Bobbittizing God: On the Importance of the Divine Genitals Remaining unManageable

Philip Culbertson


Eilberg-Schwartz’s “seminal” book, God’s Phallus, tapped into an unexplored anxiety about how we can call God “He” when we aren’t sure whether God has male genitals, since we have no textual evidence from the Bible to support the patriarchal masculine metaphors. Eilberg-Schwartz published his work (1994) prior to the impact upon theology of Butler’s Gender Trouble (1999) and Undoing Gender (2004), which argued, by inference, for the disconnection between genitals (e.g., phallus) and gender (e.g., masculinity). Butler’s theories offer a way through Eilberg-Schwartz’s phallic anxiety, but I had to find how to ground these theories in my personal experiences before I could grasp the possibilities of simply not caring whether or not God has genitals.

After encapsulating the theories of Eilberg-Schwartz and Butler, and noticing how Freud himself disconnects desire from genitals, I track the character development of an Auckland drag queen called Ophelia Sphincta, as she learned to separate her biological sex from her performed gender. I then muse upon an article I co-authored recently with a Samoan minister, in which we explored new metaphors for speaking about God, based on the Samoan third-gender called fa’afafine. The underlying tone of this presentation is my continuing frustration at the church’s lack of productive creativity in dealing with gender and the Divine, even after thirty years of feminist scholarship in Bible.


God; genitals

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391