Gender and the Devil
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
“Why do we assume the devil’s gender?” a theology student asked. “Maybe ‘she’ is not male.”
I went to seminary during a time when we were beginning to be more inclusive with our God language. Ministers were beginning to try out a more feminine language for the divine like buying that outfit you’d been eying at the store. If you’ve ever done that, it rarely fits right. Looks great in concept though. Then you notice people eyeing you strange, and even though you paid for it, you hang it up in the closet, never to do that one again!
But since you went and bought it, you can tell everyone you are all for gender inclusive language, because you did it that one time in worship.
If you ever watch me during worship, you’ll notice I EXCLUDE gender with the exception of reading text. Occasionally it’s obvious. When I have to say something that replaces he/she with God. Otherwise, I’m very careful with how I form my sentences. Excluding one thing, includes another. God is in all things, and all people. I, or you, can see God in anyone.
BUT let’s get back to that devil talk, why don’t we
It’s been a hot minute since I heard that seminarian make her statement on the devil. It’s stuck around that long, which means I come back to it often.
If I think excluding pronouns allows people to understand how we are all images of God, what do I think about the same concept when it comes to the Devil?
To be clear, I’m not in the fallen angel camp. That’s extra-Biblical text to make it work. (So are the seven levels of hell, but that’s another discussion for another day.) Whatever name you call the personification of evil, I would believe that personification is still fully in the Divine Council if that personification even exists. I’ve written and said many times, “The devil made me do it,” is putting responsibility on something else other than oneself. It throws away an opportunity to choose to make a change.
I don’t think we have the same problem with gender and the devil. In the long-long-ago of seminary, the main subject on that day was on something other than Lucifer. Because we needed to stay on topic, it meant the statement had to sit without a discussion. Still, my mind immediately went to Bedazzled, a Brenden Frasier and Elizabeth Hurley film from 2000. Hurley played the devil, and she was a sexy bombshell of a Satan. Sexy is wrong in women, because it’s women taking sexual control over the relationship. This is part of the problem.
I think the show Lucifer really nailed down this problem. There’s a sexualized devil, who turns out to be the hero. You gender swap the villain and suddenly sexualization is not as much of an issue for Hollywood.
This means it’s less what gender you give to the devil, and more what attributes you are putting on that devil in that gender, or race for that matter.
This is why I don't typically use gender when talking about the personification of evil. Just like I want everyone to know they are created in the image of God, and to see God within them, I want everyone to know they are not their sin. They can't undo what they've done, but they can choose to act differently in the future. It's their choices- not the devils.
You know me. I’m all about shining those lights in the dark places. I want to demystify what we’ve called too absent of light to explore.
If you want to see other posts on the subjects of Satan/Lucifer/Devil, check them out below: