Boston Theology on Tap returns on Tuesday 9 February 2016 with a visit from Megan DeFranza — theologian, liberal-arts educator, speaker, peace-maker, and author of the newly-published Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God.
What does it mean to be “Intersex”?
Intersex is a broad term used of persons whose bodies display some physical characteristics of both sexes—historically labeled “hermaphrodites,” and more recently as persons with Disorders [or Differences] of Sex Development (DSDs). Physicians estimate one in every 2,500-4,500 children is born intersex.
Christians regularly assume a binary model of human sex difference based on the creation narratives in Genesis. Recent work in theological anthropology grounded theological concepts like the social view of the image of God, human personhood, and human relationality on the creation of humans as “male” and “female.” While these anthropologies have merit—particularly in correcting older versions of the imago Dei which saw men as more fully made in the image of God—are they are adequate for welcoming intersex persons as fully human?
Despite the good intentions of parents and doctors, many intersex persons challenge medical treatment aimed at establishing their bodies as clearly male or female. They recount harrowing stories of surgeries gone bad, sex assignments rejected, records withheld, and medical treatment experienced as sexual abuse. Many are working to end “shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries,” while a few advocate that intersex be recognized as a third sex or as a harbinger of a sexless society.
What about the Church?
Some Christians welcome intersex within the rainbow of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, but some more conservative Christians have yet to attend to the challenges intersex persons bring to their theologies and communities. Megan argues that, in order to justify heterosexual ethics, too many conservatives have turned a blind eye to the presence of intersex persons or argued that their bodies can and should be fixed through medical intervention. These same theologians regularly overemphasize sex differences, ignoring contemporary scientific research in order to justify “traditional” theology. But science is not so neat, and ancient Christians were not unfamiliar with differences of sex development. We can learn from their willingness to include all of God’s children in the community of faith.
Megan believes we can do better — better by our intersex siblings, and better in our theological accounts of what it means to be human — male, female, and intersex in the image of God.
Welcome Megan DeFranza!
Megan DeFranza facilitates education, conversation, and reconciliation around controversial issues for churches, Christian organizations, communities, and colleges, particularly around issues related to sex, gender, and sexuality. She holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Marquette University, an M.A. in Theology and an M.A. in Biblical Languages from Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Toccoa Falls College. She currently serves as a Visiting Researcher at Boston University’s School of Theology and a Research Associate with the Institute for the BioCultural Study of Religion’s Sex Differences Project. She has taught at Gordon College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and at various seminaries, churches, conferences, and retreats. Megan lives with her beloved husband and daughters in Beverly, MA.
Come out to the Rattlesnake Bar and bring a friend (or 4) to welcome Megan to Boston on February 9 @ 7p!
Follow @adventboston for more info.