|Freedom in an exclusive Christ|
Was Jesus a Feminist? Whilst Jesus defended the Prostitute (John 8:4-11) brought to Him by the Religious Right, and had close woman associates (Luke 10:38,39) and female supporters (John 12:3) contrary to the male dominated religious fraternity, He did not directly advocate for the rights of women even though they had very few rights and were properties where the man had many wives. He was inclusive of women as His supporters and had close relationships with many including Mary and Martha but had reserved the “Exco” or the chosen 12 to men only. This together with the Pauline teachings has been used to reserve the clergy for men only. Jesus also called God, “Our Father”, instead of a more inclusive language and imagery.
Whilst it is easy to attribute this as the bible being “written by men, translated by men”, such generalization may not be insightful and takes away the divine, and the inspiration of the bible by the Holy Spirit. If the bible were influenced only by male patriarchy alone, then the many stories in the bible of Esther, Naomi, Ruth, and Mary would not be included. The narration concerning the Prostitute, Tax collectors, Samaritans and the Eunuchs was also contradictory to the prevailing Jewish male centered culture and therefore points to the divine inclusive nature of God and a departure from a man centered focus.
Was Jesus a Feminist? If Feminism is defined as championing for equal rights and access to education, voting, same wages, use of inclusive language and imaginary then Jesus was probably not a feminist in the traditional sense, for He advocated none of this directly. However, He was “for Women Rights”, for He valued the individual person above whether he/she is male or female. The focus is away from the identification of self – whether male or female, but the identification with Christ where all are considered equal as a result. One is no longer judged by whether he/she is straight, gay, male or female. True Christianity is devoid of such labels.
The Church is caught in identification labels, and personifying our fears and indignation to those labels. In labeling, we avoid addressing the individual worth and humanity, and the gay man is no longer an individual person with hopes, dreams, relationships, and desires, but become a promiscuous sex crazed individual based on our labeling. Collectively, the church has sinned as this false witness. For Christians in Singapore, Homosexuality becomes the greatest sins resulting in the nation of Singapore crossing the line ordained by God. This is not biblical, since the bible talks instead about idol worship attracting God’s wrath over and over again in the Old Testament. Such gross misinterpretation of the bible is blind faith in the leaders and shows a lack of individual reflection. We also conveniently interpret those passages referring to idol worship as being against homosexuality when these were acts done by straight man as part of their religious worship, because we dare not challenge such religious structures in the modern context. After all, handing out tracts by two Christians in Singapore got them jail time.
The Ex-Gay Ministry has distorted the Gospel, the message of salvation in Christ, as to be free from “homosexuality”. In doing so, the faith of the Gay men and Lesbians have been abused and manipulated for an external preconceived agenda. It desecrates the sacred space between the individual and God. There will be deep spiritual and emotional pain, hurts, and conflict. Like little gods, we have insisted that Gays make the choice between their sexual orientation and God, hence added to the meaning and requirements of the Gospel. This is sin and a great blasphemy to the image and character of God, and turned many Gays and Lesbians away from the Christian Faith. There is no freedom in the ex-gay ministry, but deeper confusion, bondage, denial and self hate. It is a deep closet framed by deep emotional and spiritual abuse causing severe long-term damage.
Freedom in Christ is gained by looking outwards to Christ, and not being pre-occupied by looking inward to self and our rights. For example, when I was at the Overseas Christian Fellowship, the large majority of woman surprised me. However, seldom was there a question of having more men to be in leadership. It was based on the individual gifts, availability for service, commitment and anointing. There was no difference, whether a man or a woman, for it was not a consideration. In our attempt to be inclusive, we may have engaged in discrimination. An example is the quota of Chinese students at Malaysian Universities whilst reflective of the ratio of the population, may mean that a Chinese person require to have much better results than his/her Malay counterpart. Inclusivity itself may therefore be discriminatory. Our freedom is not in being inclusive rather of seeing others as Christ sees, and judge no one on the basis of race, sex, religion, and sexual orientation. Inclusivity can be a god, a idol by itself if we are not too careful.
The strong condemnation of gays and lesbians by the churches has resulted in an unhealthy inward focus on one’s sexuality. It is difficult to avoid when ones standing, worth and dignity is based on their sexual orientation rather than who they are in Christ. As a result, gays and lesbians can be defensive and reactive as they have been hurt badly. For example, some Lesbians visiting a church predominantly of Gay man feeling less welcome because there are so many men, or perturbed that the language of the creed and liturgy is not sexually neutral. Their antagonism towards men, and their deep hurt and rejection have become personified upon the gay men, who actually have done nothing wrong, the creed and liturgy and the worship being no different than the mainstream churches. We may end up demanding acceptance and special rights. Ironically, the Gay men are not men in the traditional sense but are much more women in many cases than the Lesbians themselves, and will feel strongly perturbed by such projection of them as men. Similarly, Gay men have personified their antagonism towards women and the rejection and hurt that they received, to the Lesbians, Again, they do not realized that the lesbians are not really women. Gay men dislike being controlled and may see the Lesbians as over controlling.
It is very surprising the strongly held negative views about Lesbians by Gay men, which even greater than the annoyance than the Lesbians may feel. The classic example is the Apostle Paul, the closeted Gay man who can’t stand women until He asked them to be covered and not to speak in church (1 Cor 11:3-12, 1 Tim 2:12 to 15). The bible was not actually written by men, translated by men, but rather a portion of it by Gay men and being commissioned by King James who was also gay. Who says God doesn't have a humour.
The path to freedom is not to expect others for not being inclusive of our needs, but to examine the motives behind our felt needs. We may be the issue not others. Our healing and focus can never be self serving to our needs, but should be focus in the relationship with Christ and finding in Christ, a complete acceptance of who He has created us, and in that acceptance, being able to love and accept ourselves. Thus, we are to pursue Freedom in Christ, in reconciliation with God, with ourselves, and with our sexuality, gay or straight.
Jesus Christ is exclusive in that a person is considered of sacred worth, dignity, and humanity for Him to die for, with no inclusion at all of the sex, religion, race, and sexual orientation. Christ did not have a criteria or basket for inclusion like the Pharisees who included those who are rich and politically powerful, and of Jewish religious background. Jesus gave all, and He died for all. He didn’t have any criteria for inclusion, except just to believe in Him and what He did. The greatest stumbling block is the exclusive Christ, His death and resurrection, not the fact of His inclusive love.
Jesus died for all, to give them the pathway to freedom and reconciliation with God through faith in Christ death and resurrection exclusive of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and wealth. Jesus is exclusive, He sees to the core of our being. God doesn’t use our inclusive labels. He was so exclusive in His demand to be worshiped and claim the only way to God, that the Jews crucified Him. He bid us today, to turn our eyes on Him, to behold Him, and He will take away all our cares and wants, and in His deep embrace will we find acceptance from deep within.
Jesus take me as I am,