Gender: What Is It and Why Does It Matter? | Maria Fedoryka, Ph.D. | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
We Americans face a state of affairs relating to marriage and family … (where we) must now attempt to show why the divinely-instituted laws of marriage and family are binding not only for Christians, but hold true for everyone.
The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something—because it is always before one’s eyes.) The real foundations of his inquiry do not strike a person at all….And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and most powerful. 1
Ludwig Wittgenstein’s words here apply to the man-woman difference: in the reality of marriage in its entirely self-evident and foundational character, as well as in its absolute centrality to human existence. Not long ago, the idea of having to explain them would have seemed absurd to most. 2 This distinction between man and woman, the magnificent reality of romantic and spousal love, the permanent and devoted union of marriage for which this love yearns, and its happy “overflow” into the creation of a family, has so deeply structured our understanding of the world, and the human person, that it would never have occurred to us to think about the “why” behind them.
We Americans face a state of affairs relating to marriage and family that has forced us to “(lose) the innocence of taking man and woman for granted.” 3 We must now attempt to show why the divinely-instituted laws of marriage and family—which, until recently, was taken by all simply as a given—are binding not only for Christians, but hold true for everyone. There is, however, a certain difficulty in the task, since the “invention” of man and woman, and of marriage, are precisely that: an invention proceeding, as it were, from God’s creative imagination. That is, they cannot, in a mathematical sense, be shown to be necessary. A different system would have been possible—as indeed, some created, rational beings have no gender (angels), and do not enter into marriage. But, that God has invented the reality of marriage in no way implies that it is arbitrary or meaningless. On the contrary, there is a deep intelligibility underlying the division of humanity into two genders, and marriage as the unique union possible only between a man and a woman.
Some preliminary reflections on the nature and meaning of gender, generally speaking, are offered here as possible a groundwork for further considerations on the Church’s teaching on marriage as founded on the union of man and woman. For only if we understand the metaphysical constitution of masculinity and femininity, and their centrality to the being of man and woman, will we be able to defend marriage against the current onslaught that would all but destroy it.
The creation of the human person as male and female is the most central feature of the visible world. It is also at the very center of God’s plan for humanity. This plan originates within the being of God himself, and it is where we must begin if we are to discover the meaning of gender.
Gender and Its Primary Significance 4
For all the impressive knowledge of God to which pre-Christian philosophy attained, God reveals, in the New Testament, what was completely unimaginable for the Greeks: that God is love. Not only that God loves, which would have been absurd enough; but that God is love. How can this be? How can a being be love?