another excellent insight from my friend Asbo Jesus
I met up with a good friend this week who, along with her fiance, is a doctor. They are both currently working out what their speciality should be. 100 years ago it might have been expected that she specialise in being a nurse and he a doctor. After all, it is in women’s nature to nurture and men’s to play God. She says, her tongue so firmly in cheek it might need a non-gender specific doctor to extract it.
My friend’s fiance is at the moment on a surgical rotation, helping to perform sex reassignment surgery. It is a fascinating procedure, especially when described over pepperoni pizza. Most fascinating to me is the idea that people go through life feeling as if they are the wrong gender.
But what is gender? If we look to the bible, being a woman seems not just to be about having girly parts but about acting the part of a woman. It is being a good wife, it is wearing adornments (or long hair, depending on your reading of Paul), it is perfoming the female mitzvah expected of you. And now, all the evolution and growth in the Christian church allowing women to preach and be ordained has left men in the unclear.
Being a man is to be a good husband, to earn the money (although the good wife in Proverbs 31 helps to bring in the bacon) to teach. To, you know, be a man. But what does that mean?
At this time in history: when the sales of men’s cosmetics has grown massively in the last few years and guys are unafraid to use hair straighteners or profess to not liking football; when women are established in the workplace and working their way up the hierarchy; when women are also in the pulpit and potentially working their way up the church establishment; when stereotypes are falling like leaves in an autumn breeze, does your gender mean your parts or the part you play?
And at this time in history, when the sexual organs people are born with can be surgically altered, what on earth can the bible possibly have to say? In Acts 8 Philip meets with and evangelises the Ethiopian eunuch. He teaches from Isaiah 53, which damns the position of the eunuch to one without justice and without hope because he cannot have descendents. In fact the eunuch may not have a clearly defined gender but he does have a clearly defined role – he was in charge of the treasury of the Queen of the Ethiopians – and more than that, he is baptised and welcomed into the Kingdom of God, afforded hope and salvation.
I think that worrying whether women or men play out their role according to gender and expectation is an outmoded attitude. I think that defining people by their sexual organs (or sexuality) is short-sighted. I think that the Church has a long way to go before gender and sexuality play the lesser role that they should.