Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Faggot" Jesus

Copyright © 2011 by Chris R. Glaser. Painting Copyright © by Becki Jayne Harrelson. All rights reserved. 

When Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ first appeared in movie theaters, a Jewish friend of ours asked if my partner and I would go with her to see it. She wanted to view it with Christians, she said, to get our perspective.

The severity of Gibson’s religion, combined with the film’s alleged anti-Semitism and blood-soaked violence, had kept it from my Top Ten list of films to see. Drawn partly from the visions of mystics of the 17th and 18th centuries, the film also carried for me a misogynistic and transphobic feeling, as evil was incarnate in an effeminate, androgynous figure.

I flinched and squirmed watching the film’s gore. Yet all I could think of is that people in this country and around the world are still enduring such vile and extreme suffering at the hands of others.

Long ago I wrote that, though a Protestant, I think we may have overstepped by taking Jesus off the crucifix. As much as I don’t wallow in bloody atonement scenarios, a body on a cross should awaken our repulsion at violence and our compassion for those who suffer it, what the 12th century teacher Peter Abelard considered the true basis of our at-one-ment with God.

The epithet “King of the Jews” at the top of Jesus’ cross was the Roman Empire's way of mocking anyone who claimed their people’s dignity in the face of oppression. It was an insult not only to Jesus but to his people; thus the chief priests are portrayed in John's Gospel as unsuccessfully petitioning to have the epithet changed.

My friend and web-designer, the artist Becki Jayne Harrelson, has captured the concept of the crucifixion as a hate crime in an outstanding painting depicting Jesus on the cross with the epithet “FAGGOT” above his head. [See painting below.] You could imagine any slur against a group of people in that slot, and understand the blood-curdling intimidation intended by those who perpetrate hate crimes, whether through physical violence or through religious or political violence.

The message for me in the story of Christ’s Passion is God’s identification with all who suffer violence. Despite our bloody church history, I do not believe that God consecrates violence. As I’ve written elsewhere, the crucifixion was our idea; the resurrection was God’s.


The Crucifixion of Christ by Becki Jayne Harrelson - http://beckijayne.com/


5 comments:

  1. This is another powerful post. I hope that you and your other readers have been keeping up with the Jesus in Love blog for the past two weeks, in which Kitt has been featuring Douglas Blanchard's extraordinary "Gay Passion" series of paintings along with her own commentary. It DOES all fit together.

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  2. AMEN! I'll take this insight with me to our "Good" Friday Service. Dexter

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  3. This painting by Becki Jayne Harrelson is so powerful! It helps me as a lesbian to connect with Christ, his crucifixion -- and his resurrection. I had the privilege of seeing it in person at the Progressive Spiritual Art Festival in Taos in 2007. It is HUGE, about 6 feet high. Thank you for reflecting on Jesus from a LGBT perspective. May you have a blessed Holy Week and Easter.

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  4. Chris,
    tremendous writing - thank you! "INRI" - King of the Jews - continues hanging in the cross, no doubt about that. As you suggest, just change the 'label'. Whether gay, black, Hispanic, "illegal", uprooted by war, poverty or famine, anyone 'different', hangs. Now it is becoming 'subspecies' within the 'classes'. ie, poor, those with a disability, union members, those not in the 'group' or the majority, or the power, those that seem, act and think different even if from the same race, sex, sexual orientation, etc...!
    What is interesting is that this directly contradicts not only His words, which so many profess "to follow", especially in States and cities like Georgia, and Atlanta, with churches in virtually every corner...! But the findings of science such as in the fields of physics, and nuclear medicine, and neuropsychology, etc., etc.: that we are all interdependent, and interconnected, and catch this...we are all part of one (1) "body". Just like He quoted!
    No, you did not take Him off the crucifix. Just the epithet is being changed with each new "pariah".

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  5. I really like the picture, useful, IMO

    you say:
    "a body on a cross should awaken our repulsion at violence and our compassion for those who suffer it"

    I grew up Catholic, and I mostly see it elsewise.
    The crucifix becomes meaningless, IME - most of us just get desensitized, because most of us can't BE with that image and its meaning 24/7, so it mostly disappears...


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