Does God have a penis?
Young children will ask,
what we as adults consider, outrageous questions. They ask because
they don't know, they want to know, and they don't know that its
wrong to want to know. This one is particularly challenging. Consider
this: western religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) present
God as male, referring to god as he or He. While this could be
understood as just an idiom, it has had major implications for
understanding which of the species is closer to God. However,
this question raises another issue: what is it to be a man (and
likewise what is it to be a woman). At stake here is the current
debate over same-sex marriage. If marriage is defined as the union
of one man with one woman (eliminating polygamy as well), then
how exactly do we determine what is a man or woman?
If we go with basic biology,
a man has a penis and a woman has a vagina or womb, then by definition
God is not a man and should not be referred to as he. Indeed,
every artwork that portrays God with a male body is thus heretical.
Moreover, the male body is no more godlike than a woman's (indeed,
according to genesis a man was created from dust, a woman was
created from human flesh and has always existed with the inspiration
of God). On a more practical level, if a "man" had an
accident and lost his penis does that mean he would not be allowed
If we go with more advanced
biology, defining man and woman by sex chromosomes, we still have
the same problems. Does God have XX or XY chromosomes, or if one
wants to consider Jesus as the embodiment of God, what were Jesus'
chromosomes? It might be the case that Jesus had novel genetics
that, at a physio-biological level, is associated with his legendary
miraculous powers. How telling would a DNA analysis of Jesus be!!
So, this definition still leaves God not being a "he."
Another approach would be
to define one man with one woman as the two being capable of biologically
reproducing. This would exclude same-sex marriage; it also excludes
anyone who is sterile (either by accident, surgery or age). The
latter seems to be politically untenable. Of course, if the technology
developed to cleave two women's eggs together then lesbian marriage
would have to be legal (leaving two men marrying inconceivable).
Of course, given that it is possible for a woman to get pregnant
by spirit alone, it was Jesus' way, could a woman just marry herself
(what a tax break!)? Besides, it would seem to take away from
the religious/spiritual quality of marriage if its meaning changed
with human technology.
If we go beyond biology
to make the distinction between man and woman compatible with
God being male, then the clarity of what would satisfy the law
of one man with one woman becomes fuzzy. What if one person declared
themselves a man and the other a woman? If this is not self-determined
then who will be the one to authorize the sex of people? Doctors?
Bureaucrats? At what price?
Clearly, the volatile nature
of the same-sex marriage debate is based not only in morality
but also theology. It may be that the greatest irritant is not
moral indignation (life is full of indignities), but rather, the
fundamental contradiction in a world view that conceives of God
as male and only male. It certainly seems to engender a crisis