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Gender fluid

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1.27


Suddenly both western society and the Church are caught up in a fresh debate over sex and gender, which renders the old binary wrangling dated. The equality of women and men is still a hot potato but its impact on the general discourse has been eclipsed by transgenderism: the notion that no one should not be forced to identify as male or female and one's choice should be accepted unequivocally, even if it continues to change, and that it includes access to spaces formerly reserved for those identifying as one sex or the other.


Not surprisingly this has thrown up all sorts of issues for all sorts of people and groups - feminists, religions, cisgender, misogynists... - because it challenges fundamental assumptions that frame the way we see ourselves, the world and God. The language of the Bible is undeniably patriarchal. Is that because it reflects Jewish society over the many centuries during which it took shape, or because that is how God intends it to be? The Messiah is born male and instructs us to address God as "Our Father..."


Reading between the lines, Jesus himself did not conform to all the stereotypes or behavioural norms of his day. Some he did accept - religious festivals and ceremonies, for example - but others he challenged. He included women in his entourage and elevated the status of children. He seems not to have married and walked away from the family carpentry business, in order to pursue his vocation as a rabbi, prophet and miracle worker, before fulfilling his destiny as Saviour.


Is the answer to the contemporary dilemma to be discovered in the way it all begins: with God creating humankind in God's own image? The question then becomes: are we to interpret "male and female" as binary alternatives, or an all-inclusive concept in which there is room for both identities and all points in between and beyond? Mind-blowing stuff and God is indeed mind-blowing. But is this all so much hot air, or does it amount to our further emancipation from slavery to anachronistic ways of understanding ourselves, the world and God?

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