Why Using “He” in Worship Could Be Hurting More People Than You Think

showImageThis post was originally published on Q Ideas.

“Give me one moment while I have a conniption fit,” I cautioned Rush. We had been fine a few minutes earlier, talking about a worship service he was planning for his youth group. Our friend Will, who would be leading music with him, had just spent an hour picking and strumming and singing in our living room. I apologized to Rush for being a hermit and not coming out of the bedroom to say hello, but there was no bad blood between us. Not until he mentioned a particular song he was planning to sing.

Sunday worship is the hardest hour of my week. And it’s not because I’m an introvert who often sits alone. Nor is it because I have trouble hearing God in a service that relies so heavily on words, words, and more words. Sunday worship is the hardest hour of my week because it’s the one in which I show up begging to get a glimpse of God’s abundance and leave feeling a little less human. It’s the one where I worship a God who is always a he.

“You’re singing the jealous song?” I asked, actively working on my tone. Rush tells me my tone is often off-the-charts awful. I tell him maybe he’s tone deaf. Either way, I wanted to play nice with my partner.

“And that’s the song that says something like, ‘He loves like a hurricane and we bend like a tree under his wind and mercy?’”

By now Rush could tell something was festering because I was trying too hard and trying too hard was the telltale sign. Something did not fit.

Let me dispel your fears that I am looking to make God into my image. I am not. But I expect this happens to us, men and women alike, from time to time. We are, after all, talking about God, the God whose thoughts are not our thoughts, whose ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8.). No, I am looking to worship the God of reality, from whom the image of both male and female and everyone in between was patterned. Genesis assures us of this much. God is not some neutered, gender-less spirit in the sky. Rather, God is more than, higher than, fuller than our human thoughts and ways of gender. I’ve come to believe that we worship a gender-full God.

This belief makes worshiping such a God rather, well, complicated. While most mainline Protestants I come across agree with me that God is neither male nor female, the majority is unwilling to change the lyrics of modern-day music to reflect said reality. One former pastor assured me that I was free to change the lyrics myself, singing God for every he, God’s self for every himself. I told him this didn’t seem to be the point of worship considering the biblical mandate that we be of one mind and spirit (Phil 2:2.) Shouldn’t we at least be able to be of one lyric?

So, I asked Rush, kindly I thought, “What do you think about changing the lyrics of that song? To be honest, singing about a nameless he—even if it is meant to be Jesus—kind of reminds me of a domestic violence situation. I mean, we bend beneath his weight like a hurricane?” I thought about the recent statistics I’d read in which one in every four women is expected to experience domestic violence in her life time. Was it safe to assume one in every four women sitting in church might experience the same? Was it possible worship leaders did not know this, did not know one of these women?

To continue reading the article, head over to Q Ideas.

2 responses to “Why Using “He” in Worship Could Be Hurting More People Than You Think

  1. Erin,
    I’m glad you were able to articulate your feelings and thoughts and they were ultimately heard and validated. It is a mystery that God (who is not a particular gender) chooses to identify as Father, but He also says in Isaiah that even if a mother forgets her child, He does not…and also in other places, where God “mothers” us…even that statement can get into a whole other discussion, so I hope it doesn’t get taken the wrong way… Thank you for sharing your story and process.

  2. Louise Mitchell

    Refreshing to hear your comments – I can no longer go to church without dis-ease because of the violence of the words – the marginalization I experience due to the socially constructed words of a previous time and lack of contemporary thought and spirit to embrace the diversity of who we are as community today. There is one priest in the Catholic Church here in Australia who ensures his theology is contemporary – but yes still the music and other dictums that are meant to be read as a community are not demonstrative of this spirit of inclusiveness. thank you for sharing

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