Monday, September 21, 2009

Beyond The Irony

Is God male?

Does God really belong to a single gender?

Men (the patriarchy) like to claim God as their own and also use “Him” as a tool to demand obedience and submission to them. If God has a sex, should it matter to his followers what that sex is? It’s a bit odd though that some people find the act of wondering if God is a “She” or even if God is without gender, or representing all genders, insulting and blasphemous.

Insulting and blasphemous? Insulting? What does this say about the male perception of women? Perhaps this is more revealing about the insecurity of God’s followers than the nature of God itself?

Consider the following: Why would God need to have a gender? Is there another God out there? A Mrs or Ms God? Religious doctrine, particularly Christian, Jewish and Islamic scriptures and tradition tell us this is not so. They claim there is only one God – whose gender they are very specific about. Okay, so why is this God a “he“? What need does a singular all-powerful entity need of gender or genitalia? Is God a “he” in the same way that men refer to ships and cars as “she” (or “he” in Spanish)? Or is God a ”he” simply because the patriarchy identifies with God and because it says so?


And so the question is asked again: does God really belong to a single gender?

Well, regardless of whether God is a part of the tradition of the so called “natural order” of being either male or female and not neither or both, one thing is clear – people aren’t.

Tradition holds that there are only two genders. Male and female. The Patriarchy argues (and defends to the death – ironically, the death of others) that the Male of the species has full right to rule and take first and pride of place in everything, and the interests of women come second – or not at all.

Often, this is followed by a demonstration of “might makes right“, because brute force most often gets its way – and as History testifies, it is written by the winners. Language and culture seem to have undergone the same treatment. Look for example at the way things are ordered – “male and female”. “He and she”. “His and hers“. It seems the only instance where women come first is in passing through doorways. In English for example, positions were titled according to gender – i.e. “Chairman” because it was inconceivable at the time that a mere woman would ever be in a position of authority. Laws of inheritance – for many centuries a woman could not inherit from her husband – her male firstborn would in her stead. In some churches today, women are forbidden to speak or hold office – or specific offices reserved for men.

Some countries afflicted by patriarchy today follow the same policy globally, reducing women to little more than children or talking property who happen to run the household for their husbands – and bear his heirs for him.

Science seems to be suggesting that gender is not something that always existed. Religion – in particular Judaism and Christianity say it always has, since the beginning when they claim God created Adam and Eve. The first forms of organic carbon-based life are purported to have been single cell life, similar to single-cell life forms still existing today – and as such there is no gender or sex, or sexuality.

Amoebas, single celled organisms and bacteria simply divide to reproduce. It makes sense because for a colony of creatures to grow, for the species to procreate, only one individual is required, and not two – and of course, not just one of either gender. This means that whether or not a whole colony of organisms is destroyed, if one survives, the species will continue. The development of gender is therefore seen as a later addition or development in the continual growth, development, or evolution of terrestrial life. In terms of survival, could this not be seen as a step backward?

Is it merely coincidence that evolution and any sciences or supporting evidence is constantly under fire from fundie groups, who clearly prefer the proliferation of “creationism” – an improvable religious doctrine which promotes ignorance, male superiority and the Patriarchy?

Furthermore, since it is clear that people’s (and animal’s) sexuality is inborn and therefore a natural occurrence, it is also clear that ever since there has existed a polar gender binary, there has also been a spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity spread between them. If it occurs in nature, then is it not natural? Is nature not known for its diversity? Is it the diversity of nature somehow threatening to the restrictive and narrow-minded mindset of the narrow-minded and the conservative?

Since this pluralism and diversity is the logical de facto “order of nature”, and not the “either one or the other” fallacy to which the Patriarchy fanatically clings, to continue to maintain that there are only two genders and that such a system of denial is “legitimate” and morally “right“, is not only false - but a form of oppression.

Back to the old story of biblical creationism, did God create Adam as a man from the very beginning?

What would be the purpose of this if at the beginning there had been no plan for a follow-up female version? What of the lesser known biblical forerunner of Eve? Did that signify the very first divorce in religious history? Or did Lilith, that first partner of Adam just conveniently “go away“? Would that rile fundies keen on criminalizing divorce and using the bible to justify their argument? (I certainly hope so). Do these matters indicate that God has an under-advertised tendency to change his or her mind on occasion? Or was part of the “operation” to remove Eve from Adam also to make Adam male? Is the similarity of the fundie bedtime story of Adam and Eve being separated out of one entity into two, not a euphemism for cell division?

Is it not also perhaps the euphemism for the genesis (pardon the pun) of the gender binary? Could this be a child-like way of explaining to an underdeveloped race of beings – us – that once, in some long-ago time there was no gender, and then because of nature – or outside intervention, be it a deity or not - there suddenly was?

How would you explain a movie to somebody who lived in the middle ages? Carefully, I would say, if you don’t want to be burned at the stake. How would you explain nuclear fission or thermodynamics to a tribe of Pygmies? Far from dipping into Erich von Daniken’s “Chariots of the Gods“, I am simply trying to show that gender, sex, sexuality and identity are all interconnected along a spectrum, instead of something so utterly austere as a mere “binary“. And that this is the so-called “order of nature” and not in violation of it. Thus male, female and masculine and feminine identity, intersex, transgender and transsexuality, are all part of this sliding scale – and perfectly natural.

The perception today is that there are only two genders, male and female. Those who cross between these two gender poles, both physically and emotionally, are viewed by this rigid pre-programmed patriarchal society, with suspicion and disgust, without any other reason than prejudice.

Think about that for a moment. “Pre” meaning “before” and “judice” – meaning “to judge“. Judging before you know is the meaning it holds for me – an assumption – and as the army was fond of reminding new recruits back in the day – “assumption is the mother of all f***-ups“.

The truth is, the patriarchy likes women. It may even love them. Yes, they do – as it loves “the family“ it refers to as being under threat by feminism and gay rights. It sees “the family” as man’s first kingdom – the extension of his own assumed personal authority over other human beings close to him – his wife (or wives) and children. After that, it just snowballs, extending to the broader human family – society.

The system called the Patriarchy likes women to represent the best in its own interests – wife to the man, mother to his children, caregiver, nurterer, helper, servant. There is no room in a patriarchal mindset for women to be equal to men. It is simply unthinkable. Likewise, men who sleep with men are rejecting their “superior birthright” and weaken the Patriarchy. Women who reject male company for female companionship threaten it also. People who blur the gender lines between male and female also help to weaken the perception of masculinity as being “superior” to the feminine – and thereby also constitute a threat to it. The simplest way to describe the Patriarchy is to call it a cave man. And we know how the caveman reacts to a threat. He hunts it, and makes war.

This whole thing makes me feel as though I have been watching some National Geographic documentary on the behavior of the male gorilla, pecking order, the alpha-male, mating rituals of the chimpanzee and life among the apes. One thing is clear to me – modern males are still not as far removed from apes as the female of the species.

A friend of mine I discussed the issue with had the following to say: ”The irony of our time is clear: On the one hand, politicians passionately parade a Constitution that does not discriminate against people of any of the many genders, for example, in the Castor Semenya case; on the other hand, a bunch of patriarchal pastors is attempting to shift those same politicians toward values that discriminate on the basis of gender, values that would definitely exclude the person and Constitution they defend. It will be interesting to see how well the politicians hold their integrity; perhaps if the politicians side with the patriarchal pastors their integrity is in question.

However, beyond the irony, between the Castor Semenya case and the patriarchal pastors, [the NILC and Ray Mac Cauley] is a space to open the debate about gender in light of the fact that even sex, the so-called biological given, never mind gender, is not as simple as two categories. It never has been. Those who step into that space will carry the world into the next step of humanity’s evolving consciousness. Of course, the patriarchal pastors protest; the challenge to include alternative genders eats away at the very foundation for patriarchy; if men are not necessarily male and women are not necessarily female, how on Earth will men maintain and pass power to their sons? How will it be clear who is marrying who if no one is sure who are the men and who are the women?

The truths in the above quote can be clearly read in current news articles – people criticize the blurring of gender “lines” by using conservative argument – predominantly religious doctrine which clearly defend patriarchal values. Even women argue against their own freedom, although it has to be argued that they are doing so out of ignorance. And ignorance is the jailer of our society. The dawn of knowledge, a turn of the key – and the patriarchy falls.

I think it’s great that President Obama is encouraging stay-at-home moms to go back to school and get degrees. He is encouraging women to stop being bare-foot, stop being subservient victims of the Patriarchy and to get out of the kitchen and get an education – but it will make him even more unpopular with the fundies, who are ardent supporters of the Patriarchy – and already hate him just for being Black – and their President. Oh yes, and because he thinks gay people should be treated like human beings. Equally.

I think it is very telling that the sort of people attacking Obama are religious fundamentalists, conservatives, homophobes, anti-feminists, and paranoid-delusional gun nuts.

And so I ask the question again: does God really belong to a single gender? Or does God, whoever he, she, himme or hir – or “it” is, belong to all people?

How do you experience God? The way other people have told you to?

That is to me the best part of being an agnostic – being open to finding out for myself. That in a way opens things up – makes them new, fresh. Rather than listening to an old record that has been played beyond endurance, worn out and simply played by people because their parents played it, without really even knowing why – and made irrelevant.


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