Our images of God and our relationship with God portray our inner characteristics and personalities. Throughout the history of Christianity, God has been portrayed as a grandfatherly image of a white man. Subsequently, such an image has a profound effect on specific groups of people that are not of the white race or are of the female gender. Such an image of God, therefore, tends to be exclusivist in a way and alienates these groups.
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For instance, an African American, whose image of God is that of a white person, may feel alienated and might believe that s/he is not necessarily a ‘child of God’ because of the difference between his actual race and the projected race of God in his image. Likewise, a woman who holds the image of God as a male/man may subsequently subscribe to the notion that her gender is secondary to that of the male since God himself is of the male gender.
Subsequently, our images of God and our relationship with God can either make us feel empowered or can serve to hinder our individual progress, depending on the image we have of God. If we believe that all authority and power proceeds from God and the image of God that people possess is that of a male God, then the tendency would be to have a personality that respects male domination in society (Choi Hee, 2008, p.351).
On the other hand, if people’s image of God is that of a female person, the tendency may be towards being a caring and nurturing person to fit into the female prototype that depicts women as nurturers. For a person whose image of God is that of a God who belongs to a different race, for instance, a white male, a belief in God as a powerful and omniscient being may fuel a personal proclivity towards viewing the white race as superior.
Personally, I feel that my image of God empowers me in some instances and impedes me in others. I feel that the case is not necessarily black and white, and as Musskopf (2009) posits, there are many gray areas (p.150). My image of God is that of a white, old male, a fatherly figure similar to the one projected by many Christian denominations. As such, because my image of God is that of a father, I tend to find comfort and solace in him as presented by this image.
Just like the security that an earthly father gives his child, this image of God as a father gives me a sense of security. Therefore, my image of God in this instant empowers me. However, this very image of God sometimes impedes me because, just as I would not question my earthly father’s authority, I sometimes tend to overlook any wrongdoings in church or by ‘God’s people’ because I usually believe it to be tantamount to questioning God’s authority.
If comprehensive, classless humanity were to hold the view that it is created in God’s image, its God would not have a singular image. Because all people would need to feel represented in the image, the Image of God in an inclusive and egalitarian society would have to be a multi-faced God, representing all the crucial humanity groups of the particular society. Admittedly, the image of God in such a society would thus tend to be personal, with each person in the society projecting the image of God in line with his or her personal imagination.
Choi Hee, A. (2008). Re-Imagining Theological Reflection on God from the Context of Korean Women. Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology, 16(3), 350-364.
Musskopf, A. S. (2009). Ungraceful God: Masculinity and Images of God in Brazilian Popular Culture. Theology & Sexuality: The Journal of the Institute for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality, 15(2), 145-157.