Jesus and gender

Jesus and gender

It’s been nearly 25 years since Saturday Night Live showed its final skit of “It’s Pat.”

The series of skits centered around the (so-called) androgynous main character named Pat, who is placed in settings (e.g., a salon or doctor’s office) where all interlocutors struggle–and inevitably fail–to discern whether Pat is a man or a woman.

The wildly successful SNL skit is quite instructive when considering the topic of gender in at least three ways, which can help guide us toward asking helpful questions about this intensely personal yet unavoidably public matter.

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Clark family update #2 (or: Stuff that’s awesome about my life)

Clark family update #2 (or: Stuff that’s awesome about my life)

mojito

This Clark family update comes to you in the form of thanksgiving.

So let’s jump in:

First, I’m very thankful for mojitos.  I was first introduced to a mojito here in Puerto Rico.

Thank you, Puerto Rico.

And, of course, thank you, Cuba (the origin, I believe, of the mojito).  Thank you, God, for things like sugar cane juice, lime, mint, and rum.  Brilliant.

Second, the amount of joy I get from my family is incredible.  We are presently in such a wonderful stage of life:

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An Advent meditation: why real Love gets angry–and divisive

An Advent meditation: why real Love gets angry–and divisive

fire isolated over black background

“I have come to bring fire on the earth.”

So said Jesus. Bluntly. And unapologetically.

No less unsettling is what he says next:

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth?”

How many of us, especially at this time of year, would take Jesus’ question as a no-brainer:  with carols ringing in our ears, we reply, “Yes, of course, you came to bring ‘peace on earth and mercy mild.'”

But Jesus’ own answer startles:

“No, I tell you, but division.”  He continues:  “From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.”

What are we to make of this Jesus who has come to bring “fire” (judgment?) and division–division in the home no less?  (Jesus, it seems, came to ‘focus on the family’ in a most unexpected way.)

What is to be made of this angry, divisive, anti-family Jesus?

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An Advent meditation: Jesus and gender

An Advent meditation: Jesus and gender

gender-pic

Jesus of Nazareth was not a man.

That is, though male, he was not really a man–at least not by the criteria of his culture.

To use today’s (imprecise and still evolving) terminology, Jesus was not cisgender.  This is so, for at least two interrelated reasons, but we’ll explore only one, because it has to do with his birth, which Christians celebrate at the conclusion of the Advent season.

From his birth throughout his entire life, he would have had to carry this gender stigma with him. Unavoidably.

In the small village of Nazareth, it would have been an occasion for ridicule from other children, as well as an easy topic of gossip all his life.  When he came of age to marry, only the most desperate father would have given his daughter to Jesus, precisely because he was not really a man.

Jesus’ gender non-conformity would have cast a shadow over his access to the temple. And it would certainly have called into question his fitness as a “teacher.”

In short, Jesus knew what it was like to be excluded on account of the gender norms of the (immediate) dominant culture.

How so?

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An Advent meditation: Santa, Satan and secularization theory

An Advent meditation: Santa, Satan and secularization theory

Aside from the letters in their names, Santa and Satan, it would seem, have little in common.

Residing in radically different climates, while both like to give, Santa prefers to give people gifts (but only at Christmas), while Satan prefers to give them hell (all year round).

Both also share an impressive list of aliases:

Santa is a.k.a. (Jolly) St. Nick (short for Nicholas), Father Christmas, or Kris Kringle, though there are more.  (I’ll refrain from listing his name in other languages, though I can’t resist mentioning the German Weihnachtsmann–literally “Christmas Man,” which makes Santa sound like a super-hero.)

As for Satan, he is a.k.a. the Devil, the Evil One, Lucifer, Beelzebub, the ancient Serpent, or (with the definite article as) the Satan, and related to that, the Accuser of the brethren (so the old King James Version).

But whatever their differences or similarities, one would expect, especially in this day and age, that Satan and Santa would have at least this one thing in common:

No one would actually believe in either one of them.

According to a 2014 article in The Atlantic around 85% of 4-year-olds in America believe in Santa. By age 8, however, only 25% remain convinced of St. Nick’s existence. And by age 12 (and older!) that percentage drops to a recalcitrant 2-3%.

But what about Satan?

Several polls from the last 2-3 years show that about 3 in 5 Americans believe in Satan.  Among college graduates the percentage drops by only 10 percentage points, from 60% to about 50%.  (In their defense, I can say that I had a statistics professor in college whom I suspected of being under demonic influence on more than one occasion–usually after receiving my test scores.)

Why is this?

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