Naming God: The Arts as an Essential Tool in Moving Beyond an Androcentric Culture

I’ve been reading a lot of feminist theology recently for two reasons: I’m writing a paper on music breaking open the processes of naming God (or something like that), so it’s helpful to understand how God has been named over the last 2,000+ years from a feminist perspective; and I’m involved in a group which is discussing issues relating to gender justice in the Catholic Church.

I deliberately avoided feminist theology in my studies, as I believed that it is self-evident that women should not be excluded from ministries and vocations they are equally capable of performing as well as men. Yet, there remains a huge discrepancy in religious traditions as to how women are treated. Now I work for the Catholic Church, I have a meaningful and purposeful vocation in teaching young people to search for their meaning and to explore the mystery of the universe. However, more than ever, I am conscious of the lack of justice in the institution. I also work in a boys’ school which, to some degree, perpetuates some aspects of androcentric culture.

Unfairly, I think, the word ‘feminism’ carries baggage in the western world. Who would say they wouldn’t want the ‘full flourishing of all humans’? Yet, in practice, many continue to buy into systems and structures that oppress women, including the naming of God in male symbols.

An understanding sacramentality helps us to break open the male-dominated language used to name God over the last 2,000 years. In the simplicity of experience of the world, without recourse to male symbols, a tenuous connection may be made with that which ultimately is beyond all language, knowledge, and experience. The creative arts are useful, or indeed essential, to overcoming such male-bound language for naming such spiritual experience. They are not so heavily reliant on language conventions, and can express the indeterminate expressively and to great effect.

I’m working on some songs that try to convey spiritual experience, or experience of what some might call God (as a woman, and taking notice of other women’s spiritual experiences). #workinprogress

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