God is a woman?
By Charlene Ogu
The very talented Ariana Grande has just (okay it was three weeks ago!) released a song called 'God is a woman' a very controversial statement that has got people talking. It opens up questions about the identity of God, women and feminism and I'm here for it!
The music video directed by David Myers is filled with amazing visuals of the cosmos, the universe, the Greek mythological symbols, the female anatomy, a gathering of women and some very interesting beavers! It's a standard music video with Ariana singing to the camera, displaying an array of enticing moves, something we see with a lot of women artists in music videos.
You, you love it how I move you
You love it how I touch you, my one
When all is said and done
You'll believe God is a woman
And I, I feel it after midnight
A feelin' that you can't fight, my one
It lingers when we're done
You'll believe God is a woman
Ariana Grande - God is a woman chorus
We don't talk about it enough because it's become so normal, with the sexual appeal of women used in our society to sell something or our lack of sexual appeal used to sell us something. Nevertheless it's not unexpected.
But if God is a woman (stay with me!) then her power cannot be reduced to her sex appeal. And that's not to take away from the sensuality of woman, or from the very good and sacred nature of sex but with the whole #metoo movement we can't pretend that the 'sex is empowerment' notion which began in the second wave of feminism hasn't come with it the undertones that sex is readily available and with the sexualisation of women. In some regard it has become another place that benefits the sensibilities of patriarchy at the expense of women. If 'God is a woman' was going to be statement people were going to run with, I would have have hoped it wouldn't be so reductive, that they would have touched on the scope and possibilities of such a concept. A problem that comes across with a few other artists who sing about a woman's place in the world amidst the feminist movement.
My persuasion can build a nation
Our love we can devour
You'll do anything for me
Who run the world?
Beyonce - Who runs the world
I think one aspect of feminism I uphold is to allow women to having the ability to choose what they do after their liberation, but if liberation always looks like women solely focusing on their sexual appeal when given a platform and we see this pattern continuously then we have to ask ourselves, is that what liberation looks like? or are we willing to consider that the workings of patriarchy and capitalism may still be at work?
All this is to say I like the conversations such a video can bring about, if today's statement is 'God is a woman' is that because culture has been upholding the statement that God is a man? Both our theologically incorrect but it does beg the question 'How much of our ideas and limitations do we project onto God?'
We are not strangers to the masculine imagery of God ( especially when the masculine attributes we uphold in society can be negative) - using power to seek vengeance, jealousy, anger. The religion of Christianity as a global organisation and it's collusion with patriarchy has an impact on our understanding of God and so needs to be considered ,God however reveals himself as father and the bible is scattered with masculine pronouns and metaphors, so why?
We know that we humans were created in the image of God 'male and female he created them . God is a spiritual being but why do we always use masculine pronoun in reference to God?
He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them "human."
That's another article for another day coming to you soon, but what I will say is acknowledging God through Christ and our experience of him in prayer give us a tangible relationship with God as we hold these really important questions.
In the song, Ariana is presumably addressing a man, expressing why he would believe God is a woman after encountering her. It may be a stretch but it recognises that indeed God is relational! and has given women the strength to hold humanity together in her relationships and connect with others . And that we encounter God in the intricacies of relationships, in intimacy and in trust.
Midway through the music video Ariana recites (with the voice of Madonna) a passage adapted from Ezekiel in the Bible. The only adaptation from the bible as words of God being one about vengeance and fury was a little, well 😒.
"And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger
Those who attempt to poison and destroy my sisters
And you will know my name is the Lord,
when I lay my vengeance upon you."
adapted from Ezekiel 25:17
I will execute terrible vengeance against them to punish them for what they have done. And when I have inflicted my revenge, they will know that I am the LORD."
It kind of establishes this socially accepted masculine idea of God as powerful and vengeful without the wider context of the bible and unfortunately although there are some great strides in the feminist movement, the idea that when women are able to have a powerful platform they say the same thing that men say with powerful platforms is well, not one of those progressive strides. Yes, equality is great I'm all here for it, but also let's check what we are striving to be being equal to. Perhaps I don't want to be assimilated into a the capitalistic, dominating idea of man (which we call toxic masculinity - masculinity good, toxic masculinity not so good) perhaps we should consider how to deconstruct such a system for both men and women.
Mariology has often been a way to access feminine divinity in a Christian context , Mother Mary is for all Christians and especially women a perfect example, and continues to be an intercessor and a heavenly mother but she herself is not divine. Her full humanity was beautiful and gave her access to the fullness of God, it's in her trust and surrender to the will of God that we can also learn how to be a dwelling place. She is the 'handmaid of the Lord' receiving the blessings of God through her service of love. It's in the duality of masculinity and femininity that humanity if fully realised . Our womanhood is a reflection of an aspect of God, from his divinity woman was created and Mary teaches us how to be in complete union with him.
Sometimes others outside or on the edges of the paradigms we have made, have the ability to see the flaws in our attempt to create God in our own image (or the most powerful image of the times) and often respond in the extremes , a backlash often a reflection of the damage it has caused. Many of us want to know that God is relational, that we are seen in our specificity. It gives those of us who are Christians the opportunity to consider the ways in which we have restricted God and our experience of him and the experience of others. In God we find both male and female together, a God who created the feminine genius from himself and is glorified whenever it is expressed. Maybe you might need to break the idol of God you created in order to let the infinite one, an eternal exploding imagination of light and goodness that is God to be revealed.
I know it's just a music video and it's a great way to start conversations we've never had, to ask questions about God we never thought we could but in the wider context of feminism consider how easy it would be to fall into the trap and be seduced like Eve or disobedient like Adam trying to be God's or running after power that was once used to oppress us.
We are are daughters, heirs, the light of the world.
Let us with truth transcend.
You are the light world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
References you might find interesting!