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KARAI KASANG: Rebirthing the Non-Patriarchal Image of God in Kachin Culture

Throughout our Feminist Ethics class, I have been thinking about Mary Daly’s concept of “Goddess” in her Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism.  I don’t believe that there is any sound theological argument that the term “God” itself represents patriarchy. Theologically speaking, if we study the Bible systematically, particularly Genesis 1:27, it is unquestionable that God is associated with both feminine and masculine imagery.  God is imaged as both mother and father. In contrast to this nature, Mary Daly does not merely seek to erase masculine imagery from the term “God,” but the word “God” itself.  However, “Goddess” without the masculine imagery can no longer be the Perfect Goddess, just as “God” without the image of the feminine also remains imperfect.

As I see it, the problem lies not with using the term “God” itself, but how we understand and interpret God with our knowledge and languages. In short, we need not eliminate the word “God”—we need only change our traditional understanding of God.

It is also very important to see God through the lens of our own culture. Lee Miena Skye is right when she claims that third-wave womanism is always contextual. Skye contends that they cannot write for the wholeness of others whose context is different from their own in cultural, spiritual, social, political, sexual, economic, or gendered ways (Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Vol. 22, No.1, 121). Here I would like to share the concept of God in my own Kachin culture, which is one of the minority ethnic groups in Myanmar (Burma).

The Kachin Tribes

The word for God in Kachin is “Karai Kasang.” The Kachin people believed that there is Karai Kasang, someone beyond this creation, since in the time of Nat worship (Spirit worship) before they became Christians. Karai Kasang did not demand anything from human beings. The Kachins did not give any offering or sacrifice to Karai Kasang. However, Karai Kasang is the merciful one who is always ready to help the people in need; to do justice if one does injustice to others; to stand on the side of the poor, the orphan, the widow and the weakest.  No one can see Karai Kasang. Karai Kasang is, thus, a spirit–the Great Spirit. The Kachin people do not call Karai Kasang father or mother because Karai Kasang is neither female nor male: Karai Kasang is beyond gender. Karai Kasang is not just transcendent but also immanent. So, for Kachin people, Karai Kasang is neither hierarchal nor patriarchal.

But, the missionaries, particularly American Baptist missionaries, taught Kachin people to call Karai Kasang as Wa Karai Kasang, meaning “Father God.” They taught Kachin people to see God in patriarchal ways such as Male, Father, Emperor, Supreme King, and Lord. Thus, in this way, all the Kachin Christians have been indoctrinated for centuries by this misconception of God. The missionaries threw away the original concept of Karai Kasang and replaced it with a more Western concept of a patriarchal God.

Manau Pillars are the symbol of Kachin identity

Thus, in our quest for a non-patriarchal, non-hierarchal, and non-dualistic God, the Kachin people need to reformulate or rebirth their primal concept of God, Karai Kasang. Let me share my rewriting of the Lord’s Prayer in the light of God-language in my own Kachin context. In this prayer, I deliberately avoid the terms which have been influenced by patriarchy/hierarchy such as Father, Lord. I also intentionally avoid conceptualizing the “Kingdom” because of its patriarchal, authoritative, and hierarchal structure in favor of the “Kin-dom” with its emphasis on the kinship, interrelatedness, interconnectedness, belongingness, and othe oneness of all beings within the web of inter-being.

Our Prayer:

Re-writing the Lord’s Prayer in the light of God-Language

Karai Kasang, our mother and father,

Who lives among and in us.

For you gave birth and love both female and male equally,

You are worthy to be praised and honored.

Karai Kasang, your Kin-dom of love, peace, and justice is come,

Your will be done between women and men, girls and boys as it is in you.

Give us and fill us with foods of equal human rights,

Empower us to bear the fruits of the dignity of fully humanity.

Karai Kasang, do forgive our sin of discrimination against women and girls,

As we forgive to those who ignore the women’s human rights.

Do not let us bring into the temptation of oppression and exploitation of women and girls,

And save us and liberate us from such evil of social injustice.

Karai Kasang, for you are the ground and the fruitful vision,

You are the One who works and co-operates with us in the ongoing process of the universe,

And the truth, goodness, and beauty of yours are with us forever.


Zau Sam is a first year MA student in Feminist Studies with interests in process theology, ecotheology, feminist and ecofeminist theologies.  He is ethnically Kachin (Jinghpaw) and from Myanmar (Burma). Zau is a minister at Yangon Kachin Baptist Church (in Myanmar) and Academic Dean of the Church-based Bible School there.

This  post is written in conjunction with the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project sponsored by Claremont School of Theology in the Claremont Lincoln University Consortium,  Claremont Graduate University, and directed by Grace Yia-Hei Kao. This piece was originally published on the blogsite Feminism and Religion.

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