Dear Australians #2.5: God’s Authority

One of the aim’s of the Religious Discrimination Bill was to give religious organisations the capacity to operate under the guidelines of what they perceive to be God’s authority, as opposed to earthly authorities, like Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

In the early hours of 10 February, 2022, last minute changes the bill saw the insertion of clauses that would prevent institutions like schools being able to discriminate against staff and students who are homosexual. Nonetheless, these alterations were rejected in the Senate because the bill still did not address transgender issues, thus the government was concerned transgender staff and students may still be vilified.

Some church groups also rejected the changes because it meant they were not getting what they wanted – the right to discriminate against staff and students on the grounds of gender identity, sexual orientation, and marital status. They argue religions should be allowed to uphold their beliefs, traditions, and values, even if these are prejudicial, because God’s authority should be higher than government mandated laws.

God’s authority in America allows discrimination …

If the Religious Discrimination Bill were to go ahead, one only needs to look at American to see the type of discrimination that could arise. For instance, Hillsong demoted a choir director when it became known they were openly gay. The director’s skills and expertise in leading a choir were never in question, rather, it was a case of not wanted to be seen as supporting LGBTQ+. This is the same Pentecostal church Scott Morrison has affiliations with, which begs questioning the possibility that the Morrison government wants the same sort of discrimination to be legal in Australia?

Hillsong is a form of Christianity that claims to love everyone, but if you’re homosexual then you’re not entitled to have positions of responsibility. Perhaps, Brian Houston (who just happens to be a close friend of Morrison) doesn’t know of the history of Castrati!?

Castrati, Transgenderism Approved by God’s Authority

Castrati were singers who had their testes and/or scrotum removed before puberty so they produced less testosterone and, in turn, maintained the capacity to sing high notes as adults. The procedure was usually not of the boys choosing, rather poor parents did it in exchange for money and to profit off their child’s gifted singing abilities. The procedures were approved of by the Catholic Church, an institution established on the premise that it is a mediator of God’s authority.

The trend began in the 1500s to enable choirs the flexibility of singing songs with a full range of harmonies. The mutation of boys anatomy was deemed an appropriate solution to fulfil the “need” of producing heavenly melodies. Castrati were “necessary” because women were banned from church choirs. Further, the procedure could be justified using Matthew 19:12 – a Castrato was an eunuch made for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens.

Castrati were popular throughout Europe and highly valued in Vatican choirs. As effeminate men, many adjusted their identity to suit their circumstances, which in some cases involved homosexual relationships. If they could still achieve erections, they could be sort after by affluent women who wanted an affair with a hairless lover who could not impregnate them.

Castrations were made illegal in Italy in 1861, but the practice was not banned by Papal rule till 1903. Italian doctors are reported to have continued making castrati for the Sistine Chapel choir until 1870.

The last Castrato, Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922), followed the centuries old tradition of being the director of the Sistine Chapel choir. It is unclear if Moreschi’s castration was done purely to preserve his vocal range or if it was done to cure an inguinal hernia. Either way, the transgender-like procedure he went through was never viewed as being a threat to the morality of Christendom. He was nicknamed the “Angel of Rome” and recordings of his work are now on YouTube.

Religious Freedom or Religious Abuse?

Christianity’s history of supporting transgender-like procedures on religious grounds – Castrati and eunuchs – is a poignant backdrop for considering modern issues of gender identity and sexual orientation in modern churches. Essentially, when the purpose of altering a male’s anatomy to make them more like a woman suited their needs, Christianity approved transgenderism. Moreover, effeminate men were glorified for their feminine singing skills and any homosexual behaviours were largely ignored. Fast forward to today, and Christians can be discriminated against for exercising their free will to be transgender and/or homosexual.

When governments banned castrations, were they discriminating against religious traditions? Or were they putting the welfare of individuals above cruel religious practices?

So too, if governments prevent religions from being able to discriminate on the grounds of gender identity, are religious faiths being discriminated against? Or are the freedoms of individuals being protected from cruel religious practices?

Freedom of religion that leads to religious abuse was a prime consideration that lead to the development of human rights. Why have a bill that overrides this aim?

Castrati is not the same as homosexuality …

The common tread between Christians historically supporting Castrati choir directors and contemporary Christians discriminating against homosexual choir directors is that both situations represent practices that are supposedly supported by God’s authority. Discerning what is God’s authority ultimately comes down to which version of the Bible one reads and how it is interpreted. Idiosyncratic issues of what is “God’s authority” regarding gender identity and sexual orientation is nuanced by historical and cultural contexts.

It could be argued that Pentecostalism formed as a reaction against the practices of other Christian denominations and their practices, like Catholic Castrati, who supposedly misinterpreted God’s authority. Then again, it could be argued that churches who accept LGBTQ+ Christians are a reaction against other Christians, like Pentecostalism, because they have misinterpreted God’s authority … the circular arguments are endless. Not all denominations of Christianity are equal, and even within specific churches, Christian attitudes can vary.

So, if the Bible is the official document that defines God’s authority, why are there so many variations? … Dear Australians #2.6: the Bible’s authority …

This blog is part of a series that I hope will encourage deep, thoughtful, respectful discussions about issues relating to the Religious Discrimination bill. If you’d like to be kept up to date, subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by email.


Dear Australians #2.4: Jesus and Women

Dear Australians #2.3: Let’s Talk About Sex …

Dear Australians #2.2: Australia and Human Rights

Dear Australians #2.1: We Need to Have a Heart to Heart Conversations About the Religious Discrimination Bill. I’ll Start …


Davis, E. (2020). What was a castrato? And what did they sound like?

Perrottet, T. (2007). Why Castrati Made Better Lovers. The Smart Set.

Skuse, A. (2021). The Instrumental Body: Castrati. In Cambridge University Press.

Feature image: Public Domain

Non-Binary Christians in History: Eunuchs and a Bearded Woman


The concept of non-binary genders is relatively new, with the term only being coined a few decades ago. Nonetheless, there is ample evidence to suggest humanity has never neatly fitted into two categories of male and female. While some modern Christians oppose non-binary concepts and transgenderism, there is an extensive history of Christians embracing diversity. For instance, Matthew’s biblical reference to eunuchs implies men without penises were socially accepted, moreover, could be glorified:

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Matthew 19:12 (KJV)
If you have troubles locating Matthew's comments on eunuchs, its probably because some contemporary Bibles have altered the wording:

Some people are unable to marry because of birth defects or because of what someone has done to their bodies. Others stay single in order to serve God better. Anyone who can accept this teaching should do so.

Matthew 19:12 (CEV)

The above verse was used by some Early Christians to justify self-castration (e.g., Origen), which could be viewed as a crude form of primitive gender re-assignment. While today’s transgender procedures can be conducted without an individual having a religious rationale, it’s good to keep in mind that pretty much everything in bygone eras was done due to spiritual beliefs. Conversely, in the absence of contemporary attitudes in which individuals can have personal reasons for identifying as non-binary and desiring gender reassignment procedures, antiquity’s social acceptance of eunuchs within religion would have been a valid pathway for non-binary individuals.

Bearded Woman

In contrast to castrated men, women could be glorified or demonised for growing a beard, as was the case in the fourteenth century legend of Wilgefortis.

Wilgefortis’ father tried to marry her off to a non-Christian, however, she prayed to God to prevent this from occurring and, subsequently, grew a beard and was considered too repulsive to wed. Wilgefortis was accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death by cruxifixction. While demonised by some, others likened her to Christ and prayed to her as a saint.

German image of St Wilgefortis, Source: Public Domain

Christian cults dedicated to venerating Wilgefortis spread throughout Europe. She was particularly popular with women in difficult or abusive marriages. There are several variations of Wilgefortis’ story, however, all focus around the inference of the Latin version of her name, virgo fortis, which means courageous virgin.

The disbanding of Wilgefortis cults coincided with church reformations in the sixteenth century.

From a modern perspective, Wilgefortis was likely to have been non-binary, like the artist mentioned in Dear Australians #2.3: Let’s Talk About Sex. Hirsutism; the term applied to women who grow beards, can be caused by genetics, hormones, or other causes. In the absence of such understandings being known or understood, Wilgefortis was considered a freak of nature and/or a woman blessed by God.

I can just imagine Wilgefortis trying to tell her honest truth – that she was not interested in the man her father wanted her to wed and wanted to remain a virgin. However, given that women had few rights and daughters were considered to be a father’s possession, she had little recourse. Therefore, Wilgefortis did the only thing she could to try to alter the situation by praying to God. Her subsequent “miraculous” growing of a beard is likely to have been because she was a hirsute. From a contemporary perspective, Wilgefortis, being a young girl when her father tried to marry her off, had not yet reached an age for the beard to manifest. Additionally she was probably too young to be interested in sex and/or was asexual.

Our ancestors were superstitious, really superstitious. In the absence of knowledge about chromosomes, hormones, and other biological factors, spiritual theories provided explanations for phenomena that was not otherwise understood. The fact that Wilgefortis was considered a witch by some and a saint by others indicates it all really came down to a matter of belief. Coinciding with lack of scientific knowledge was the enduring perception that there is perfect a “nature” of males and females and failing to meet one of these binaries is sin.

In 1906 a Jesuit priest proposed Wilgefortis never lived and that her legend emerged from a creative interpretation of an artwork of an androgynous looking Jesus. In 1969, when the Catholic Church updated their list of saints, Wilgefortis was stripped of her saintly status.

The “official” rejection of Wilgefortis leads to more questions than it does resolutions. If Christians of the past could be so easily confused and make up stories about a bearded woman, what else has been fabricated? What other miracles and/or answered prayers are nothing but superstitious legends? What other saintly legends are fake? Or, as others have suggested, did the Pope just want to remove evidence of the Church supporting non-binary individuals?


King, J. (13 C.E., August). Saint Wilgefortis: a bearded woman with a queer history | Art UK.

Ott, M. (1912). Wilgefortis. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 4, 2022 from New Advent:

Sheldon, N. (2018, July 26). Saint Wilgefortis: The “Brave Virgin” with a Beard from God.

Judaism and Christianity Sacred Unions: Husband and Wife, Groom and Bride

Judaism and Christianity both use the family terms of “husband” and “wife” and/or “groom” and “bride” as symbolic representations of theological concepts. If these labels are interpreted literally, scriptural writings can appear confusing (and sometimes grotesque). Read allegorically, they reveal a whole new dimension of meaning.

Jewish Husband and Wife – Theologically Speaking

The Jews began the trend by likening God to a “husband” with the Israelites being his “wife”; God is the “father” and Israelites the “mother”. Just as real wives were expected to be faithful to their husbands, Israelites were to honour their patriarchal head of the spiritual family.

Ezekiel 16 describes Israelites as being a nation whom God looked after like a King and turned her into a “Queen”. While Isaiah claims Israel was a wife who married too young and was rejected by her husband:

For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
    as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
    only to be rejected,” says your God.

Isaiah 54:5-6

The allegories of husband and wife follows through to Jews who turned away from God (by worshipping other deities) being condemned as harlots: “You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband!” (Ezekiel 16:32).

Christian Groom and Bride – Theologically Speaking

Christianity, as a continuation of Judaism, maintained the theme of God as head of the family, only with a twist: Christ is the groom and his followers (Christians) the bride. The transference of God as husband to Christ as groom has a logical(ish) sequence that falls in line with trinity theology – God, the Holy Spirit, and Christ are one.

  • Mark 2:19-20 – And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.
  • John 3:29 – The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
  • 2 Corinthians 11:2 – I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
  • Revelation 19:7 – the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.
  • Revelation 19:9 – “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
  • Revelation 21:2 – I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
  • Revelation 21:9 – “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

Creative Reconciliation

To creatively fill in the gaps between Judaism and Christianity, the Jews were wed to God when they were young and inexperienced with relationships, subsequently, the newly weds encountered conflicts neither could deal with. A separation was needed. After some time on their own, the husband was sure his bride would reflect upon her behaviour.

As a reassurance that a reunion was eminent, God wrote up a renewal of vows, and made himself into a younger more attractive mate (Jesus). The new covenant (the New Testament) was a modernised version of the old; God didn’t want to admit fault for causing his wife to find another man, but his actions suggested he took on board some of the responsibility.

Full of desire to make the second marriage last forever, the groom insisted upon a long engagement. The proposal was made about 2000 years ago but the Trinity insisted the bride had to be fully mature before taking the final plunge. She’s been quite impatient: “Is it time yet? Is it time yet?” all the faithful Christians have chanted for a couple of millennium. They have fasted and fasted as they await the return of the groom. She is sure this time round it will be a match made in heaven.

Ultimately, only time will tell if the lamb intends to keep his promise or if he has deceived his bride and intends on leaving her at the alter forever …

Feature picture source: Wikipedia Commons