Who’s Your Daddy?
The following essay details my thoughts about God’s genitalia. Some might find this shocking. And it very may be. However, I find the lack of disdain for the imagery of God to be perennially presented as male to be a crime much worse than my imagining the logical conclusion as to God as He/Him. As theologian Mary Daly wrote, “If God is male, then male is God.” And that just ain’t right.
“It’s called RUMINATIONS ON GOD’S DICK,” I tell my 87-year-old father-in-law.
“You’re kidding me,” he says.
“No, Padre, I’m not kidding. That’s the book’s title. RUMINATIONS ON GOD’S DICK: A Collection of digital-age essays about religion.”
We each start laughing.
“You had me for a moment, partner.”
“Phil, I’m not kidding.”
“For about six seconds there I thought you were serious.”
We continue to laugh.
Although maybe we are laughing for different reasons.
For months of prepublication, this book – THE VERY TRUE GOSPEL OF RABBI BRIAN – was entitled RUMINATIONS ON GOD’S DICK. (Let me know and I’ll show you the mocked-up cover art of a giant black phallus silhouetted against the heavens.)
Like a gleeful teenager, I was amused by my power to cause discomfort in others.
I also loved contrasting the erudite single first word — RUMINATIONS — against the internally contrasting holy-profane couplet — GOD’S DICK.
A navy moleskin journal bears witness to a transformation of titles. Pages of words layered in multiple colors, cross-outs and question marks culminate with a clean page, thick black pen framing the first workable title of less than eight words: GOD DOESN’T HAVE A WHITE DICK.
I liked that people would see the title GOD DOESN’T HAVE A WHITE DICK then be forced to visualize of Zeus’s schlong or Santa’s schmeckle in technicolor.
GOD DOESN’T HAVE A WHITE DICK would allow me to touch not only on patriarchy but also on its counterpart, racism. As I hold a position of privilege based on my skin’s minimal melanin, I feel moved to call attention to the implicit racism of the perennial depiction of God as white.
A postgraduate degree in religion and I’m not sure about much theologically. School can really destabilize certainty. But I’m certain as could be about this: All those blond-haired, blue-eyed images of Jesus don’t make history’s most famous Jew a Scandinavian. Or God a dude.
Jesus wasn’t white and God is a construct beyond the confines of gender. Seriously.
Even in the Bible — the seemingly greatest authoritative source of fun facts about the nature of God — God isn’t white or a cis-dude. The Bible – while these verses are rarely referenced – often portrays God as a mother. And, more than that — there is the story of the sixth day of creation — the creation of people. The God of Genesis 1:26 who creates the Adam/Mudthing “in the image of God; male and female both” would be intersex.
There’s one other thing I miss about GOD DOESN’T HAVE A WHITE DICK as a title. It gave birth to the fantasy of someone disagreeing with my outrageously open-minded religious attitude and defending their positions with, “Well, no, God does have a white dick.” In my imagination I pause then slyly ask, “And, how exactly do you know?”
I meet Phil and his wife Mary in the summer of 1996, near his pied-à-terre overlooking the Hudson at 79th Street. A neighborhood Italian restaurant. We order appetizers. Jane, his daughter and my paramour, excuses herself to the bathroom.
“Tell me, young man, what are your intentions with my daughter?”
I don’t consciously think of saying it. The words just come out of my mouth: “So, is this how it’s going to be, huh, Phil?”
I can’t believe I said that.
Neither can he.
We both laugh.
This is reality. And books are judged both by their titles and their covers.
Phil was right.
Books with “dick” in their title don’t have as wide of an audience.
But is the success of a religious book measured in sales volume?
While it’s perverse and certainly idolatrous, I can understand why many attempt to convince themselves that God has a dick, any color.
It is appealingly neat. Simple. Something even a kid can understand.
God as a dad allows us to put the incomprehensible into an understandable construct – a father. Even if it is wrong, God as a parent allows us to infer why bad things happen. Right or wrong, whether we think of this progenitor as loving or stern, the
image is familiar and comfy.
But, the universe is not asking us to be its child.
The universe asks us to partner, to wake up to life. Not to be less than or ruled over, but to be a part of creation.
Real religious thoughts are mind-blowing.
*Predicate Theology* — God is nothing supernatural, but instead a verb. God is made present when we act with love, truth, compassion, etc. Not God as person, but as godliness in action.
*Apophatic Theology* — God is not definable – as soon as you have come up with a definition, you are lost. Apophatic means one through negation – so you can only say with certainty what God is not, not what God is.
*Hartshorne’s Dipolar Theism* — God is the self-surpassing surpasser of self.
Deep stuff. Not for kids.
Here are a few other non-patriarchal notions of God I love and of the God that I love:
* God is neither an internal nor external force, but a platonic ideal, a loftier self, a higher power. God is between Fromm’s “the word as placeholder for our highest ideals” and Jung’s “greater collective consciousness.”
* God is only present when we constrict ourselves and our self to make room for God.
* An adaptation of Lao-Tzu: There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It is serene. Empty. Unchanging. Infinite. Eternal. Present. It is the mother of the universe. For lack of a better name, I call it God.
When we didn’t see eye to eye about God’s dick in the title of the book, I pivoted the conversation: “Let me tell you about a different book in my publishing pipeline: MEDITATION IS MAGIC: A Magical Guide To Meditation And Mindfulness.”
Before hearing details, he tells me the title should be: I WASN’T JUST THINKING THAT.
He’s 87 and sharp. “Phil, that’s a great title for a mediation book. A different one. Mine targets smart, fun-at-heart adults who need a “My little Pony Meditation is Magic” introduction to meditation.”
“Now, that sounds like a good idea, partner. Keep it classy, engaging.”
I don’t tell him that the dragon, pony and I occasionally let fly a curse word. He’ll see that when it’s published.
We’ll laugh about it then.
I love God.
And, God’s bigger than daddy issues.