I am what I am
As many of you know, on September 13, community members from the University of the Pacific in Seattle displayed pride flags across campus in support of queer students and faculty at SPU. In addition to the flags, a number of miscellaneous sentences were written in chalk all over campus; some of which were: “God is gay”, “God is trans” and “God is a woman”.
There are a lot of opinions, feelings and weight attached to these statements, but it is important to remember that these chalk proclamations are not necessarily serious theological arguments. These writings shed light on discrimination against queer people on campus. The goal is to raise awareness and make people think.
USP student Kellie Grover put it right: “It’s graffiti; it doesn’t hurt anyone other than through hurt feelings. Saying that God is just a man has hurt people in a very real and tangible way. “
When we talk about how we have historically viewed God and how Christianity has shaped gender norms and society in general, we have to consider the trauma that is involved. As you enter into these conversations, whether online or in person, it’s essential to keep love, care, and reconciliation at the center. We must come in prepared to listen, learn and consider, rather than fight.
I’m writing this post largely in response to a conversation in the comments on the Instagram page @ spuconfessions3.0. The idea that God is queer elicits a strong visceral reaction rooted in a prominent and historic patriarchy. But here’s the thing – God is nonbinary. God is everything.
God is not a man. God is not a woman. God is. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” If we are all created in the image of God, then this image can only be expressed through the masculine and the feminine in tandem and in relation. Quantifying God and putting them in a gender box is in direct opposition to the Christian understanding of God. God is omnipotent, the creator of heaven and earth, a spirit that ultimately exists outside of the physical. They are all-powerful and omniscient, therefore inexplicable and unquantifiable.
In the original Instagram post on the Confessions page, the writer said the chalk writing on campus was disrespectful and offensive to Christianity. I can understand this in a way because of the theological and scriptural inaccuracy.
However, to say that God is confined to masculinity and can only be understood through masculinity is equally disrespectful, for it is also theologically inaccurate.
In the beginning, the instinct of many people is to violently reject the idea that God is not only masculine or masculine. It makes sense given the historical rhetoric of our ideas and our words surrounding, describing and explaining the nature of God.
The Bible was written by men. It is a historical document full of human errors and surrounded by a patriarchal culture. Yet there are still passages in which God is described as feminine.
For example, Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, I will comfort you. In describing Jerusalem, the Lord is described bringing the nation together as a mother would. Proverbs 8 describes a female “Wisdom” which is known as the Divine Sophia. I believe this is a historical and biblical testimony of an inclusion of the feminine nature of God.
I argued on the SPU confessions page: “Jesus was ‘God in a body’ but he was born a man because at that time a woman would not have been believed or followed”. In response, another student commented, “I mean, I wouldn’t say Jesus was born a man because no one would follow a woman, because if you follow that logic he would never be born a Nazarene.
Here’s the thing – The Bible is full of examples of what a woman’s status was like back then. They belonged to their fathers and husbands. It was culture. The bottom line is that Jesus was not an elite or socially in power, but he was given respect and access to spaces in which women were simply not, Nazarene or not. Jesus fully experienced what it is to be human.
Throughout the entire Bible, all of the labels and descriptions attached to God are humanly constructed. We use language and our own understanding to try to describe and make sense of the nature of God.
1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now I know in part; then I will know fully, as I am fully known. We can only see God as we have been taught, as we experience him, and as we read about them. Therefore, we have to know God through God.
The only place in the Bible where God describes himself is Exodus 3:14 saying, “I am who I am.
I challenge you, engage in discussions with an open mind, listen to others who have already done the work and research to deconstruct and understand the topic at hand. Press and consider alternatives to your previous understanding. We are made to discover, develop, receive new information and reform our ideas and beliefs. I urge you to do so.
If you are more interested in this topic, I am currently reading Feminism and Christianity: An Essential Guide from Lynn Japinga, suggested by Dr. Brian Bantum, pastor of theology at Quest Church. The book is a great place to start.