When progressive Christians talk about God, we talk about a God so big that neither our bodies or our words can hold the divine. But we try anyway. And if we believe that we all are created in the image of God, then those who are on the spectrum of gender are, too, reflecting the image and work of God, both in the Bible, and beyond.
First, the divine Godself is portrayed as beyond gender:
– God is beyond a gender binary in the creation narrative. God speaks about creating humanity in God’s own image. But God doesn’t speak about creating a binary— God speaks about creating “them.” Male and female and beyond, in the (plural) image of God. (Genesis 1:27)
– God is beyond a gender binary when Jesus is seen as the coming of the Word in John 1. The coming of the Word is also the fulfillment of Wisdom coming. Wisdom, who is referred to as Sophia and names herself as there in creation, too, in Proverbs 8. (See Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, by Marcus Borg for more information.)
– God is beyond a gender binary in Isaiah. The book contains a section that scholars call “second Isaiah,” usually between 40-55, where all the images of God are feminine–oriented— like Isaiah 49:15, where God is compared to a nursing mother.
Second, the Divine is working through people who are beyond the gender binary:
– God works beyond gender when Joseph receives a coat of many colors. Scholar Peterson Tuscano points out the Hebrew verb in this passage is only used one other place, and it refers to a dress given to a princess. The whole story changes if we think about Joseph as a cross-dressing character.
– God works beyond gender when we think of the immense role of Eunuchs in the Bible. Eunuchs were often perceived as messengers, wealthy single men serving courts, or beyond. They may or may not have been physically altered, but they certainly play a massive role in the Bible. Most notably, Jesus declares the kingdom of God is open to them in Matthew 19:12. In Acts 8:26-40, the first convert to Christianity was the Ethiopian Eunuch. (For more information, and a full roll call of biblical Eunuchs, see Outing the Bible by Nancy Wilson.)
– God works beyond gender when Jesus asks the man who “isn’t behaving like a man” to bring the disciples to the place where the Last Supper will be in Mark 14:13-16.
And as people become ever more themselves, we know that there are those among us who are embodying gender beyond male and/or female. Such as Native folk who are two-spirit. Folk who are on a spectrum of transgender. Folk who are occupying a space of either/or; both/and.
God is beyond the gender binary—in God, Godself, and in working through people beyond the binary.
Rev. Chris Davies is the curator of Queer Clergy Trading Cards and serves the United Church of Christ as the Coordinator for Congregational Assessment, Support and Advancement. Her academic work is in queer proclamation.