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Can Jesus Christ be a Resource for Queer Masculinities?

Rob Day-Walker

By Rob Day-Walker
Rob Day-Walker is a 27-year-old English Major, lay theologian, and disabled gay man currently living in Winnipeg, Canada. He loves Battlestar Galactica, learning about radical social analysis, and singing about Jesus. When he grows up, he wants to be a good writer, a Christian clergyperson, and a happy member of a polyamorous family. He's learned one thing in particular from the submission process for this anthology: when all else fails, read the directions.

The Crucified Christ critiques what queer men consider beautiful, as well. He challenges us to include in our communities those who are queerer than us, especially in their aesthetics. Would we have mourned for Matthew Shepherd if he’d been plain looking? A person of color? A flaming drag queen? Gimpy? Trans? Did we become aware of him because the straight world thought he was “safe” or “asexual” enough to make into a public figure, a sweet little homosexual? Would we pay attention to Christ, would some queer men be so erotically fascinated, if he were hideously unattractive? Can we be saved—would we want to be saved—by a “fugly” Jesus?

I hasten to add that I often implicate myself in my own questions. My best friend and former Significant Other is a bear, but I fantasize about twinks and guys with a swimmer’s build. I tend to be less attracted if guys look emaciated, though. I got angry when Shepard was killed because I wished I could have saved him, loved him, and had sex with him. He reminded me of me, except without the Cerebral Palsy. I, the gimpy who used to be insecure in his looks, have rejected (with a sneer!) perfectly loveable men who didn’t fit my physical “type.” Some open-minded queer boy I am, asking others to see past my disability to meet me when I can’t see past my own fantasies to meet them!

To this day, I don’t fully understand why my ex is so hot to me, but he is. How many of us have been cruel to twinks, to bears, to flamers in drag, or to average Joes who use the hated phrase “straight acting and looking” without actually taking the time to fully understand their stories? Doesn’t that mean we’re capable of “crucifying” members of our own communities? Don’t we see the patterns of such violence in ourselves?

Stopping oppression sickness, and the cycle of violence, must include a key component: forgiveness. After all the self-care, after all the talk-therapy, after all the interventions and activist projects combating oppression, this is the only way to release ourselves and those who oppress us from the psychic and spiritual wounding of our pasts. Are we ever fully aware of the damage that we cause others or ourselves, even if we have good reason to stay angry, bitter, or cynical? Perhaps this is why Jesus claimed from the cross, “[My oppressors] don’t know what they’re doing.”

When we can ask for mercy upon those who have bashed us in the streets, who have inflicted so much pain upon us, we have forgiven. When we stop excluding potential partners on the basis of our fantasies and instead take time to hear each other’s stories, then we are truly welcoming and queer. When we stop treating each other as meat, even during casual sex, and realise that we, with our bodies, welcome people into queer community rather than simply perform a transaction, we can stop being so fucking mean and catty to each other. But living this way doesn’t happen overnight—we need the confidence to believe that such a world is possible. This is why we can’t, as queer men, leave Jesus on his cross to die. We need his resurrection, too.


The Resurrected Jesus

Luke 24:1-3, 9-11 (NRSV)
 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices [that] they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body. 9 [R]eturning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

I’ve struggled immensely with articulating why the resurrection of Christ should be important to queer men – even through four revisions, I still struggle to make my words do what I intend them to without alienating anyone either by rude dogmatism (baggage from my fundamentalist background) or by waxing poetic and theological (which Trevor Hoppe, my editor, is quick to point out!). On the one hand, the resurrection of Jesus is, for me, a tremendous source of hope; on the other hand, speaking of the resurrection of Christ immediately seems to mark one’s position in the “culture wars” of the United States. If I believe in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus, most likely I will be homophobic, heterosexist, “conversionistic,” and non-pluralistic: “Our God was raised from the dead; therefore, we’re right, and therefore, you queers (Muslims, Mormons, radical feminists, etc.) get to burn in hell.” If I believe in the spiritual resurrection of Christ, on the other hand, I might seem rational, non-judgmental, and pluralist. After all, dead bodies don’t actually rise, do they? Maybe there are many paths to the heart of the Sacred, and Jesus is just one of them – besides, we don’t want the fundamentalists to be right about us!

I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus[20] for many reasons, but one of them sticks out for me: my own body will someday be completely whole and free. Many people want to construct many kinds of disability as merely constructive differences: “You’re just ‘differently abled,’” they say. But the way I see it, my brain is damaged, and the God I see in Jesus didn’t curse me with Cerebral Palsy; neither will God leave me this way forever. If I were in a crowd in the Gospels, Jesus would have healed me, too, just like he healed everyone else who came to him. I used to think, for years, that Jesus would only heal me if I “repented” of my "homosexual behaviour." But repeated experiences of Christ’s welcome to me as a gay man—not to mention intensive study of the Bible—convince me that I was wrong. I look forward to the day when I can dance just as fluidly and sexily as any hotshot bar-star, thank you very much! If Jesus Christ has been resurrected bodily from the dead and is still alive, that kind of world, a world with no disability, no AIDS, no queer bashing, is not only probable—it’s inevitable. As a Christian, believing in the Christ that will give us that kind of world gives me hope... (continue reading)


[20] When I say resurrection, I am using the concrete image of indicated the Greek word anastasis, which is Greek literature, virtually without exception, means that something has happened to a corpse (which is why Greek philosophers, along with every other civilization that has any understanding of scientific observation, affirm that dead bodies don’t rise). This is precisely what the early Christians are claiming, and as NT Wright notes, this belief is the only reasonable explanation for why the early Christian tradition took shape as it did.

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Rob Day-Walker said:

I keep wanting to correct the tiny typos that I see...especially the last sentence: "The peace of Christ be yours." LOL. Minor thing!

Posted at: May 31, 2008 3:30 PM

Chris Coombs said:

Fantastic essay! I think one of the most exciting ideas suggested by your essay is the idea of adopting a subversive masculinity, a masculinity of which Jesus (at least in this characterization) is a superb example. I also appreciated the inclusion of a critique of our postmodern disdain for metanarratives. While I think this disdain arises quite naturally out of the radical critiques and the sheer volume of alternative readings of "important" texts that have accompanied poststructuralism and deconstruction, I also think there are radical possibilities (and even something of a practical imperative) to be found in reconstructing metanarratives on a wider, more inclusive foundation, by weaving together the millions of personal narratives that structure our daily existences, as queer men, as masculine, as feminists, as people of color, as people with disabilities, etc. - that out of this melting pot or mosaic or what have you, certain patterns begin to emerge and it is these patterns that offer us an opportunity to write our own story, our own grand narrative and lend our movement direction, sweeping up the whole of humanity in its march forward. This is just a flowery way of suggesting that the problem lies not with these grand narratives, but with their exclusivity. I also thought your approach to forgiveness was refreshing. I think what I've found missing in some of the essays was a failure to question or seek forgiveness for our own transgressions against one another or understand our attackers. On the surface this doesn't sound very radical, until you realize that we ourselves are the attackers at times and that change begins with ourselves. Wow, that was a lot more than I was going to write. Anyway: Thank You!

Posted at: December 19, 2008 11:23 AM