PaMater, God as Heavenly Parent

PaMater, God as Heavenly Parent

by The Rev. Ray Mesler

When the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament were being written (about 1900 BCE to 100 CE), it was impossible for those who believed in the one, only, and preeminent God, the Sovereign God of Israel, as anything but male. Pagan worshipers could honor female gods in their pantheons, but they, along with the Palestinian monotheists, could see that in the world the male was superior to the female -- presumably since creation and by divine intention. How then could that be any less true in the spiritual realm, in the heavenly domain?

On the other hand, God (not a god or some god, but the One known as God the Sovereign) initiated and maintained personal relationship with God's people, each as individual person and all together as a collective. Such a human, such a group was God's child, God's children. God had a parental kinship with God's family of human devotees.

Those ancient experiences of God prevail for 21st century CE Christians. God is, at the same time, the Superior of all others and all else, and is also parent of all God's progeny.

But here's where I separate from our forebears. We Christians now understand that God has female as well as male attributes, and feminine roles as well as masculine in interacting with creation, including mortals. However, even the venerable scripture, our Bible, sometimes gives us a hint of this lately arrived truth:

Isa. 49:8 Thus says the [Sovereign God]: "In a time of favor I've answered you, on a day of salvation I've helped you" 14 But Zion said, "The [Sovereign God] has forsaken me, my [Sovereign] has forgotten me." 15 Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you."

Isa. 66:12 For thus says [God]: 13 "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem."

Matt. 23:1 Jesus said to the crowds and .... disciples: 37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who're sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"

But, the earlier followers of Christ and Jesus Christself, then fully human, in fact, could predominantly refer to God as "Father," or more familiarly as "Abba" (perhaps "Daddy"), since that was the way of their culture, the environment to which God's Chosen Scion had been sent. They could do no other.

But I can do something else. It appears that a Christian in the year 2000 needs a new term to signify God as Parent (an expression which is too impersonal to be employed). I choose "PaMater." Pater is Latin for "father," Mater for "mother." Indeed some writers would have us believe that in the last century or so, some English descendants preciously addressed their Moms as "Mater." Combining the two Latin nouns, allowing Mater to appear whole and Pater only in part, seems appropriately to denote the female and male marks in God's Being, joined together since God is neither one or the other but more than both. It also puts slightly more emphasis on the feminine, to make up for the centuries of worldly, ethical, psychological, and hierarchical imprint on all our psyches.

My adaptations of liturgy, original writings, and paraphrases of biblical texts speak of God in this aspect as PaMater. It seems the only thing a Chrsit-follower can do

It's also the only approach a gay Christian can apply. For we who're born gay-oriented have been branded in an unusually poignant way with the worldly, ethical, psychological, and hierarchical scars of such patriarchy. Life has forced us to pay more attention to a human's combination of masculinity and femininity within oneself than is true for nongay persons. That enjoined self-study is, I now believe (Didn't always, that's for sure!), a gift straight (to really lay this on thick) from God the PaMater. It allows us to be more sensitive to women's needs, God's fuller reality, and our own complexity.

Furthermore, to be a graying (actually white hair and beard) Christian is a divine gift in this matter. I've the freedom to speak the truth as God permits me to discern it without worrying about significant career, financial, or social repercussions. No one can take from me anything which is of value to me. But, PaMater's not a word for use only by a gay and graying God-adherent; I freely give it to all of you for your devout usage before God and supportive employment in the presence of girls and women.

Try it, you'll like it:

Our PaMater in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Amen.

Yours, in the agitating peace of Christ, Ray+


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