Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jesus as Sexual Actor

Copyright © 2012 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite.

The most difficult chapter I wrote in my book on same-sex marriage is entitled, “Sex and the Body of Christ.” But it was also the most satisfying. I didn’t want to write it, but I had to in order to lead readers from the past and sometimes sordid history of marriage to my vision of it as a spiritual discipline, a spiritual practice.

I imagined some kindly old grandmother reading the chapter in her rocking chair, blushing badly and averting her eyes. I unpacked that image in the chapter, recognizing that it was sexist and ageist, but taking particular interest in the word “kindly.” Why would I think of sex as “unkindly”? Why does sex in the Christian tradition get such a bad rap?

According to Genesis, God created us as sexual beings, shaping every part of our bodies, and we walked naked with God in the Garden. According to the Gospels, God put on human flesh in Jesus, undoubtedly anatomically correct. He wasn’t a Ken doll!

Again, according to the Gospels, the body of Jesus was resurrected, and according to the Epistles, our bodies will be too—though I’m hoping my “glorified” body will be hotter than the present one!

Whether you take these stories symbolically or literally, you can still “get” that the Bible is telling us our bodies have sacred worth.

When the apostle Paul addressed sexual ethics, he did not resort to his Jewish training, the rules and regulations on human sexuality in Leviticus, nor the laws of the government, the Roman Empire. Instead he argues sexual ethics from the point of view that we are now members of the Body of Christ. What would Jesus do?

Problem is, most of us can’t think of Jesus as a sexual actor. It’s kind of like thinking of our parents that way! Taboo kicks in.

Yet repeatedly in the Gospels we have stories of Jesus touching and being touched, something the religious elite of the time avoided for fear of being rendered ritually unclean—hence Jesus’ parable contrasting the good Samaritan with a temple priest and lay temple leader who both avoid a wounded man alongside the road from Jericho to the temple at Jerusalem.

I believe we have to re-imagine Jesus, now that we too are his body, and consider how he would make love to someone or how he would like to be made love to. The greater sin to me is when we make love or make church or cast ballots without recognizing we do so as the Body of Christ and that we do so to the Body of Christ.

Tax-deductible donations to this Emerging Ministry may be given online  (click and scroll down) or by mail to MCC, P.O. Box 50488, Sarasota FL 34232, designating in the memo area, “For Progressive Christian Reflections.” Thank you!


  1. Perhaps the non-religious world thinkers and writers have a better feel for Jesus being a full fledged male with testosterone, going through puberty and adolescence and having female and male friends than Christians can. Stories of he and Mary Magdelene crop up even fantasizing about her having a child in France. I wonder what would happen if we told our children that when they (especially males) look in the mirror after bathing, Jesus saw the same reflection, and did he mature early, on time, or late. It is true the Gospels begin with Jesus at age 30, but I think we do children and youth a disservice not to discuss Jesus who had to go through growth and development and had a life before age 30. He had to bury Joseph, his father, and did not tell his to "rise" like he did others he did not know. How sad is that! And to see his mother have to carry on alone.

  2. Chris, of course you know that I resonate strongly with the idea that Jesus, if he was indeed a "true Man" as the Creed insist, had to have erotic feelings. I had to chuckle with your comments about the "kindly old Grandmother", though. I'm a grandmother (and a great grandmother as well now), and though I don't like to think of myself as "old", I've passed my "threescore and ten". I'm afraid I'm not usually kindly, however, and I don't own a rocking chair nor do I blush easily. The basic fact is, prudishness is NOT a function of age, nor does it relate to one's family upbringing all the time. I have one daughter who is much more prudish than I ever was, and at least one who is as much of a free thinker. The real point, which is why I am such a devotee of Kittredge Cherry's "Jesus in Love" novels, is that If Jesus is indeed what our Christian belief claims, God made fully Human, then he would have to incorporate the best of human characteristics, including fully-realized and completely integrated sexuality and spirituality. Those who refuse to recognize this are in fact denying the fundamental belief they claim to follow.

  3. I've been reading your writing for years. I still occasionally revisit your devotional, "The Word is Out." I just want to take a moment to thank you for the work you do. You have opend the minds and hearts of so many.