• Categories

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 4,772 other followers

  • Meta

The gender thing

One of The Shack’s big surprises is that Papa (God the Father) is portrayed as a woman. Paul Young has his reasons, and I’m not terribly interested in arguing for or against it.  But I want to mention how it affected my own writing process.

In my early attempts to paraphrase Bible passages in Shack language, it didn’t even occur to me to refer to Papa with feminine pronouns.  But one day I noticed the disconnect between the book and the paraphrase, so I went through and changed the pronouns. 

I was shocked at how much it changed the feel of the text.  I wondered if it was perhaps TOO jarring, and I considered switching back to “he” and “his.”  After all, gender is a prickly topic (in theology as much as everywhere else), and did I really want to give my potential critics such a big easy target?

After all, I do believe gender is theologically relevant. I’m not a body-denying dualist or a gnostic.  Body and soul are one.  My anatomy has something real to say about my personhood, my soul-deep identity.  Besides, I’ve been a parent long enough to know that a father-child relationship is different from a mother-child relationship.  It’s relevant that Jesus prayed to “Father” and not “Mother.” Gender is not a non-issue to me.

But in the end, I decided to keep the feminine pronouns.  Why?  Because the fact that it’s jarring is precisely the point.  We have such deep mental ruts in our thinking about God, it is nearly impossible to get out of them.  Seeing Papa as a woman is SUCH a big shift of mind, it forces us out of the ruts, forces us to start fresh and let go of our preconceptions of what our Papa is like.

That starting-fresh is possibly the most important thing The Shack had to accomplish.  And if the female manifestation of Papa is what achieved it (and I think it really did), then I’m willing to stick with it in my paraphrase.

7 Responses

  1. I love how the Shack explains that God is really both genders – “He created humans in His image, male and female He created them” – each gender embodies a unique set of God’s attributes. I would be most comfortable envisioning a male Papa and female Sarayu, but as Papa pointed out in the book, The Shack is about defying what we’ve been comfortable with, so it makes sense that you’re going to jar people this way. I’m looking forward to reading more of your paraphrase! Do you plan on publishing the entire Bible in this style sometime?

  2. I personally believe the main reason Jesus spoke of “Father” instead of “Mother” was the time in which he lived and the people to whom he spoke. We know that “God is not a man,” and that all masculinity and femininity emanate from God, so, to me, both are equally valid (or, due to human limitations of understanding, equally invalid).

  3. When I first read The Shack the presentation of “the father” as a female bothered me. I have since studied many of the scriptures that present God as having a feminine nature as well as a masculine nature. The Bible presents God as giving birth and breastfeeding among other feminine features. Now the idea of Poppa doesn’t bother me so much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: