Sunday, February 05, 2012

 

In which The Blogger indulges in some Controversial Speculation

Not so very long ago I came across a religion-based blog called Queering the Church: Toward a Reality Based Theology (the link is in the side bar to the left).  It's common knowledge to friends and long-time readers of this blog that I was subjected to strong Catholic indoctrination as a child, rebelled against it and am now a happy, well-adjusted atheist who looks back in interest at the contortions Christianity in general goes through to impose its will on everyone and justify doing so.

A guest writer on Queering the Church (if an electronic entity can have a sexual orientation, can you guess what this one's might be?) wrote on the theme Was Jesus Homosexual?  Having been struck early in my Catholic education by the huge contradiction of the Church's condemnation of homosexuality versus the mass of naked male saints in Great Religious Art writhing in pain/pleasure as they're being martyred (Saint Sebastian being the poster boy for Catholic homoeroticism, see below) I replied with this comment:

It might help to put this discussion into the context of the culture in which Jesus was born and raised.  Can we assume that Judaism was as homophobic then as Orthodox and UltraOrthodox Jews are today?  If so, it is even more striking that Jesus never said one word against homosexuality -- or even about homosexuality.

But he didn't grow up and live in a wholly Jewish world; the Roman presence was very strong, open and accepting of all cultures (as long as they capitulated to Roman political dominance) and homosexuality was a given in Roman life, especially in the military.  Those sayings and encounters of Jesus concerning Romans (before falling into their hands at the end of his life) are all cordial -- pay Roman taxes, although that would not be a popular stance to take to a Jewish audience; and the celebrated supplication by the Roman officer on behalf of the man we now know, thanks to proper translation, to be his lover and not his servant.  Jesus had no problem healing the Roman's lover and even praised the man's faith in coming to him for assistance.  Not a word of rebuke, as with the woman taken in adultery, and no remarks about those decadent Romans and their pretty boys.

How many Romans did Jesus know?  About four miles from Nazareth was a Roman town with military presence.  There was a lot of construction work there and as the New Testament identifies Joseph as a carpenter and Jesus as going into his father's trade, it isn't impossible that they spent time there because the work was there.  Jesus may well have known Roman culture and been very comfortable with it.

So, was he homosexual?  Barring some sensational new documentation we'll almost surely never know his sexuality for certain (or barring some completely faithful translation of the gospels free of the manipulation they've been subjected to over the centuries, or barring a major, unprejudiced  reconsideration of the many gospels the Catholic Church decided to suppress over the centuries because they didn't say what the Church wanted them to say).  But one fact that I don't usually hear as part of the discussion stands out: Jesus never married.  Now aside from all the old jokes about Mary wailing, "Oy, I want grandchildren and my son runs around the country with twelve men," which may or may not be an indication of something, not marrying would not be typical.  Or perhaps he did marry young in the usual parent-arranged marriage and it failed -- there are those three decades of "hidden years" after all, for which no records survive that we know of.  Who knows what might have been going on?

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A couple of typical and clearly homoerotic representations of Saint Sebastian in Renaissance/Baroque art:

 By the artist Carlo Saraceni -- note the placement and angle of the arrow -- as if you could miss it.  
In a collection in Prague.


By Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, nicknamed Il Sodoma which means exactly what you think it does, and which he delighted in because of his coterie of "handsome young men and beardless youths."  None of that stopped the Pope from granting him a knighthood.  In the Pitti Palace in Florence.

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Comments:
Thought provoking, as usual. But, as usual, nobody's mind will be changed by anything. Not these days. And isn't that an unfortunate thing?
 
We used to have a pastor at the local MCC church who always referred to us gays as "Queers". Of course he was "queer" himself but I always wondered why he felt the need to use that Fifties, outdate, word. He left the church after he received an inheritance from his mother which he felt the need to spend as fast as possible. He's probably "queering it up" over in England now.

Nobody knows who Jesus was nor with they ever. No offense to anyone but Jesus is only a convenient myth to be used whatever way Believers find that is to their advantage.
 
Ron, that certainly is what has happened over the centuries and in current American politics has become a feeding frenzy. I used to hope it would be possible somehow to discover and restore the real, historical Jesus but I realize now that the real Jesus is essentially irrelevant and would even be rejected by Catholic/Christian religious leaders.
 
I'm certain today's "followers" wouldn't even recognize Jesus if he was here today. Actually, I take that back. They'd probably recognize him and crucify him again for being a heretic.
 
Erik -- Agreed! He wouldn't last half an hour in one of the corporate Board rooms of the Christian mega-churches.
 
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