Transsexual Jesus Sparks Glasgow Church Protests

Saturday, 14th November 2009 at 9:00 UTC 6 comments

I saw the headline for this article on my RSS feeder and knew I’d be writing about it as soon as I had the chance. The entire subject, from Christian pressure groups, to a personal engagement with Jesus by a trans author, was bound to turn my head. So here goes…

Unlike most of my Christian friends, I actually know more than a handful of Trans people. I realise that there are some issues that affect all of them, and that there are some issues that affect only one or two, as Trans is a much more diverse category than Gay or Straight might be.

Where Gay Christians are exposed and ridiculed, Trans Christians are often marginalised into oblivion. I once tried to do some research on theological responses to Trans issues and discovered that almost nothing existed; in a sense, Trans communities weren’t even afforded a condemnation, they simply didn’t exist in the vast sea of reading material that Christian publishers flood Christian bookstores, Church bookstalls and Vicarage Studies with.

Anyhow, the two things I found most affronting about this issue were as follows: the choice of wording on one of the reported placards, and the implicit allusion to Islamic protests like those against the so-called “Danish Cartoons”.

First things first: “God: my son is not a pervert”. Good, that’s another thing Jesus had in common with all my Trans friends, apart from being hated by the conservatives of his time, completely misunderstood and assumed to be most everything he wasn’t.

Lets put aside the idea that Jesus can’t defend himself as a full and equal member of the Triune Godhead (i.e. God the Father has to tell us what God the Son is or isn’t instead of God the Son just saying it anyhow), tempting as I might find that debate. This kind of wanton neglect to even begin to try and understand anything shows that this isn’t some kind of intellectually sophisticated kind of anti-Trans message, the sort that might not strictly be an irrational fear, it is all-out Transphobia. Whoever came up with that placard, rather than having figured out a (ill-)reasoned approach to Trans people, has reacted to an unknown in a completely unacceptable way.

Then there’s this comment from one of the “Pastors” present:

"If this play had treated the prophet Mohammed in the same way there would have been a strong reaction from the Islamic community, but that just wouldn’t happen."

I’m more than a little worried about the undertones of this. Does this person actually mean “This wouldn’t happen to Mohammed because then there’d be violence”? Because that’s only one step removed from “So we should give them what-for so they don’t come near us”. Surely there should be some recognition of the fact that we are lucky to live in a world where we can criticise religions? He seems critical of other churches that have allowed gay priests, bishops, marriages, etc. but then expects to be immune from criticism?

Besides, Jesus has put up with blasphemy for 2000 years, what’s new? People have shouted abuse in his name and killed in his name and generally been complete fuckwits in his name ever since it was first known! I can’t help but feel that if either side in this case is committing blasphemy, it might well be the protesters. Surely Jesus would have a far better understanding of Trans issues than any of them. And surely, for the love of God, its time the church got to grips with these issues, rather than reacting to what it thinks it knows?

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Entry filed under: Art, Church, Faith, Gender, News, Scotland, Transgender.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Helen  |  Saturday, 14th November 2009 at 16:25 UTC

    Sigh, it makes me really sad when this sort of thing happens. I’m reminded a little of a conversation with a friend when we were both young and foolish, in which she decided that gay people should just go and have a sex change. The idea seems frankly bizarre, now I actually know a number of gay and trans people. I’m often challenged by ideas of Jesus in different guises… I’m amazed Kaleidoshow got away with casting the same actor as Jesus and a sweet transvestite later on…

    Reply
  • 2. misterbunbury  |  Saturday, 14th November 2009 at 17:24 UTC

    Some of the protestors might have been pretty vulgar, but the play definitely sounds blasphemous. Trying to tie God down into your own little box and then use him for your own purposes is a very bad idea indeed and though God can stand up to it, that doesn’t mean you should do it, just like you shouldn’t worship idols, lie etc. Actually God doesn’t stand up for it, he hangs for a cross for it, just like he does for all the other sins we commmit.

    I think what we should all learn from the muslim cartoons scandal is that insulting someone so precious to so many people as the god of a major religion, is a very bad idea whether or not people get violent, because it is so hurtful to so many. Therefore, if we’re not going to do it to the muslims because of some muslim nutters, surely we shouldn’t do it to the Christians, becauuse insulting vast numbers of peace-loving people, just for the sake of being risque and getting away with it, is a very morally low thing to do. Hence, I agree with the pastor you quoted.

    Reply
    • 3. Graham Martin  |  Sunday, 15th November 2009 at 10:40 UTC

      I don’t think that’s what was intended. I think there was an assumption made that that must be the intended meaning of the play, but few Queer playwrites are just out for the shock-value. Many have very deeply personal stories to tell.

      I know Peterson Toscano’s work much better, so for instance, whilst not-re-gendering Jesus, his Transfigurations is doing something based on reflections that some people find shocking but which are genuinely well meant as reflections on the gender-interactions in the bible. Of course, all this means a lot more if one is actually concerned about gender issues in a deeply personal way. We all find some stories in the bible, some parables or healings or whatever, have more meaning to us than others just because we are human with various experiences.

      Reply
    • 4. Junius  |  Monday, 16th November 2009 at 16:40 UTC

      “insulting vast numbers of peace-loving people, just for the sake of being risque and getting away with it, is a very morally low thing to do. Hence, I agree with the pastor you quoted.”

      Kindly prove that this was “just for the sake of being risque and getting away with it.”

      As per the article:

      “Glasgay! producer Steven Thomson said: “Jesus Queen of Heaven is a literary work of fiction exploring the artist’s own personal journey of faith as a transgendered person.”

      If you have information contradicting this please feel free to provide it; otherwise, are relying on your own assumption and very little else.

      That a work elicits controversy does not mean controversy was the author’s sole intent, let alone their primary one. To accuse the author of being “morally low,” as you appear to, is quite phenomenally judgemental about a work which appears to be very personal to the individual involved.

      One thing I am curious about. Are the protestors demanding the play be cancelled, or simply voicing their opposition to it?

      Reply
  • 5. misterbunbury  |  Sunday, 15th November 2009 at 14:20 UTC

    Jesus was male, and we don’t have any record of him making any attempt to appear as a woman. Therefore, they’re misrepresenting Jesus, and the protestors have a valid cause for complaint.

    Reply
    • 6. Junius  |  Monday, 16th November 2009 at 16:30 UTC

      Jesus was also Jewish, yet there are examples in art over the centuries of African Jesuses, Chinese Jesuses, European Jesuses, Indian Jesuses and so on. See [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depictions_of_Jesus]Depictions of Jesus[/url] at Wikipedia for examples.

      How is it fine to meddle with his ethnicitiy, yet meddle with his gender and it results in this uproar?

      Answer: because racism is unacceptable but transphobia, apparently, isn’t. At least, that’s the only answer I can see.

      It seems to me that the desire to represent Jesus in different contexts and appearances is ultimately an attempt to represent the depth of one’s relationship to him, to show him as “one of us” as it were. Hence the famous “Christ of the breadlines” painting, for example, and the multitude of ethnicities with which he has been depicted as mentioned above.

      On another note, Passion of a Goddess seems relevant to this discussion, as well as being a quite impressive collection of photos.

      Reply

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