[percy-l] God's Gender and Ham Sandwiches

Karey L. Perkins karey at charter.net
Thu Aug 14 12:34:36 EDT 2003

MessageHi Steve -

We must agree to disagree on many points, most of which I don't have time to
belabor -- but I did want to respond to the gender of God, which is an
interesting topic.

In the original Hebrew language version of the Old Testament, "God" is
referred to by many names.   Let's take the Genesis creation story.  The
transcendent version of God, the creator with whom man has not personal
contact, receives the name which we Christians/English language speakers
translate as "Jehovah" but which in Jewish tradition is the unpronounceable
(blasphemous to do so as it is sacred) four letters (all consonants, no
vowels, as the Hebrew had no vowels) -- which translated is the Jewish verb
meaning "I am" (or perhaps "to be" as it has no tense, as the Hebrew has no
tense).  There is no gender associated with this verb.  Traditionally this
transcendent God has been viewed as masculine.  The surrounding Hebrew words
that are used in sentences with this name of God have masculine inflection,
indicating this name is masculine.

In the second version of the Genesis creation story, God is referred to by a
name we translate as "Elohim" which is a feminine noun.  This is the
personal God - the God that walks in the garden of Eden with Adam.  In
addition, the surrounding words of this name of God have feminine
inflection, further emphasizing the feminine nature of this side of God.

As humans we anthropomorphize God.  It's the only way we can get our minds
around God.  Both versions (male and female views) are inadequate
reflections of God, who transcends anything we can conceptualize or imagine.
In Jewish tradition, to say that God is only male and not female is
blasphemy because it is limiting God.

Jesus was male because in the culture he lived in, he could do nothing as
female.  Whatever other reasons theologians might have hypothesized or
discovered for Jesus being a male, the fact remains that he HAD to be a male
to do anything in his time and culture.  Remember, theology, religion, etc.,
has been taught and propagated by men only (and even recently, still
primarily) in a patriarchal culture for centuries.  Not only does this mean
Jesus had to be male, but patriarchal attitudes infiltrate every aspect of
our religion.

Just a little feminist theology for you.

And I firmly believe not only should we not judge, but we accomplish nothing
(only harm) by judging.  People are where they are, and the only thing that
changes them is life.  Often we may think we are judging by a higher
authority - the church's or God's laws - but the church is fallible human
institution (whatever Percy's opinion on the matter was), and who has
infallible insight into the mind of God?  Judging is usually "projection" of
our own faults, usually an act of pride (greater than the sins we are
judging), and it serves primarily to break "relationship" and create walls.
I think here of the adulterous woman and the crowd who wanted to stone
her -- Jesus said "He who is without sin shall cast the first stone" as he
wrote in the sand. (Some theologians speculate that what he was writing was
the sins of the crowd - they dropped their stones one by one and walked away
as their sins came up.)

We are called to love.

Jesus also never said anything against homosexuality.   Leviticus DOES say a
man shall not lay with a man as a woman, but the literal interpretation
means "DRESSED" as a woman (hence literally it's a polemic against
cross-dressing???)(!).   Leviticus says it's an "abomination" for a man to
lay with a man as a woman.  However, Leviticus says exactly the same thing
about eating pork - that is, uses exactly the same word - translated an
"abomination" - to describe the act of eating pork.

Anyone had a ham sandwich lately?

All this is meant in the spirit of recreational debate -- glad to see the
listserv showing signs of life.  But I guess we aren't much interested in
Percy's triangles or Peirce's triads?? Ah, well, I'll have to figure them
out on my own, with a little help from Rhonda....


----- Original Message -----
From: Parlin, Steven
To: 'Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion'
Sent: Wednesday, August 13, 2003 6:08 PM
Subject: RE: [percy-l] gay marriage

Hi Karey...

You've made some thoughtful remarks here, but I must disagree with some of
it, err...most of it.

This is getting a little distressing to find so many on this list who are
dedicated to understanding the work of WP, one of the only cultural critics
of our age who really had his eyes open, and yet who fail to see the
inverted nature of the times we are living in.

I don't wish to belabor this issue of 'gay marriage', but i think this is a
fairly clear indicator of just how muddled our times have become, precisely
the sort of thing that so troubled Percy.

You wrote: I don't think any of us has the right to judge another.  How can
we truly know and judge the reasons/motivations two individuals love and

[SP] We do have the right to judge. We all do it every day...and it's a damn
good thing too. There are any number of "wrong" behaviors that we judge
everday. It's wrong to kill, lie, cheat, steal, push down old ladies, and
kick small animals and so on... regardless of the motivation or reason...  I
for one am quite glad that there remain some social structures, however
erroded they are becoming, that "judge" my behavior. Keeps me in line.

Yes, the judgement comes from above; it's God's alone. However, it is our
responsibility to point it out when others are in conflict with God's
judgement. I fully expect others to point it out when I am in conflict with
God's laws. The problem isnt that we judge too much, but that we don't do it
enough! (Judge not lest you be judged? Exactly, judge not according to your
own laws lest you be judged according to those same laws. God fully expects
us to judge each other according to his laws).

You Wrote:  A man and a woman can, and often do, marry each other (enter
into a heterosexual union) for all sorts of bad reasons -- the man may want
a trophy wife (what about sexual appetite and gratification there?), the
woman may want a comfy or luxurious high profile lifestyle (or perhaps she
just wants to get out of the house), the woman's father could have a shotgun
to the man's head (sexual appetite thus being the precursor to this), the
man marries the boss's daughter to get ahead in his career (OK, he's not
madly in love, but she's nice enough and not too bad looking), the woman
marries the man because all her friends and family like him, think he's
nice, a good catch, whatever, etc. etc.   Two individuals being of
appropriate gender (m/f) hardly ensures admirable and spiritual reasons for
entering into wedlock.

[SP]  Some very good points. In fact, most of what you have cited here is a
demonstration of why most marriages are not really marriages at all, at
least not as far as marriage is recognized by the RC Church. Most of what
you cite here constitutes an invalid marriage. However, its bad logic to say
that because heterosexuals are just as deranged in their understanding of
marriage, homosexuals ought to be entitled to "marry". Hmm.

Two individuals being of "inappropriate" gender does not define their
ove  - even eros - for each other is an evil or bad thing.
[SP] No...just of a different nature and order.

I think our spirits/souls ultimately transcend gender -- God has no genitals
(although we traditionally and misleadingly refer to "Him" as a "He," gender
is by definition a physical trait and God is not physical - only Jesus).
[SP] This sounds very Gnostic Karey...we are embodied creatures and male and
femal genitals are by design ordered to fit corespondingly. I can't eat
glass or drink gasoline because these things are not ordered to my being...
Why? I have a specific body for which these things are not specifically
made. And, in fact they can do great harm to me.

Frankly put...a penis is by design ordered to the vagina (in more ways than
one!). But, a penis is NOT ordered to the anus (which according to my
homosexual friends is invariably painful, and does harm to them).
Moreover...No life will ever spring from the lining of the rectum. What a

BTW: "He" and "His" and "Him" are pronouns that describe God's nature (and
his relationship to us) not his person. Of course God is genderless. But, he
is masculine. Not male, but masculine. To be a little graphic: He is a
penetrator (when invited in) not a receiver. He is the impregnator; not the
impregnated. He is the father; not the mother.  It's a mystery of course and
our language fails to apprehend it fully...but C.S. Lewis once put it
best...that in our relationship to God, we are all feminine. And, moreover
there is a specific reason for why Jesus was male, not female...and it has
nothing to do with the time that he appeared for he was very little
concerned with propriety. God is specific, orderly, and designs things for a
particular purpose.

I agree with Steve that a case of two men who live together and love each
other as friends (i.e.: just roommates) is very different from two gay men
who are in love and wish to marry.  A homosexual "marriage" bond has far
more in common with a heterosexual marriage than any other relationship
between persons of the same gender - or any other present word in our
vocabulary we might apply to it.

[SP] Okay...but I'm curious why you agree with me because you missed my
point. There is no difference here, and for that matter there is no way for
the state to determine whether my love for my best friend is any different
than two homosexuals wanting to be recognized as a couple. Except one --I'm
not screwing my best friend. I love him, but I don't want to hump him.  In
any case, marriage is not an existential reality for homosexuals. They can
go through the motions (egads) but they can never really be married. It's
like this...I can call myself a rabbit, yell it from the rooftops, but that
doesn't make me a rabbit. That's what's going on here.

I don't know what to think about homosexuality, nor do I completely
understand why two individuals of the same gender fall "in love" and wish to
express that love physically -- but they do, and for them, I believe it is
the same experience as two individuals of opposite gender who do the same
thing.   Some homosexuals ARE in it merely for physical gratification, just
as some heterosexuals have sex merely for physical gratification.  But would
anyone say that all heterosexual marriages are just about sexual
gratification?  Of course not.  The same is true of homosexual marriages.

[SP] I don't understand it either. Even after having my homosexual friends
explain it to me.

The one thing I do know is it's not for me to judge others nor to impose
rules on how to conduct their lives -- that's God's domain.  I've got my own
stuff to worry about.

[SP] You're right... it is God's domain. And if it were the case that I was
presenting MY OWN judgment, I'd say you would all need to have me stoned.
For no one has the right to pass THEIR OWN judgement based on THEIR OWN
understanding of reality. That's extremely dangerous (and in fact is
happening in Ireland right now and will likely happen here very shortly). In
fact, I'm willing to wager that at least some of you on this list have
already judged me...according to your own understanding of rightness and

We must Judge, but according to higher things...not our own silly notions.

That's precisely why we have no alternative but to rely on God's natural and
moral laws. Moreover, that is in fact why the Catholic Church is the most
obedient, not the most authoritarian of the faiths. She doesn't give sway to
things like homosexual marriages because she CAN'T do so and remain
obedient. She doesn't have the authority to make such changes.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Parlin, Steven
  To: 'Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion'
  Sent: Wednesday, August 13, 2003 10:41 AM
  Subject: RE: [percy-l] gay marriage

  Dear RP

  I'm not sure "totally" doesn't fit (though perhaps it's fruitless to
speculate about WP's thoughts). In "something to displease both sides",
Percy never wavered on the (total) wrongness of killing unborn children.
It's insanity and "totally", not partly, wrong. He was merely pointing out
the intellectual myopia that exists on both sides of the political
quagmire --and there is a lot of it. But, you're probably right that Percy
would have surprised and delighted and shocked with his comments.

  Two very good friends of mine are homosexual, one is in his late 60's and
I speak with him regularly about these sorts of things. He knows (and
unfortunately has "known") a lot of homosexuals. I can tell you there is
hardly consensus among the homosexuals about what this agenda is really

  "Truth of gay love as a personal bond"? Hmm.... I love my best friend
(since kinder) probably more than I love anyone in the world, but our
"personal bond" is hardly a marriage, and I hardly want to be sexual with
him. But, even more to the point...what of my love for my father?  Love is
not really a part of this debate.

  The truth is, again citing my friend, homosexual "bonds" are hardly about
love and committment and the like. It's mostly about sexual appetite and

  Society's need to accept this? Society needs to accept homosexuals, but
not homosexuality.

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Robert_Pauley at oxy.com [mailto:Robert_Pauley at oxy.com]
    Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 7:08 PM
    To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org
    Subject: RE: [percy-l] gay marriage

    I don't think "totally" is the right adverb for any Walker Percy
position. He was too intellectually supple. Remember his piece on abortion
in the New York Times -- ... "Something to displease both sides." I believe
he would have found a way to deconstruct the moral and semantic choplogic of
"gay marriage" while allowing for the truth of gay love as a personal bond,
and of society's need to accept this, short of formal social or religious
sanctification. He would, again, have displeased both sides.

    Best, RP
      -----Original Message-----
      From: percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of James Piat
      Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 4:59 PM
      To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
      Subject: Re: [percy-l] gay marriage

      Dear Phil,

      I think we are all very much products of our circumstances  -- and
tend to get more conservative as we age. Of his writings I like Percy's
essays the most, and The Movie Goer more than The Thanatos Syndrome.  I'm
not so sure Percy would be totally against gay marriage were he around
today.  Times change; people change.

      Regards from Atlanta
        I think Percy would be totally against gay marriage. But that's why
I'm glad I don't walk around wearing a "WWPD?" wrist band. I think he was
definitely a product of his time and place, and his later novels
particularly illustrate his out-of-place feeling in the 1970's. And didn't
it seem like he became more conservative and doctrinaire as he grew older?
It's been a while since I've read Percy, but I remember The Thanatos
Syndrome being a lot more "preachy" than his early novels...

        Regards from Chapel Hill,



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An archive of all list discussion is available at

Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy

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