Toward a theology of a queer God It's basic theology that God is not male. Putting this belief into practice could enrich the life of the church and our pastoral care for the people in it. “Is God a boy?” my son asked me. He was almost 4 at the time, and he had already determined he was a boy and Mommy was a girl. He’d accepted a basic assumption expressed everywhere in our society: Every living being has to fall into one of two slots—boy or girl.
This binary division is baked into the Euro-American mind. We often think of it as something so obvious, so based on common sense, that we apply it to all beings, including God. It doesn’t matter that biological research reflects a far more complicated and varied reality; it doesn’t matter that other cultures and historical periods have looked at gender differently. Although both the Bible and earlier church tradition used gender-fluid metaphors and concepts, we’ve been overlooking those for centuries. Even now, living in a world where gender issues are discussed far more openly than they once were, many of us continue to use these automatic either-or categories. We’re still applying them to every baby who’s born—and we’re still using them to understand God.
Categorization is a deeply embedded thought pattern. According to neurobiologist Pieter Goltstein, we use categories to “to simplify and organize” reality. His recent study, reported in Nature magazine, found that categorization takes place in the prefrontal cortex, an evolutionary skill that helped us quickly identify dangerous from harmless. It’s still an effective mental shorthand that allows us to make sense of the world.
Unfortunately, it can also hinder our awareness of reality. Categories, says Goltstein, are neural connections, and if these become rigid and fixed, we may not detect important qualities outside our established thought patterns. We only perceive the aspects of the world that match up with our expectations, rather than interacting with a multifaceted and constantly surprising reality. We see broad categories rather than unique individuals.