‘And God Created Woman.’
Or so we were reminded back in the 1950s by a saucy French film director named Roger Vadim, himself a God-like creature for later having the courage to marry Jane Fonda. The woman involved in his earlier exercise was a pert little ingénue named Brigitte Bardot, who reinforced the mystique of her gender by appearing in various stages of undress – in defiance of the censors – offering in the process a tantalising glimpse of those delectable mammary glands that would set adolescent hearts racing (including this writer’s) for the next two decades.
I mention this apparently random event more than half a century later because the newspapers reported yesterday that a group of women, meeting under the auspices of the Church of England (what else?) has been considering some form of remake. The working title, I’m given to understand, is ‘And Woman created God’.
Seriously, though, these ladies have spent many a long day and, for all I know, many a sleepless night, wrestling with a vexatious question. Who decided that God is a man?
Well, we know the answer to that. Men decided that God is a man. Men would, wouldn’t they?
And that being the case, the ladies are determined to put the record straight. God has only been assigned the male gender because for two thousand years men have dominated the church, not to mention large elements of secular society to boot, through the offices of a hereditary cabal of repressive, opportunistic and misogynistic clergy.
But now ladies can brace for battle fortified by the election of several of their number as bishops; they can finally stand up and be counted. This they have done not by chaining themselves to the rails of Buckingham Palace, or hurling themselves onto the track during Royal Ascot, but by resorting to a method more readily associated with the male of the species: they formed a committee.
They call it the Transformation Steering Group, a title that rather gives the game away. And since the game is nothing less than challenging the gender of the Supreme Being, it is right and proper that it should.
It seems the TSG has been meeting at Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Jolly decent of him, I say, especially as he himself epitomises, if only by default, the bastion of male dominance that the ladies now wish to demolish.
The group has apparently concluded its deliberations. The verdict comes in the form of a public demand to the bishops of the Anglican community to encourage “a more expansive language and imagery about God” and to accept that there has been of late years a shift in accepting what it calls the ‘traditional patriarchal language of the Book of Common Prayer’.
“The reality,” chimed in Hilary Cotton, chairman of a sister organization called Women and the Church, “is (that) in many churches up and down the country something more than the almost default male language about God is already used”. She goes on to say, “Until we shift considerably towards a more gender-ful (sic) expression in our worship about God then we are failing God and missing something”.
Well, I’m certainly missing something, I readily admit. But as a cynical, smart-Alec rationalist who doesn’t believe in spirits of any kind, male, female, or otherwise, I suppose I would.
Making God a woman, it seems to me, opens the floodgates to changes in long-standing traditions in worship, and in the very language we speak and write.
Will we soon be reciting the Lord’s Prayer as the Lady’s Prayer? Wrenching enough it is that one day, not too distant, we will have to get used to singing “God save the King” again. But surely not “Our mother who art in Heaven”? Or will the ladies settle for “Our parent who art in Heaven”?
Will people soon be uttering phrases like “God in His or Her infinite wisdom”? Perhaps more grammatically it will be expressed as ‘God in Their infinite wisdom’?
Will every bible, hymnal and prayer book now have to be revised and reprinted to reflect the new celestial regime? Could the Church of England even financially withstand such a project? Not, I venture to guess, without flogging off much of its most valuable real estate, perhaps including Lambeth Palace. It could, of course, raise the admission fees to Westminster Abbey from fifteen pounds to fifty.
In short, where will this nascent God Liberation Movement end? Will it stop at nothing?
Logically, it should end with a debate about the Founder of their religion.
Who can say that Jesus was not a woman? Ridiculous, you may be thinking. But is it? For a person whose mother did not observe the normal processes necessary for procreation, who could walk on water, turn water into wine, and presumably the other way round, and rise from the dead, surely anything is possible. And, some might wish to observe, as obituary writers do with a literary wink, he never married.
As for my own final word on the matter, I revert once more to the cinema. In the last scene of Some Like it Hot, Tony Curtis, who has been masquerading as a woman, tells his suitor, Joe E. Brown, “I’m a man!”
“Well”, says Joe, “Nobody’s perfect.”