German Catholic students are adopting inclusive language for God, explaining that “God cannot be assigned to any gender or other human categories”.

– God not a “punishing old white man with a beard”

The German Catholic Student Youth (KSJ) began a new campaign on Friday in which they “demand 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 diversity of God”.

“Because God is in all living beings”, the KSJ explained, also demanding that “a modern image of God” form the heart of discussions at the German Church’s ongoing ‘synodal path’ Catholic renewal process.

As part of their new campaign, the KSJ are spelling the German word for God – Gott – with the so-called German gender star (Gendersternchen) – * – that is inclusive not only of women but also of non-binary people.

The KSJ was founded by the Jesuits in 1919 and now forms part of the umbrella organisation of Catholic youth movements in Germany, the Association of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ).

But the KSJ is still drawing inspiration for its new campaign from its Jesuit spirituality, and specifically from the charge that Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola gave to the order, that is, “to seek and find God in all things”.

“This requires us to perceive God without prejudice, after all, God cannot be assigned to any gender or other human categories”, the KSJ explained, adding that the aim of attaching a gender star to the word ‘God’ is to lift connotations of the divine out of any association with human gender constructs.

– “God loves all people equally in their diversity”

As part of their new campaign – #whoisgodtoday – the KSJ have produced a series of postcards setting out their positions not only on the need for inclusive language in the Church but also on a range of hot-button Catholic and social issues.

“Just as God loves all people equally in their diversity, God is also infinitely multifaceted”, the KSJ explained in a note on the postcard disassociating God from human notions of gender.

“We do justice to the mission of God through our daily actions”, reads another of the KSJ postcards, with the group explaining that “this quote calls for action instead of talking, just as Jesus spoke through his actions”.

Other KSJ demands include political measures such as the establishment of a youth parliament or the lowering of the voting age, since as young people they say they are able to bring a unique perspective to social issues.

– “There is no profession that only men are allowed to practice except that of priest”

The heart of the new KSJ campaign is an impassioned plea for gender justice in Catholicism, with the group decrying that “there is no profession that only men are allowed to practice except that of priest”.

“Equal rights should also be a major church political issue”, the KSJ insisted, demanding the opening up of all Church ministries to women.

How can Church leaders, “who are mostly men and deny women” and non-binary people “the exercise of their vocation, reconcile the pain they cause with their faith?”, the KSJ asked.

“The representation of Christ does not take place in his masculinity, but in his faith in the Kingdom of God”, the young people recall in another of their postcards.

“After all, the apostles of Jesus were not only men”, the KSJ said, adding that in such an important subject as the reflection of the divine in humans the Church “should not discriminate against anyone”.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.