Footnote to Bodies & Signs


Recently at Andrew Sullivan’s Dish site, Mat Sitman wrote a great post acknowledging the complexity of the body’s signs. He quotes Jonathan Merritt:

Intersex persons offer a critique of those who believe that gender is a static binary assigned from birth and divinely ordained. For example, what about a person who is a sexually “mosaic,” which means they have mixed gonadal dysgenesis such as the development of both ovaries and testes? It’s hard to say because Christian commentators almost never acknowledge the existence of these individuals…

[T]he situation seems to grow even more complex when one considers the internal workings of transgender people. According to research conducted by the National University of Distance Education in Madrid, Spain, transgendered people show significant differences in brain patterns. MRI scans of female-to-male transgender people, for example, resembled male brain function even though they were born biologically female.

Sitman is responding to Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s disturbed by Moore’s approach for both “its evasion of the actual, documented facts noted above and its a priori imposition of easy answers, gleaned from one rather narrow reading of Scripture, on this sensitive question.”

Emily Stimpson’s arguments (addressed here) are based on the body, not on her reading of the Bible. But they have the same flaw since the body, as a text, is just as complex as Scripture. And Stimpson’s reading of that text is just as narrow—and incomplete—as Moore’s reading of the Good Book.

Theologian William Lindsey, at his Bilgrimage blog, has a series of great posts on this subject, starting with his commentary on Sitman’s piece, and continuing yesterday with two posts (here and here) on a commenter’s reduction of human beings to “arrows and holes.” Lindsey writes:

For this, Christ suffered and died on the cross: to teach his followers about arrows and holes, and to demonstrate to his followers the supreme importance of the arrow and the hole—and how one fits into the other, and no other combination they might be tempted by sinful human nature to imagine is remotely pleasing to the divine will.

That gets at the absurdity of it all. And while Lindsey is responding to a commenter on a National Catholic Reporter article, what’s astonishing is that the same view gets dressed up and passed along by smarter, more influential writers.

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