Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’
This text has been interpreted narrowly in ways which can lead to the exclusion and harm of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people, as well as to a troublingly narrow understanding of the image of God in humanity. God creates humankind, masculine and feminine, and this, like the rest of the Genesis creation narratives, is relayed in a liturgical pattern of binaries; masculine and feminine, night and day, darkness and light…
As Austen Hartke notes in his recent book, Transforming (2018), taking these binaries literally is problematic. Surely as well as day and night, God created those in between times, dusk and dawn. Surely as well as darkness and light, or black and white, God created and continues to create the murky greys, dusty browns and brilliant rainbows that are apparent throughout creation. Surely as well as creating ‘male’ and ‘female’ God also created me and the hundreds of thousands of other trans and intersex people who we risk excluding with narrow interpretations of Scripture.
Literal readings of the Genesis creation narratives are certainly legitimate but, like much of Scripture, there are many different ways to read these passages; which contain beautiful, mythic, liturgical truths, that are deeper than science or fact.
Stonewall research tells us that two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime and that a similar amount have suffered discrimination or harassment (Trans Report, 2017) all because they don’t fit neatly into the binary of male and female. To what extent are narrow interpretations of Scripture at the root of their oppression? What binaries are holding you captive, and is there a more creative way to read Scripture, and to live life?
Creative God, We are sorry that there are times when we find it difficult to read between the lines. We are sorry that there are times when our interpretations of Scripture have unintentionally led to pain for others. We are sorry that we have merely tolerated difference, rather than welcoming it. Help us to understand all that lies between the binaries, in our own lives and in the lives of others. Amen.
Alex Clare-Young is an ordinand at Westminster College.