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Spotlight on gender fluidity

By Ross Mouer

Issues such as abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage, “transgendering”, gender-based role designations, and conversion therapy have dominated the media over the second half of my life.

With our prime minister this year joining the Mardi Gras parade for the first time, it may be a good time for Christians to reflect on how issues related to sexuality and gender identification continue to divide churches and denominations.

In this regard, the Uniting Church seems able to accommodate a fairly broad range of strongly held views, as evidenced in Katherine Abetz’s “More to be Said in Queer Story”(Crosslight, December 2022), a rejoinder to Andrew Humphries’ ”Queer Eye on the Bible” in the August issue.

The two contributions highlight the difficulties that arise when cherry picking passages from the Bible.

In my view, suggesting that a queer person would see a man with water in the lead-up to the last supper differently to other readers of the Bible misses the point.

Apart from saying that Jesus had dealings with a wide assortment of individuals, many of whom were social deviants, more rigorous argumentation is needed to posit that the queerness in question significantly altered the course of Jesus’ ministry.

Like so many issues raised enigmatically in the scriptures, we are left somewhat afloat in trying to discern between the meaning of many passages and God’s intent which lies behind their inclusion in the Bible.

One such conundrum concerns the irony that bad things happen to good people (or that they happen at all). How can a loving God that is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent allow such unlovely things to occur? That one’s pain and suffering are part of an “omniplan” is not a very satisfying answer for those suffering in the here and now

In the Bible we are often cautioned about pretending to know God. From the story of Job to the blessing of the meek is the suggestion that God today is not who he said he was at some point in the past. In other words, God is not impermanent but is always changing as even he appears flummoxed by what the free choice given to humans produces.

This possibility is presented to us in the first book of the Bible. On the one hand Genesis 1:31 describes all of God’s creation as very good or excellent in every way. Then a few verses on (Genesis 6:7-8) reveal that God has made a mistake in his planning – sorry, grieving and regretting that he ever created humans.

Read from that point of view, the Bible records a journey of resets beginning with Noah and his family and progressing through further reshufflings and additional covenants as the experiment unfolds and God finally conceives of a plan to send his only begotten son.

These adjustments are indicative of a God who may be all loving but not all powerful. That evil/Satan is never removed from the narrative confirms this fact. God does not (eg, cannot) keep bad things from happening, but through our prayer seeks to direct us in new ways to discern of love, kindness and forgiveness.

In the process he is still offering us choice as the hymn “Once to Every man and Nation” proclaims. God is looking for support from all of us in how we interact with others.

Gender fluidity may not have been planned by God, and may be a new and perhaps unexpected outcome flowing from the God-ordained gift of free will. Are we not being asked by God in his/her many manifestations to go beyond the limited guidance and storytelling in the Bible and choose in our hearts the best way we can love, respect and show kindness for all our fellow human beings? And who knows or would limit the choice of a powerful and loving God to surprise us yet again, this time with an only begotten daughter or maybe bisexual human?

Being open to God changing the way he/she loves us is being open not only to the full magnificence of God, but also to the range of views and insights offered up by those who as his/her followers are different and bring difference and growth that enrich the family that is the church.

Ross Mouer is a retired academic who grew up as a liberal Presbyterian and was a member of the Faith Explorers group at the Heathmont UC.

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