I was sitting at my friend's hair salon, and he looked over at me, “my friend is about to be here. She is trans. Don’t ask a bunch of silly questions.” I was fifteen years old and had never (to my knowledge) met someone who was trans before.
Full of youthful curiosity, I ended up breaking my promise and asked them when they knew.
“It was at church,” she said with a smile, “I was an altar boy, and that was the first time I ever wore a dress. I loved it so much that I thought it meant I was supposed to be a priest. Turns out, it was that I’m a girl.”
Unholy Sh+t: An Irreverent Bible Study
Second Sunday of Lent
Today’s reading: Matthew 17:1-9
The Bible is full of wild and whacky tales, but I think the story of the transfiguration is maybe one of my favorites in the totally bizarro category.
First, I’m a huge fan of crossovers. There are few things as satisfying in life as seeing characters from some of your favorite fandoms interact. This particular moment is like one of those classic Scooby Doo episodes where they bring in Adam West or the Winchester Brothers, except it’s Jesus being like, “Yo, Rocky! You want to meet Elijah?” And then Jesus cracks his neck like a glow stick before shining bright like a diamond.
There are some very fascinating theological details in this story. Like the fact that God is talking and people's heads aren’t exploding. How do the disciples know what Elijah and Moses looked like? Or my personal favorite is that if your best friend is visited by the prophets and then is consumed by a glowing cloud before the voice of God tells you to “listen to him!” how are you going to doubt after that? I feel like just one of these events, and I’d be sold out for life. Instead, ol’ Pete is like a couple of weeks away from denying that he’s ever even met Jesus.
But what I want to focus on today is the glaring point of the story: the disciples saw Jesus as his true self.
The word transfigured means to be given a new form. This isn’t an isolated idea in the scriptures or theology. Jesus is showing his disciples what is possible. This theme is persistent throughout the scriptures that when someone interacts with God, they change. Moses experienced this change, so did Abraham, and Peter. Once they have a life-altering interaction with the divine, sometimes their appearance is altered, sometimes their name is changed, but they are forever different. More importantly, they are transformed into the person they were always supposed to be. They stepped into becoming their true self.
This is the basis for the theology of the Eucharist: that bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Then why is a religion based upon the idea of transfiguration, transubstantiation, and transformation being used as a weapon against the trans community?
Can you imagine if Paul tried to explain to an evangelical church now that he used to be called another name? Would they tell him that was too woke and that they would refuse to acknowledge his chosen name and instead would refer to him as Saul?
If we are born perfect as we are, why did Jesus need to be transfigured? Shouldn’t he have just been happy with not glowing? If God wanted him to shine, why wasn’t he born an orb of light?
The entire point of the Gospel is that we are made new, made whole, and we become ourselves transfigured into the person of our destiny. Paupers become kings, fishermen morph into bishops, and God becomes human. If you look close enough, it’s an entire story about breaking down the whole concept of a binary. You are reborn a new person with a new identity in Christ; sometimes, that means a new image and a new name.
I mean, if Jesus didn’t have an earthly biological father, wouldn’t he be chromosomally XX? Who knows. But it’s as valid a question as any when discussing the theory of a person being born from a deity.
When the Church first said that the son of a carpenter could be God and King, it was a scandal. When they claimed that bread and wine could become God, there was outrage. It seems that Christianity should be lauding our trans siblings and protecting them with love, not being the ones saying, “This is impossible!” We should be the ones saying, “you’ve been transfigured into your true self.”
Jesus ends his time of transfiguration by telling the disciples, who are now prostrate on the ground, to “be not afraid.” Some argue that this phrase more accurately translates to “stop screaming.” And I think those are the words that Jesus would say to the Church today, “don’t be afraid, stop screaming, and love your neighbor… yes, even Saul, who is now transfigured as Pauline.”
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You are gradually doing the impossible: Restoring my faith in a possible human Christianity. Many people are out there saying it is all fundamentally flawed at a Theological level.
And that may be true. And that may mean changing the Theology, but no one is offering to throw another Council of Nicaea, at least not officially.
But it's a different age now.
Thank you for taking this to the streets. You are realizing the transfiguration of His Church and you are not asking the Church's permission. You're doing it because it's the right thing to do, in the name of love.
Only those who resist the incoming tide of love will be harmed by it.
Brilliant insights, per usual. This, if we're lucky in life to have enough thrown at us by the divinity of your choice: "Once they have a life-altering interaction with the divine, sometimes their appearance is altered, sometimes their name is changed, but they are forever different. More importantly, they are transformed into the person they were always supposed to be. They stepped into becoming their true self."