“Daddy, why is God a boy?”
This was not exactly the angle I was going to take when starting this devotional, but my daughter asked me this question yesterday, and I feel compelled to honor what led her to the question.
For the last two weeks, I have been talking about the movies Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Not only do I think these movies are masterfully made, I think they present some wonderful and challenging messages for us to think about. Ultimately, I hope people will feel uplifted when watching and grappling with the subject matter being presented. Another area I wanted to highlight was how long these movies have been part of people’s lives. These movies are entering into the territory of symphonies, pieces of art that have been around for a long time and continually reward those that take the time to experience them. There is a flip side to this, and that is what I want to talk about.
Representation plays an incredibly important part in the upbringing of a developing mind. My daughter is asking all of those questions already, and she is four. This one really took me by surprise though, and then I realized why she came to this question: “Daddy, why is God a boy?”. She watches our services online with me every Sunday morning. Her face lights up when TC is talking, and she is upset when the camera is not on him. When Judy started the prayers during last Sunday’s service, she exclaimed, “Judy got a haircut!” She does not miss a beat. Her question came immediately following the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father Who art in Heaven… Now, I am not advocating to change the nomenclature. I feel confident in my ability over the years to teach her the nuance of why ascribing genders in an ancient sense is different than ascribing genders in our present day society, and how English does not have gender neutral options the way that many other languages do. That will all come in time.
This is, however, a small reflection of the issue from the perspective of a mostly privileged kid. The problem becomes larger when you look at minority groups. Think of all of the girls growing up in the African American community that did not have a Disney princess that looked like them until 2009. Think of the conversations that must have taken place between a parent and a child about why those princesses “do not look like me”. My daughter cried herself to sleep when I told her Agrabah, the city featured in the animated movie Aladdin, only existed in the movie. Think about the girls that cried themselves to sleep at night because they felt like an outcast without a Disney princess that looks like they do. If it seems trivial, I hope you will take my example and expound upon it. Representation matters, particularly to young and developing minds. Our church denomination believes so, as well. Can you imagine what our church would look like today if women were not allowed to be ordained and minister to their communities? Can you imagine the damage being done to young, female minds being indoctrinated that God does not want them to discuss or even think about the word of God?
Representation matters because it allows an individual to be part of a particular narrative, and when we can imagine ourselves as part of a narrative different from our own, it allows our individual self to experience positive growth. We expand on ourselves by seeing ourselves in those different narratives. Star Wars, princesses, athletes, presidents, musicians, they all speak to different narratives based on an individual’s feeling of being represented. This brings me back to Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that those movies probably mean less to members of the African American community. Not only because there is zero representation for them to have, but also that when those movies were coming out, they were fighting for their civil rights, not even equal rights mind you, civil rights. I want you to take away two things from that statement. Number one, you and I can continue to love the art that makes us feel represented. We can continue to love Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music because they are to be celebrated. Number two, we need to be more cognizant than ever about representation for minorities. When we adopt the truth that we are all God’s children, we need to make sure that we not only pin that to our hearts, but we merge it with our very beings.
So, to answer my daughter’s question, “Daddy, why is God a boy?” I reminded her of that line in Mary Poppins. “Though we adore men, individually, we agree that as a group, they’re rather stupid.” No, I am teasing, of course.
I told her that nobody knows what God is. We do not know. I literally saw a moment of relief in her eyes, that a barrier was not put up between her and her understanding of God. God does not have to be represented differently for her because she is a girl. I continued and told her that love and the love that we share with one another is what creates God’s presence among us.
Please, do not lose sight of that as the country continues to have deep and challenging conversations. Listen more intently, look at our histories more objectively, and love others, intentionally.