“When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing. Yet you know you exist and others like you, that this is a game done with mirrors. It takes some strength of soul – and not just individual strength but collective understanding – to resist this void…and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard. Adrienne Rich
I have been blessed with powerful teachers in my life. One is a seminary professor who has written extensively and agitated consistently about the issue of language, particularly language used for the Holy. She is a part of the church community I serve. Amazing grace, that.
Her wisdom is with me as I write worship week after week because I know so very well the psychic disequilibrium that has been perpetrated against women through the ways we name God as male male male. The United Methodist hymnal – all three iterations currently in use – has perhaps a handful of hymns that name the sacred using feminine imagery or pronouns. This from a denomination that proclaims a desire to welcome all into transformational relationship with the Holy.
Parker Palmer maintains that “the soul is shy. It won’t show up unless it feels safe.” How can soul show up in a culture that asks it to participate in “a game done with mirrors”?
Every week this tension of finding hymnody capable of inviting embodied praise. Every week the realization that the soul crush of non inclusion is perpetrated in uncounted sanctuaries.
According to Adrienne Rich, it takes individual strength and communal understanding. As community, will we welcome those who stand up and demand to be heard? Can we unpack the depth of woman-demean that provokes disgust at the very notion of feminine divine?
I’m tired of psychic disequilibrium. I’m tired of trying to choose the least offensive hymns when song is meant to sing – not silence – the soul.
Words matter. Mirrors contort.
This is no game.