(the image is of a sculpture by Timothy Schmalz called, homeless Jesus)
Blog by By Pieter Niemeyer
Christmas is soon upon us. Images of Jesus’ nativity have been plastered on greeting cards and set up on front lawns of churches and homes and in all kinds of configurations- even a Zombie manger scene was attempted this year but got pulled.
The prologue of John’s gospel declares the God has moved into the neighbourhood. God has entered into our realm as a human being! We who were created in the image of God, now takes on our image! He was one of us! We are meant to see ourselves in Jesus and Jesus in us, another big theme in John’s gospel.
The question is, do you see yourself in Jesus, as one of us?
If not, what prevents you from seeing yourself in Jesus?
For centuries, artists in the West have rendered images of Jesus as white and European. Such as in the image on the left, that many us remember hanging in Sunday School rooms, church basements, foyers, homes or even in our Bibles. This was normative for white Christians. So much so, that when something other than a white male was imaged as Jesus, it created a fervour as if blasphemy in the first degree had been committed.
In many liberation movements across the globe, coming out from under centuries of white European colonialism, Jesus was reclaimed in their own likeness, as one of us! As opposed to relating to a Jesus who imaged their oppressors. This simple re-imaging of Jesus as “one like us” opened deeper ways of relating to God. I am certain this was exactly the intended heart of God in the whole Immanuel endeavour. The point is God’s identification with all humanity, and that it becomes specific to our story and its connection to God’s story.
(below: Mosaics of the Mary and Jesus featured at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. The images reflect the cultural and racial identities of the peoples and nations of the world. A beautiful reflection that he was one of us!)
Women also began to image themselves in Jesus, as portrayed in this sculpture called Christa. Women, who found it too difficult to relate to a male image of Jesus, because of experiences of abuse and domination, imaged a female Jesus. God was one with us! Such healing uses of imaging opened new doors of relationship to God.
Even in William P. Young’s book The Shack tells the story of a man, who had been abused by his father, experiencing a barrier to God because of traditional male imaging concerning God’s being. So, in the novel, God reveals God’s self as an older African American woman! That was the path of love to overcome the barrier.
So, as LGBTQ members of the body of Christ, how does the incarnation invite us into deeper relationship? The front cover of the Canadian magazine maisonneuve featured this image of a gay Jesus draped in Pride colours. A bold move and one that surely upset many, just as a black Jesus, or a Korean Jesus, or a First Nations Jesus, or Christa have.
Just as other images of Jesus as being non-european or male have upset many, so imaging Jesus as any part of the LGBTQ community would upset many in the Church. And yet, for me, as a gay man, imaging Jesus as a gay man helps me to relate to God in new and deeper ways, as one who understands in every way and takes great delight in who I am as being gay.
The New York Artist, Doug Blanchard, has painted a beautiful series entitled The passion Christ: A gay vision featuring a gay Jesus. In the link below, Kittredge Cherry reminds of the Christmas message, “What the gospels emphasize about Jesus is the wildly inclusive way that he loved. He lived in solidarity with outcasts, including prostitutes, lepers, immigrants, widows and the poor. Christians believe that in him God became flesh — a total, shocking identification with all people, including the sexually marginalized.”
He was one of us! Thanks be to God.
Please check out Kittredge’s article based on the series of paintings by Doug Blanchard.