Historical Jesus

Tom Wright, photo by Gareth SaundersN.T. Wright, former bishop of Durham and now at the University of St Andrews, says we may find a rounded portrait of Jesus, a full personality, from the historical documents. To Wright, Jesus considered himself Messiah in a new way, unlike that expected by the Jews at the time though a development from Old Testament thought; Messiah, rather than “second person of the Trinity”.

Between the Jewish concept of Messiah in 1AD, and the Christian concept in 100AD (he finds “CE” patronising) he finds Jesus, doubly similar and different to both. The Gospels seem a credible step between. In the Gospels, Jesus says cryptically what later Christians may say clearly. His clearing the Temple of the sellers is a claim to Messiah status, as are his conversations afterwards, if we may puzzle them out: when the Lord comes, says Zechariah (14:21) there shall no longer be traders in the house of the Lord of Hosts on that day.

What is the purpose of the apocalyptic language? “You shall see the Son of Man descending on the Clouds”- is this a prophecy of the Second Coming, the Rapture of Christians into Heaven, or the end of the laws of physics? No, says Wright. Rather it is, among other things, an elaborate metaphor-system for investing historical events with theological significance. Jesus predicted war with the Romans, which happened in 66-70 with the destruction of the Temple, and 135 with the expulsion of the Jews from Judah. Daniel’s apocalyptic similarly referred to incidents in the Maccabean period.

What is the Messiah? The strongest current in Jewish thought at the time was that he would lead the Jews to military victory. All would worship on the Holy Mountain because the Jews told them to. This remains current- I read once that if the Messiah came he would be a fighter pilot. Other currents led towards Jesus’ intent, to lead the Jews into a Kingdom of Heaven by escaping the cycle of violence. “I desire mercy not sacrifice”. This confusion is found in Zechariah, where Wright claims Jesus found much about his role: The Lord of Armies will devour Tyre by fire (9:3-4); yet there are hints that Heaven does not come by military victory. In 13:8-9, two thirds of the people will die, yet the remainder will be the People of God. Here, Heaven comes through defeat. As in the Gospel of Thomas, the Kingdom of Heaven is here, now, as Jesus speaks. It is a new way for people to be, one with another. It remains our job to create it, here.

I thought the Bible shows the history of our learning about God, and Rowan Williams gives this example. In 2 Kings 9-10, the prophet Elisha anoints Jehu King over Israel, and Jehu murders the household of Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen. This is seen as God’s Will. Yet in Hosea 1:4, the Lord condemns Jehu for that bloodshed. As people see more of God, Love and Mercy come into sharper focus.

Feminine men

Renoir- femme assise au bord de la merRenoir, jeune femme assiseAfter writing my own post, I googled “Feminine men”, and found this post on Thought Catalog. The comments from women are encouraging in that they all agree, but discouraging in that they say things like People often think I’m really weird when I tell them all this and I know no one who is like me too.

Then I found Love Red Nails, first “Women marrying feminine men“. The writer talks of wanting her partner in a dress for the wedding. They often share clothes. Out came my internalised femme-phobia: it is alright for a man to be feminine, but cross-dressing is going too far, I thought. I resented her mentioning this, thinking it made a lovely idea tawdry and fetishistic, even though I express myself female all the time. Trans women are encouraged to distance ourselves from transvestites- it sometimes seems we are more acceptable if we have a “medical condition”.

It is about sex. Of course it is. How could finding a partner not be? But it is also about relating to the world as a whole, in all of life. That I should still think of dressing feminine as a dirty little fantasy shows how pervasive femme-phobia is. I read what the male commenters have to say on both these posts, and feel they shouldn’t be saying these things, they should keep quiet about it, even as I begin to say the same myself. All my fear comes out. I clicked Submissive men and read Sensitive or submissive men are very different from normal (sic) guys in their behavior. What’s normal? People are like this! What is the feeling about camp v “straight acting” gay men atm?

Then Lucy writes about women who like feminine men, whether  they are cross-dressers or are “on the passive side and not afraid to be vulnerable”. Um. Passive. Vulnerable. Not well regarded, and not comfortable even for me. That physically delicate and vulnerable type of man gives me a sort of protective instinct. I just want to hold him tight and keep him safe from the big bad world. I never decided to be that way, it’s just what comes up in response to what I see around me. That is what I want in a woman, though it makes me ashamed. I still feel I should be stronger than that.

I don’t read much contemporary fiction, but am unaware of a novel in which a couple where the woman “wears the trousers” (not an attractive phrase; better than “pussy-whipped”) have a happy lasting relationship. Or on the telly- Stuart on LA Law, perhaps.

The Wall St Journal, no less, says “Women don’t want macho men” when their countries have good health-care systems, because the masculine man is more likely to get divorced, and less good with children. In passing, the female writer suggests the feminine men are more likely to get cuckolded- which is part of the femdom fantasy.

Also, there was Youtube, a series of pictures of men in “women’s” clothes, some of them growing or mimicking breasts, some not.

I want to say, How fantastic! Liberation! But I am still ashamed and frightened, and want to keep quiet about it. Is that “feminine”?

Feminine male, dominant woman

Women, birds and a star, 1949, oil on canvasI do not speak for other gynephile trans people assigned male at birth, far less the androphiles, but I am male. Mine is a male experience of the world, and a male response. I claim the word “feminine”. It is rarely used to mean simply female, and normally used to mean “characteristic or regarded as characteristic of women; womanly” (OED). I claim that no response is truly characteristic of women alone, and want to divorce it from the much clearer concept of “female”.

The Urban Dictionary goes the other way: Feminine means “What pertains to a woman”. There are no qualifications. Whatever a woman does is feminine, because they are a woman. but that is not yet the standard use. My former colleague was often mistaken for a lesbian, because she was “masculine”, and I want a word for that. Rather than make the words mean “female” or “male”, I want to get rid of the prescriptive part- feminine or masculine are both Good, whichever sex one is.

A lesbian blogger wrote  that the straights found out about sex before completing puberty, but she had to wait for university to discover LGBT societies and gay bars. I have some faint hope for my fifties. My father was similarly feminine, referring to my mother as “The Boss”, yet if we had in any way subverted patriarchy, I would not have grown up so certain of the importance of being Masculine. I got my shame from my parents, like the rabbit parasite which passes down the nose of the mother as she licks her young.

Circus Horse, tempera on canvas, 1927At the country dancing, there are more women than men, so women dance together. S was happy to dance “as a man” with me, and in the promenade hold pulled my right hand back just a fraction. I felt exposed, vulnerable, feminine, wanting to dance with her, and also frightened and ashamed. So I stopped going, before I smashed my car up which would have stopped me going anyway.

A woman told me, simply, “my husband dominated me”. That is quite acceptable for her, under patriarchy, but I don’t know what that would look like mutatis mutandis for me. I might manage to avoid overwhelming shame, but would still feel vulnerable.

Not entirely in a spirit of disinterested enquiry, I had a look at some female dominance porn. I used it to help me consider what I want, and how that relates to sexuality. I would not illustrate my post with the pictures, but have uploaded three. However the straight, dominant male might respond to these, the metaphors and symbols of female dominance are there: the frown and sneer of cold command, the camera’s perspective grovelling at her feet. It all seems so much hard work: normal straight people get away with just bodies, but there are so many props in the other photographs I saw. Though I understand no porn is a close portrayal of real life.

One woman whom I thought, wrongly, might be masculine with me told me that men who read her that way “want to be dominated”, which is a faff, except in matters of real life decision making. She was very pleased to get off with an army officer, at one point, but I have heard no more about that. I dislike the words dominant and submissive, anyway, they are too strong: perhaps assertive and assenting are better.

I tagged this “autogynephilia” because I am so “feminine” that only transition made sense for me. That refutes Blanchard’s, and other, theories. Wxhluyp, if he is still about, may have something to say.

Pledge of Allegiance

Japanese American children pledging allegiance in 1942My facebook feed went all American, and there was this stuff about the Pledge of Allegiance. How foreign Statesites are! We would just fall about laughing, if told to do that. So I said so, and a man wrote, “The US is utterly foreign to most of us here too. That’s why we’re Quakers.” One post said In 1935, a seventh-grader refused to say the Pledge in school, sparking national turmoil… Her lifelong husband “had been sent to a [Nazi] concentration camp for refusing to salute national symbols.” Bit confusing, that. She wasn’t married, aged 12. The article explained she was a Jehovah’s Witness. She was expelled from school, stoned and jeered at in the street, and her parents’ shop was boycotted.

Another fb share was from atheists wanting not to say the pledge until the words “under God” were deleted, saying they had been added in 1954 during the MacCarthy hysteria. So what is this pledge, and when do people say it?

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Wikipedia: According to the Flag Code, the Pledge “should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform, men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.”

Here, I read the Pledge was written for Columbus Day 1892, but soon recited daily by schoolchildren across the country. That’s insane. It turns something which could be meaningful, a turning of the heart towards love of country marked by ritual, into an oppression. Loyalty given in freedom is beautiful. Loyalty extracted by force is monstrous. As in the photograph- when Japanese Americans were interned, forced loyalty is no loyalty at all.

I have sworn allegiance to the Queen twice, once to serve her in the role of Notary Public, and once in the Territorial Army. I would not, now, I would affirm, but I did it freely, and meant it.  In some formal dinners people toast the Queen; my friend always added something which sounded like “The Lord Protect her”. Being republican, she made it a toast for Oliver.

Do adults say this?

Joan Miró

Animated landscape, oil 1927

Joan Miró remains in copyright, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, has images free for non-commercial use. So here is some Joan Miró. There is also joanmiro.com.

Constellation- Woman on the Beach Untitled, oil and ink on wood

Hearing their words

Serie noire et rouge, etchingWhat did Theo say? Not “discourteous”, that is my word. He said it seemed I was not paying attention. We use words with different meanings, but it is worse to understand what I think he meant, and put that idea in my own words. The actual words you use may help me approach your meaning.

I clerked Area Meeting yesterday, and we had 38 people- more than have worshipped at that meeting house in living memory, double what we ever have at AM. As an experiment, we moved directly into business from the meeting for worship, and I encouraged members from the four local meetings to come so as to worship together. As people spoke in the business session, I typed what they said- verbatim, in places, especially when people spoke slowly. I noticed K used verbal phrases, but could not specify one, now, as I did not take them down. Her words flow quickly, and persuade by the bubbling torrent of them; each of Derrick’s seems measured and weighty, with a magisterial effect.

L'Oiseau solaire l'oiseau lunaire, lithograph and aquatintI looked down at my net-book, with its ten inch screen, and Theo thought it looked like I was not paying attention. The screen forms a barrier between me and the other person, and putting the net-book on my lap, so that the screen does not stick above the table surface, does not improve things. I am looking down, I should look at the person, and take the odd note with a pen.

I am auditory, not visual-focused. I get information through hearing. Looking at someone might mean I take in less. Taking down what someone says shows I am paying attention. Did he think I was blogging? Have some trust in my goodwill: if I am uninterested in what people say, I am not trying to do the job. The appearance matters, reality matters more. In tribunals, the judge’s pen moving shows s/he is paying attention. Beware when it stops- I have to win her interest.

I would rather note-take on worship sharing around the Long Term Framework questions, including What is your vision of the ministry that your local meeting and Quakers in Britain are called to, now and in the future? Instead, we are squabbling about when AM should be. Oundle want trustees’ meetings to be held on the same day as AM, so their elderly members do not have to drive in the dark when they cannot see properly. Trustees think this impractical, as their meetings can last three hours.  I said, diplomatically, that we were hearing each others’ needs, but we were most keen to press our own.

I want us to struggle to Unity on this. I do not want us just to do as we have always done, or even to accept my compromise proposal out of weariness. What is the Good of the meeting? Yet I want some structure.  Karen proposed dealing with membership business at the end, because asking attenders to leave is- discourteous is my word again, something around she did not enjoy kicking her heels outside and does not wish it on others. No, membership business comes at the start, because it is particularly important. Let us do as we have always done for that, not open it up again.

Attempting empathy

window rightAs Sutekh said to the Doctor, “Your evil is my good”. I can only explain the attitude of the Catholic Truth blog to myself in terms of sickness, damage or sin. At best, they defend what they value against what I see as an unreal threat. Delusional, then. Can I begin to understand the sense of threat? Well, I know a lot about feeling rage and terror.

I have been doing lumosity problem solving games. In this thought process, I can make a sub-optimal move, but if I do, I am looking down on the person, and my aim is to avoid that.

Many people use alcohol to relax. Some people use alcohol to escape reality, to block out uncomfortable feelings, to turn away from the problems they should face. That harms them, and others. People also behave selfishly. I accept the reality of temptation and failing, even as I do not judge those who fall, because I do not know the pressure they were under.

Against this, there is the possibility of Sanctification- the human being behaving in the best way possible. The way to it is the Church, given by God.

In the best way of being, the human is always in control, always overcoming that Id monster or sarx/flesh or our sinful nature. Temptations feel strong but must be resisted, or you fall into that lesser way of being, outside the Kingdom.

I could attack this in various ways- it is Gnostic, I pontificate, spirit good matter bad; or it is setting your morality above that of all human beings, your understanding is better than theirs- but then everyone does that, or we would reject our lesser morality. I don’t accept the judgment that gay sex is necessarily always sinful, but perhaps the majority of humanity always has done.

I avoided the weakest moves. “So tempting to see onesself as better than others”- but that is not it, “There but for the grace of God go I”. It is not necessarily in-group/out-group thinking: We are Right, but accept everyone who will join our Right way, the strait and narrow path, because that is what Catholic means.

I feel there is rage and terror there, the fear of Falling Away, anger that things which should be Catholic such as the SVP and CAFOD and even the Pope aren’t, really, not properly, but in principle one might live like that without it. And on my side, of course I deny that my sin is sinful, because I like it and do not want to give it up.

There are places that I cannot go, places holy to Mormons or Catholics. It behoves me to accept the things I cannot change. It is not a threat really. They are not bad, just different.



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