Nature is a strange and fascinating thing, and for the theologically and/or teleologically minded, it raises some interesting questions. It certainly did for Lyda Morehouse, who in writing up her latest novel Resurrection Code looked at some curious aspects of the animal world and wondered what God was thinking. Did she comes up with answers? Well, that’s what this Big Idea is here to tell you.
Did you know that, according to neatorama.com, when the dominant female clownfish dies, the toughest dude in school switches gender to take her place? Here are some more mind-twisters: female hyenas have balls as well as something called a “pseudo penis.” Certain male red-sided garter snakes pretend to be female in order to get a little action. That doesn’t even touch the sexual games our primate cousins the bonobos do for fun.
The natural world seems to be full of gender-bending queer sex[i].
As a writer who has written a number of science fiction/fantasy books where I presume to speak for God, I asked myself—does the sexual and gender flexibility of creation say anything about God’s intention with humanity?
I don’t know.
Yet, the first book of Genesis implies a dual-natured God, one who made man and woman in Their image[ii].
Those words from Genesis 1:26, quite frankly, have intrigued me since the first moment I heard about them, which was probably sometime in grade school. I suppose now is as good a time as ever to confess that I was not raised Christian. My family is Unitarian Universalist, some of whom are Christians, though we happened to be of the secular humanist variety. I did, however, by a strange fluke, attend a Catholic school from fourth to sixth grade. The town I grew up in, La Crosse, Wisconsin, is full of German and Irish immigrants. So almost everyone I knew, as well as all of my extended family, was/is staunchly Roman Catholic.
Thus I spent a lot of my formative years thinking about God. I also spent a lot of time wondering (and, frankly, worrying) what God thought of me, as an interloper.
One of the strangest moments of my stint at Cathedral School was getting report cards. The school was associated with the huge downtown cathedral, hence its name, and at the end of the school year it was required that we attend Mass in order to receive our final report card. Imagine my situation. I had to get in line with my fellow students, wave off the body of Christ, but ask for my report card from the head priest. I scurried back to the pew, mortified, and checked…. Yep, an “A” in religion.
What was I supposed to make of that?
An eleven-year-old me began to believe that maybe, just maybe, God was a bit more “liberal” than I was led to believe.
So what does that have to do with sexually divergent garter snakes which cross-dress for a hook-up?
Well, you might begin to see, the answer for me is: everything.
I’d written about God’s hidden liberalism before. I created a cyberpunk future world where angels took the Genesis 1:26 line so seriously that they referred to God as “He,” “She” and “Them” depending on what they were trying say. I even had an archangel who wore a dress in protest for the fact that God’s default template for all angels was male. All that was in the background before, however, due to the fact that that series had found a home with a big, New York publisher. I had a sense, though it was never an explicit order from my editor, that my ideas were already controversial enough.
Resurrection Code is coming out from small press, so I’ve let out all the stops. One of the main stories in the book is one archangel’s quest for the answer to God’s opinion on the transgender nature of the universe. Turns out the answer is in Heaven, as it is on earth, not as straight-forward as it might seem.
[i] There’s lots of science behind this. See the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals, or check out Bruce Bagemihl’s book BIOLOGICAL EXUBERANCE: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity: http://www.amazon.com/Biological-Exuberance-Homosexuality-Natural-Diversity/dp/0312192398
[ii] ‘Vayomer Elohim “Na’aseh adam b’tzalmenu kidmutenu’ — And God (plural) said “Let us make man (adam) in our image, and like us.” (Genesis 1:26) Transliterated and translated by Sean M. Murphy.