Imagining God as feminine can be transformative, says scholar

Carol P. Christ, a leading figure in feminist theology, wants you to consider what the divine would look like with a feminine face.
Carol P. Christ is a leading figure in feminist theology and she studies the relationship between divinity and gender. (Submitted by Carol Christ)

Carol P. Christ wants you to imagine what it might be like if God was not portrayed as masculine. 

Christ, who is a leading figure in feminist theology, said many of the world's religions have made a big mistake by imagining God as a tyrannical force with stereotypically male behaviours. 

"That is, someone whose will is all-powerful, who doesn't have to listen to anyone, whose will is unknowable, and he can do whatever he wants," Christ told Tapestry host Mary Hynes. 

For decades, Christ has played a key role in promoting the goddess — the feminine face of the divine. It's an ancient tradition, she said, one that can have radical implications. 

'I was being treated as a body, not a mind'

Christ said her interest in finding the goddess traces back to her own experiences as a graduate student at Yale University in the 1970s.

Christ is the author of the well-known essay, Why women need the Goddess. (Photo by Michael Honegger)

"I realized that I was being treated as a body, and not a mind. And I was actually being told that I probably wouldn't finish my degree because I would marry and have children," she said.

"It also gradually began to dawn on me that there was some relationship between the way I was being treated, [and] the way God was being conceived."

Rethinking power

From there, Christ started exploring the goddess, which she said is often imagined as feminine, but can be gender-neutral. 

Although she defines the goddess as a power, she said it's anything but supreme. 

"For me, the goddess, she is a power that understands and supports the world, but is not in control, because, actually, we have freedom," Christ said. "And if we have freedom … then we're all influencing the outcomes of the world."

What have you done for me lately? 

But old habits die hard. And Christ has had moments where she's found herself reverting back to male notions of the divine.

Reflecting on that over time, I realized the goddess isn't about giving you what you want.- Carol P. Christ

She remembered, for instance, a particularly difficult night, in her apartment. She was angry and feeling abandoned by the goddess because something Christ had desperately wanted never came to fruition.

"I said, 'You know, I've been studying you, about you, I've been teaching about you. People say I've brought them to you … and you haven't done anything for me," Christ said. 

Then Christ said she heard a tiny voice tell her, "I've never abandoned you. I've been with you all the time." 

"Reflecting on that over time, I realized the goddess isn't about giving you what you want."

What's more, Christ said expecting the goddess to be able to make everything okay starts to make her look a lot like the old masculine God Christ wanted to get away from. 

"The goddess might've been crying with me and saying, 'I'm sorry you didn't get what you wanted,'" said Christ. "But she couldn't give it to me … that's not her job."

Rather, Christ said the job of the goddess is to inspire you — no matter your gender.

"Her power is to be with us and to understand us and to always inspire us to love more and understand more." 

Her most recent books are Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology with Judith Plaskow, and A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess.