Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nerd Theology

I've said it before, but I loathe dualism. Dualism stems from essentialism, and essentialism is garbage.

Take gender essentialism. A lot of classical theology revolves around the idea that Male and Female are discrete categories with a fundamental, essential, spiritual distinction. Reading Barth on this issue requires a strong stomach. He calls it a “natural dualism” (ah, the argument from nature, my ~favorite~! Tell me, if nature's so awesome, why do I have to dye my hair to make it blue, the most awesome color hair can be?) and declares that anyone who's not Monogamously Heterosexually Married is defective as a human being. Within a Monogamous Heterosexual Marriage framework, conveniently enough, women must be subordinate to men, and a “mature” woman understands and accepts that subjugation is actually equality, because, um, LOOK, QUEERS!

In one stroke, Barth dehumanizes not only all the women and all the queers but even the single non-queers, and it all stems from his gender essentialism. People who have built themselves a worldview of queer-hating, woman-subjugating, MHM-idealizing dualism are terrified of deconstructing gender, because if you take away that foundation then the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.

I don't believe in gender essentialism. I don't believe in gender. There is nothing about me that makes me somehow fundamentally and essentially female. Everything about me that could be called “female” is a social construct foisted on me, on the basis of the visible physiognomy of the meat-body in which this consciousness currently resides.

I am not a woman. I am not female. I am a human, socio-biologically constructed into the artifical category of “female”. Femaleness is no part of the essential Me (nor, need I say it, is maleness) – no more than the red hair I had yesterday or the blue hair I have today.

Too often, queer theorists become body essentialists. They ground the fulness of human experience within the physical reality of the human body: male, female, able, disabled, eating, running, breathing, touching. I say, Screw that. The physical reality of the human body is a limitation on human experience. True human experience is in the consciousness, the mind, the Me that does the thinking and feeling. My consciousness is like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, one stage removed from the physical world which I experience in the firing of synapses. The physical brain itself is a set of electrical pulses*. The I, the consciousness, is the sentient, sapient being that analyzes these electrical pulses.


There's no reason to confine humanness to the human body. With the growing expansion of biotechnology, the human body itself need not be what it once was. With the extension of neuroscience and artificial intelligence, the human consciousness need not be confined to even an altered human body. If a human consciousness could be downloaded into a different physical receptacle, would it somehow no longer be human?

I believe in the singularity. I believe in the New Jerusalem. I believe in a radically altered future form of human existence, one that deconstructs and transcends the arbitrary social categories into which we are foisted based on random genetic characteristics. I believe that one day there truly will be neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female.

I believe that, when all the deconstruction is done, there remains some substance that is the true person, apart from all sociocultural construction and life experience. If I didn't believe that, how could I believe that God loves every one of us passionately and equally?

I believe in science fiction, and I believe in God. I believe in humankind, and I believe in the future. I'm a nerd, and I'm a theologian. It makes perfect sense.

1 comment:

  1. I read this last night and re-read it and thought of a couple of things...

    One of them is an anime I like. "Kaiba" - it's not officially available outside of Japan, but it's been fansubbed by nerds and my guy downloaded it from some site. It's a science fiction series with animation that looks like Dr. Suess did drugs. Very trippy. It's about a young man searching for his memories in a galaxy where souls and memories are physical and can be removed/slipped into/copied/downloaded into new bodies. - If you're rich or lucky, anyway. It basically plays with every aspect imaginable regarding physical souls and the ability to hop into different bodies - including transgender (the progatonist is a male and spends a good part of the series in the body of a young girl), and even a world (as I recall) where a mad artist/scientist creates designer bodies. There's also a subplot about a cosmic plant that wants to consume all conciousness.

    I also had thoughts regarding the general "materalism" of thought in our world. I clicked a link someone on a forum gave to an article on Scientific American regarding the existnce of the soul and life after death as one man tried to apply science to it. A noble pursuit, I think, if NOT done in the way he did it. He basically tried to debunk the existance of the spirit by REDEFINING it. He, apparently uncomfortable scientifically with defining "spirit" in the way that all religions that I know of have defined it (immaterial), he claimed that it couldn't exist because no one's found any "spirit particles." It's one thing to say that one believes something doesn't exist or that something is unlikely to exist because science cannot define or detect it, but, for me, it's another to try to debunk by radical redefinition. It's like telling people who've owned a definition for centuries that they aren't allowed to that definition anymore just becuase you don't like it... or something. This is a word geek/conceptual irk with me. As far as I'm concerned, the guy could be right and we could be fools for seeking the New Jerusalem, but he doesn't get to redefine terms like that for anyone but himself.

    Ur, kinda did a random ramble. In any case... I consider myself female just because I have the parts, but, as far as social "norms" go... I played with Barbies as a kid, but was playing with my flycaster yesterday.