Bruce Jenner has got me thinking about the Holy Spirit.
Okay, just bear with me a minute.
Because it’s not really crucial to my point here let’s put aside, for the moment, the actual words of Christ as recorded (and translated) in John 14:26:
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (Emphasis added)
Now, I am not here to argue to which gender, grammatically or linguistically speaking, the Holy Spirit belongs.
Scholars and theologians with greater academic credentials, if not greater minds, have struggled with the same question and have reached different – or perhaps, more precisely, indifferent – conclusions.
So let’s just assume that, when the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) addresses the issue, we can feel comfortable that the Church has thoughtfully reached an inspired consensus, if not an inspired conclusion (and I’m obviously assuming here that you and I are on the same page that that Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Godhead):
370 In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective “perfections” of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband.
So I think that it’s simply a distraction, and more than a little narcissistic, for us to argue about whether the Holy Spirit is more male or more female.
It would be like arguing whether humanity itself is more male or more female.
To ask the question is to miss the point.
But that’s not to say that we – the creatures physically, materially, and lovingly knitted together in the womb through the desire, will, and action of this pure spirit – are ourselves forever and always gender neutral.
We are not:
369 Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. “Being man” or “being woman” is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator. Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity “in the image of God.” In their “being-man” and “being-woman,” they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.
Boston College Professor Peter Kreeft put it this way in Catholic Christianity:
Our sexual identity extends to our souls, our personalities, our spirits. There is indeed a “feminine mind” and a “masculine mind” as well as body, for we are a psychosomatic unity (soul-body unity).
To think of one’s soul as neither masculine nor feminine is to separate body and soul artificially, as did the ancient Gnostics, and to think of the soul as a sexless “ghost in the machine” instead of as the life and form of the body, and to think of masculinity and femininity as merely a material, animal thing.
Which now circles me back to Bruce Jenner.
Whether, as the Anchoress brilliantly analyzed in her recent post A Nation of Suckers: Jenner, Kardashians and a Commodity of Gossip, or whether Jenner’s “conversion” is the real deal, this latest national obsession with transgender-identity politics (for it is political at its root) has us accelerating rapidly towards destinations unknown.
Nature, in the form of a body part, can easily be manipulated, and padded, and injected, and switched, and removed. And that which was once nurtured can, in the future, be affected – even permanently altered – through drugs, and therapy, and individual will.
All of this can be obtained, materially and physically and psychologically.
But it comes at a great price.
Now, some willingly pay that great price because they are internally driven to find some mechanism to help quell the physical and mental torture that plagues them without end.
That torture is genuine, and it is real, and it is painful. It should evoke our great compassion and our prayers for all meaningful assistance, counsel, and love.
But ultimately, we should pray too for the recognition and acceptance that their uniquely created self houses a soul imbued – through God’s great wisdom and goodness and infinite perfection – with a maleness or a femaleness that is as resistant to the surgeon’s manipulations as it is to the latest cultural or political winds.
Perhaps it is only with that recognition and acceptance that they may find true peace.
I pray that Bruce Jenner does.
Image Credit: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons