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What's Wrong with a Transgender Jesus?
Remaking Christ in our image
Many people are upset after a recent sermon at Trinity College chapel (a subset of Cambridge) talked about Jesus having a trans body. Are their concerns legitimate, or are they transphobic bigots living in the dark ages?
To be fair, Joshua Heath (the research fellow that gave the sermon) didn't say Jesus was transgender but suggested that the Jesus depicted in some medieval paintings was transgender. In describing the images, he went on to say, "In Christ's simultaneously masculine and feminine body in these works, if the body of Christ as these works suggest the body of all bodies, then his body is also the trans body." At another point in his sermon, he said that Jesus's wound in one medieval painting "takes on a decidedly vaginal appearance."
Dr. Michael Banner, the dean of Trinity College, defended Joshua by saying that his sermon "suggested that we might think about these images of Christ's male/female body as providing us with ways of thinking about issues around transgender questions today." He also stated, "For myself, I think that speculation was legitimate, whether or not you or I or anyone else disagrees with the interpretation, says something else about that artistic tradition or resists its application to contemporary questions around transsexualism."
Having taken many art classes in college, I know this type of political, artistic interpretation is standard in certain circles. It's hard to get away from at almost any college. Yet, to see it happening inside the church regarding Christ's identity is pretty remarkable.
Heath could have easily made the case that Christ died for all people. He loves people whether they are transgender or not, and that all people can identify with Christ because he was human and we are all human, but instead, he had to remake Christ into a deity of sexual relativism.
The sad part about this whole thing is that these people should know what it means to be Christian. Yet, here they are, co-opting Christ to push forward their humanist views as they shepherd other Christians. Can it be any wonder the church in England is failing? Even its leaders don't understand the most basic tenets of Christianity.
Jesus doesn't say, come to me so I can be like you. He says come to me so you can become like me (John 15:9-11). It's Christ's power operating through us, changing us to become more and more like him, that marks our walk. Aside from salvation, that's the overarching theme of Christianity. We draw closer to Christ to shed more of our identity as we take on his. We don't hold onto our old identity and push it onto him. The disturbing part of this story isn't the silly interpretation but that leaders in the church believe it has merit. It's another sad example of the church losing sight of the truth and falling into worshiping humanism.
Now, I understand that some could argue the church has a history of remaking Jesus' ethnicity to fit the culture (White, Black, Asian), and they might say this is no different. While they would be right to bring attention to that, and it is something the church needs to stop doing, a superficial change of skin color does not compare to a change in the fundamental nature of who Jesus says he is. There is a big difference between changing Jesus's melanin level and casting aside Biblical morality to remake God to fit a new standard of humanistic morality.
Ultimately, anywhere we see the church remaking God in our image, we will see a decline in Christianity. A Jesus remade in our image (who denies his perfection) isn't a Jesus at all. No, it is the Jesus who changes us from the inside out. The one who brings many tongues and tribes together to make up the global church. That is where the power of the church lies. To lose sight of that is to gradually decline into insignificance and irrelevance.