It’s been said that the Christian right is more “right” than Christian. And there’s probably some truth to that. But, seriously, have you seen the Christian left?
Back in 2020, we had the saga of White Jesus. An ex-pastor named Shaun King urged Black Lives Matter activists to destroy images that made Jesus look European rather than Palestinian.
The trouble is that ancient Jews actually did look Mediterranean, because…well, they were. The big blue thing to the west of Palestine? That’s the Med.
Mr. King was probably thinking of the Arab Muslims who now live in Palestine. But they only showed up around the year 640, when the Rashidun Caliphate invaded the Levant and killed most of the Jews and Christians around Jerusalem. Awkward.
Anyway, White Jesus is out. But now, thanks to a Baptist minister named Simon Woodman, we have a replacement: Trans Jesus.
Last month, a clip of Revd Woodman speaking on a “queer theology” panel made the rounds on Catholic Twitter. After saying that “God is queer,” he claims that Jesus “transgenders himself” in the Bible.
Revd Woodman points to passages where Jesus describes Himself as a mother hen who “gathers her brood under her wings” (Matthew 23:37). He also claims that Jesus took on a “woman’s role” when he washed the Disciples’ feet (John 13). Christ “becomes the woman at that point,” says Revd Woodman.
Then comes the knockout:
He’s unmarried, he’s childless, he defies gender and sexual norms of his day, he’s known for associating with those whose own sexual history or gender identity may be ambiguous. So I think in Jesus we have a revelation of God as encompassing far more than what historically and recently at least Christians have tended to construct God as being. And I think there’s a bit of an antidote to heteronormative idolatry in the story of Jesus.
First of all, kudos to Revd Woodman for calling Jesus “a revelation of God.” By the time most Christians get into queer theology, they’ve already dropped the Trinity. No doubt Revd Woodman is considered something of a dangerous reactionary in his own circles.
Secondly, I like that phrase he used — about challenging what Christians have believed “historically and recently.” That’s a clever way of saying, “Basically I’m making all of this up.”
Many Christians took offense at Revd Woodman on Our Lord’s behalf. As well they might. Bloomsbury Baptists may think queer is a compliment, but Christians don’t. (At least not “historically and recently.”) Yet I almost feel worse for the Reverend.
The Bible is the most profound and influential book in the whole history of the world. It contains the philosophy of Jesus Christ, the most important philosopher and mystic in world history. Most of His followers, including Revd Woodman, believe that He was God incarnate. Yet even nontheists like Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy were enthralled by the life and teachings of Jesus. Billions have lived by it. Millions have died for it.
Now, imagine if all you could find in those pages was a parable for transvestic fetishism. What a boring little place your head must be.
This is what’s so sad about the Christian left — and the Christian right, for that matter. Think of all that Christianity has meant to people down through the ages. The letters of John the Beloved. The deaths at the Colosseum. The glories of Rome and Constantinople. The Confessions of Augustine. The Summa of Aquinas. The Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross. The music of Palestrina and Tallis. The poetry of Donne and Hopkins. The witness of Bonhoeffer. The service of Mother Teresa.
There are folks on both sides of the aisle who seem to think all of that was just a prelude to the 2020 election. The music and the martyrs are fine and all, but you know what’s really great? Guys dressing like chicks! Or dunking on Joe Biden! And, hey: did the president really poop his pants at the Vatican? The people of God deserve to know!
You can try bending the Church to your political agenda if you want. Many have before; many will again. Still, it seems like a waste of a perfectly good Church to me.