Monday, September 24, 2012

Andrew Sullivan on Jesus and His Wife Discussion: "Jesus Clearly Saw Women as Total Equals"

Andrew Sullivan on the "Was Jesus married?" discussion:

I am not that interested in whether Jesus was married or celibate. But I am interested in the way in which a patriarchal, male-only hierarchy, which has been exposed as a conspiracy to commit and then cover up child-rape still excludes half of humanity from true equality in a church based on Jesus' teachings. Jesus clearly saw women as total equals, trespassed over gender lines constantly, and told all of us to become like little children if we are to live in God's full love. Paul told us that there is "neither male nor female" in Christ's vision of our equality on His love.

And I agree.  Though I do think that any discovery that Jesus had a wife would tend to confirm many of the comfortable, often unexamined, presuppositions that many folks make about marriage--about marriage as normative, as the end-all and be-all that solves all the world's problems.  These assumptions, which essentially deify the middle-class notion of marriage (and of the nuclear family) with which the Western world has lived since the Enlightenment, have particular talismanic force in the Catholic community.  They're particularly strong in the Catholic academic community, and they help account for the obliviousness of many Catholic academics to the struggles of gay folks, which I discussed in my first posting of the day.

There's a meme that runs as a powerful subcurrent through American Catholic academic life and through theology departments in particular, which holds that most of the deep structural problems in the Catholic church have to do not merely with the exclusion of women from governing structures of the church, but with the dominance of gay men in those governing structures.  This meme in turn feeds exasperation at gay folks--especially gay men--who claim that the Catholic church is an oppressive structure for those who are gay.

The meme never seems to take into account that if those governing the Catholic church are, in fact, largely gay men, then they're closeted gay men who are conspicuously hostile to other, to open, gay men.  And it also never seems to take into account that the preferential option for heterosexism and heterosexual-only marriage among those promoting the marriage-as-solution rhetoric is ultimately a utopian option.

Since heterosexual marriage hardly seems to have proven that it's an unambiguously utopian fix for the world's ills.  Or am I perhaps wrong about that?

The graphic is a photograph of the fragment of papyrus from a Gnostic text analyzed by Professor Karen King of Harvard, which appears to indicate that some early Christians thought Jesus had been married.   

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