out the Father God from our Bibles and hymnals. Instead we used “inclusive language.” Male words were replaced with neutral words, so “Father” became “Parent” or “Creator.” Once in a while we allowed “Father” to return, but only if He was balanced by “Mother.”
After more than a decade of inclusive language, I find myself intrigued by God the Father for several reasons. First, the genderless Creator God has begun to seem cold and distant too. Female images of God or Goddess aren’t enough for me. And there are still plenty of flesh-and-blood fathers in need of spiritual role models.
Then there’s Jesus, my inspiration in so many ways. He often spoke of God as his father. When he prayed he called God “Abba,” an intimate, affectionate Aramaic word that is more like “Daddy” than “Father.” His loving father-son connection with God encourages me to look for new ways of understanding God the Father in hopes of deepening my own relationship with God.
Along the way I found the following materials that reimagine God the Father:
Family photos of gay fathers with their children
New Hymn: Warm Father God
Ancient Hymn: Milk of Father God
Native American Father Spirit art
and queer visions from literature, art and theology.
Gay fathersGay fathers are on the forefront of redefining fatherhood. I hope that their photos here will inspire people to see God the Father in liberating new ways.
I had a terrible time finding images to illustrate a nurturing God the Father. It proved to me the need to “reimagine” fatherhood itself, regardless of religious beliefs about God the Father. Finally I remembered the family photos of some loving gay fathers who are friends of the Jesus in Love Blog. They are two different a gay couples that adopted children. I contacted them and both families agreed to share their photos here.
Hell’s Teeth, where he also writes about LGBT religious art and much more.
Jon’s Blog. Among my favorite posts are:
Coming out to my son (This will make you laugh.)
Mother’s Day when you have no mother
Hymn: Warm Father GodGender stereotypes about God are broken in “Bring Many Names,” a hymn by Brian Wren, one of the world’s best known contemporary hymn writers. This verse presents a fresh view of God the Father:
Warm father God, hugging every child,
Feeling all the strains of human living,
Caring and forgiving, till we’re reconciled:
Hail and Hosanna, warm father God!
Bonus: Other verses shatter age and gender stereotypes by singing the praises of “strong mother God” and my personal favorite, “old, aching God.” Click here for all the lyrics. Click here to hear it on video.
“Bring Many Names” appears in many modern hymnals. Wren is the author of “Hymns for Today.”
Hymn: Milk of Father GodGod the Father is explicitly male AND female in a second-century hymn. Check out this mind-blowing excerpt from Ode 19 of the Odes to Solomon:
A cup of milk was offered to me,
and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord’s kindness.
The Son is the cup,
and the Father is He who was milked;
and the Holy Spirit is She who milked him;
Because His breasts were full,
and it was undesirable that His milk should be ineffectually released.
The Holy Spirit opened Her bosom,
and mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father…
The womb of the Virgin took it,
and she received conception and gave birth.
This appears in The Earliest Christian Hymnbook: The Odes of Solomon, translated by James Charlesworth, or online at this link.
Native American Great Father
by Father John Giuliani
I especially like the Native American visions of the Creator as the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka, Keeper of the Sky, and so on. Somehow they bring out a wiser, gentler side of the Father.
Father John Giuliani unites indigenous American and Christian imagery in “The Trinity,” shown here by permission The Great Father appears with a full headdress of falcon feathers in a halo of light. His open hands deliver the Son, a Christ figure who is a Sioux warrior. The Holy Spirit hovers between them in the form of a falcon, completing the Trinity. The Father, with his long, white hair flowing, seems androgynous and humble… a much-needed vision for our time.
Giuliani is known for creating Christian icons with Native American symbols, expanding the concept of holiness and honoring Native American Indians as the original spiritual presence on this land. His work is a prophetic sign celebrating the reconciliation of native and Christian peoples. Giuliani is also a Catholic priest and founder of the Benedictine Grange, a contemplative monastic community in Connecticut.
Charles Frizzell is another artist who does Native American spiritual art, including a Father-God figure called “Keeper of the Sky.” Click here and scroll down to see it on his website.
Father as TwinIn my “Jesus in Love” novels, Jesus starts out perceiving God the Father as an old man, but as Jesus ages they become identical. Here is an excerpt from Jesus in Love: At the Cross in which Jesus describes his prayer time in Gethsemane, shortly before his arrest:
“I raised my head and saw my Father sitting on a nearby log. When I was a child I thought He looked ancient and care-worn. He didn’t change, but I did. I had grown to look just like Him. We looked more like twins than a father and son. I went over and knelt at His feet. He steadied me with his kind gaze, then handed me the now-familiar gold cup….”
by Douglas Blanchard
The Trinity has inspired queer theologians to question God’s gender. The Holy Spirit is often presented as the female person of the Trinity, so that seems to make God into a transgender, omnigender or genderqueer -- not fitting the standard “male” and “female” duality. The following resources offer more queer theological reflections on the Trinity:
Celebrate the Feast of the (Queer) Holy Trinity at queeringthechurch.com
Gavin D’Costa’s chapter “The Queer Trinity” in Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body
The Queer God by Marcella Althaus-Reid.
The prayer formerly known asI close this reflection with a new version of the prayer that’s usually called the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father,” based on the first words of the standard translation. In inclusive language, we called it “the prayer that Jesus taught.” This refreshing version was written by Yvonne Aburrow (also known as Yewtree), a friend of the Jesus in Love Blog. She is a Unitarian and a Wiccan who blogs on spirituality at The Dance of the Elements.
O Genderless Engenderer,
Flame of life at the heart of all things,
Holy, holy, holy are your names.
Your republic of informed hearts is always within us and around us.
Your mysterious way unfolds before us
as matter and spirit dance together to create life.
May the finite tell its stories to the infinite
and may the infinite lend its everlasting peace to the finite.
May our hearts be open to forgiveness given and received,
and may we move accurately in harmony with all
and remain present in the now.
The republic of heaven on earth is all and each of us
reverberating with glory and power
in infinite space-time.