“Hi Jesus, I’m a transgender woman. What do you think about that?”
I knew this moment would come. I was one year into a 4-year project — an interactive drama of Jesus’ ministry years, played out on the social media stage. My “Jesus Benyosef” character was posting status updates about the kingdom of God, friending disciples, getting blocked from fundamentalist Facebook groups, and tweeting his desert encounters with Satan (yes, of course the wilderness has Wi-Fi).
Jesus was making lots of friends, including more and more who… Well, let’s just say they might use the new Custom option in the Gender field of their Facebook profiles, or they might fill in the “Interested In” field with an answer not on the Focus-on-the-Family-APPROVED List. I was sure the day was coming when one of them would ask Jesus if their relationship might be of the “Friend-the-Sin-but-Unfriend-the-Sinner”-type.
I had already moved a long way from my fundamentalist upbringing. From the friend who came out to me at our Christian college, through the years of shared Bible study that he asked me to do with him, to my activism for gay rights and my efforts to make churches more gay-friendly… I had come to the point where I was pretty damn affirming.
I was okay with LGBTQ relationships, but I saw them as less than ideal: “God made us male and female, yada yada yada, but He knows some of us have issues and are doing the best we can, and God is very accommodating to our needs…”
In other words, it’s complicated.
Back to Facebook Jesus… One of his awesome-est followers was a transgender woman who never failed to come to Jesus’ aide when the Pharisees came trolling. Her sexuality just hadn’t been a topic of discussion yet. But I knew it was coming.
I tried to prepare myself to have an answer when the question came. Something theologically nuanced and artfully worded; I’m pretty good at that…But Christ in me could not stomach it.
Christ in me refused to say: “My name is Jesus, and my feelings about your sexuality are complicated.”
I had done years of work on this issue as a Bible scholar and theologian, and I’d like to say that is what “converted” me to a new way of thinking. But it was nothing as respectable as that. It came down to me inhabiting the character of Jesus, facing a virtual friend in a borderline-blasphemous social media preaching experiment.
Christ in me hates ugliness, and there is a lot of ugliness that can come out of human sexuality; there are so many ways we can (and do) use sex to hurt one another. But when I looked with Christ’s eyes at this woman and her sexuality, I could not see an ounce of ugliness there.
I had Jesus Benyosef’s answer: “I delight in you and your sexuality.”
Not even a comma.
John Stonecypher is a theologian/blogger/speaker living in Denver with his wife and 3 sons. His turn-ons include Permaculture and Legos, though preferably not at the same time. John’s current writing projects include Jesus Benyosef, The Shack Bible, and his blog, Geeked-Out Soul.