Where an Evangelical and Transperson May Find Common Ground
She said, “There’s no judgment here.” But I couldn’t get myself to believe it.
My new superior (I’ll call her Natalie) obviously referred to my transsexualism. She and her husband wore Evangelical identities on their sleeves. I worried that my past experiences of Evangelical cruelty might spoil a working relationship and potential friendship so I let her comment slide.
But marital disharmony weighed heavily upon them, battle scars etching their faces. Marital suspicions had worn Natalie down to the point of regarding her husband as an unbeliever.
As a transperson I’ve had to fill the spiritual roles for many traditions of transpeople, Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic. I also have one advantage over most: I’ve not only read the entire Bible more times than I could count but studied Greek and Hebrew since 1976. It’s a study I enjoy immensely even though I don’t claim to be Christian. The photo above shows some of the texts in my personal collection: a Greek New Testament, a Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, and a Septuaginta (a translation from Hebrew to the Greek by members of the Sanhedrin for Ptolemy Philadelphus before the time of Y’shua, commonly known as “Jesus” by English speakers).
One day Natalie confided in me a matter with her husband. Being 60 years old, her issues seemed petty to me. But they weren’t so petty to her. A verse came to my mind and I quickly wrote it out for her:
“Mah-tishtochachi nafshi v’tehemi ‘ali;
Hochiyli l’ilohim ki-‘od ‘odeinu Y’shuot panaiv.”1
“What’s this?” she asked.
“A promise,” I said. It’s from Psalm 42, transliterated from Hebrew. Look at this word, ‘Y’shuot’. Doesn’t it look like the word for ‘Jesus’?”
“‘What cast you down, my soul and disquieted upon me?
Hope to Godhead for yet I will give thanks to Him (for) Deliverances, His face.’2
“Give thanks for God’s help. It isn’t enough to ask. It isn’t even enough to believe. The promise tells you to give thanks… to develop a thankful heart. Remember where it says that the LORD inhabits the praises of Israel?”3
She nodded quietly. She understood. We were able to converse about spiritual things.
This told me more. Natalie no longer respected me only as a subordinate. She respected me as a student of the Bible despite her knowing I’m not Christian. My love for the Bible has nothing to do with religious parties. The wit and wisdom hidden away in those verses transcend partisan boundaries. They speak to all people regardless of what their religious backgrounds may be. I have found it to be so in the texts of other faiths: in the Bodhi Leaves, in Zen Koans, in the Upanishads, in the Quran, in the Hermetic Corpus, in the Chaldean Oracles, and more. They’re all a treasure, enriching humankind.
I later copied off for her some Hebrew lessons I had written for students after she indicated a desire to take up that study. I also began to question myself in a new way.
If I who am not a Christian understand these matters and teach to Christians, then what must I do with my distrust of Christians I had learned from childhood, running from gangs who violently hunted me down every day in the name of their respective churches while taunting me with hateful epithets like “faggot”, “queer”, and “sex change?”
Then I remembered an intense apocalyptic dream from childhood:
The clouds gather together and became iron, eerily creaking as they lower to crush the inhabitants of the Earth. I hurriedly gather together my family and acquaintances in a nearby schoolyard to kneel and pray that God may give humankind another chance. Then the brassy rays of the Pacific Sun break through rusty red layers as the iron begins to dissolve.
We all struggle in our own ways. Natalie struggles with her marriage. I struggle with scars I carry in my body and psyche. I managed to set my distrust aside for a teachable moment. So did she. That “breaking of the ice” was like the breakup of those iron clouds in my dream.
Christians use a Greek word from the New Testament to describe community and fellowship: “koinonía”. Most teachers treat it as an esprit de corps, only to be realized if fully engaged in practices dictated by their respective organizations and excluding all others. I’ve come to look at koinonía another way.
Y’shua embodies help and deliverance from everything that holds a person down whether political, emotional, or physical. Where 2 or more gather to taste of liberation at any level, to taste and see that God is good, the presence of the Divine manifests because the name of Y’shua is the name of deliverance.4
So I found that realization for myself and for my demographic, in a koinonía not based upon denomination or cult, but in the breaking down of walls: personal and institutional restrictions that fall away in a divine judgment that says, “There’s no judgment here,” or more properly, “There’s no condemnation here.” Instead, mercy that makes peace becomes the judgment” and mercy makes a revolution.
- Psalm 42:6, Hebrew TaNaKh. [Psalm 42:5 in most English Bibles} Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia. (1977) Text: Deutche Bibelstiftung Stuttgart, ISBN: 3-438-05218-0 Transliteration by the writer.
- Ibid. Translation by the writer. The writer is known for starkly literal translations that make compromises in English parlance.
- Psalm 22:3, most English [Psalm 22:4, TaNaKh]
- Matthew 18:20 with Psalm 34:8 [Psalm 34:9, TaNaKh],amplified with the meaning of the word “Y’shua”.