Lots of smart people have said lots of smart things about the ways in which our views of ourselves mirror our views on God. I am thinking, today, about gender.
My own developing views about God’s gender are not that different from my view of gender in people. I think I am not alone in this. And also, I am still figuring it all out. As I try to explain where I am at, and where I am headed, I am sure I am going to say things in a way that might be offensive or incorrect. I hope that you, reader, can chalk this up to ignorance on my part, and not malice. I would very much appreciate corrections, suggestions, and counterpoints in the comments below.
The most literalistic readings of scripture within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, are that God is male. So is the first person he makes. Femaleness comes next. It is the single alternative to maleness, a revision on that basic theme.
This parallels the world view I grew up in about gender in general. Maleness is better. Femaleness is the alternative. I am trying to stay away from using the words ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ because it seems like part of the whole idea was that our physical bodies always mirrored how we identified within.
And this was one of the first ironies I noticed in this whole affair, as I tried to work it out for myself. The Christian world normally wanted to proclaim the existence of a soul, and the idea that there is more than just materialistic existence. The non-Christian/secular world was generally more reductionistic-materialistic. Yet suddenly, the Christians were saying, “No, the physical aspects of the body is all that there is. If you have a penis you are fully and totally male. If you have a vagina you are female. All the way through.” Meanwhile, the secular world was proclaiming that their is this non-material part of us, that might identify in a way that is not consistent with our biology.
This irony was only the first thing for me. I think what happened next was the recognition that I and so many others had, as we began to recognize that literalistic understandings fall apart pretty quickly. God, is of course, not physically male. God is not embodied.
People can try and suggest that it is not about the physical. They can try and suggest that there are differences in personality between men and women. But here we return to the irony listed above. Because now, the question to be answered becomes, “Well, what happens when that personality doesn’t match up with the biology of a person?”
Just as the first thoughts might seem pretty simple, “God is male.” The first pages of the bible seem pretty straight forward to. Because at first, as suggested above, God seems to make Adam first, in his image, and then Eve from Adam’s rib. But a couple pages in, there is a director’s cut on the creation account. And it seems that both Adam and Eve are made in God’s image. God, it seems, has a feminine side.
Countless images in the bible build this case, comparing the creator to all manner of feminine images. And this only stands to reason. He is able to be everything good, all at once. It seems like most people, most of the time, want to find themselves somewhere along the spectrum between 100% masculine and 100% feminine. Some people move to different places over time. But maybe this is the fundamental difference between God and humans. God is everywhere on that spectrum at once. Us little people, we, at any given time, are only occupying one little spot.