German Catholic students have criticised the use of patriarchal language for the divine, insisting that “God is just as much woman and mother”.
– An opportunity for “justice in a religious-theological context” for women, non-binary people
Anna-Sophia Kleine, director of the Catholic Student Youth (KSJ) association in the Archdiocese of Paderborn, spoke to KNA September 18 to defend the group’s new campaign – #whoisgodtoday – in the framework of which they have taken to writing the German word for God with an unspoken gender star (Gendersternchen), ‘God*’.
The gender star appended to the word ‘God’ – masculine in German – is designed to lead to a reflection on the need for “a new image of God that does away with the ideas of the punishing old white man with a beard and creates space for a God diversity”, according to the KSJ, which has produced a series of postcards outlining its demands for a Church sensitive to gender concerns and inclusive, too, of non-binary people.
The KSJ campaign has led to fierce criticism of the group, including from the far-right AfD (“Alternative for Germany”) party.
AfD spokesman in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament, Daniel Rottmann, accused the Catholic youth of pushing an “absurd” debate on God and reflecting “the Church’s obsession with the spirit of the times” and “one-sided left-wing politics”.
Theologian Margit Eckholt also criticised the KSJ initiative, saying that although depictions of God as an old, white man can be found in art, images of the divine of that type are no longer conveyed in sermons and theology, for which reason she demanded the group stick to the traditional spelling of God.
But the KSJ has also found support for his campaign in the person of theologian Agnes Wuckelt, the vice-president of the German Association of Catholic Women (kfd).
Wuckelt told Cologne archdiocesan news service Domradio September 15 that the divine gender star “is suitable for making me think about the image of God and my ideas about God”.
“The chance for me here lies in the fact that people of different sexes are also made in God’s image, that they are also loved by God and that people who see themselves neither as men nor as women can still experience justice in a religious-theological context. That seems like a great opportunity to me”, Wuckelt explained.
– “God* is so much more than you can think and describe”
For her part, Kleine explained with respect to the KSJ campaign that “we want to deliberately irritate and challenge. People should think about what and who God is. The asterisk shows God* is so much more than you can think and describe”.
“Sure, some people say that we are buckling under the zeitgeist and falling victim to a gender mania. But we have received positive feedback from the majority”, the KSJ representative continued, warning that reducing God to one gender contradicts the Christian faith.
“The God gender star doesn’t take anything away from anyone. Whoever feels and thinks God as a father can continue to do so. It’s all about saying: God* is not just a father, just a man, but just as much a woman and mother”, Kleine insisted.
– “We have put masks over our faith and they have to go”
As for the relationship of KSJ members to the official Church, the KSJ Paderborn director described their affinity to the institution as one of “critical loyalty”.
“We are still here because we believe in this Church, but at the same time we want many things to change”, Kleine explained.
As an example of the reforms the KSJ would like to see the official Church undertake, she pointed to the ordination of women.
“When we realise that the most central point of our faith, namely God, has been influenced by patriarchal structures, then we understand that many other aspects of our Church are as they are only because they have been shaped by a mentality of male dominance”, Kleine deplored, insisting that “the role of women in the Church must… be reconsidered. We humans have put masks over our faith and they have to go”.
(Image: Ruth Schreiber/ruthschreiber.com)