Make Room

TDOR

The Genesis accounts of creation provide two distinct understandings of the creative God.  The first, in chapter 1-2:4, with its orderly rhythm, suggests a creator God in complete control – a God whose artistic vision is perfectly executed with exacting detail and mastery over materials. This God manages the entire process without outside help or input, leading some scholars to posit a God with a distinctly masculine energy.

The second Genesis account found in chapter 2:5-25, on the other hand, can be read as portraying a less controlling, more collaborative God – one scholars describe as more feminine in energy. In the second account, God gives some freedom to the creative medium being created when, “out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” [emphasis mine]  In the second account, God’s creature plays a role in creating. The process is collaborative, and the participation of the medium valued.  God lets go of total control and allows for the surprise and novelty that the medium’s participation brings.

The gender binary of male/female energy works against my image of a blended God, but taken together, both depictions of God are equally creative and necessary for our understanding of creation. Neither total control nor total chaos would adequately capture the God of the biblical account nor the God of human experience. What I appreciate in the blending of the two depictions, is a God who makes room for us while continuing to hold the entire creative undertaking in a loving embrace.

Laying the doctrine of creation alongside today’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, has been mind-stretching and surprising for me in many ways. While a Reformed understanding of creation rightly acknowledges human dependence on God for this life, the scriptural witness depicts, alongside our dependence, a kenotic God who makes space, not only for the creature to come into being, but space to invite some measure of participation in the process – yikes! and wow! God trusts us enough to make room for us. As creatures made in the image of God, humanity is further called to imitate God’s humble act of space making and hospitality towards the created order – whatever the creative variations might be and however far outside our limited understanding.

Transgender people of God, like all God’s children, are participating in God’s ongoing collaborative and creative process. They hold in their mind, bodies and spirits a creative middle place that is “both/and” and neither. They incarnate, in their very persons, a creative process that is at one and the same time reformed and reforming, if you will. They remain, at their core, the child of God that God created them to be, even as they may be transformed and transforming externally. Transgender persons remind us that God’s creative endeavor is always in process – in us and in the good creation. Could a collaborative understanding of creation make room in our hearts and minds, not only for a God beyond our knowing and expectation but also for children of God beyond our human limitations?

I believe God’s invites each of us to collaborative creation – an invitation that opens up our own possibility as well as possibilities across the human spectrum. As we acknowledge Transgender Day of Remembrance today and every November 20th, I pray that God’s invitation to collaborate in creation encourages us to make room for all the people of God in all of their creative diversity.

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11 thoughts on “Make Room

  1. Adriene, thank you so much for this post! I appreciate very much that you rooted your reflections in the creation accounts. So often in discussions about gender, these accounts are the go to place. But they have been too often read as one indivisible and “literal” account insofar as it serves to reinforce societal norms and expectations of all things binary. So I appreciate your thoughtful and truly theological application of the text.

    I also appreciate such a positive and affirming post on a day when we remember and mourn and in some places gather to lament to the God of collaborative creation, the continued violence perpetrated against so many of our transgender siblings.

    • Thank you, Wayne for the invitation to participate in this forum and to think together with other theologians about our Reformed faith. Praying with you and many others tonight as we mourn the senseless loss of lives.

  2. It always distresses me when people in Christian leadership roles make a point to affirm the sin rather than the sinner.

    We do have the responsibility, in love, to accept any and every person who seeks God and tries to live by the patterns and laws that He has given us. Even those who will forever live with consequences of their sin; we must accept them in their repentance and encourage them as they seek transformation in Jesus.

    Acceptance of the repentant person does not and must never condone the sin. And, the evidence or consequence of sin does not bar that repentant person from service or acceptance in the Body of Christ.

    Anyone can make the scriptures say anything they want until they put it all back in context. Then the context will show that calling some things a continuation of Gods creation should more accurately be called the degradation of sin. Adam had absolutely no part in creation. He merely obeyed his Creator’s instruction to recognize and name what God created. To compare the “creative efforts” of the created to the work of God is to completely miss the tremendous, incomparable, difference between the Sovereign God of all creation and the lump of dirt that we are.

    God requires more of us who are in leadership, and we will be accountable to Him for those whom we encourage in the continuation of their sin.

    If you wish to affirm people you love, (and you should) then affirm them in their repentance, their submission to God, their decision to accept God’s plan rather than their own.

    • Thank you for your comments. I’m only able to say that I write in the context of God’s grace, erring on the side of God’s mercy, offering my best understanding and faithful witness to the text. I appreciate that your interpretation is different from mine, and I deeply appreciate places like this forum that are able to hold our diversity of views – much in the way that God holds the diversity of the good creation. Peace to you.

    • Lowell, I read once that “the biblical accounts of creation do not give us inarguable evidence to substantiate the perspectives that many people want to use to discount other’s ideas and interpretations. If God didn’t give us that information, perhaps it is because He doesn’t think we need it” (http://tenclay.net/musings.htm “What of Creation?”). It is a thoughtful article about the tired creation vs evolution debate.

      I do deeply sympathize with what I perceive is your desire to preserve a strong Creator/creature distinction. But I don’t see what Rev. Thorne offered here as being any threat to that distinction. She is merely pointing out that in one version of our sacred creation myth that God invites us to participate in God’s creative work.

      As far as all things transgender, it would seem to me we can’t have a conversation if we don’t have any agreement or common understanding of terms. Your accusation is that Rev. Thorne’s post is in some way “affirming sin.” But she said nothing about any particular “behaviors.”

      Transgender is a state of being! In fact, one can be born with a sex that does not match the gender make up of their brain and never come out as transgender or never make a transition. Perhaps because of fear or societal expectations, lack of knowledge about various treatments or a multitude of other reasons.

      I would suggest talking to a good endocrinologist about the declassification of gender dysphoria as a psychological identity disorder and the reclassifying of it as a medical condition. Read a good study on the differing genetic variations, hormones, and differences in brain function and brain structures that have been discovered in transgender persons. Or better, just talk to a transgender person about their experience.

      There is SO MUCH more than the male/female binary of gender. Did you know that one in 4,500 newborn girls is born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome? This is a condition affects the reproductive system and causes the vagina and uterus to be underdeveloped or completely absent. Did you know that one child in every 13,000 births has AIS (Androgen insensitivity syndrome)? In males this can lead to anything from reproductive system never developing to development of a traditionally “female” body.

      Transgender Day of Remembrance is about remembering and mourning the loss of life of the 1,374 people murdered for their gender identity since the world started keeping count in 2008. This past year 238 trans people were murdered worldwide. 41% of trans people in the United States have attempted suicide. Just last week in CA a young person perceived as male was set on fire on a bus for wearing a skirt. This is why we have a day to remember. This is why we have a day to affirm their being. And this is why I invited Adriene to offer us a theological reflection for Transgender Day of Remembrance. Because too often the church – out of fear, insecurity, ignorance – just enforces the world’s message of intolerance to these vulnerable children of God and adds another match to the fire.

      Transgender people have always been with us. Since the beginning. But we haven’t always had the knowledge or ability to look at brain structures, chromosomes, or to offer hormonal or surgical options. But on every continent and in many cultures there were “third gender” or “two soul” individuals as some Native American tribes called them.

      In that article, your article, about creation I read, “I also, am a parent who holds a biblical view of Creation I believe that an unchanging God probably didn’t change His method of bringing about change in His universe in the last six thousand years. He probably used the same methods of building mountains and mutating viruses, germinating seeds and pollinating plants in His days of creation as He uses now.” I wholeheartedly affirm this! I guess that is why I have no problem saying, with all that we know now, that God has also been making a diversity of gender variations in God’s good creation since the beginning of time. I see no reason to literalize and absolutize Genesis 1:27 anymore than one might Genesis 1:9 or 1:11. Other than fear.

      • Wayne, Thank you for exploring my thoughts in others of my writings. I trust you will find them consistent throughout.
        I apologize that I didn’t become more specific in using the language that you would prefer in this discussion. It was my intent to minimize the inflammation and anger that usually attends the defense against what some consider a narrow understanding of the relationships and decrees that God has published for mankind.
        As you say, “Transgender” is a state of being. I might add that “Homosexual” is also a state of being; IF you understand that to be the definition. But I submit that in common usage in the American society, it is not so. If that were the case, the current drive to publicly recognize and accept an “alternative lifestyle” would be separate from the understanding of “homosexual”, and would not face such vehement opposition by conservatives.
        In my experience, many of those who strive to follow God’s commandments and Jesus’ example are sympathetic to those who are different. They would have no problem dealing with “different” people in a normal relationship if that differentness was not flung into their face or if it didn’t demand recognition as sameness which certainly is not there, even if equality is.
        The problem is that there is now a militant aspect to many of the words we use because of the actions commonly associated with those words… sinful actions by what we believe God has defined to be His expectations of us.
        If “Transgender” did in fact mean, in common usage, a state of being rather than an action or actions, we would not be having this discussion. If “Homosexual” was understood, in common usage, to be a state of being, not an alternative lifestyle and actions contrary to God’s direction, we would not have the heated arguments over that subject.
        So when those who are perceived as leaders in the church, make public statements and expect people to understand their words to have definitions outside the public lexicon, they make a horrible mistake at the very least.
        I don’t have an easy solution. But unfortunately, what I think, from your comments, is an attempt to publish support and care has the look of coercion and loose theology.
        This brings me to the second point of our difference. However you choose to interpret the Biblical descriptions of creation, (and I find your use of the word “Myth” unfortunate) the common inflation of man’s importance and influence and the continued deflation of God’s importance, awesomeness, his sovereignty is a travesty. It points to what is perhaps the most significant weakness in the modern church… strong people have no use for a god who is nothing more than a powerful man. We see god as our equal… someone with whom we can share the responsibility for our life and possibly, our actions. We have lost, or perhaps never had a glimpse of our insignificance in comparison to Him. The only significance we can claim is entirely a gift from Him. It has nothing to do with our participation in His creation.

      • Lowell, I would much rather not conflate being transgender and being gay or even bring it up in the same discussion. We are talking about two different things. But I am baffled by your multiple insistence about some “popular lexicon” or “common usage” of these terms that you are implicitly accusing us of offering divergent meanings to. I offered you several suggested starting places to look into the biological, hormonal and physiological causes of transgender people as well as their long history with us but you took no interest. Because you refuse to believe a priori that it could be a state of being someone is born with.

        Likewise, since you brought it up, the only people who seem to define gay as primarily about what gay people do in the bedroom is not most of “american society” but conservative Christians and other cultural conservatives of various stripes.It is why you relentlessly use the word homosexual to berate and confine them to merely their sexuality. You pile other inflammatory language on top of that: “militant” “alternative lifestyle”

        To me my male friend who is a wonderful man of God and dates another man is a lot of things: he is a good Christian, he dresses nice, he has great taste in music, he is wonderful with my children. But I am gathering that you might only be able to see a “homosexual.” Because you are the one who is in “vehement opposition” to something. Only that something is attached to a someone who wants you to know that he is so much more than the sum of his parts or what he does with them.

        Our thread here is now longer than the original post. I am going to have to disengage. The hope for this post was to offer a place of refuge and encouragement. I am afraid a scan through this discussion might offer anything but that.

        I pray many good things for you! And we certainly have the right to disagree. But, continued insinuation that authors or other commentators are being purposely deceptive with their language, questioning someone’s faith because of their gender identity or sexual orientation or making accusations of false leadership (“those who are perceived as leaders in the church”) because someone reads and interprets scripture different than you, such things will not be tolerated on this website and will find you or any user who persists in such behavior banned. We can argue, and argue well and at the end of the days till love one another as children of the same benevolent God who has shown love for us and made us siblings in Christ.

        Towards Shalom,

        Wayne

  3. I am sorry that you consider me “vehement”. If you knew me you would not think so. You would also know that I am sympathetic to those who are different because of no fault of their own, and I am normally tolerant of other view points until their authors do as you have so predictably done. In your opinion, those of us who present a view that is different from yours are always wrong and you don’t have to tolerate our views even though you demand that we tolerate and accept your opinions.
    I’m finished.

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