In this world of multi-media and ‘the age of information,’ we can find someone who says something about anything. What I mean is this: if you want to go out and find an article that tells you “God hates shrimp,” you can find it and the supporting evidence to back it up. On the other hand, you can also go out and find and article on why “God loves shrimp,” also with supporting evidence to back that up. You can do this for just about any topic your mind can imagine.
So then, how do we choose? How do we know which ‘supporting evidence’ to believe? As GLBT folks, all we have to do is type in ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ or ‘transgender’ into a search engine and we will come up with both good and bad information. It is up to us to filter which information we want to internalize and which information we want to believe.
Say for example that Joe the gay guy chooses to join a listserve that promotes gay “news.” The listserv picks every article from the “Common People Press” with the word “gay” in it. In about two weeks time, Joe becomes depressed and discouraged and starts believing that the world is surely out to get him. Joe knows this is true because it is in his email inbox every day.
Jack on the other hand chooses to join a listserv from “galaxyqueer,” a well-known and respected GLBT website. While Jack gets a lot of the same information that Joe gets, Jack also gets information about GLBT events, like pride marches and political action rallies. Jack knows that there are people in the world who disagree with his beliefs, but Jack also feels supported by his community, he knows that there are people in the world who understand what it means to be gay. Jack knows that if he needs a place to turn, that there will be folks who understand.
The way we understand God is very similar to the way we understand our world. Joe chooses to understand the world through the information he is given by the CPP. Jack chooses to get his information from another source, a source that understands where he is coming from. What is your source of information about God?
We must be intentional when we go searching for God. There is a lot of spiritual violence in our world. Some might even say there is a lot of spiritual terrorism out there. Spiritual violence cuts us deeply, often cuts us to our core. For many GLBT folks, spiritual violence has shaken the foundations of our faith, and has made us question if God even exists. Spiritual violence can lead us to anger, pain and frustration, and can lead us to close the doors of our hearts so that God is unable to come in.
I’ve found that the best place to start searching for God is at the beginning, in Genesis. Genesis 1:26 tells us that God said, “let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” (NRSV) If we are made in God’s image, then the first place we should look for God is within ourselves. The second place we should look is in each other.
As GLBT people, we are often led to question the will of God, as well as the fact that we are indeed made in God’s image. This is the spiritual violence that I was speaking of earlier. We question God’s will in coming out, we can question God’s will in our futures, we sometimes even question if God made us the way we are, as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
But today I call us to stretch our minds a little bit further than we may be used to. Think about it for a while, mull it over, try to imagine God in a new way. Try to imagine God as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Try to imagine God as a being who understands what it is like to live in this world as a transgender person. Try to imagine God as one who understands your trials and triumphs as a gay man and yet loves you more than you love yourself. Can you do it?
This is how we find the strength, the courage, the boldness to live our lives to their fullest potential. One of the many revolutionary things about Jesus was that Jesus helped humanity image God as personal. When Jesus called God “Abba,” Jesus called into being a God who was familiar and familial. Jesus called upon a relative, a relation, a daddy whose sole purpose in life was to provide for and take care of his own children.
Panentheism, a big theological word that means “God in everything,” is a way of thinking that literally proposes that God is a part of every thing in this world, and that God is everywhere all the time. If we choose to think along these terms for a while, for an experiment in theological mind-stretching, then that means that God’s image is reflected in everything we see, everything we do, everything we feel.
Have you ever tried to imagine God in your own image? Have you ever believed that God is gay, lesbian, bi, trans, American, Asian, African, Iraqi, Israeli, etc? That God is differently-abled, short, tall, female, male, intersex? All of these things and more all the time?
Are we as humans capable of thinking of God as omnipossibility? Are we capable of imaging God as a God who is all that is? The answer to that for me is yes … and no. I propose that when we think theologically, when we think on the broad spectrum (the forest view, as opposed to the tree view), that we must think of God as omnipossibility – because everyone is different. My ideas about God are not your ideas, are not someone else’s ideas, yada yada yada.
But, when we think experientially, when we think about our own personal struggles and celebrations, (the tree view) we must image God in a way that speaks to us. It is my thought that we can never really get close to God if we always think of God as everything everywhere all the time. How can you hold the chaos of all that is in your heart? I don’t know if you can, but for our lives to be transformed, we must hold God in our hearts. At the same time, we must not deny our neighbor that same gift of holding God in their heart as well. So for me, God is both-and. God is both Omnipossibility and God is up close and personal.
For God to really be in our hearts, we must imagine God as a God who understands our struggles, a God who understands where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going. This might mean that we have to imagine God as a poor lesbian mother, or God as a cross-dresser who only wears clothes of the other gender in secret. Whatever the image, I would argue that we have to image God for our own selves if God is really going to make any sense to us at all.
Can you envision God as Transgender, or Gay, Lesbian, or Bi? I totally believe that God is Transgender. How could male and female (and everything along the m-f continuum) be made in God’s image if God were only He or if God were only She? God knows us, each of us, inside and out, God knows our gender, God knows everything there is to know about us. I believe that God totally and 100% understands how the binary gender system that humanity has reinforced is a myth, not a reality. Just as TG people have a better insight into what gender means in this world, I believe God has a better insight into what gender means for all of God’s children. All of God’s children definitely includes transgender folks.
Furthermore, I believe that each human being has aspects about them that reflect God’s image in more acute ways than other aspects of their being. For some, it’s their huge hearts and their souls of love. For others, it’s their keen sense of what is spiritually fulfilling and what is spiritually draining. Some people reflect God’s image when they stand up for what is right and publicly denounce what is wrong. Still others reflect God’s image by their quiet, peaceful ways of going about life without ever being recognized for the good they do. I think that transgender folks reflect God’s image by being able to bridge the gap between male and female. Transgender people often embody the best traits of both genders. That’s a real gift, and this is just one way that God reveals to humanity God’s own self-image.
Can you re-image God in a way that reflects your own self-image? If you can imagine God that way, what revelations, if any, does that bring for you? For me, it unlocked the door to my heart so that God could reside there, and in God’s presence, I can live abundantly, in the way that God has called me to live. I hope it can do the same for you!
Raised United Methodist, Dawn Sorensen decided to pursue ministry in the United Church of Christ and studied for a master’s of divinity at Andover Newton Theological School.