Jesus and the ‘trans body’

Pietà with the Holy Trinity by Jean Malouel

Hold it folks! Just when you think it’s safe to go back out into the church pastures, here comes the latest wolf in sheep’s clothing to attack us – during Evensong, no less. And of course, he is defended in doing so by support from the great and the good, and by the silence of the CofE leadership so as not to upset the usual suspects.

It now appears that we – and all our Christian forebears – have been labouring under a mass delusion for the last 2000 years. Yes, dear readers, we have all been wrong to assume that Jesus was a man, during his time on Earth in a physical body. Got that? Pass the smelling salts please, Mabel.

In a recent Evensong sermon at Trinity College, Cambridge, a ‘junior research fellow’ by the name of Joshua Heath, has finally put us all right – well, he has a PhD after all. Using old paintings to illustrate his thesis, this genius output of the UK academic system stated that Jesus had a ‘trans body’. Are you with me so far?

‘How did he work that out?’ I hear you cry from the bemused pews.

Well, if we look carefully at some old paintings, particularly ones which dwell on Jesus’ crucified body complete with pierced and bleeding side, we can see that the spear-wound ‘takes on a decidedly vaginal appearance’. Who knew? I suppose the flowing blood just adds to this ‘revelation’. One might ask what this interpretation tells us about Mr Heath, but let’s not go there.

Further on in his sermon propaganda speech, according to the UK newspaper The Telegraph, Heath ‘drew on non-erotic depictions of Christ’s penis in historical art, which ‘urge a welcoming rather than hostile response towards the raised voices of trans people’. I’m still trying to get a visual on that one. Presumably because those relatively few medieval depictions of Jesus’ bits and pieces (rather than hiding his modesty behind a loincloth) have been shown as er, small and non-threatening, this must represent the equally small and non-threatening surgically-constructed trans ‘penis’. Got that? Yes, Mabel, that was just what we wanted to hear about at Evensong before we went home for supper, slippers, and the Antiques Roadshow. I’ll draw you a diagram when we get home.

Heath apparently concluded that ‘In Christ’s simultaneously masculine and feminine body in these works, if the body of Christ as these works suggest the body of all bodies, then his body is also the trans body.’ And there we are. Put right at last. Although why any man would wish to identify as a female in first-century Palestine, who knows?

Unsurprisingly, many members of the congregation were unhappy with this ‘sermon’. People walked out, claimed the talk was heretical, and wrote complaints to the Dean of Trinity College. Apparently, children and others in the pews were ‘visibly uncomfortable’ – and who can blame them? Of course, being good little British Christians, nobody present appears to have attempted to de-platform or cancel the individual spouting this nonsense, which is indeed heretical. The Dean of Trinity College has responded to the complaints by defending the speaker. Did we really expect any other outcome?

Dr Michael Banner (the Dean) has suggested:

‘…that we might think about these images of Christ’s male/female body as providing us with ways of thinking about issues around transgender questions today…’

…‘For myself, I think that speculation was legitimate, whether or not you or I or anyone else disagrees with the interpretation, says something else about that artistic tradition, or resists its application to contemporary questions around transsexualism…’

[Banner] said that while the views were the speaker’s own, he ‘would not issue an invitation to someone who I thought would deliberately seek to shock or offend a congregation or who could be expected to speak against the Christian faith’.

You don’t say?

A Trinity College spokesman said:

‘The sermon explored the nature of religious art, in the spirit of thought-provoking academic inquiry, and in keeping with open debate and dialogue at the University of Cambridge.’

Ah, right. That’s ok then. I’m eager to see how this sermon goes down with worshippers when Mr Heath delivers it at the Cambridge synagogue and the Cambridge mosque, ‘in keeping with open debate and dialogue at the University of Cambridge.’ Do let us know how he gets on.

Let’s consider some implications of this event.

  • Who gave permission for Heath to give a talk at evensong? Was it the Dean? Or someone else?
  • Why was Heath asked to speak from a pulpit, when any half-wit would foresee a problem? What about respect for the congregation?
  • Didn’t anyone have the teensiest suspicion about what he was going to say? If so, may we assume that the Dean is being economical with the truth when he states that he ‘would not issue an invitation to someone who I thought would deliberately seek to shock or offend a congregation or who could be expected to speak against the Christian faith’?
  • Given that this is what happened, what is he going to do about it? Answers on the usual postcard, please.
  • Crucially, what of the silence of senior CofE clerics in the face of the conclusions of the speaker? On second thoughts, scrub that question, Mabel, and file it under ‘Blindingly Obvious’.
  • Isn’t anyone in the upper echelons at Church House, Lambeth or York concerned that this claptrap has been pronounced from a pulpit? How does Jesus having a trans body fit in with ‘He came down from heaven…. and was made man’?
  • What of the casual acceptance of offence caused to the congregation? Does nobody care about the feelings and beliefs of the faithful? Or must they be ‘re-educated’?
  • This sermon was a trans propaganda presentation – no less.
  • Psychologists reading this may also take a professional view on anyone who equates a violent gash in a male side as a vagina. Most of us would agree that it takes a certain sort of mind to conceptualise a vagina as a spear-cut, and it ain’t a healthy one. Just saying.

Lastly, are we surprised that Rowan Williams – a former Archbishop of Canterbury – supervised Heath’s PhD? As a former academic and member of a university ethics committee, I would like to know why this ‘talk’ – and possibly the nature and likely publication outcomes of the PhD itself – were not considered from an ethical standpoint. I have supervised many PhDs and one of my key ethical responsibilities was to question the way in which the research findings would be disseminated, and what possible outcomes this could lead to. It was not uncommon for the ethics committee to discuss potentially offensive PhD plans. This did not curtail academic freedom but protected the university and the student from possible future legal challenges that could be raised under existing law or current social values. Would the University of Cambridge deem it appropriate to support a PhD that called into question the sex/gender of The Prophet? Hang on a minute, scrub that one as well, Mabel, and chuck into the ‘Questions we must not ask’ file.

My view here is that if a student must produce research that results in questioning the sex/gender of one religious leader, then the relevant university must allow other students to do the same for any other religious leader. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Perhaps I should send in a research proposal and see what response is forthcoming. But wait – is that a herd of low flying porcines I see flying overhead, Mabel?

Of course, there is another way of looking a Heath’s thesis. In his eagerness to claim Jesus as a trans body, it could be argued that he has missed a few tricks in other, non-religious old paintings. Why might this be, do you think? Could it be that Heath is only interested in traducing Christianity? Shall we give him the benefit of the doubt?

How about this depiction of medieval blood-letting?

Look at that, Mabel!  One guy piercing another and forming a vagina on his arm – and it bleeds too!  Is this an example of early gender surgery?! And what are the sub-textual meanings of it all?

Or how about this one – the medieval Wound Man – a medical text used for generations to advise on the treatment of sharp-instrument injuries…

This guy has multiple vaginas! Who knew?! And not all of them appear to be actually bleeding! Why not?

Can we have a PhD on the gender implications of that phenomenon please? And what are the implications for biological women who have only one vagina?

Does the male vagina have different properties depending on which part of the anatomy it is ‘inflicted’?

Where do the power relations lie between inflictor and recipient?

Have we considered the possibility that being in possession of a vagina is a form of punishment?

Dear Lord.

To put all this into context, I like to recall what one of my colleagues used to say, when confronting academics with the temptation to assumptions of arrogance and superiority, having acquired a PhD.

‘Line up your qualifications and see what they stand for.’

Absolutely. Mine are BSc(Hons) and PhD. That’s ‘BullShit (Honours)’ followed by “Piled Higher and Deeper”. And in the case of those unfortunates with an MSc that’s ‘MoreShit’ and for the MBA, ‘Master of Bugger All’. I find it helps to remember this exercise when the educated-with-an-agenda try to impress the fruits of their labour upon us. I’d be happy to proclaim this from the pulpit of Trinity College church at Evensong, but I am not holding my breath for an invitation.

Depressingly, as usual, the silence from Lambeth and York is deafening. No doubt the current incumbent of Lambeth Palace is lining up a job for Joshua Heath as we speak.

Here endeth the lesson.

2 thoughts on “Jesus and the ‘trans body’

  1. David Preston

    Well well well. as any student of art would have been happy to tell him: 1) our ancestors were occasionally prudish. Most statues of men have a penis about one third the size of mine. This is not because I and all my friends are well endowed, rather that sculptors and painters were told to tone it down in case the ladies viewing were upset. How upset they might have been on their wedding night is not recorded. Next, 2) earlier paintings were all defaced by the Catholic hierarchy, who demanded modesty veils were painted over the naughty bits. In addition nearly every female sculpture or painting had the pubic hair left off. So the dim PhD student should have realised that no medieval painting or icon would have borne any resemblance to reality and the pictures tell us more about the mindset of the painter, than the body in question. Many men unable to get hold of Playboy in the 16th to 19th centuries must have been rather surprised to find their wives had a hairdo at both ends. The fact that senior clerics are trying to defend this nonsense beggars belief. Is there no idiocy that the remainder of the Church of England will not embrace to court popularity?


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