I had a text discussion this morning with two of my theological colleagues, and one asked if we felt the “cosmic Christ,” was necessarily male or female. This also led to our understanding of the Holy Spirit, and ultimately to how we understood God. And it was then that I came to a realization about my theology:
God is Transgender.
One common assertion is that God is male, for several reasons. For one, how else would God impregnate Mary, right? Yes, I’ve heard that argument. Never mind that reducing the placement of Jesus in Mary’s womb by some sort of quasi-sexual means implies, at least, that God raped her. I’d like to think that we’ve neither stopped at such a superficial level of thought about this that we’ve not considered this (for those who think of the conception in this male/female sort of way), nor that such an act – especially with a young girl, is ok, let alone the basis for a new religion.
Second, there’s the matter that God is referred to “throughout scripture” as male. I put this in quotes because actually God is referred to as female at least thirteen times in the Bible, and this is presuming something we can’t about our English translation of the texts. While most references to God in the Bible say “He/His/Him,” the pronouns used to refer to God in the Hebrew scriptures are generally gender inclusive. So although the English translators reduced these pronouns to “He,” they’re actually more accurately read as “He/She,” or “(S)he,” or even “They” or “We,” like in one of the two creation stories in Genesis.
Yes, from the beginning of our texts, God refer’s to God’s self as “us.” Now, some explain this as referring to the Trinity, but bear in mind that no one writing these texts would have had any concept yet of Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
So in the Bible, we have God referred to as male, female, both, and also “other.” Sometimes, the more mystical references to God are not anthropomorphic, meaning they inhere no human attributes to God at all. The fact that we have tended to cling to the male, paternal imagery of God has more to do with the patriarchal language, leadership and broader culture in which these texts are presented.
And many of us have accepted such patriarchal theology because it feels familiar. But that doesn’t make it right. Consider the behavior of a caged animal who has been confined for a very long time. Sometimes, if you open the cage door, they will not only not escape; they will retreat to the furthest corner of the cage. Does this mean the cage is good for the animal? Does it mean that they love it there and that the cage is what’s best for them? Of course not. Likewise, we need to break free from the confines of our paternalistic theology and embrace a transgender God.
I mean this in two ways. First, God is beyond (trans) Gender. Yes, we may use human pronouns and descriptors for the Divine, but this hardly means God is necessarily conscripted to that language. Rather, it points more to the limitations of language itself. To assume the words themselves comprehensively contain the nature of God is akin to looking at the tip of a finger of someone pointing, and missing the very Thing they’re pointing to. In this way, God is (even as described in our sacred texts) bigger than any male/female descriptor.
But also, our understanding of God throughout the Bible changes back and forth from male to female, and to “other.” Said in more contemporary socio-cultural terms (I hope I get this right), God is “cisgender nonconforming.” God refuses to be limited to one, the other or even both sets of assumptions and expectations about what a male or female God must be. God is simply….God.
And people are people. Even if they’re transgender, cisgender nonconforming, or if they don’t wear the clothes or bear other aspects of their “gender tribe” we suppose they should.
So if we can love and embrace a God who is trans, why do we have such a hard time with those similarly created in God’s image?