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Center for Action and Contemplation

Identity and Desire

Thursday, November 9, 2017

God as Us: Week 1

Identity and Desire
Thursday, November 9, 2017

Another beautiful metaphor in the Bible used for God is that of a lover. The allure of a beloved pulls us out of self, into ekstasis (Greek for ecstasy). Unfortunately, the Church’s shaming of body and sex has shut down many people’s longing for and experience of intimacy with each other and God.

Sexuality and gender identity elicit so many strong feelings and even irrational opinions because they touch upon something foundational. If you don’t recognize the sacred at this deep level of identity and desire, I don’t know if you will be able to see it anywhere else. When Christians label LGBTQIA [1] individuals as “other,” sinful, or “disordered,” we hurt these precious people and the larger community, and we actually limit ourselves. Fear of difference creates a very constricted, exclusive, and small religion and life, the very opposite of what God invites us into.

Binary genders (male and female) are more an imposition of our dualistic minds than the nature of reality. The Bible often refers to “eunuchs” (see Isaiah 56:4-5, and Matthew 19:12, for instance) which may or may not have included people that today we might know as transgender, bisexual, intersex, gay, or lesbian. Many cultures identify a third or even fourth gender. Not everyone identifies internally with their external biology. And not everyone mirrors the cultural “norms” of gender roles or attractions. It is amazing that it has taken us this long to admit what is hidden in plain sight, and it must have caused immense suffering to so many throughout history.

While this non-dual awareness is growing, we have a long way to go. There is a great deal of contention, fear, shame, and hurt still to be healed. Whenever consciousness moves to a higher level, we can anticipate push-back, an equal and opposite reaction. Thankfully, it seems that religion and culture continue to mature. We see the Episcopal Church now welcoming and blessing same-gender relationships. Many countries like the United States, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Brazil, and South Africa legally recognize same-sex marriage.

Even as we acknowledge the sacredness of gender and sex, we also need to realize that there’s something deeper than our gender, anatomy, or physical passion: our ontological self, who we are forever in Christ. You are beyond the metaphor of male and female; you are a child of the Resurrection, a creature of Eternal Life. As Paul courageously puts it, “There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Those who have already begun to experience their divine union will usually find it very easy to be compassionate toward all “Two Spirit” people because they know they share the same ontological, essential self that is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

For all of the beauty and power of sexuality, it is still under the rubric of the floating or passing self, rather than the Self eternally anchored in God. I believe our gender is going to pass away when we do. I think that’s exactly what Jesus is referring to when he says, “the children of this world take wives and husbands . . . but in heaven there will be no marriage or giving in marriage” (see all of Luke 20:34-37). In the end, there is only universal love where “God will be God in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

Gateway to Silence:
I am created in God’s image.

[1] LGBTQIA is an inclusive acronym that includes most sexual and gender identities: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual/agender/aromantic.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, God as Us! The Sacred Feminine and the Sacred Masculine, discs 2 and 6 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2011), CD, DVD, MP3 download.

Image credit: Young Woman, Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.
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