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As conflicts over gender and sexuality persist, priest urges: Let go of the idea of God as binary

"Adam's Creation" by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.
Joerg Bittner 02303-969977
"Adam's Creation" by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.

It may be an understatement to say we're in the midst of a sea change — about sexuality, gender identity, and our future together as a culture. Whether we're religious or not, all the way around the passionate controversy appears to be concern for what is right, what is true, what is just, what is ultimately "moral."

From the vote in the U.S. Senate to safeguard same-sex marriage, to tragedies of homophobic violence, to the growing support of transgender persons, even in the face of hatred, all speak to this sea change, whose turbulence will either carry us to another shore, or in the case of the shootings at the gay bar in Colorado, will sink us.

What's at stake for many conservative Christians is the Bible itself. While numerous biblical verses are used to condemn homosexuality, the most common is found in Genesis: “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female…”

A wedding I was asked to perform comes to mind. Reviewing the prayers with Susan, a physician, the bride-to-be read one aloud: “Oh, gracious God, you have created us male and female in your image.”

Detecting her reticence, I asked what bothered her.

“It's a beautiful image,” Susan remarked. “It’s just not scientific.”

She went on to allude to medical research concluding that gender is a spectrum, rather than the binary male-female distinction implied by this prayer.

As the father of a lesbian, I’ve wrestled with this verse, giving rise to the following thought: If God’s image is both male and female, rather than male or female, doesn’t this imply the image of God is therefore trans-sexual?

And if we are made “in the image of God,” doesn’t each of us span the sexes? If so, doesn’t science resonate with the unqualified inclusiveness of Jesus, whose paramount teaching of “The Kingdom of God” is about love, unqualified?

Nowhere does Jesus speak about the so-called evils of homosexuality. Those of us who take the Bible literally must respect what is there and what is not — recognizing that the love of God transcends sexuality.

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