Saturday, 21 April 2012
Andrew Brown asks in The Guardian Are evangelical Christians on another planet?
Daniel Schultz writes in the Revealer So Long, Rowan Williams.
Diana Butler Bass writes for USA Today about When spirituality and religion collide.
Paul Oestreicher asks in The Guardian Was Jesus gay? Probably.
Giles Fraser starts his new series Loose canon in the Guardian with On a new demand-free service.
Mark Vernon writes in The Tablet Why religion is good for you.
Posted by Peter Owen on
Saturday, 21 April 2012 at 11:00am BST
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Giles Fraser's searching and searing honesty is so refreshing and inspiring. What integrity!
Andrew Brown seems to think that evangelicals and charismatics are one and the same. They are not.
Assigning sexual orientation to Jesus is absolutely ridiculous.
"Assigning sexual orientation to Jesus is absolutely ridiculous."
We have no problems describing how the human Jesus felt pain and agony on the cross, yet some of us seek to deny that the same Jesus could feel other emotions, such as erotic passion.
It is an article of faith that Jesus was (is?) fully human, as well as fully God. And as a fully human person why can't we ask whether that particular human person had a sexual orientation, and if so what was it, and how would it affect Jesus' teaching and life.
Scandalous though it may seem to conservative Anglicans; Jesus himself was the cause of great scandal to the Pharisees of his own day.
If Jesus was 'fully human', as I believe was the case, why would God want to make him a specific "heterosexual" After all, he did not procreate.
To all intents and purposes he might just have been one of the 'eunuchs' he spoke of, in his discourse on marriage in Matthew 19:10-12; where Jesus speaks of "eunuchs born that way from their mother's womb". Jesus himself never married. His dearest friend (in Scripture) was John.
The thing is, we don't have enough information to speculate on the actual life of Jesus. We have some of his teaching, interwoven with incidents seemingly suggested by passages of the Hebrew scriptures. What survives isn't biography but legend. True, shamans and spiritual persons often have been homosexual (their experience makes them keen observers from outside the norm), but in the case of the Jesus of history, we simply don't know. (Personally, I go with those who consider the Gospel of John to be a late, slick religious novel whose hero is very unlike that of Mark and Matthew. "The Beloved Disciple" seems a fantasy perhaps invented as a counter-weight to the authority of the Gospel of Thomas.)
This is groundless speculation, at best, driven by a hunger to make a sermon relevant to a cause. There are many words for love in the Greek vocabulary, the writer doesn't speculate regarding the choice not to use one conveying erotic love. Instead he resorts to a lazy rhetorical device, similar to including a reference to Fabrice Muamba's amazing recovery in an Easter sermon:
While we accept that Christ was fully human, we now serve a resurrected Messiah. An understanding the 'new creation' in Christ should be infused into any discussion of His humanity:
'Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! ' (2 Cor. 5:16 - 17)
Murdoch, David et al,
What actually interests me here is not the fact of Jesus' sexuality back in the first Century, but the difficulty for various Christians in the twenty first Century in contemplating the fact that he might have had a sexuality. I think it says more about us than it does about Christ.
Of course it is speculation, but if speculation based on limited textual evidence became unacceptable in Christian practise then there would be a lot fewer theology text-books and a lot shorter sermons.
"While we accept that Christ was fully human, we now serve a resurrected Messiah. An understanding the 'new creation' in Christ should be infused into any discussion of His humanity"
Sure - but we have no problems whatsoever contemplating a divine Jesus who felt anger, or pain, or compassion, or love, or anxiety. All human passions, and all linked to Christ's narrative. What is it about that other human passion, eroticism, that makes it unacceptable to contemplate that passion within the same story?
There are no hymns and few prayers to, (or on) his sexuality. Now that you mention it, it is all very odd. - This assumption that he was a heterosexual but effectively neuter(ed).
I think some gay men will approach him somewhat differently - though I have never -even at my most ardent gone in for the 'Jesus is boyf' stuff.
Maybe that is why we were taught to sing
'Jesus wants me for a sunbeam'!
Sunbeams are nice, but hard to pin down - and no threat to any status quo !
You say, 'we have no problems whatsoever contemplating a divine Jesus who felt anger'. Really?
Christians and non-Christian alike prefer a 'meek and mild' Jesus, rather than tackling One who was capable of:
1. Sectarian hate speech against other Jewish religious groups: 'ye generation of vipers...white-washed tombs'
2. Assault, criminal damage and affray: the cleansing of the temple.
3. Exasperation: "O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?"
4. Condemnation: 'Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again...“Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”'
So, let's tackle all of Christ's humanity (treating celibacy as an equally admissible sexual option) and grapple with the reality that He and His disciples could, in specific instances, do all of the above without reaping censure from God.
Our Lord and St John lived 2000 years ago in a completely different culture from ours. To look at a partial description of their behavior and decide, based on a comparison with modern British or American behavior, that they were gay is simply a mistake. It assumes that people's behavior is the same across cultures. It is not. Men in Arab cultures, for example, walk hand in hand without sexual connotations; men in some European countries kiss each other on the mouth without it meaning anything sexual (as the famous kiss between East Germany's Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev illustrates). And yet many people in the West look at this Arab hand-holding and European kissing and read it as "gay." Interpreting behavior cross-culturally is hard enough between contemporary cultures, and the 2000 gap between us and the time of Jesus doesn't make it any easier.
We don't know *how* gay Jews in 1st century Palestine acted when around other people. Given the culture's negative attitude towards homosexuality, it's a good bet that its gay members took care not to leave themselves open to accusations of it.
The problem isn't whether Jesus was gay, straight or indifferent - only that it is an issue to anyone.
While I admit it would be nice, from the point of view of one in the gay minority, excluded and vilified, to say that Jesus was gay, it *shouldn't* matter, and not just for Jesus, but for any of us. If a man introduces his wife or his husband shouldn't make a bit of difference. That it is a question at all shows that we are a sick lot, we Christians, worrying over that mote. The only definite position I think important to challenge is the ridiculous assertion that Jesus had no sexual orientation - if He didn't, then He wasn't fully human. He may have curbed it, denied it, or even indulged it, but He had a sexual orientation if He was human. More likely, neither He nor His disciples thought it important in light of Jesus, Himself. We are the ones who do that, valuing what we can find to criticize than the person himself/herself.