Monday, 29 June 2015
Who do you say I am?
The above pictures were taken at Paris Pride. And, undestandably many Christians - especially Roman Catholics - found these tableaus offensive. I can understand why. But, at the same time, I think they are the most wonderful piece of challenging Queer Theology.
The image of Jesus kissing another man was branded disrespectual (despite kissing on the lips being perfectly common in the 1st century CE). And I think it's been branded as such because it makes Jesus human - it gives him not only a sex but also a sexuality with all the messy human stuff that goes with him. The whole point of Incarnational Theology is that the "Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us". The word became Flesh. Not a Ken Doll - shiny, and handsome but never having to worry about which side he dresses. Jesus was a human being - just like you and I. Messy, complicated. Mucky. Too often we put him up on a pedestal like a plaster saint: we make him perfect. Long haired. Blue eyed. Killer abs. Walking a few inches off the ground. We forget he was a first century Jew lilving in the levant (olive skinned, dark hair, probably not very tall by today's standards). We make him "perfect" , "sinless" (the Gospel writers try to do that too...) and by so doing we lose the essential humanity of Jesus. We lose the fact the he was a man. With working genitals and probably used them. I think the fact that Jesus kissing another man can be taken as offensive and disrespectful is becaues we don't want Jesus to be human. We can't handle the idea of Jesus having sex. We don't like our heros to be mucky. We don't want our teacher, examplar,pioneer to be just like us. We want them to be better than us. To be superhumna. But by making Jesus superhuman is to totally negate the incarnation.
But the whole point is that Jesus, messy and complicated as he was, he was able to become "one with God" and he says we can do it to - put aside the self and the selfish ego and live a life of servcie and oneness with the self and with God. And because he, a mucky complicated human being could do so, so can I. Sex, desires and sexuality included.
And the image of Christ Crucified with a sign reading "Homophobia" rather han INRI reminds us that LGTBQ+ people have been crucified by the intollerance of the Church for centuries. Not literally crucified - usually they were burned at the stake - but metaphorically crucified. Made a scapegoat. In the image of a Queered Jesus, crucified by homophobia is to remind us not only of his sacrificial love for all but to remind us of the inhumanity man has shown to man.
The death of Jesus is a reminder that a life of love, serving others and of radical hospitality (Jesus never turned people away and used stories, such as the good sammaritan or the women at the well to challenge everyday stereotypes and prejudices) can be world changing and can be threatening and challenging. And it's dangerous. Jesus didn't die to literally save sinners by being the only acceptable "sacrifice" but rather he "saved sinners" by what happened after his death. His death was a tragedy - just like the death of other radical leaders (spiritual and temporal). He made a decision to change the world, to challenge the powers that be and went to his death because of that. His was a sacrificial love. His death *did* change the world - his death inspired others to stand in his place; just as the death of Rev Jim Reeb 50 years ago at Selma did or the death of Dr Luther King. The death was a tragedy, but the transformation it inspired in others is the miracle. Love coming out of darkness and tragedy.
So yes, Jesus can represent all these things: He can represent the world being crucified by the greedy and wealthy in the name of money; he can represent the animals and species being crucified by man; he can represent man being crucified by man through his own inhumanity. Jesus can represent LGBTQ persons being crucified. Who do you say I am? he asked. I say he can represent all these things: not just because he is an archetype, but because his sacrificial love was world and life changing and transformational.