Views from the Bridge

Of The Creation of Identity (Also the Creation of Religion) and Such

Posted on: October 1, 2013

This is part of a synchroblog event coordinated by queertheologycom. For more information about what a synchroblog is, please go here. We – me and Colin – practice different religions, so we are doing our blog together but not as a conversation like we normally do. Colin is first and I am second.

Colin, Terri

The world is constantly a cycle from winter to winter, summer to summer, spring to spring, or autumn to autumn.

I generally think of it as autumn to autumn.

This is inspired by the fact that as a young Pagan, I celebrate a holiday called Samhain, often referred to as the witches new year or Halloween. It is my holiday of renewal and restart. The end and the beginning.

It’s my favourite holiday for many reasons, ranging from the silly decorations and costumes the world outside of Paganism recognizes, to the deep spiritual connection I have with the day.

It, like many Pagan celebrations, has a deep connection to creation.

I also think that something I favour of this holiday is its lack of connection to gender, which might be weird, coming from a gender creative person. As a transman, I feel like sometimes my life gets swamped with that single piece of my identity. I was out and proud in high school, speaking at events, writing as a transperson for mine and my mother’s blog, and answering all of the intrusive questions that often come along with being trans – Wait, are you gay now? Are you straight now? How do you have sex? So you want a penis?

When my spirituality and religion started to become more important to me and I started going out of my way to help the two thrive and feel content within myself, gender wasn’t a thing I wanted to connect with it. Same with sexuality and romantic attraction. Because those are all important parts of my life and big pieces of what creates me, but not how I create my spirituality.

I create my spirituality with warmth and comfort. When I’m doing a circle, a ritual, or meditating, I’ll use symbols, items, and clothes that are meaningful to me, and not what is the ‘norm’ of a Pagan ritual. Such as I have a Life Energy candle that I light, but I don’t light g’d and g’ddess candles.

Outside of the ritualistic side of my spirituality and religion, I create sacred spaces throughout my life. In particular, I have an altar of sorts set up in my bedroom. I change it as it seems right through my journey to change it, and don’t alter it to the flow of the moon or to what holiday is closest – except for Samhain, but that holiday has a lot of specific importance to me.

The items on my altar at times make it look more like an altar – such as right now, it has an incense container, symbols of the five elements, my books of knowledge, a plate with the Knight’s Code of Chivalry on it, my Book of Shadows, and my athame – but sometimes looks nothing like. Previous to the current set up it was a picture a dear friend had drawn for me, a fake flower, a tiny chair with a very old stuffed animal that my mother gave to me, a shell full of little rocks that I like, and a single candle. It depends how my spirituality feels at that moment, and how the world is impacting me.

In the end, I create a lot of my own spirituality because I don’t feel tied to gender whilst I’m floating through the cosmos, and in Paganism, as in all religions that I have observed, there is a strong tie to gender. Which isn’t a bad thing. I do at times light a g’d candle, a g’ddess candle, a spirit candle, or all three.

But the point is I found a religion that fits how I feel, and the fact that I create a fair amount of my expression of it and my words for it doesn’t make it any less important or viable. In many ways, far more, because I created it, and it’s forever a part of me.

Thanks, Colin. I love that you have found a way to express yourself that meets the spiritual needs that you have. I think you know that I disagree with you about how we embody religious experience and that our bodies are central to the story. But, I think it is okay. I totally understand the need for a gender-free-zone. I love you!! Now my turn…

The theology or scripture that I find in scripture that I would like to queer is the creation story in John 1.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

This is a very familiar passage to Christians, especially those from an evangelical background that privileges the Gospel of John over other gospels. I confess that I used to find John “flinch” worthy, but now I am so in love with it – it is beyond ridiculous! The author of the Gospel of John (unknown) was a brilliant person (gender identification is also unknown).

Focusing on the word “Word,” we find the Greek word logos. Logos is tied to two understandings – one in Greek Platonic mythology translated “Reason” but derived from the verb lego which would be “to speak” and the other in Hebrew scriptural understanding translated “Wisdom” (sophia).

In one fell swoop, the author of John ties together:

  • Platonic reason, form and matter and how the entire cosmos is understood in the concept of the perfected form learned only by application of reason and never experienced as all matter falls short of the concept of its form (form is tree-ness, the matter may be a seed or branch or even a tree-but never the full expression of tree-ness).
  • Sophia, Hebrew scripture’s Wisdom in English from Proverbs 8:

8:1 Does not Wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
26 when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30     then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

Additionally, the Goddess Sophia, in pre-Biblical literature, dances the world into existence.

  • And Jesus, in the Gospel of John in verses 1:14-18, co-identified with the Word as the Word become flesh.

John brilliantly packages the Word (Logos) , the divine feminine (Sophia), and the embodiment of God (Jesus).

Male and female tied together in the person of the child of God as grounded in Platonic thought as the perfect idea or form.

At a minimum, the author of John can be seen as unconcerned with traditional gender roles. In its most expansive interpretation, the person of the Word is intersex. 

So all of this is a big “so what” unless it informs my understanding of the Divine and my understanding of the world. What does it mean if the Word, Logos, is non-gender conforming? It brings an incredible freedom to be gender creative and still fall within the concept of the perfect idea of child of God. Who I am is good enough. Who you are is good enough. 

And in all of that, our bodies, no matter how we experience them, are good enough.

And God looked at all of creation and said, “It is very good.”

Shalom and Amen.

(c) 2013, Colin and Terri Stewart

14 Responses to "Of The Creation of Identity (Also the Creation of Religion) and Such"

[…] Of The Creation of Identity (Also the Creation of Religion) by Colin & Terri […]

[…] • Queer Creation in art: Who says God didn’t create Adam and Steve? by Kittrdge Cherry • Of The Creation of Identity (Also the Creation of Religion) by Colin & Terri • God, the Garden, & Gays: Homosexuality in Genesis by Brian G. […]

[…] Of The Creation of Identity (Also the Creation of Religion) by Colin & Terri […]

This is so great. My mom and I talked about theology heaps these days, but we didn’t when I was seventeen… at least not queer theology. So inspiring to see this conversation play out.

Colin, I love your explanation of how Paganism works for you and what about it resonates with you. My “beliefs” are constantly shifting but the world around us is always here (for not, at least). Thanks for reminding me to connect with it.

And Terri, wow. I completely forgot about John 1 when I was considering “queer creation.” I’ve been obsessed with the divine feminine in Proverbs for awhile now and somehow didn’t realize it was here in John too (John!!!).

Thank you for the kind comments! I am now obsessed with John for this reason (and a few others). 🙂

Thanks, both of you. Terri, since John’s gospel is your favorite, you may have fun reading John Spong’s latest book about it. He writes down its Jewish-ness, which he uses to take readers in some interesting mystic directions. (I reviewed the book on my site earlier this year.)

Colin, I enjoyed reading about the spaces you create in your room and how they match your sense of your journey in the moment. Peace to you.

Thanks for stopping by!

I actually learned the Gospel of John from a Jewish professor who is a NT specialist. It is probably why I like John. If we understood the Jewishness of John, the brilliance shines through!

But, even though I think John is brilliant, Matthew is my favorite. 🙂

[…] Of The Creation of Identity (Also the Creation of Religion) by Colin & Terri […]

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