Monday, 17 May 2021

Jesus CHRISTA!

If we see Christ in all people, surely we must also see all people in Christ? Is this what the Apostle Paul meant in Galatians 3:28?
       
There is neither Jew nor Greek, 
slave nor free, male nor female, 
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
 
Whatever form of equality this verse might appear to promote, it has not prevented the image of Christ from being used in racist ways for racist purposes, as explored in last month's blog post on this topic. This month -- the minefield of GENDER!


In the same way that a white Jesus serves to exclude non-white believers from personal identification with the Divine while not-so-subtly letting them know "who's the boss," so does a male Jesus establish identity barriers for women. The past two centuries of intense Biblical scholarship has discredited any historical basis for Jesus. There is simply no objective, factual corroboration that an "historical Jesus" ever actually existed. So if the concept/image of "Jesus" is pure faith-based symbolism, why must he be male? Whose interests does that serve?

Within Christianity itself, there have been a few attempts in recent years to cast Jesus in female imagery so that women too may see themselves in the Divine. The most famous instance is probably this 1974 sculpture of "Christa" by British artist Edwina Sandys (daughter of Sir Winston Churchill) who wanted it to portray the suffering of women --


It received a somewhat predictable reception when displayed a decade later in the USA:

"Theologically and historically indefensible" ― that’s how Bishop Walter Dennis described a bronze sculpture of Christ as a nude woman in 1984.

The 4-foot, 250-pound figure hung in New York’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine ― although, thanks to the Bishop’s commentary and a barrage of hate mail, only briefly. Due to the aggressive backlash, the sculpture was promptly packed up and shipped out soon after its arrival.

[quoted passage found here]

Another such sculpture is found here in Canada -- "Crucified Woman" by Almuth Lutkenhaus-Lackey, located at the United Church of Canada's Emmanuel College, Toronto.


According to theologians Doris Jean Dyke and Julie Clague, artist Almuth Lutkenhaus-Lackey sculpted “Crucified Woman” simply as an expression of women’s suffering. It was only reluctantly that she lent the sculpture to a United church in Toronto for Easter one year, unsure of whether she wanted it interpreted theologically. She was overwhelmed by the response, especially of women who for the first time, saw “their suffering, their dying and their resurrection embodied in a woman’s body,” and thereby felt God’s solidarity with the suffering specific to women.

Of course, not everyone interpreted the sculpture this way. Some saw it as heretical, too distant from the male body of the historical Jesus of Nazareth. Others saw it as too sexual, as it depicts a nude female form. Others saw it as reifying instead of protesting violence against women. 

[quoted passage found here]

And now, thanks to the internet and photoshop, there's starting to be even more images of "gender swap Jesus" --


I believe there is great emotional, psychological and spiritual healing, value and power in women being able to identify directly with female imagery as an embodiment of the Divine. All monotheistic patriarchal religions deny that opportunity to women and make our imagery and uniquely gendered experience foreign to the concept of the Divine. Can such religions be "reformed from within" to widen inclusive symbolism to accept women?

That's a question for Christians to explore and I wish them well. It's irrelevant to me in my own spiritual journey, since I left Christianity behind more than 40 years ago. I find my personally affirming imagery and symbolism in the older pagan traditions which include (and have always included) strong representations and acknowledgment of the Divine Feminine.

Next month -- holy moly, out of the frying pan and into the fire -- GAY JESUS!

35 comments:

G. B. Miller said...

I do know that it makes an interesting swerve in songs and stories when Jesus/God is referred to as "she". I think I've done it a few times in a few stories. I'm a firm believer that God is whomever you want them to be, and who is to say that you're right or wrong about how you see and identify God.

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Christianity (or any of the Abrahamic religions) is so deeply entrenched in misogyny and fuckery that I don't see any redeemable quality in it.
The gender swap Jesus was fantastic, BTW. Still, too white and historically improbable, but fun if it gets the xtianits' panties in a bunch.

XOXO

Martha said...

I totally agree with you, Debra. There is great emotional, psychological and spiritual healing in this. Like you, it personally doesn't matter to me. I left the traditional teachings I was raised with a long time ago. I've carved my own path and belong to no organized religion.

Linda said...

This a very interesting post. I'm not a believer in God or any other higher being, but agree, why can't Jesus be female, it's a valid point.

DVArtist said...

I'm in agreement! I left organized religion many decades ago and found my own belief system. Debra this is a very good post.

Bob said...

If I talk God on my blog, I always say She and it seems to irk some so-called believers.
But I'm with GB up top: if you believe in God than She, or He, or They and Them can exist as you see them.

Martha said...

I kicked organized religion to the curb years ago.

Mistress Maddie said...

And we all know, who are in the know...God is really a Goddess....a drag queen

LL Cool Joe said...

I think I'll pass on this one. :D

brewella deville said...

Those sculptures are pretty powerful, in fact, the second one brings to mind what's arguably the most famous photograph of the Vietnam war.

Parnassus said...

Hello Debra, To heck with arguments about religious dogma, I want to see the Faceapp gender swap of the Ecce Homo Jesus painting in Spain, the one ruined by that inept restorer. If you possibly missed it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecce_Homo_(Mart%C3%ADnez_and_Gim%C3%A9nez)
--Jim
p.s. I wanted to add something serious pertaining to your article, but it kept getting too complicated and argumentative!

Old Lurker said...

From what I have read, there is some evidence that there was a historical Jesus. Uncle Wikipedia is worth a read here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus . There is not a lot of third party evidence (because -- shock! -- his life was not such a big deal until his followers gained momentum) but it looks as if he did exist. If that is true then I think the chances he was a woman are faint.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ brewella deville -- Oh, you're right! I missed that visual reference but it just adds to the sculpture's power, doesn't it. The little Vietnamese girl in the napalm photo lives in Canada now as an adult and I saw her interviewed a while back on CBC. She's a lovely person.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ Parnassus (Jim) -- LOL, no! "Potato Jesus" is perfect as he is! Potatoes need spiritual affirmation too.

Marie Smith said...

I’m with you, Debra! The divine as she is long overdue in the modern world.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ Old Lurker -- There's a lot of wishful thinking when it comes to examining the evidence of Jesus's existence. I don't think the Synoptic Gospels can be accepted as objective evidence because they were all written decades after the fact and were arguably not written by the apostles for which they are named. The Pauline Epistles are all hearsay when it comes to Jesus because Paul never knew him and so cannot personally vouch for his existence. The Josephus and Tacitus passages are likewise hearsay at best and written a century or longer after the events in question. None of this would hold up in court, even on the low civil standard of "proof on the balance of probabilities," much less the higher standard of "proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Mike said...

I too didn't think about The Vietnamese girl in the napalm photo. But once you mention it you can't not see it.

Guillaume said...

Why am I not surprised that you used Robert Powell as Jesus? On a side note, I do think Jesus was the leader of a gay cult.

e said...

Ugh. Religion. Especially Christianity, but really all of them. If only the adherents would practice what they preach.

The Goddess in her limitless forms is all the deity I need.

Busy Bee Suz said...

The female version sculptures are indeed beautiful. Honestly, I've never thought about this at all. What does that say about me? That I'm not thinking about male vs female anything. *oh, look a butterfly!*

Gay Jesus? Debra, I'm gonna pray for you cause I think you might break the internet. *giggle giggle*

Boud said...

I've always thought Jesus was gay since as a young girl hearing at school thst the youngest apostle, Jihn, rested his head on Jesus' chest. It sounded lovely, warm and loving and I knew little about orientation at that young point but I liked this idea.

Tundra Bunny said...

I guess a good deity should be all things to all people, LOL!

Joanne Noragon said...

Just another can to the curb kicker here. Life became far easier, especially the Easter candy bit.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I appreciate this information, Debra. Thank you. I also appreciate the idea of a female Jesus, Christa. In Judaism, we have a word for the feminine version/side of God, "Shechinah." If there's a nurturing force out this, it's most definitely feminine.

^.^ said...

For some reason, I am not able to handle this post, friend D. But I wanna send you much love, okay? c.

Kirk said...

Jesus may or may not have existed, but, unlike, say, Noah, or, for that matter, King Arthur, his story doesn't take place in a never-never time period but one that's fairly well-documented. King Herod, Pontius Pilate, and Caiaphas (the High Priest who condemned JC to death) were real people because their names are mentioned in contemporary accounts unrelated to Christianity. Of course, their existence hardly proves Jesus' existence, anymore than Richard the Lionhearted and his brother John proves there was a Robin Hood. But even if Jesus is a made-up character, it's seems reasonable to think that the person who made "him" up wanted everyone to THINK "he" was a male, since it was, after all, a patriarchal society. Quite frankly, the story can't be told the way its told in the New Testament if there's any ambiguity about Jesus' gender, because one of the charges against Jesus at "her" trial would have been that a woman's place is in the home and not out evangelizing. In fact, the crucifixion may have occurred three years earlier than it did if it was known a woman was walking around the countryside contradicting temple dogma.

None of this means a woman, or women, couldn't have played a part behind the scenes. I don't mean behind the scenes of a historical Jesus, but a FICTIONAL one. After all, the historicity of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are hardly proven. They very well may have been Mabel, Marsha, Lucy, and Janet. Jesus was put to death because "he" was thought to have been a very subversive character, and part of that subversiveness was treating females as equal. It doesn't seem any more probable that four different male writers living back then would have put feminist concerns into the mouth of a "male" deity than a heterosexual cartoonist would have wanted to intimate that Batman and Robin were gay lovers, though I suppose anything's possible.

Of course, the point you're trying to make is that a person would want to identify with the deity they're worshiping. So would I, but the reason I can't worship ANYBODY, male or female, is if I'm making the whole thing up myself, the whole spiritual exercise seems kind of pointless.

I guess I'll just stick to the Divine Miss M for the time being.

Rommy said...

I've been Pagan for ages, so it's more of an interesting mental exercise for me than a vital theological concern. I'm not going to quibble either way with how someone chooses to see Big J, so long as there is room in their theology for Wil Wheaton's Law, "Don't be a dick."

Magaly Guerrero said...

Debra, I had never seen Edwina's "Christa", so thanks so much for sharing it with us. I agree with every single thing you've said in this post. The gender and race disparities (not to mention the blatant self-blindness) are some of the things that have always made certain monotheist religions suspect in my eyes. I know one shouldn't judge--but what can I say? I'm human--I just can't understand how any person can follow any group that sees them as less. To each their own, I guess.

Looking forward to "Gay Jesus!"

Magic Love Crow said...

Brilliant post Debra! I agree with everything you have said! Big Hugs!

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

He WAS a very beautiful man that Jesus. And he could have fooled alot of people with those piercing blue eyes and the rob which covers everything but a D cup.

Jesus would be a firm B

But that ass...biblical.

Janie Junebug said...

It only makes sense that a creator of the universe would be a woman. Men don't pop out babies. I fear discrimination against women will never end as long as women suffer from self-hatred, a lot of which is related to Christianity. In The Handmaid's Tale, the narrator wonders if the wives of the commanders are happy since they've gotten what they wished.

Love,
Janie

Liz Hinds said...

Hmm, tricky one. I suppose I don't have a problem with God being male because I don't think it matters. Equally when the bible uses he or brother, I don't care. I know I am included and that the scriptures were written by men in times when women were second class or lower. As you began by saying, it doesn't matter because we are one in Christ, who made no secret of the value he put on women.
That said, I struggle to call God father because of my own experience so i guess a woman with bad experiences of male treatment would find it easier to respond to a female.
But the big message, Jesus' most important message, was about love. The overwhelming, unconditional love to be found in the godhead. The love for each of us that is perhaps best demonstrated by the prodigal's father.
Rambling a bit now and not really answering your arguments.

Miss Val's Creations said...

These sculptures are amazing. If only we lived in a world where people simply respected each others beliefs and appreciated art a subjective matter, there would be much peace. If Jesus was interpreted as female, we would also live on a much kinder planet.

pam nash said...

Likewise, I too left behind the "boys only" club of many beliefs. The Pagan traditions work into my beliefs these days better than the others ever did.

baili said...

I see Creator far far above from man made religions .
To me he has capacity and power to surround all his creations from within and around.
I am part of his numerous divine being and my longing and intention forms me what I become