Crucifixion of masculinity : a gender critical (re)reading of the narrative of the cross as portrayed in the Gospel of Luke

Muller van Velden, Nina Elisabeth (2014-04)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The South African society is violently sick to the core regarding gender and sexuality. Shockingly high statistics of gender-based violence and the everyday occurrences of gender injustices and gender discrimination are not unfamiliar to South Africans. All men and women, representing all sexual identities, are affected to a greater or lesser degree. The Christian church, as an influential social institution in the South African context, is often silent on these acts of violence, injustices and discrimination. Some argue that the church is not merely silent, but actively contributes to these injustices and violence by means of its teachings and practices. The church’s inadequate response to such a crisis in society is, however, not surprising in light of especially two factors: firstly, the patriarchal and heteronormative roots of the Christian church that still, up to this day, have an enormous influence on the Christian tradition globally; and secondly, the manner in which the Bible is often misused to direct discourses and opinions regarding gender and sexuality. Ahistorical and selective readings of biblical texts serve as validation of contemporary (and very popular) stereotypical and discriminatory views on gender and sexuality, with little or no recognition of the socio-cultural contexts in which texts originated. Central faith narratives, such as the crucifixion narratives and its portrayals of Jesus of Nazareth as a male, has a great influence on the manner in which gender and sexuality is understood within the Christian church. The Lukan crucifixion narrative portrays Jesus of Nazareth as a hypermasculine character who is able to uphold and even increase his socially-constructed male honour and power throughout the most shaming event of antiquity, namely the Roman crucifixion. Often this type of portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth is preferred in the Christian church, at the cost of the less hypermasculine portrayals that can also rightly be found in the Gospel narratives, and misused to validate essentialist notions of gender and sexuality. This study suggests that a queer reading or a reimagining of specifically the Lukan crucifixion narrative is needed in order to put forward alternative interpretations of the maleness of Jesus of Nazareth, and consequently the manner in which gender and sexuality is popularly understood from a Christian perspective. This is possible if the socio-cultural context of the world behind the narrative, namely the 1st century Mediterranean world and Greco-Roman society, is taken seriously. In this manner the crucifixion narrative might become a narrative that blurs the lines of simplistic gender categories, rather than enforcing it as is often still the case. By offering fresh perspectives on such an influential narrative, the church might be able to engage critically with itself as well as society regarding the disturbingly large amount of injustices, discrimination and violence based on gender and sexuality.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing kan tereg as gewelddadiglik siek beskryf word wanneer daar na gender en seksualiteit verwys word. Suid-Afrikaners is nie onbekend met hemelhoë statistieke van gender-gebaseerde geweld, tesame met die alledaagse voorvalle van gender ongeregtigheid en gender diskriminasie nie. Alle mans en vrouens, verteenwoordigend van alle seksuele identiteite, word tot ’n mindere of meerdere mate hierdeur geraak. Die Christelike kerk, wat steeds gereken word as ’n invloedryke sosiale instelling in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks, se stem is dikwels stil rakende hierdie dade van geweld, ongeregtigheid en diskriminasie. Sommige is van mening dat die kerk nie bloot net stil is hieroor nie, maar dat dit aktief bydra tot hierdie ongeregtighede en geweld deur middel van leringe en praktyke. Die kerk se onvoldoende respons op hierdie krisis in die samelewing is egter nie verrassend nie. Veral twee faktore dra hiertoe by: eerstens, die patriargale en heteronormatiewe fondasies van die Christelike kerk wat tot vandag toe nog ’n enorme invloed uitoefen op die Christelike tradisie wêreldwyd; en tweedens, die manier waarop die Bybel dikwels misbruik word om diskoerse en opinies rakende gender en seksualiteit op baie spesifieke maniere te rig. Die ahistoriese en selektiewe lees van bybelse tekste dien as gepaste bewyse vir hedendaagse (en baie gewilde) stereotipiese en diskriminerende beskouings van gender en seksualiteit, met min of geen erkenning van die sosio-kulturele kontekste waarin dit ontstaan het nie. Sentrale geloofsverhale, soos die kruisigingsverhale en hul voorstellings van Jesus van Nasaret as ’n man, oefen ‘n groot invloed uit op die manier waarop gender en seksualiteit verstaan word binne die Christelike kerk. Die kruisigingsverhaal van die evangelie van Lukas stel Jesus van Nasaret voor as ’n hipermanlike karakter wat sy sosiaal-gekonstrueerde manlike eer en mag kan behou en selfs vermeerder, te midde van een van die meeste beskamende gebeure van die antieke tyd, naamlik die Romeinse kruisiging. Hierdie tipe voorstelling van Jesus van Nasaret geniet dikwels voorkeur in die Christelike kerk, ten koste van minder hipermanlike voorstellings wat met ewe veel reg in die verhale van die Evangelies te vinde is. Hierdie studie stel voor dat ‘n “queer” lees of ’n hervoorstelling van die kruisigingsverhaal van spesifiek die evangelie van Lukas nodig is, ten einde alternatiewe interpretasies van die manlikheid van Jesus van Nasaret daar te stel. Dit is moontlik indien erns gemaak word met die sosio-kulturele konteks agter die verhaal, naamlik die 1ste eeuse Mediterreense wêreld en die Grieks-Romeinse samelewing. Gevolglik sou die gewilde, dog stereotipiese interpretasies van gender en seksualiteit vanuit ’n Christelike perspektief uitgedaag kan word. Op hierdie manier kan die kruisigingsverhaal ’n verhaal word wat simplistiese gender-kategorisering ondermyn, eerder as om dit te bevestig. Deur vars interpretasies van hierdie invloedryke verhaal voor te stel, mag die kerk dalk krities kan omgaan met die kerk self sowel as met die samelewing, rakende die ontstellende hoë voorkoms van ongeregtighede, diskriminisaie en geweld gebaseer op gender en seksualiteit.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86292
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