Monday, August 27, 2007

In the Beginning

Genesis 1:27

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female, he created them" (NIV)

Where else do you start with the Bible than with Genesis? And this is the most common point raised against transgenders. God made Man and God made Woman and that's that! So because I was born male, changing is against God's determination for me.

This passage is one of the early anomalies - some call inconsistencies - of the Bible. This is actually before the narrative which explains that God created Adam, then created Eve from Adam - that story is in the second chapter of Genesis. Now I'm not a literalist when reading Scripture, but many people are. In a literal sense then:

1.) Who is them if Adam was created first and, originally, only?
2.) Male and Female? Shouldn't that be Male or Female? It could be suggested that transgenders are "male and female", that others are "male or female".
3.) And this doesn't specifically say one cannot go from one gender to the other.

Only logicians or English teachers will appreciate the nuances of those three arguments.

One glaring omission from this verse is the Intersexed, those people whose genetic component is atypical. Intersex often presents in a physical manner with genitalia that is not that well defined. (I won't go into a long dissertation about Intersex, please click on the hotlink to further your study on this important topic). Now remember, God does not make "mistakes"...and to that, I would agree. At the very least then, this phrase - and the subsequent narratives about Adam and Eve in the later chapters of Genesis - is incomplete.

As the Creation story continues, God begins with what are essentially "binaries" or "either/or's" if you'd like: Heaven and Earth, Day and Night, Land and Sea, etc. Again, these absolute depictions are incomplete. We often view Heaven - or the skies - as that which is above us. And that Earth is that which is under our feet. What of the space in between, the space where we are? Just how high "up" is it before we reach the sky? We have no word for this space which is neither Heaven or Earth, and yet both...and the Bible doesn't mention one either. We also know of Dawn and Dusk...those periods of the day that are neither "day" nor "night" and yet both. The Creation story does not include them, yet they exist - certainly part of God's work. And what of the shoreline? Due to the tides along the sea and fluctuations in water levels with our lakes and rivers, there is that portion that is sometimes land, sometimes water - neither and both. Again, the Creation story does not mention this in its absolutism, yet they, too, exist - certainly part of God's work. If these "binaries" truly aren't absolutes, then why would Man/Woman be absolute, too?

But let's look at that Male/Female binary. The original Hebrew word for Earth was "adameh". Some Jewish scholars suggest that "adam" (small "a" intentional here) then is the early word for an Earthling - no gender specified. In fact, when God creates adam/Adam, no gender is mentioned. Only when Eve is created does gender become designated. And yet Eve is not created as a binary - like Heaven/Earth, Day/Night, Land/Sea. Eve is created for companionship - Adam complains about being lonely. Eve isn't even created for procreation purposes! Even if this is intended as a binary - another either/or - we've talked about those other absolutes as having areas in between - neither and both. That standard should then also apply to the Scriptural references to gender. I'll add that some transgenders suggest that Eve was the first transgender as she was a woman made out of a man. I'm not that bold.

One last facet is the issue of the "image of God". Many scholars suggest that God's image is not a physical representation, but a spiritual one. In other words, we were not created as a physical replication of God, but were imbued with God's "image" in our souls. There will be further discussion of this issue in a couple of subsequent essays, but there are numerous references that can be construed to support this notion - transgenderism aside. As such, our physical presentation is not a concern to God.

1 comment:

Lawrence said...

The reason there are two different narratives on God's creation of humanity is pretty simple, though many fundamentalists resist the explanation: scholarly analysis of style, terminology, language and other factors has determined that Genesis (and most of the other First Testament books) had more than one author -- some of them three or four. The product we have received as transmitted down the centuries was written down by people at various times, with various intentions to explain their view of God and 'first causes' -- how things came to be -- and the authors, priests and scribes didn't always agree. Sometimes they rewrote earlier versions of Biblical mythology in an attempt to reconcile or harmonize them; sometimes they did a better job at this than other times; and sometimes they didn't bother -- just dropped in whole chunks of a differing viewpoint and left it up to the priests or readers to decide how to 'receive' the 'truth' they intended to convey. Looking back from today, it's almost as if God were saying to us, "OK, there's a lot of confusion in this text; the only way you're going to come out of it with faith intact is NOT to take it word for word, but to depend on the overarching themes of the entire book (and maybe some other writings that the church 'fathers' didn't see fit to include, AND to maintain a close and open-minded relationship with ME, your God and creator. I do not change, but humanity does, and I will always be too large and complex and varied a concept for humans to grasp entirely. You may resist the idea of my changing when in fact it is you and your growth and understanding that is changing -- and that's all to the good. That's why I gave you minds and hearts and souls and will. The day you decide your faith and your understanding and relationship with ME is set and complete is the day our relationship begins to die. Come, let our relationship grow." Anyway, that's the way I see it.

Lawrence