Broadway Church’s “Faces of Jesus” art collection is impressive in its scope and diversity. For forty years Rev. Paul Smith has been collecting these images, now totally 240, installed in hallway galleries in the church. The collection includes multicultural images of Jesus as female and androgynous, as well as male.
One of the female images is Robert Lentz’s “Christ Sophia,” with this inscription: “In this portrayal Christ Sophia is placed in an egg-shaped mandala to connote her fertility. She holds the ancient Cro-Magnon statue, Venus of Willendorf, a pre-historic figure of the Divine as female. The Greek letters in her halo stand for ‘I am who I am,’ the divine name given Moses at the burning bush. She points to herself as if to say, ‘I am She; know me now more fully.’”
Rev. Paul Smith has been changing the world by changing the church for many years. He has initiated controversial changes such as team leadership, ordination of women, inclusion of female divine images in worship, and complete affirmation of LGBTQ persons. When Broadway Church (formerly Broadway Baptist Church) began doing holy unions, the church was ousted from the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.
In Is It Okay To Call God “Mother”?: Considering the Feminine Face of God, Paul makes clear the importance of including female divine names and images in public worship. “Churches have been making God exclusively masculine in public for a long time, and changing in private will not reverse the damage.” Paul connects violence against women and male-dominated church leadership and language: “The war on women is the longest running, most destructive, and most pervasive war on earth. Many Christians are so oblivious to the war on women that they do not see how they participate in it—for many, every time the church meets. We are so accustomed to our church habits and have them so religiously justified we do not see the male domination in our church leadership and religious language.”
Paul quotes Teilhard de Chardin, “Faith has need of the whole truth.” Then Paul sounds this call to action: “Now is the moment in history for the church to see more of this truth in the awesome light of God’s revelation of herself as recorded in Scripture. Is it okay to call God ‘Mother’? It is not only okay but it is just and holy, righteous and necessary. Now is the time to break the conspiracy of silence about the feminine face of God. God’s Word is rousing itself again, wrestling itself free from the grip of patriarchy and sexism.”
In a recent essay,“The Cover-up of the Divine Feminine: Is it Okay to Call God, ‘Goddess’?” Paul refers to Dan Brown’s popular book The Da Vinci Code, saying that its premise is true: there has been a cover-up of the Divine Feminine.
“The feminine has been demonized and called unclean for thousands of years. As long as the worst thing you can call a boy or man is ‘sissy’ or ‘gay,’ the war on the feminine is still going on. The most sexist hour of the American week is on Sunday morning. An observer going into most church services would notice that they have only men as priests, pastors, and deacons. As long as God is male, then male is God. Using exclusively masculine words to the exclusion of feminine words such as ‘Goddess’ says something that Jesus never intended, that God is more like a man than a woman. As long as we refuse to challenge the male-only divine images deeply imbedded in our psyche, women will not be seen or treated as equals with men. If you don’t think ‘God’ is a male word, just use the word ‘Goddess’ and see the reaction. If the word ‘God’ included both male and female, there would not be that reaction. So the answer to my beginning question today—Is it okay to call God ‘Goddess’?—is yes, of course. This is an exciting time for all of us as the Spirit of Goddess is calling us to continue the revolution that began in the early church and was stopped and covered up. It’s a great time for women, for gays, for all of us to grow in our understanding of our Creator and Her creation.”
Paul elaborates on including the Divine Feminine to support social justice and to expand spirituality: “Including feminine divine images is connected to other justice issues. Valuing the feminine will value all people, wherever they are on the scale from homosexual to heterosexual. We need to get rid of the image of ‘the big man in the sky,’ and making Jesus the only divine being totally robs us of our divinity.”
“It’s very important to have the words ‘She,’ ‘Mother,’ and other feminine references. Many Catholics relate to God as Mary. They found a way when the church said ‘no’ to the Divine Feminine. Others find the way through Sophia or Mary Magdalene. Like words, visual images are powerful. The reason I have the ‘Faces of Jesus’ exhibit is that people are going to remember these images.”
To read more of Rev. Paul Smith’s story, see: https://wipfandstock.com/store/Changing_Church_Stories_of_Liberating_Ministers
I highly recommend Rev. Smith’s latest book, Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve (http://www.amazon.com/Integral-Christianity-Spirits-Call-Evolve/dp/155778891X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329688572&sr=1-1); and Is It Okay to Call God “Mother”?: Considering the Feminine Face of God (http://www.amazon.com/Okay-Call-God-Mother-Considering/dp/0801047692/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329688654&sr=1-1). On Paul’s website (http://www.revpaulsmith.com/) under “Teachings,” see his essay, “The Cover-up of the Divine Feminine: Is it Okay to Call God, ‘Goddess’?”