WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

The Image of God

WelCom March 2018:

In the creation story it is male and female together who are made in the image of God.

Joy Cowley. Photo: Weston Cowley

Joy Cowley

Pope John Paul II made the statement: ‘Men and women are equal but different.’ I think we’d all agree with that, but recognition of equality and difference have not always been part of church teaching which comes from a masculine model.

I know women who feel disadvantaged by this. While I respect their views, I think it’s our men who miss out. Male and female complement each other. In the church, women get what they lack. Men get what they already are. I believe there is room for discussion on the way male and female together are made in the image of God.

The Hebrew creation story is clear: God created mankind in his own image; male and female he created him. God is spirit and this is a spiritual image – male and female spirituality blending to become the image of God. But while this is important in Judaism, we have taken a superficial biological view and have changed the text to – male and female he created them.

Let’s look at the difference between feminine and masculine spirituality, and the ways men and women are gift for each other. Of course, these are general statements. The references will apply to a majority of men and women, but not to all.

Faith journey for a man is largely through the intellect. It’s about information, structure, observance. Faith journey for a woman is relational and about feeling, connection, love.

A counsellor who works with people who want to get back into employment, says that when she needs information from a man, she asks, ‘What do you think?’ When she needs the same kind of information from a woman, she says, ‘How do you feel?’ This also indicates the spiritual difference between male and female.

The way our brains work, has been established by MRI scans of the active human brain. In response to stimuli, a woman’s cerebral cortex lights up over a large area. A man’s cerebral cortex tends to light up in one area, but the influence goes deeper. This may explain why women are better at multi-tasking and why men are capable of intense focus. But I believe that men and women are teachers for each other and in a relationship over time we come into that middle area of sharing gifts.

The gender differences that relate to our biological roles, also shape our spirituality. Women are equipped for relationship. They need to be intuitive to understand the wordless cries of a baby. They need to connect emotionally with their children, their husbands, relatives, community. This kind of connection shapes a woman’s faith. When the Church talks about God’s love, for a woman this is all about feeling, devotion, a lateral outreach.

For a man, God’s love, can be more about information, justice, observance and rightness of living. The list of seven deadly sins is masculine: pride, anger, lust, greed, etc. They are sins against the man’s personal integrity.

Women’s sins are usually relational: that list would probably be something like – gossip, jealousy, spite, betrayal, manipulation, lies, irrational emotion.

Psychologists say that men naturally steer towards independence, and their growth can be expressed as a vertical line. Women steer towards relationship and their growth can be expressed by a horizontal line. If you put these two lines together, you have the cross of the risen Christ. Together, male and female become the symbol of the wholeness of God.

Head and Heart

Head said: “I contain the law,”
Heart said: “I am full of feeling.”
Head said: “I am logic, I am structure.
I am the stake that supports the young plant.”
Heart said, “I am love. I am mystery.
I am the creative force of life.”
Then Head and Heart began to quarrel.
Head said: “You are emotional and irrational.
You live in a world of chaos.”
Heart replied: You are cold and unfeeling.
“You do not live at all.”
So Head and Heart went to God
and asked if they could be separated.
God laughed at them and said:
“Not even God can do that.
You two belong together.
Apart, I’m afraid you’re nothing.
Head, you are the container.
Heart, you are the contents.
The container without the contents
is as hollow as a drum,
all noise and no substance.
The contents without the container
will disperse and be wasted,
good for nothing at all.
There’s no way you can be separate
and lead useful lives.”
Head and Heart grew anxious.
“But we are so different.
How can we find peace?”
God said: Draw close and become lovers.
Respect each other. Nurture each other.
Help each other to be equal.
You will come together as one,
and when you are one,
a truly amazing thing will happen.
Head and Heart sat up at that.
“What kind of thing?” they asked.
But God only smiled
and said: “Wait and see.”

– Joy Cowley