Wednesday, October 7, 2009

EfM Year 1 Chapter 3: The Priestly Creation Story in Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a--Thoughts on Dualism

In my previous post, I spoke about dualism and some dualistic systems of thought, such as Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Platonism, and Neo-Platonism. In these dualistic systems, we have a good god of light and an evil god of darkness, or a higher world of spirit and a lower world of matter. "Two" is very important in dualism, as is separation. Things are either this or that. We certainly see dualism alive in the world today.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION. This is a huge area of dualism, although any glance at people's actual behavior should make clear that sexuality is far more complex than a dualistic understanding of it. People seem to think of two sexual orientations--heterosexual and homosexual--and want to fit everyone into one category or the other. These are not the only two sexual orientations, however. People may be bisexual, monosexual, asexual, having a preference for menages-a-trois, for orgies, oriented toward fetishes. People may have one orientation at one stage of life and another orientation later, such as adolescents whose sexual feelings are first aroused by members of the same sex and who as adults settle upon members of the opposite sex. People may have one orientation in certain situations and another orientation in other situations, such as those who behave heterosexually in ordinary life in the world, but homosexually in prison.

SEXUAL IDENTITY. We seem to think that there are only two sexual identities, male and female, and we tend to assign certain characteristics to each, though I think there is more openness today to assertiveness in females and nurturing qualities in males than there used to be. I think that it is important to recognize that an individual's make-up doesn't necessarily fit the male mold or the female mold, and I hope that we will continue to make strides in recognizing this.

I wonder if a greater recognition of the complexity of an individual's sexual identity might not cut down on the perceived need in some individuals to change their sex through drugs and surgery. From what I understand (and I admit that my understanding is imperfect), a man who wants to change himself physically so as to become a woman feels that he is really a woman trapped in a male body. He wants his body to reflect his inner reality. But here's what I would say. Suppose I notice myself having many feelings that have been attributed exclusively to males. Should I conclude that I need to become a male physically so that my physical body will be in line with my inner feelings? Or should I conclude that my feelings are actually within the realm of feelings that women have, even though such feelings have been attributed exclusively to men. I think I could say, "Hmmm. I have feelings that have been attributed exclusively to men. Well, guess what. It turns out that these are not exclusively male feelings. How do I know? Because I'm a woman and I'm having these feelings. So clearly these feelings are within the range of possibility for a woman, because I, a woman, am experiencing them."

In any case, male and female are not the only two sexual identities. There are androgenous people, transgender people, transvestite people, men who act the way we expect women to act, men whose bodies have womanly curves, women who act the way we expect men to act, and women whose bodies are muscular and lean.

RACIAL IDENTITY. There was a time when certain official forms asked people to check off one of two choices for their racial identity: white or black. This is beyond silly in a world with multiple races and people of mixed race. Some scientists who have studied the question of race have concluded that race is a human concept that doesn't objectively exist.

SAVLATION. This is an interesting area. It is an area particularly important to those whose faith leans more to fundamentalism. Certain fundamentalist groups see people as divided into two groups: saved and unsaved. In fact, people fall at many different places on the faith continuum--moving toward salvation, being newly saved, growing in their walk of faith, moving away from salvation, spurning salvation. I would say that the direction one is moving toward and growing in is far more important than any saved versus unsaved division.

OVERALL. Overall, I think we would do well to approach the world with an appreciation of nuance rather than a dualistic view.

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