The Son: Dad can we play football?
The Father: Um… I guess we could… Erm.. why?
The Son: Well it’s Saturday and since I’m incarnate to all cultures especially English speaking cultures I want to be like the other sons and play football with my dad.
The Father: Oh, I see. Well Son if you read your scriptures carefully you’ll find that Saturday is when I take a rest.
This silly, irreverent and inane conversation typifies a problem that we have in continously twisting metaphors and breaking them when we talk of God. John Piper made some comments a while back and the brilliant Rachel Held Evans encouraged us all to respond in a creative way to redress the imbalance.
Growing up in Kerala, South India I was known as ‘Suguachende Mon’. Literally ‘Sugu Father’s Son.’ My dad’s name is Sugu and he is an ordained priest in the Anglican Church of South India. So he is known as Father Sugu. Now everyone, even most of the ones who keep piping up about Christianity being male will understand that the word father in that phrase does not refer to Sugu being my dad. And where I grew up being someone’s son at the time meant almost immediately that your identity was bound up in your father and most likely you would do what your father did (which very strangely I have, much to my surprise). It says minimally about the kind of relationship that my father and I have.
I’ve often heard that the lack of a father means that you are less likely to know who God is. I think that’s ridiculous. The Fatherness of God through most of the bible seems to me to be about identity and belonging. The cultures that the bible was written in gave minimal value to the mother in terms of identity and belonging. To say that one’s mother was so and so didn’t give much value, status or identity. Most identity was bound up in the father. So if Jesus said that he was sent by his mother, it would be a meaningless statement. Such is and was women’s status in society. So the live relational part of God doesn’t have much to do with ‘daddyness’, in fact the way God seems to behave with his people is stereotypically more like a mother.
He is jealous, calling out to find his children in the garden, giving them food, shouting at them, clothing them, wrestling with them, singing to them, weeping over them, protecting them, cleaning them. Of course stereotypically dad moments also abound. The point is simply that because he is referred to as Father that in no way makes him male. That is the way Jesus and the writers of scripture chose to illustrate the amazing reality that we belong to this indescribable God.
By beating on about the sperm count of God the piper and his mark are reducing God, reducing humanity and allowing the unjust systems that promote the objectification of women to go unquestioned.
God has brought us so far in allowing us to move forward in understanding and loving each other. He’ll take us further no matter how much a marked piper blows in the other direction.