Daily Riches: God the Mother Bear (Elizabeth Johnson)

“In her major ‘thought experiment’ on the model of God as mother, Sallie McFague’s analysis makes an unexpected, beautiful connection between mothering and justice. Drawing on women’s experience, she sees that mothering involves three elements. First of all, mothers give the gift of life to others and, when it appears, exclaim with delight, ‘It is good that you exist.’ In addition, maternal love nurtures what it has brought into existence, mainly by freeing the young and also by training the young to acquire personal and social behaviors. Finally, this love passionately wants the young to grow, to flourish, and be fulfilled; it rises up to defend against anything that would do them harm. Good paternal love does all of these things too. …But the irreplaceable role of women’s own bodies in giving birth and their close connection with breast-nursing and child-rearing lend a special resonance to the maternal model. The maternal love of the living God is characterized by these same three elements. Like a mother, God gives life to the world, nurtures this precious and vulnerable life, and desires the growth and flourishing of all. The practice of mothers everywhere shows that, far from being a passive relationship, this entails looking out for everyone in the household. If there is little food, a mother sees that it is fairly distributed. If one child has a special need, she tries to provide what is necessary. ‘The mother-God as creator, then, is also involved in ‘economics,’ the management of the household of the universe, to ensure the just distribution of good to all.’ God’s preferential option for justice for the poor is the expression of a mother’s strong instinct to care for the child most in need. And as mothers rise up to defend their young, so too when people do violence to one another, neglect the poor, [or] aggrandize themselves through unjust systems of exchange … the maternal love of God is active to defend, seek justice, and heal. Like the mother bear in the prophet Hosea, God the mother rears up to protect her cubs … (Hosea 13:8).” Elizabeth Johnson

“We were like a mother
feeding and caring for her own children.”
1 Thessalonians 2:7

 Moving From Head to Heart

  • Notice how exploring the metaphor of God as “mother” contributes to our understanding of God’s care for us. (like with the metaphor of God as “father”)
  • Can you connect God’s maternal love and God’s concern for justice?
  • Have you been taking your metaphors for God too literally (“father”), causing you to miss the benefit from other metaphors used of God (“mother”)?

Mother-Bear God, thank you for your tenacious – and tender – love for me.

For More: Quest for the Living God by Elizabeth Johnson

Thanks for following and sharing these Daily Riches! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Reign of God and the Flourishing of Women (Elizabeth Johnson)

“Women’s theology uses technical terms to single out oppressive patterns of social and mental behavior. Patriarchy, or rule of the father, refers to social structures where power is always in the hands of the dominant man or men. Under patriarchy women never have equal access to power in the social sphere. Androcentrism, or male-centeredness, refers to ways of thinking that privilege men: it makes men’s way of being human normative for all human beings. In androcentric thinking women are always derivative, off-center, less than truly human. Today it becomes clear that the liberating goal of feminist, womanist, mujerista or Latina, and third-world women’s theology is not reached by simply integrating women into a society and church were patriarchal structures and androcentric theory still prevail as a norm. …Rather, the whole structure of church and society needs to be transformed to make space for a new community of mutual partnership. The goal is a new justice. On this frontier, theology glimpses an ancient, unassailable truth with new clarity: God loves women and passionately desires their flourishing. When violence is done to women, to their bodies or their spirits, it is an insult to divine glory. When liberating advances are made that overcome bias and promote the dignity of women, it is a victory for the reign of God. Struggling to claim their human dignity on every level, women find the God of life walking with them and supporting their efforts, for the holy One who sprung the slaves out of Egypt and raised Jesus from the dead is unrepentant in siding with those deprived of fullness of life.” Elizabeth Johnson

“There is no longer male or female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you believe that God passionately desires the “flourishing” of women?
  • Are you committed to “promoting the dignity of women?” Is your church?
  • “While women make up one-half of the world’s population, they work three-fourths of the world’s working-hours, receive one-tenth of the world’s salary, own one  one-hundredth of the planet’s land, and constitute two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults. Together with their dependent children they comprise 75 percent of the world’s starving people and 80 percent of homeless refugees.” (Johnson) In this light, do you think it an exaggeration to speak of women as “deprived of fullness of life?” Are you O.K. with “the norm” of how things are for women?

Sophia, God of Wisdom, may those of us with power, use it for the flourishing of women, and in so doing, extend your reign in our world.

For More: Quest for the Living God by Elizabeth Johnson


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)