Gender and Sexuality
Diversity and Communion
Monday, October 21, 2019
God is clearly more comfortable with diversity than we are, and God’s final goal and objective are much simpler. God and the entire cosmos are about two things: differentiation (people and things becoming themselves) and communion (living in supportive coexistence). Physicists and biologists seem to know this better than theologians and clergy.
The arguments of homophobic or anti-gay folks might seem well-supported, but their goals and objectives seem to be different from those of God or Jesus. Their arguments generally have to do with very secular concerns: control over chaos, majority rule, fear of the other, fear of the unknown, and idealization of a family unit that Jesus himself neither lived nor idealized. Check the Gospels if you don’t believe me.
However, I do realize that we are dealing with incredibly deep archetypes, those electric sexual images that motivate us at the most intimate levels of our being. Such “totems and taboos” have a deep hold on every culture and every individual, but they do change over time. We have learned so much over the last thirty years about the biological and psychological complexity of sexual orientation and desire, as well as gender constructs. National Geographic, which is no light-weight magazine, devoted its entire January 2017 issue just to gender! We in the West have been stuck in a dualistic trap other cultures have not struggled with to the same extent. For example, the Navajo or Diné and other Native peoples have historically honored non-binary, or two-spirit, people instead of rejecting them or criminalizing their existence.
As a general rule, I would say that institutional religion tends to think of people as very simple, and therefore the law must be very complex to protect them in every situation. Jesus does the opposite: He treats people as very complex—different in religion, lifestyle, virtue, temperament, and success—and keeps the law very simple in order to bring them to God:
A legal expert put him to the test: “Teacher, which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” He replied to him, “’You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.’ This is the first and foremost, and the second is like it: ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hangs everything in the Law and in the Prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40).
If I were to say this apart from Jesus’ authority, you would rightly accuse me of being simplistic, naïve, and reductionistic. Yet Jesus’ approach takes the risk of allowing people the freedom to be themselves and to love God according to the shape of their own heart, soul, body, and mind! Religion developed for the sake of social control, but Jesus does not give us much grist for the social control mill. For Jesus, it is all about union—union with God, others, and what is, however it presents itself. Do not let the labels trip you up—woman, man, transgender, cisgender, straight, bisexual, gay, queer. We all belong, but how cleverly our moral pretenses prevent us from struggling with what is right in front of us! How ingeniously our ego protects itself from compassion and understanding.
Jesus, like the cosmos itself, constantly affirms two parallel drives toward diversity and toward communion. The whole of creation cannot be lying.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Where the Gospel Leads Us,” in Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches, ed. Walter Wink (Fortress Press: 1999), 86, 87, 88.