- Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female and Intersex in the Image of God by Megan K. DeFranza
Megan K. DeFranza is a research associate with the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion at Boston University. Her book addresses theologically the place, role, and treatment of intersex people within Christian communities. DeFranza writes primarily for the Christian community that identifies as evangelical in the United States while also paying close attention to developments in Roman Catholic theology. Her book thus appeals to a wide theological audience. The treatment, place, and role of intersex people is a topic largely absent from theological and ethical discussions in Christian communities today. This book engages the major sources that do discuss these questions and offers a constructive vision for a grace-filled approach to intersex people in Christian communities. Most interesting is her attempt to move away from the male-female binary that dominates so much of the evangelical and Roman Catholic conversations on the topic of sexuality and sexual orientation today.
The book consists of three sections. The introduction discusses methodology and orients the reader in relation to the author and her own journey in studying intersex phenomena. Part One destabilizes assumptions of the traditional binary model of sexual identification as male and female. This section is very helpful to readers who have little exposure to the medical and cultural models of intersex classification and provides a brief history of how intersex as a human phenomenon has been approached. In addition, the author offers a biblical and theological reflection on the category of eunuch in Christian tradition as a way to challenge the dominant male-female classification in Christian traditions. This section ends with a discussion of historical shifts in theological anthropology. Part Two draws on the material presented in Part One to build a constructive case for a gracious inclusion of intersex people in Christian communities. The author notes similarities between more conservative Protestant approaches to the human body and that of the contemporary Roman Catholic tradition. The author engages and critiques the Canadian evangelical theologian Stanley Grenz, as well as the theology developed by Pope John Paul ii. In the final chapters of Part Two the author offers constructive ideas for an affirming attention to intersex people. Here she brings together newer ways of reading the creation texts in Genesis with her earlier attention to the place and role of [End Page 301] the eunuch while attempting to stay within the larger theological framework of North American evangelicalism.
DeFranza’s work is theologically sophisticated and well thought through. Christian and other readers from outside the conservative evangelical and Roman Catholic traditions will also find this book helpful as an introduction to the complexity of intersex people and their place in the church. The book provides a good window on the current literature. Many of DeFranza’s interlocutors fall outside her own or traditional Roman Catholic theological frameworks, but I find this a great strength of the text, in that it attempts to listen carefully to a wider Christian conversations on essentialism and newer feminist arguments on the social construction of sexuality. At the same time, her respectful engagement with these interlocutors from queer theology and feminist perspectives may not always serve her argument well in her own evangelical community. [End Page 302]