Nude female Christ in RE book aims to ‘provoke thought, not outrage’

Nude female Christ in RE book aims to ‘provoke thought, not outrage’ December 26, 2018

There was a right kerfuffle 34 years ago when a sculpture of ‘Christa’ was unveiled at New York Episcopal Cathedral of St John the Divine – and there might well further outrage because the image now appears in a new textbook published in the UK for children’s religious education classes.

At the time of its unveiling, the then-Suffragan Bishop of New York, Walter Dennis, slammed the nude sculpture as “theologically and historically indefensible”.  This led to its removal from the 124-year-old gothic revival church in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood.

But the authors of Who is Jesus? (PDF) saw no real problem in reproducing the image for their textbook, which aims “do Jesus differently” to encourage pupils to explore how Muslims view him as a prophet. It also examines his Jewish identity.

I can see problems with this concept. Conservative Christians have a horror of nudity, and many Muslims object to the depiction of any human form, particularly if they are naked.

This from Wiki:

Typically, though not entirely, Islamic art has focused on the depiction of patterns, whether purely geometric or floral, and Arabic calligraphy, rather than on figures, because it is feared by many Muslims that the depiction of the human form is idolatry and thereby a sin against God, forbidden in the Qur’an.

So there could well be a backlash from parents of kids from both Christian and Islamic backgrounds against Who is Jesus?

But Professor Rob Freathy, from the University of Exeter, who led the team that produced the textbook , appears pretty sanguine about a publication that aims to make GCSE and A-level religious-education lessons more “rigorous”, and encourage pupils to have empathy with others.

Freathy said:

There is no single, neutral and objective answer to the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’ Answers differ depending on who is being asked. RE teaching and assessment that recognises that, by asking pupils to think about subject matter from different perspectives, is intellectually more rigorous and can promote the educational benefits of open-ended inquiry.

It also best prepares pupils to enter a world characterised by a radical diversity of beliefs, religions and worldviews.

The authors want teachers to move beyond telling the story of the birth, life and works of Jesus. Instead, they say RE lessons should highlight the way in which Jesus is seen by people from a variety of cultural, religious and academic backgrounds, including theologians, historians, feminists, the visually impaired, artists and southern African cultures.

The textbook introduces a team of fictional scholars, who each have different motivations for studying Jesus. Pupils then encounter a range of answers to the question “Who is Jesus?” This includes analysing sources, such as the Bible, the Koran, historical writings, rituals, interviews, architecture, artefacts and art.

“Christa”– created by Winston Churchill’s granddaughter Edwina Sandys and the painting Jesus and the Cross Dressers by Brian J Turner, which places Jesus on a road-construction site alongside four male workers dressed in women’s clothes – were included to be “provocative.”

Freathy said:

We know these images are potentially controversial. They are designed to be provocative. But what we want to provoke is thought, not outrage. According to the gospels, Jesus caused controversy by associating with people who were marginalised at the time, such as tax collectors and prostitutes.

The Jesus and the Cross Dressers painting is used to stimulate discussion about which groups are rejected and excluded today, and perhaps with which groups a modern day Jesus would mix.

I’ve not had time to read the textbook, but the chapter headings suggest that it fails to invite pupils to consider the notion that Jesus never existed at all.

For the record, “Christa” was put back in the New York church in 2016.

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  • TheBookOfDavid

    Freathy stumbles across the true point of contention in his explanation. The Crista image is merely a symptom, and removing it will fail to satisfy the bishops and imams until he fixes the root problem:

    what we want to provoke is thought, not outrage

  • Jim Jones

    If ‘Jesus’ was born without male sperm involvement, then he was a she and Mary’s identical clone.

    Like Dolly, the sheep.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    Unlike Dolly, God performed the whole gender reassignment procedure. Wouldn’t be the first one of the bible (Gen 2:22).

  • Bubblecar

    “Who is Jesus”

    Is? If the critter ever existed, he died a long time ago.

    The Jesus of the Bible, if read rationally, was a classic example of a heavily narcissistic cult leader, who was eventually killed by the Romans for being involved in some sort of poorly defined rebellion.

    But whatever the facts, the cult of Jesus went on to retard the development of Western civilisation for far too long. Fortunately, he is now well and truly rotting, along with his shrinking congregations.

  • Sophotroph

    Remove all the colored chalk from the classrooms!

  • Broga

    “theologically indefensible”. Really. When I was in early adolescence the bible was a fascinating source of explicit sex. I can’t remember much now but I recall some descriptions of breasts like white doves or something or other. At one time, early grammar school, the bible alternated with Hank Janson although Hank was a very clear favourite. Those of a certain age may remember the innocent years when Hank’s exploites were much envied. A little later Victorian erotica came into our ambit and the competition became too stiff, in a matter of speaking, and the bible could not compete.

  • Brummie

    There’s almost, almost a chance of them becoming freethinkers…….errr…. no.

  • Broga

    It is curious, in the age of space and landing on the moon, that to make the comment about the weirdness and, in fact, incredibility of Jesus’ birth causes outrage to Christians.

  • Die Anyway

    Can’t have a picture of a naked female in the text books… all of the boys will be running to the loo for a quick wank.

  • Gord O’Mitey

    Okay, okay, this figurine is a travesty. Surely y’all know that them good ol’ Romans crucified women naked, yeah, but they also had them face onto the cross. Your guess is as good as Mine, eh.

  • Broga

    The Victorians, who raised hypocrisy to an art form, insisted that any male pudenda on classical statues they had to be covered with leaves or chopped off thus damaging great art. The same publicly religious exemplars, often had entire libraries of what were called horn books. Their wives ordered “Ladies Comforters” (vibrators) by post and these arrived in plain packages. If a maid got pregnant by the son of the mansion she was booted out.

  • safetynet2razorwire

    Christianity doesn’t ‘own’ crucifixion as an image anymore than it would pictures of stones if that execution had been left to Jewish authority in Palestine. If any movement owns it the crucifixion belongs to the brave rebellious slaves – a legion of whom were crucified in a single deterrent atrocity – thousands side by side all along the Via Apia – all claiming to be Spartacus.

    Spartacus. There’s a heroic martyr to honour. He fought for freedom – Jesu (according to his canonically sacred spin-doctors) sought to convince us of the virtue of submitting humanity to piety. Spartacus – a human hero for the ages.

  • blogcom

    Your theological understanding, comprehension skills, grasp of history not to mention your head are on backwards.

  • blogcom

    It’s not about owning crucifixion you miss the point entirely.

  • Some people choke on flies and swallow camels as Jesus said.

    In the Beginning, the Genesis story tells us,
    And God said, “Let us make man (singular) in our image, after our likeness, (plural) and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the heaven and
    over the animals and over all the earth and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth.”
    And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
    Genesis 1:26-27

    Genesis 2 takes a different angle on man from Genesis 1
    And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man is alone; I shall make him a helpmate opposite him.” […] And man named all the cattle and the fowl of the heavens and all the beasts of the field, but for man, he did not find a helpmate opposite him.
    And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon man, and he slept, and He took one of his sides, and He closed the flesh in its place.
    And the Lord God built the side that He had taken from man into a woman, and He brought her to man.
    And man said, “This time, it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called woman because this one was taken from man.”
    Genesis 2:18-23

    Whether a human is male or female, gay or straight, or somewhere in between, everyone needs a helpmate.

    It’s most probable God left a little of each in the other as the Scripture can be interpreted for these days.

    Modern Science essentially confirms the Genesis story of the man being both male and female until separation in the flesh.
    Men determine the sex of a baby depending on whether their sperm is carrying an X or Y chromosome. An X chromosome combines with the mother’s X chromosome to make a baby girl (XX) and a Y chromosome will combine with the mother’s to make a boy (XY).

    For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
    For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
    And if you be Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
    Galatians 3:26-29

    The Jews will contest the thoughts in the last 2 lines and Christians don’t recognize the Spirit of Christ, as they divide male and female even further, into homo and hetro.

  • If “theological understanding” isn’t classified as an oxymoron, it should be.

  • safetynet2razorwire

    Oh come on.
    Crucifixion is a brand logo – adopted to replace a failed ‘pair of fish ‘ subtitled with ‘Fishers of Men’. The image of a cross with Christ on it was as readily recognied by the near to universally illiterate flock as a certain mermaid is to this coffee zealot. Later on, the empty cross became recognized as the protestant brand’s trade-mark.

    Christianity’s red of claws & gore of fang sheep (?) have never been amused – or had original thoughts evoked (an original thought being veryy dangerously near to original sin) – by clever alterations to its symbols. Through much of Christendom’s 15 century reign of terror messing with one of those (appropriated) symbols got you a cruel death by torture. Anyone brave enough to wear a T-shirt with a crucified version of Botticelli’s Venus on it found themself tossed onto the same bonfire as their clever artwork.

    The Church, today, ‘tolerates’ efforts to ‘provoke discussion’ only because we heathen have kept those claws clipped and fangs pulled. Christendom, in its heart of hearts, still ravens.

    The point here is that Christ’s flock of cryptozoological lambs with fangs and claws believe in their ‘ownership’ of the ‘sacred’ symbols they looted from the religions they put to the sword and perverted to their purpose.

    I know the point. We iconoclast types we know the provenance of those icons we seek to tip – sacred cows just begging to be. Tipped that is.

  • I will pray Lliira, Goddess of Joy and Happiness, for you.

  • Joy and Happiness is Good. Thank you.