gender presumption


No presumptions with this little dog. Photographed by myself near Moelfre April 2023

I was amazed at my own presumptions the other day. Husband brought back a handout from church around Luke 24:13-35, where the disciples meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus but don’t recognise him.

Lots of it is things I’d known or thought previously but it is Lorna Bradley’s opening line that I’ve been chewing over for weeks now

And their eyes were opened – the two disciples of Jesus – Cleopas and one unnamed and ungendered …..

UNGENDERED!! How many times have I presumed, without even thinking about it, that it was two men? And I’m sure that’s because the Bible says “disciples of Jesus” and for years we’ve been led to presume that ALL Jesus’ real disciples were men even though women are mentioned, but they are there in the supporting role.

Lorna doesn’t say if the other disciple was male, female, trans, non-binary, or whatever. She does not say if they were friends, siblings, parent/child, lovers, spouses. She actually just puts it out there, states, the fact that the other disciple is unnamed and ungendered, and then goes on to explore the piece.

It made me wonder if we would read this piece differently if they were homosexual partners, young unwed lovers, a father and daughter/son, even a married couple. To Luke these are just two disciples of Jesus who were out for a walk trying to piece together what had gone on over the last few days. One is named. One isn’t.

Interestingly the name Cleopas, which appears only in this story in the Bible means “Glory of the Father” or “Glory of Everything” and is either the male derivative of Cleopatra or a shortened version of Cleopatra or shortened version of Cleopatros. So it could be that the Cleopas we’ve always presumed to be male was in fact female as was their traveling companion.

It is the presumption that intrigues me. How many times do we all read things through our own lens of expectation, of prejudice, of culture, of lifestyle, of what we know? How often do we stop to realise what we have done?

But from our own presumptions and censoring and prejudices we tie organisations including religion into boxes, put people groups into boxes, put ourselves and those around us into boxes.

This does follow on from Cultural Diversity and will fit in with the post I am doing for 21st May. That person waving/not waving the Union Jack at the coronation is “obviously ….[fill in your own]. We make presumptions as to whether someone smiles/doesn’t smile at our cheery “good morning”, replies/doesn’t reply to our message, wears certain clothes and talks in a certain way.

And I don’t think God cares. Not that God doesn’t care for people. I believe God cares more than we could ever imagine. But God doesn’t care what gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, family background, education, etc someone has. I think this is why that story has someone in with no gender and the other person with ambiguous gender in it. And if you start looking there are many stories in the bible where once one lets go of one’s presumption then things could be more ambiguous than we’d presumed.

I wonder if I look harder how many stories I can find, where I presumed one thing and so pictured the story in my head a certain way, in fact actually are about “Glory in Everything” and especially “Glory to God” and not to gender, sexuality, orientation, or even belief.

Just this one phrase in Lorna Bradley’s piece has set me off on a whole new way of thinking. As Rick Rubin’s says in The Creative Act [and I paraphrase because I can’t find the actual quote in the book because I’ve underlined so much in there!] “sometimes we need to look at the minute to see the infinite”

angels gender

Does The Gender of Angels Matter?

Take at sunrise on the Hill of Tara St Patrick’s day 2016. A sun angel

My lovely young youth group and I were looking at Angels in the Bible the other Sunday evening and wondering about what gender they were or if they were any gender at all.

The story of when the angels visit Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah, which is often used as one of the key stories to condemn homosexuality doesn’t make sense when looked at regarding gender. So the angels turn up, the men of the town want to have sex with them, Lot is says No but then offers his daughters. Now surely if these men of the town were homosexual being offered women wouldn’t quite hit the mark for them. So I wondered if this story was being used out of context, like too often happens???

The vicar who supports me with this youth group said that he thought that the original languages didn’t have genders and that these came in with Latin translations. But he couldn’t remember for sure.

The two things that struck me were that

One we are now obsessed with gender with there being numerous different gender types that people can identify with. Is this a throw back to things like this? Things like when it was important for spiritual beings like Angels and God to be defined by a gender, by a certain sex?

Two that biblical angels were powerful, strong, mighty warriors, faithful messengers, obedient. All traits that are often associated with men. Not so long back women were seen as weak, easily manipulated, unfaithful, disobedient, needing protection.

So I do wonder if those in the Church who wanted power made sure that all the traits to aspire to were “male”, so both Angels and God had to be male. Also I do wonder if our obsession with the myriad of different genders is because we are searching to get back to that place where people were people and gender didn’t matter, but because there is such a strong emphasis on the male/female divide that for now there has to be these other things to identify with.

Imagine if we didn’t care about gender, if we just let people be as they are – strong/weak, faithful/unfaithful, able to protect/needing protection, etc etc. What would it be like if no one worried if you were male, female, trans, queer, asexual, and more? I wonder if we could all live much more at peace with ourselves then too.

So reread some of those stories and try not to see the Angels as male and see how you get on