When I set out on my blogging journey, I knew I was challenging ideas and preconceptions that would make some uncomfortable. I knew many people close to me might struggle to understand how I got here, and why I chose to undertake this journey.
Perhaps I was simply naive, but I never really anticipated just where this all would lead.
I have not set out to champion some cause, or desired to force everyone to share my thoughts, and I have certainly had no intention of setting myself up as some sort of public figure. I intended only to express my own brokenness, recognize that to any degree I critique Christianity I critique myself, and engage the believing community by promoting love and justice for people.
I am not now, nor do I ever desire to be, THE authority on these matters. I have only attempted to point to the source of all truth and authority for Christians – Jesus the Christ.
In light of significant pushback I have received, I think it will be most helpful to pursue a common vernacular.
The greatest misunderstanding I have encountered has surrounded my views on gender and sex identities. The following is hardly a full treatment of the topic, but hopefully will at least provide a common paradigm by which to engage future discussions.
In short, both the social and biological sciences have long dismantled the idea that gender exists along a binary, with the only available options being male or female.
In fact, science tells us that gender is not a biologically hardwired part of our identity. That is, neurological studies have shown us that there are no hardwired gender characteristics in human brains. Instead, human brains exist along a spectrum with once assumed “gender traits” not corresponding to a strict male/female binary.
Thus gender exists beyond biological determinism and does not correlate with either physical anatomy or sexuality. That is, gender roles are constructed by societies to tell persons how they are expected to act according to the gender identity society has assigned them.
For instance, one set of gender roles common in Western Christianity is the male as leader and provider, with the woman serving a subordinate role in the home.
How a person expresses their gender, then, correlates to how they relate to the expectations and roles communicated to them by society.
As such, concepts of gender exist along a spectrum and the effort to force people into an artificial binary based on a false narrative of biological determinism is oppression.
While sex relates to physical anatomy, it is also does not exist as a biological binary. Intersex persons make up nearly 2% of the human population (just as common as having red hair), and have a wide range of physiological features which distinguish them from typical categories in a male/female sex binary.
For instance, a person may be born with an external vagina, but possess ovaries instead of testicles. Other persons have chromosomal or hormonal variances which can cause their body to develop secondary sex characteristics at puberty which do not correspond with the sex assigned them at birth.
As a result, I believe that forcing people into a false binary – erasing the embodied realities of intersex persons – rather than allowing them to be distinct persons possessing and expressing the image of God in their bodily existence is also a form of oppression.
I assert that both Christian conceptions of gender and sex binary are rooted in societal constructs which run directly counter to both the best scientific data available and the actual lived experiences of human beings made in the image of God.
Further, to continue to perpetuate these myths as the clear teaching of Scripture is intellectually dishonest.
As Megan DeFranza has masterfully argued in her book Sex Difference in Christian Theology, in the ancient world in which the Bible was written, both concepts of biology and gender were conceived along a monary spectrum (107-124).
This spectrum moved from the ideal male to the inverted/inferior male (how women were viewed). As a result, however we choose to engage Scripture on issues of sex and gender, we must recognize that reading binary constructs into the text is anachronist violence.
It is both good and necessary to recognize how our modern context differs from the ancient world, and note that the biblical constructs of sex and gender are rooted in scientific inaccuracy fueled by patriarchal concepts which viewed women as inferior beings.
This ought to also, then to inform how we engage the biblical text. If we as Christians are committed to ending patriarchal oppression, then we must carefully study the Scriptures and consider how the text challenges the patriarchal assumptions of its day.
In seeing how patriarchy forms a critiqued backdrop of the text, instead a prescribed hierarchy within, we can then work to discern the ways in which our own culture promotes patriarchal oppression against all persons, including our LGBT neighbor, and seek to dismantle those systems and promote justice.
In light of the discussion above, I believe that Christians ought to eschew all narratives which present LGBTQ+ individuals as defying God’s design. We must recognize that the ancient text is not a science textbook, and be willing to allow both science and careful historical and literary criticism to inform our faith.
We must recognize that our constructs of gender and sex binaries are rooted in systems of patriarchal oppression. Heteronormativity in Christian theology is rooted not in love of neighbor, but in the preservation of privilege and power for those invested in upholding the status quo of oppressive systems.
As such, it is my conviction that the biblical call to love my neighbor requires that I expose all systems which oppress them, dismantle the lies they perpetuate, and promote justice for the oppressed – whether that be gender, race, skin color, ethnicity, class, or ability based oppression . In doing so, my goal deconstruct the walls so many have built to silence marginalized communities and create a space in which people are able and willing to hear and learn from their voices.
In as much as I fail to pursue these concepts of justice and flourishing for all of my neighbors – and I do fail – I also fail to love my neighbor in the example of Christ. And any theology which leads me to oppress – instead of love – my neighbor is merely empty words (1 Cor 13).
This is what I believe, or try to.