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Pronoun For God

Marcia Qualley

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I think that if I had kids I would probably tell him or her that God is both; that God is both Mother and Father. It depends on the age of the child I guess. If they are a bit older, I might tell them that God is neither male or female.


I used "she" for a while, to help myself appreciate God's being both mother and father. Eventually though I slipped back into "he." I'd never say "it." Trying to remain completely neutral by saying stuff like "godself" got old really fast. It's too bad that English doesn't have a gender neutral pronoun.

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Yeah, it gets really annoying to keep recrafting sentences over and over again, just to not have to use a pronoun!


I considered, in the same vein as G-d, using -e for he/she and h- for him/her/his/hers, but it would have to be awfully clear from the context, and well, it just looks a little dumb. I suppose if I used it enough, it might become clear. I don't think there's a great answer without inventing a new word.

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Yes, it does get annoying trying to give the proper appelation to the supreme being, but I believe that the ancients had the same problem.


When you read works such as "The Golden Bough" you are struck by the world-wide dilemma that has followed us through the millenia in trying to do this very thing.


As I have noted elsewhere the most ancient folk knowledge of the identity of this being is that of the androgyne, and so I have settled on the He/She name that I usually use. But the G-d name Fred suggested some time ago satisfies me also because that is reminiscent of the name never used aloud by our ancient Hebrew brothers and sisters when this being first appeared to us in recorded history.


That unsaid name also came to be known as Yahweh in later times, but I shy away from usage of that name since it connotes patriarchal and militaristic threads in the OT stories, and pretty much ignores the feminine aspects of the spirit.


I have seen the name "Sh-He" used from time to time, and that may be a better choice since the analyzed genetic-historical record of modern humans shows that modern females were created at least 20,000 years or so before modern males in the south of Africa about 200,000 years ago.


So allowing that the Supreme Being created us in Her/His image and likeness at that time, and since we were designated as G-d's vice-regents to be stewards of the earth in Sh-He's absence since then, the name "Sh-He" would work for me and may be temporally more appropriate.


flow.... :rolleyes:

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I believe that either He or She is equally appropriate. I use both.

In personal prayer, I feel any term that the pray-er is comfortable with is appropriate. In public prayer however, I think that care should be taken to use inclusive language as much as possible.


Perhaps the most ideal method is that of my Bishop.

He never uses a pronoun when referring to God.


He says things like "May God's Blessing Be Upon God's Church" or "God Calls God's Church...." etc.


That method is a little awkward gramatically, but the awkwardness points out the reality that our language is insufficient to describe the Divine.

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I can no longer comfortably use either male or female pronouns. I tend to go with the grammatically awkward. ;-)

In private it might be another pronoun entirely-- you! (or Hey you depending on my mood. :-))




Edited by des
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One approach is always to call God God. This involves some forms that seem awkward because they are unfamiliar, but that will change over time if we keep it up. Often, in the progressive Christian context, one now sees the reflexive form "Godself" instead of the "himself" that would always have been there before.


At one synogogue I have attended they sing a version of "The Lord Bless You and Keep You." They sing it through twice. The first time they sing the fourth line "The Lord make His face to shine upon you." The second time they sing it "The Lord make Her face to shine upon you."


At another synogogue I noticed that the prayer books still uniformly have masculine pronouns for God. However, when the congregation reads the prayers, wherever it says "him" or "he", they pronounce it "God." I found this interesting considering the practice among some Jews not to say "God" at all.


I have for some time advocated adopting a neutral pronoun into English. We have adopted so many words from other languages, it is a quite natural thing. I came to this conclusion years ago when I was in graduate school. I was dating another graduate student named Elise. We would usually go to lunch together. One day I was looking for her, and I stopped by the computer terminal room. A student from China was there, and I asked him if he had seen Elise. He looked at me and said "No, I haven't seem him today." I said, "No, I asked about Elise." He told me "He hasn't been here." I remembered then that Chinese has only neutral pronouns, and remembering to use the correct pronoun is one of the difficult things for native Chinese speakers as they learn English.


The word I am advocating adopting is ta. It is Mandarin for he, she, him, her, or it. The plural is tamen, the possessive is tade (with the e an unaccented neutral vowel), and the plural possessive is tamende. I am not advocating getting rid of he, she, him, her, or it when the antecedant's gender is clear or it is clearly neuter. But any time you feel like using he/she or him/her, use ta instead.


Regarding your granddaughter, I would tell her that God is neither and both. In the Genesis 1 creation account, God created humans in God's image both male and female. When the Presbyterian Church (USA) adopted the Brief Statement of Faith in the 1980's, they dealt with the gender of the parental language by saying "Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child, like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home, God is faithful still."

Edited by sterrettc
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  • 2 weeks later...
In trying to respond to my grandaughter's question, "Is God a woman or a man?" I have trouble every time because the English language only allows he, she, or it, as pronouns and God doesn't fit any of them.  Wonder how I could go about suggesting a new English word and what would that be?  Any thoughts?




I think all of the answers put forth are good. Simply using "God" in place of all pronouns works. If, however, you want to use pronouns, alternate between "she" and "he," perhaps also slipping in "it" ... and even "they"? The problem is that if we only use "he" and "she," it becomes too easy to anthropomorphize God, thinking of her as just like a person only bigger... and hermaphroditic. I personally do think of God more like an "it." More just like the power of love itself. But I think that using a full range of pronouns will serve to challenge us all to constantly expand our imaginations. The more we can expand our vision of the divine, the better, I suppose.

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