El Shaddai - The Breasted God

February 25, 2012

Once upon a time, a woman knocked at my door who wanted to share her faith and I invited her into my apartment. "I'll listen to you talk about your beliefs if you'll listen to mine," I said and she agreed. She told me what type of Christian she was,-I don't remember what kind anymore-what she believed, and how wonderful it was. Then it was my turn. I talked about being a Feminist Christian and how my way of following Christ was wonderful for me. I told her that one of the main differences between her and my church is that we are all inclusive, even down to our language about people and especially about Godde.

 "Sometimes we refer to Godde as He and sometimes we refer to Godde as She, as we recognize that Godde contains aspects of both genders," I said. This seemed to blow her mind.

 "But the Bible only refers to God as He!" she said.

 "Ah, but the Bible refers to God in the third person and the people who wrote the Bible used He, because they lived in a patriarchal society," I said.  "But Godde never refers to herself as He or She, because that would be weird. Godde does refer to Herself as "I AM," which is gender neutral. You see, it is men who decided that Godde must be male, not Godde, Himself."

 "Hmmmm..." It was like I could see the gears in her head turning and then she brightly smiled. "Well, I am glad that you are a Christian and it was nice talking to you," she said, and then departed. I was awestruck as I closed the door, for I realized that I had just been a part of a miracle-that is, two people who normally would think of each other with fear, dread, and anger put aside their differences and talked calmly about their beliefs. Y'all, this does not happen often in the South! I was expecting to be told that my kind of Christianity was wrong and she was probably expecting me to slam the door in her face. We had had an experience that is rare in our culture-a discussion, or to put it in more scholarly terms, a dialogue. It seems to me, at least from what I have observed from interactions on Facebook to the politicians on television, that our society argues a whole lot more than we calmly discuss. What would our country look like if we actively listened to one another instead of trying to change one another? I think there would be a whole lot more peace and acceptance, for it is true that the only person that one has control over and can make change is one's self.

 But back to her assertion that the "Bible only refers to God as He." I didn't know it then, because I didn't know as much about the Bible in 2005, but the Bible actually does refer to Godde as She quite a lot. I never knew it, because until very recently the translations of the Bible to English removed most of the references and so only the scholars that studied the Greek and Hebrew knew the truth. Now I have not studied Greek or Hebrew, but I do go to a church that includes aspects of the feminine into how we worship the Divine. I have learned that ancient Christians referred to the Holy Spirit as "Sophia." Sophia is also the name used for Wisdom in the original texts. Yesterday, as I was reading from The Inclusive Bible, I found another wonderful feminine surprise-it was translating El Shaddai not as the Almighty, but as "the Breasted One:"

The name El Shaddai is usually translated "the Almighty," under the assumption that it derives either from the word shadad,which means "burly" or "powerful," or from shadah, which means "mountain," making the name mean "God of the mountains." There is growing opinion, however, that Shaddai may derive from the word shad or "breast"-thus El Shaddai may be a feminnine image of God meaning "the Breasted God." Then again, since mountains are frequently shaped like breasts, these two interpretations are not mutually exclusive. (12)

Study these verses with the new interpretation:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, YHWH appeared and said, "I am the Breasted One. Walk in my presence and be blameless. I will make a covenant between you and me, and I will increase your numbers exceedingly." Gen. 17:1-2

In this instance, saying Godde is the Breasted One makes sense to me, because She is promising Abram that She will increase his numbers-in essence, She is promising him fertility and what better sign for fertility is there than the breast, which becomes full of nourishing milk as the baby is about to be born. Breasts are a comforting pillow and Godde's promise of fertility is a comfort to Abram and Sarai. I like this image of Godde-a nourisher, a comforter, and one who gives life. I have looked at several other verses that contain the phrase "the Breasted One" and they seem to always be used when Godde is connected to the Israelites. The Israelites, as the story goes, were Godde's chosen people and Godde gave them nourishment to grow as a people. This view of naming Godde nourishes and comforts me, as I prefer to think of Godde as the source of my strength, but in a nourishing way-not in the destructive power-over-another way that the name "Almighty" sometimes implies.

 BTW, when I first read that passage in my Bible, my immediate reaction was to laughingly sing to myself Amy Grant's song, "El Shaddai": "Breasted God, Breasted God, El-Elyon na Adonai, Age to age You're still the same, By the power of the name." I betcha won't hear it the same way again!

I'm going to start something new!  Since I like to read blogs and I love to share, whenever I write a blog post, I'm also going to post the blog posts I've read lately that are worthy of my recommendation.

First are three posts about a new game at Disney World that unfortunately stigmatizes fat children.

This isn't about the bad habits at all. Its training children to adopt the socially dictated bigotries around fatness.

Dances with Fat – Deeply Disappointedin Disney

Do we really want to create more fear of being fat when we know that there is a 112% increase in the number of hospitalizations for kids under 12, UNDER TWELVE, who have eating disorders?

In our culture, with the War on Childhood Obesity, where we focus on children's body size, we are teaching discrimination based on the physical characteristic of body size.  This teaches our children to discriminate against each other and that they are entitled to bully each other.

Then, Dances with Fat writes about weight loss medications in It's About My Heart.

[...] fat is not a diagnosis.  It’s a descriptor.  Obesity is not a disease, it’s a ratio of weight and height.  There are perfectly healthy obese people (and very unhealthy thin people).

 Excitable Gurelle (The Queen of Bipolar) gives thanks for science and medicine in It's Medication Time!

Imagine my life and health if this was fifty or more years ago. I doubt I would even be alive let alone comfortable most days. Where would you be if it was 1950?

          Tonight I am grateful for science and medicine.

BUT, if you only read ONE of the posts that I recommend, then read You're Cured Right Now by Womanist Musings!

As a disabled person, I am constantly encouraged to rise above.  The super crip narrative is absolutely universalized.  What rarely gets discussed is the fact that when disabled people do actually push themselves and rise above, it is taken as proof that a disability no longer exists, and that accommodations no longer need to be made.

Happy reading! 

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