Louis C.K. and God as mom

Josh Larsen

We are planning to run a nice Mother’s Day piece by Shiao Chong on maternal images of God from the Bible, but for now I wanted to share Louis C.K.’s Saturday Night Live monologue, which recently touched on the same subject, albeit a bit less politely.

Louis C.K. is a favorite here at TC. Columnist Bethany Keeley-Jonker previously wrote about his description of humanity’s “forever empty” feeling, which he connected with our attachment to our mobile devices and Bethany connected to Psalm 42. His monologue on Saturday Night Live proved equally insightful, especially once he wound his way toward talk of heaven.

The comedian doesn’t make any absolute claims here, being a self-described agnostic. But his theories as to why God is depicted as a father and what the contemporary implications of that might be make for comedy gold: his monologue is both provocative and amusing. If God is our Father, Louis C.K. wonders, “Where’s our mother? What happened to mom?”

Louis C.K. isn't the first to wrestle with a maternal understanding of God, of course. In the early 15th century, the idea was fostered by the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich. Writing last year for Time magazine, Princeton Theological Seminary professor Yolanda Pierce spoke about the ways her grandmother mirrored God's love by sharing the bounty of her kitchen. "I knew that if God was real, if God truly loved me as a parent loves a child, then God was also 'Mother' and not only 'Father,'" Pierce wrote. "Only years of dogma and doctrine force you to unlearn what you know to be true in your own heart, demanding 'Father' as the only acceptable appellation and concept for God."

Pierce goes on to make the case that passages in Isaiah and Psalms support the practice of referring to God as Mother alongside Father. "God is Creator and Sustainer. God is Protector and Defender. God is Mother and Father," she wrote."If we are humble, we know that human words and metaphors are incomplete and can never do justice to describing the majesty of who God is."

Louis C.K. certainly doesn't speak with this same sort of affirmation, but I still like what his Saturday Night Live monologue brings to the discussion. For those of you who are a bit more skeptical of him, here's one more reason to watch: using the logic of agnosticism, he delivers one of the funniest deflations of atheism I’ve heard.

Topics: TV, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Theology & The Church, Theology