This post will be a bit different from the usual fare of politics, activism and accounts of my lived experience of illness and disability. Today I am writing something for the Queer Theology Syncroblog on Creation. So, attempts at theology.
As in the week just gone, Jews all over the world have been reading the story of Creation, of a world spoken into being piece by piece by G-d over seven days and of the first humans, it would seem obvious to write about Adam – who according to some interpretations was “created male and female” and whose name I use as my Hebrew name. It would also be appropriate to write today of Lillith, who does not get a mention in the Torah but whose story of defiance and self-determination inspires and terrifies people to this day. But that’s not what I want to write about, worthy though both those subjects are.
Instead, I am writing about bread. Yes, bread.
More specifically, the words we Jews say when we pray over our bread.
Barukh atah Adonai Elohaynu melekh ha-olam
Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe
ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz. (Amein)
who brings forth bread from the earth. (Amen)
We thank G-d for bringing bread out of the earth. Yet any small child could tell you that bread does not grow out from the ground. One cannot harvest bread. Bread has to be made, through a long and involved process of planting and harvesting and threshing and milling and storing and mixing and baking… by people. G-d doesn’t create bread. We do.
Then why thank G-d for the bread? WE made it!
For me the answer lies the idea that G-d could, just as easily, have made bread that grew under the ground like potatoes or on trees like apples. G-d could have made bread that just sprouts up almost anywhere like mushrooms. And G-d didn’t. We should be thankful for that.
Why? Because in making bread come from the ground in shafts of wheat instead of loaves, G-d brings us humans an opportunity to CREATE something and to experience the joy and wonder of making something out of almost nothing. And with that opportunity to create, we have been incredibly CREATIVE and invented hundreds of types and variations of bread – including cakes!
Looking around, we see that the world provides us many opportunities to create – to be like G-d, in whose likeness we are formed. G-d could have created a world where nothing more was needed and nothing could be made but people like us, being so like G-d, would not be happy in a world with nothing left to create.
Other than refusing a narrative of Creation in which only G-d creates and even then only in a one-time seven-day event a very long time ago, how is taking the view that Creation is an ongoing task that both G-d and humanity take part in “queer”?
Well, for me at least, it sheds a different light on LGBTQ people’s lives and relationships. When “Creation” is understood as a joyous and holy act, the creation of relationships, families, communities and cultures can be seen as part and parcel of the holy action of creation. Just like the wheat needs care and work and, yes, love to become bread, so too do disparate people need are and work and love to form together into relationships, families and community. G-d could have create LGB communities and their cultures for us by placing us all the same part of the world but did not. It takes work, patience,care and love for a trans person and their chosen family to go through the self Creation of transition and G-d could have created a world with no trans people but did not. Whilst everyone is called to create anew and take part in bringing forth bread from the ground, LGBTQ people find ourselves in the position of being unable to ignore the call to create lives around ourselves that are uniquely ours, often without clear templates to follow. And whilst that can be frustrating (and worse) at the time, I do feel it is in many ways a blessing. And yet like the hundreds of kinds of bread and cake, our relationships and families whilst very different, are fundamentally similar to those of our heterosexual, cisgender fellow humans in that they are what we have been able to bring forth with love and care and hard work to join groups of people together in ways that are pleasing to us. And, I think, to G-d.