About a week ago I was in Boston on a retreat for evangelization training. At the retreat center there were a few pieces of art that depicted Jesus, whether intentionally or not I'm not sure, in a very -feminine- way.
The first piece that rubbed me the wrong way was this huge bronze sculpture depicting the Risen Christ. It could have alternately been titled, Ballerina Jesus. Now, to any male ballerinas out there, don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything wrong or emasculating about being a male ballerina per se. I wish I had a picture of the piece but it may be better because I don't want the artist to find this entry bashing the piece and get mad at me. I think it was the ballerina-like posture in combination with the feminine build of Jesus' body which communicated to me and others who were with me on this retreat an image of a feminine Jesus. I'm pretty sure, or at least I hope, that the artist didn't mean for such a message to be communicated, but that's what I, and others, got from the piece.
The second offending piece of art communicated even louder and more explicitly an effeminate Jesus. It looked like a print of a portrait of Jesus which someone went back over with GLITTER. It wasn't just the glitter which I took issue with, but it very clearly looked like this Jesus was wearing makeup. And not natural looking makeup either. I'm talking artificially pink, I believe coral to be more precise, lips. Jesus wore lipstick? And blush, and...eyeliner? Mascara...what?! Gaudy was the way to describe it. WHAT WAS THIS ARTIST THINKING? And why was it in the retreat house? I could point out many, even very popular images of Jesus, that present him as looking quite feminine, but this one was just ridiculous. The retreat leader, when we were discussing these pieces of art, which he wasn't fond of either, said that Scripture presents an image of Jesus wearing a robe of blood and with a sword coming out of his mouth and eyes like fire! Ha! I'll put the section of Scripture up where he was drawing from, just to illustrate a point.
His eyes were (like) a fiery flame, and on his head were many diadems. He had a name inscribed that no one knows except himself. He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen.
Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the wine press the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty. (Revelation 19: 12-15)
Make a picture of glitter Jesus after reading THAT.
If you want to know why in the first place I am upset about Jesus being feminized I'd suggest reading this article which expresses what I feel pretty accurately:
The Emasculation of God
When it comes down to it God, in Scripture, has expressed the desire to be referred to as "He" rather than "Her". Jesus taught us to pray to God as Our Father. God, in Jesus incarnated as male for a reason. This in and of itself is reason enough for me to believe that it's not right to be pushing an image of a feminine Jesus. I'll go on to explain some my limited understanding as to why God has revealed a desire to be referred to in masculine terms in this entry but I invite you to read the article which communicates the logic behind it well. Though I trust God in His revelation over and above my limited comprehension of Him, though it is of course necessary to press into such things and seek to understand them as well as you can.
Please understand that I'm not in any way trying to say that women are less than men or deny that women image God in a way that is complementary to how men do. Not to mention that it is this difference of the sexes that enables them in their relationship to image the exchange of love among the three *distinct* persons of the Trinity. I'm not going to pretend to know that I have it all figured out and I admit I do struggle with questions such as how to affirm and defend God's revelation of Himself in masculine terms while at the same time affirming that women image God just as much as men, though in a distinct way. It can be confusing! It is my hope to encourage exchange of thought regarding such matters, not to shut down dialogue and exploration, as long as this search is oriented toward seeking the truth about God and man. What I do know is that neutering Jesus, putting lipstick and mascara on Him doesn't serve or affirm the dignity of men 0r women. Any thoughts?
I can talk a little from my own experience as a woman relating to Jesus. Affirming Jesus as a man for me doesn't make me feel degraded but rather affirms me in my femininity. As a woman, I image the Church, Christ's bride, in a way a man cannot. This is inscribed in my body in its receptivity. Humans stand in a posture of receptivity before God, He is the initiator of the gift of Himself, everything we are and have comes from Him and is received by us. The female body communicates this in a particular way. Men on the other hand, although they are like the female in their receptivity before God, image in their bodies the fatherhood of God-they are called to initiate the gift of themselves and this is inscribed in their bodies. This is not to say that women only are only passive or that men are only active, just that women and men love differently as is revealed in our bodies, and I'd argue that men and women relate to God differently as well. So going back to reflecting on my own experience, affirming God's masculinity and that God incarnated as a male is affirming of my own femininity and how in my femininity I image, in a particular way,the Church and the whole human race in it's receptivity toward God, who has revealed himself as Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride. I am quite satisfied being and imaging in my body the beloved of God- who left heaven, incarnated, suffered and died so that He could be one with His beloved-His bride, the human race. Therefore putting lipstick and mascera on the Bridegroom, IMHO doesn't serve a woman's desire to be affirmed in her sexuality, her femininity which images the stance of receptivity of the human race towards God who is masculine in relation. Also, though I can't speak with the same authority about how an emasculated image of Jesus negatively affects men as I can speak about how a woman is affected, I have some thoughts on the matter. A Jesus with lipstick and mascara and glitter I don't believe would be very affirming for a man in his sexuality either. A man images Christ, the Bridegroom who initiates the gift of Himself by laying down His life on the behalf of His beloved, in a particular way so by extension an emasculation of Jesus has an emasculating affect on men in general.
Not to get off on a tangent but one of my big questions is how do men relate to Jesus as Bridegroom and not be emasculated-any input from guys on this would be very useful! I have some theories but It drives me CRAZY because I don't have it neatly figured out! :)
Well these are just some of my thoughts, your input would be appreciated and is encouraged as always.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
I find this very interesting. As an artist who works mainly in traditional mediums I'm very much interested in how traditional fine art fits in with our mass communications culture. If you don't believe me I made an entry about this previously here. I don't plan on going to this but I'm glad this dialouge is happening and am looking forward to finding out what I can about what transpires.
Posted by Shana at 5:33 AM