How can the word “It” be so exciting?
What a bummer it is each time I read “he” or “him” referring to God. Is God a he? Is he nothing but male? Just a male? Each “he” is jarring. Makes me want to cringe. Is God synonymous with this gender? A hunk of maleness up in the sky?
For so many millions, God’s chief characteristics are his maleness and his alleged culpability for creating our problems while only occasionally alleviating them. This is the way people think! If we must have gender up in the sky, at least make it inclusive.
I thought maybe I would be making a grammatical error if I said anything other than he, him, or his for God, so God became “the Divine” which can correctly be genderless in English. But mostly I tried to avoid using a pronoun for the Divine.
It was just such an amazing relief to read the following in the Daily Word:
“Through our committed spiritual practice of prayer, meditation and forgiveness, we take God out of the sky, out of the churches and books, and put God within our own hearts – where It actually is.” 1
Oh yes, yes, Y-E-S!!! The editor of a prominent magazine has allowed “It”!!! For a very long time, people have been writing around this problem, avoiding pronouns, and saying he-him-his as little as possible. And now a great breakthrough, someone finally dared to say it – IT.
And “It” would be correct.
Oh, thank you.
It got to the point where I didn’t even want to write “God,” seeing as how the commonly accepted pronouns were not acceptable to me; and seeing as how “God” had been taken over by shrieking rightists. I wouldn’t want my readers to think I was one of those. For them, God is nothing but a HE – a mere shadow of the Illimitable.
Makes me want to say something like, “I am spiritual but not religious.”
I plan to be saying more about It from now on; unless I am talking about a god that is obviously a male, like Yahweh or Zeus, or talking about the god of the rightists who is He or Him, or talking about the Great Goddess who is She or Her.
If you want to pick a descriptive name for God that is meaningful for you, go ahead – no harm in it; you can even pick a name from the Bible, like “Father.” Just don’t say that the name you choose for God is a god. That’s idolatry. God is bigger than any name for It. God is bigger than the name “God.” God is bigger than any pronoun.
If anyone wants to think that calling God “It” is disrespectful (even while capitalized), they are entitled to their opinion. But “It” is correct. Any other pronoun for God would be incorrect and thus, disrespectful. Of course if your name for God is “Father,” then in English, “he” would be correct, if it is understood that “he” refers to the name “Father,” not to God.
Interesting that in English, the Holy Spirit is “It,” yet the two other aspects of the Trinity are often characterized as male. What does that say about the three-in-one unity of the Trinity? If the Trinity is not entirely male, then neither is the one God – a logical conclusion. Or maybe divide God up into parts and say two parts are male and one part is genderless spirit and end up with a god who is a he-he-it?? Factor in the femininity of the Hebrew word for Spirit and you get he-he-she. (But God is not divisible.)
I was wondering if the word “god” in English would have to be essentially masculine because “goddess” is the feminine form. But my 1943 Webster’s does not support that. It says “esp. a male deity” in one of its six definitions of “god,” but does not put much emphasis on that, and has no reference to gender in its other definitions of god; whereas “goddess” is “a female god.” So a god can be either male or female or neither, and if female, is “a female god.” Thus, a god can be female. Definition 3 for “god,” where “God” is capitalized, has no mention of gender: “The Supreme Being; the eternal and infinite Spirit, Creator and Sovereign of the universe” (Capitals in original). Well, I would not expect a “Spirit” to have a gender.
Oh, I know. Jesus was a man. And both Jesus and Mary, a woman, have something to do with the incarnation and are members of the Christ. Does that mean that the Christ, “the second person of God” is a he-she? I’ll guess that the Christ is more than just the historical Jesus (see 1Corinthians 10: 4, 9, Christ at the Exodus, and Hebrews 11:26, Moses’ regard for Christ (TNIV)). I’ll guess that the Christ is more than just the “first fruit,” more than the sum total of all human members of the Christ, and more than the sum total of all created things, and if so, the Christ is genderless. All things are created through It. I don’t expect that the Spirit-infused “new creation” that is being “begotten” will have a gender, other than in some biblical symbolism.
I wonder what the religion editor of The New York Times does about god pronouns?
I don’t want to go so far as to say that God must be beyond gender. I don’t even know if there is a god. But I can say that I don’t have any reason to ascribe a gender to God.
I don’t know why God would need to have a gender in order to be with us.
1 Ester Nicholson, “The Power of Powerlessness,” Daily Word, July/August, 2012, p. 6.