Monday, March 30, 2009

How a Passion Play Raises Passion

Jesus is a lesbian.

Or at least... that was the direction my church was headed in yesterday. I swear, I heard the priest right when he asked me if I would read in the Passion play at the 9am service, and would I be Jesus. I was shocked, and thought, "What a bold move! Not only to have a woman play Jesus... but a lesbian woman at that!"

I related this story to my friend, Diana, at our regular coffee get-together today at the Black Dog Cafe. As part of the conversation, I recalled the words that my father said to me when I came out oh, so many years ago:

"Well, who's to say Jesus Christ wasn't gay?!"

That's when He spoke up. "He" is another one of the regulars at Black Dog, an African-American man probably about my age, who is one of the many that hangs out using the free wi-fi and what not. He was at a table only a few feet from our own.

"Excuse me, ladies. I don't mean to eavesdrop on your conversation, but I can't help it. And what you are saying I find offensive because Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and I would ask that you tone it down."

I was speechless. Diana was not.

"What do you find offensive? That she's going to be Jesus?"

He looked pained. "You aren't hearing what I'm saying. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and your talk is offensive to me."

Diana looked at me, probably waiting for me to launch into this man myself. But I couldn't. Not without using many expletives that wouldn't have made the situation any better. I wanted to leave. I was now offended that I was being told that obviously I did NOT know Christ because I was talking about Christ as possibly being gay, or lesbian, or whatever. That I would suggest that who better to say the line, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" than a gay person. Who better would know that pain of being scorned, beaten, spit upon than a gay person? But I said nothing. Because I had no words. And, frankly, I felt a profound sense of being unsafe. Here I am... at the Black Dog Cafe, one of the most liberal hang-outs in an otherwise fairly conventional city, and I'm being scolded for a discussion about the sexual orientation of God made manifest as a man?!

Perhaps to some that is blasphemy. But I believe that God is undefinable in gender. My use of "He" or "Him" in reference to God comes from social conditioning, but not from a belief that God is male only. Because I believe God is male and female all at once.

Later, Diana expressed remorse that she didn't keep up the fight, and didn't like the feeling that "He" got the last word. But the one thing that we did was that we stayed in our seats. We did not leave, even though that was my impulse. So while I stopped that discussion... only occassionally throwing in pointed references to myself as a "regular church attendee"... I was not interested in engaging this man in a debate. Especially since he kept wishing his buddies a "blessed one" and that he was feeling "blessed" today. I find it impossible to have a theological discussion with people like that because I do not believe we're even on the same playing field. They think they're the only special people in the sight of God, and that by virtue of my sexual orientation, I am outside of that "special" relationship with God.

As it turns out, I received the cast list in my inbox and have discovered that I am NOT Jesus; I am Judas. Another interesting casting decision, but not nearly as bold and beautiful as the other one would have been. In fact, sadly, my parish has decided to make Judas a woman at both services... Jesus is a man at both... and the casting is largely male-oriented since most of the major players in the Passion Play from Mark's gospel are men. Pity. And here I thought they were about to do something revolutionary...


redselchie said...

well, there's no telling about people. Some people are offended by just bout everything. I think if you're gonna be offended by something, be offended by how often Jesus' name is used as an excuse for prejudice, not from two friends enjoying speculative conversation on a beautiful spring day!

I likely would have told the man - he certainly had a right to be offended, just as you had a right to your opinion, and if he was offended by your opinion - then he would be welcome not to easedrop, next time.


SCG said...

That would have been a great statement, Janet. I was surprised at my inability to say anything, but my initial impulse was to tell him where he could shove his "personal relationship"... and that really isn't a "good and right and joyful" thing to do, and would have escalated the war of words. It's not that I think I should never say anything unless it's nice, it's that if my only impulse is to be insulting then I really am no better than "He" is.
But next time... I'll remember how you would have responded. Thanks!

anita said...

I suppose what galls me most is the "ownership" of Jesus some people think they possess, never hesitating before speaking to consider that others might also have a personal relationship with Jesus they value just as much as they do theirs. After all, for crying out loud, you were two women talking about church and what your priest said and something your dad once said about Jesus in a coffee shop! Argh. Just argh.

Anonymous said...

So they changed your part did they? How sad. That guy is a sad, sad individual and certainly hasn't the right to make comments that are totally against the way the Jesus I pray to thinks about humankind. Good luck as Judas, and you are so right about what Dad said and that guy probably would have been picked up for speeding in Exeter and Dad would have fined him, so there.


SCG said...

Anita--Argh is right! And it really was stunning. I think I might have been able to respond with some witticism if this incident had happened in another venue. But this coffee shop is home to mostly left-leaning, espresso-sipping, philosophy-reading atheists... not fundy fruit loops!

Peggins-- We know what dad said, and we know what he meant when he said it. I'm always surprised at how "offensive" the statement seems to be!