We hear it all the time in political discourse: “Only a [fill in the blank] can truly represent [same fill-in]” in Congress, on the Supreme Court, on the board of directors, on the bench, in the doctor’s office, on the school board, to the pollster, and on and on and on. Hiring and admissions quotas are endlessly tweaked in the quest to get the perfect mix of male and female, black and white, rural and urban, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, and every other division recognized by mankind. Hooray for the “two-fer,” the candidate who falls into two desired categories!
Maybe such carefully measured attention to representation is a good thing in human relations, maybe not. I don’t want to argue that (in fact, I’ll remove any comments that argue for or against affirmative action or anything like unto it). We’re human. We’re fallible. We’re tribal. We often lack the imagination to be empathetic with people who are different.
But is God limited by such human shortcomings?
Of course not. His mercy is universal. His love extends to all his creatures – if he notes the fall of the sparrow, he notes the tear that falls from every eye. The scriptures are full of assurances that this is so; our lives are witness to the variety of mankind whose prayers he answers and whom he invites to come unto Christ.
So it bothers me – it really, really bothers me – how often women, even Latter-day Saint women who above all others should know better, are convinced that because God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ are both male, they cannot possibly understand the pains of the wombs they created or the cares of the mothers of children for whom they surely have a more perfect love than even those mothers do.
It’s a paraphrased write-up, so I can’t quote Margaret Toscano’s talk at yesterday’s Sunstone exactly, but Kaimi reports her as saying that women are limited by Christ’s maleness. His is a male body, with male parts. “Can a male god ever save women?” he quotes her as asking.
How sad. How misguided that she even need ask. And how sad that commenters know Christ so little that they can say things like –
I personally found it hard to relate to Christ and his atonement while I was suffering from severe postpartum depression. After all, it was a time of pain and agony unique to motherhood. And since we generally don’t think of Christ as even being a father, how could he relate?
(I do not question the righteousness or sincerity of anyone who feels this way, including Margaret Toscano. I do mean just what I say, though, that it is sad that they feel this way, when the truth is so much otherwise.)
God’s love is complete. Christ’s atonement is universal. Jesus’s knowledge and compassion aren’t limited to the experiences he had in mortality – can anyone honestly believe that he is ignorant of the griefs of a child because he was never a little girl? that he can’t understand the bodily weakness of your grandfather because he gave his life before he experienced old age? How much easier should it be for us to understand that he understands the pains of our bodies – bodies he created and knows far better than we do – every bit as much as he understands the sorrows and agonies of sin that he never committed?
Because of my personal mental makeup, I see Christ’s universal understanding best in lives from the past: He knows when a missionary is hungry although he was never alone and far from home. He knows when soldiers are dying although he never wore a uniform. He knows when an abandoned and abused child is grieving although angels guarded his own infancy and warned his parents to flee to safety in Egypt. He knows when a missionary lies in an unmarked grave although friends loaned him a good tomb that he needed for only three days. He knows when a little girl has lost her way and wandered into hell although his own descent to hell was deliberate and chosen.
20 O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.
21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
– 2 Nephi 9:20-21