jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that


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Dear Christianity Today: No. Just no.

Christianity Today has published an article about transgender people, and now I have some words.

Let us begin with the title, “How the Transgender Narrative Perpetuates Stereotypes.” Yes, they are actually arguing that transgender people bear some responsibility for the continuation of unbiblical stereotypes about men and women.

Transgender people. The very people who are saying hey, gender seems far more complicated than we used to think and maybe we should rethink things. Perpetuating gender stereotypes.

*sigh*

I could go line-by-line and pick apart this article but I have homework to do, so I’m going to stick to two main points.

1. Anti-LGBTQ+ Christians cannot use complementarianism (the idea that men and women, by virtue of their physical sex, have different roles in family, church, and society) to support their claim that same-sex relationships are wrong, while simultaneously saying that transgender people would not feel conflict between their physical sex and their internal sense of self if they understood that your physical sex does not restrict you to certain sets of behaviors. Those two things cannot simultaneously be true!

2. Over and over the article references chromosomal sex as a binary thing. We are understanding now more than ever that it really is not. In actuality, people may have more than two sex-determining chromosomes (XXY, for instance). And in addition to that, we’re now finding out that chromosomes can be turned on and off, and their behavior changed, by other factors. Gender has, in fact, never been binary. It has never been simplistic. Very little about this world is!

Do the rigid gender roles promoted by both church and society cause conflict in people? Absolutely. I have known people who were secure in their understanding of their own gender, but who felt they did not fit into the space the world allowed for them based on that gender (actually, now that I think about it, I would fall into that category). But that is in no way the same thing as understanding that your sense of self and your physical body don’t match up the way they ought, the way others expect them to.

The Bible is silent on this issue, except to say that in the future, in our resurrected bodies, there will be no gender. Christians need to stop viewing things they don’t understand as things that need to be fought against. Now, as I am not transgender myself, I recommend reading these stories of transgender Christians in their own words.

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Einstein, Electrons, and God

Einstein.  It’s hard to think of another word that so succinctly embodies the idea of human genius.  We toss it around as a descriptor (“She’s no Einstein”) and use it to sell things (Baby Einstein, anyone?).  Einstein: the human yardstick used to judge the smartness of every wanna-be smarty-pants.

erlenmeyer

It’s hard to take a picture of electrons with my cheap Android phone, so here’s a flask of poisonous gas I made.

So you might imagine I was a tad surprised when my introduction to quantum physics included a short segment on how Albert Einstein never could wrap his brain around it. My gosh, if Einstein couldn’t get quantum physics, why is my professor expecting me to?!  Is it too late to switch majors?

But when it came down to it, the problem was not that our old pal Al wasn’t bright enough to understand quantum physics.  It was that he couldn’t force quantum physics to fit into his idea of How Things Are, and more importantly, How God Is.

I’ll try not to bore or confuse you (the truth is, I don’t understand enough to drone on about this…yet), but basically it goes like this: the behavior of electrons can be explained—kind of—by probability.  You know, heads-or-tails, roll-the-dice-in-Vegas, rock-paper-scissors odds.  And this made Einstein deeply uncomfortable.  “God does not play dice,” he protested.

Oh Al, I get it, I really do.  I know you wanted to Explain All The Things, and predict every outcome.  Life’s a lot more comfortable that way, isn’t it?

Electrons move from point A to point B without passing between point A and point B at any time.  Which is impossible, as we know. Except that apparently it’s not, because it’s happening, like, everywhere, all the time.  I mean, on the one hand, this gives me hope that one day Scotty really will be able to beam me up. On the other, it is never, not in a million years, going to make sense to me.

Like electrons, God is something we’re never really going to wrap our brains around.  Oh, we should definitely keep trying, don’t get me wrong.  But too often, we create our own picture of how God is and what He wants, and then discard anything that doesn’t fit.  Like Einstein, our discomfort can halt our understanding, our learning, and our progress.

Quantum physics is so totally going on my Things I Probably Won’t Care About When I Get To Heaven But Just In Case Here Are My Questions For God list.

Einstein died still trying to explain away the probability that unnerved him.  This may be the first time anyone’s said this to you, but: don’t be like Einstein.  Don’t let how you think things are keep you from seeing what really is. And don’t put God—or electrons—in a box.  They don’t tend to stay there.