In the classic feminist book She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroad, 1992), Elizabeth Johnson grapples with the problem of the traditional term “God” (pp. 42-44). Because of its long history of association with an exclusively masculine image of the divine, to many it implies a masculine way of conceiving the Christian “God,” as opposed to “the Goddess,” a term that Christians have not traditionally embraced.
In an attempt to overcome this “God / Goddess” dichotomy, Rosemary Radford Ruether suggested the term “God/ess,” which may work as a written term but which comes across as simply “Goddess” as a spoken term. Consequently, Johnson decided to work with the traditional term “God” as “an interim strategy” (p. 43), “pouring the new wine of women’s hope of flourishing into the old word God,” while recognizing that “[u]ltimately this strategy may be superseded” (p. 44).
Since then, a new term has bubbled to the surface, gaining ground on blogs and web sites around the internet within the last few years. That term, “Godde,” seeks the middle ground between “God” and “Goddess,” combining a feminine-type ending with the traditionally masculine-type word. It’s intended as a more gender-inclusive term, something broader than both “God” and “Goddess” and yet transcending both as a term that points beyond itself to a divine reality that we can grasp only by metaphor. It’s admittedly not a perfect term, and unless the ending is emphasized in oral speech, it generally sounds the same as “God”; but as a textual marker it does serve as a constant reminder that the Godde of whom we speak is not the ancient man with the white beard so quickly recognizable as a traditional Christian stereotype.
In a sense, then, this too is experimental, and may or may not continue to gain ground among those seeking alternatives to the exclusively masculine image of “God.” In the future, another alternative may emerge, but for the present the editors of the Divine Feminine Version of the New Testament are content to affirm the increasing popularity of “Godde” as a way of describing the One whom Christians worship.