Rape Culture, Religion & the Bible. But just the Bible.

Via reader Rob Harries, an article claiming Jesus was sexually abused:

The idea that Jesus himself experienced sexual abuse may seem strange or shocking at first, but crucifixion was a “supreme punishment” and the stripping and exposure of victims was not an accidental or incidental element. It was a deliberate action that the Romans used to humiliate and degrade those they wished to punish. It meant that the crucifixion was more than just physical, it was also a devastating emotional and psychological punishment.

Right, but where was the sexual abuse? I mean, if the Romans had set out to sexually abuse the Son of God, they would have done something which everyone would recognise as such, and not nail him to a cross and rely on some dingbat academics to interpret it two millenia later. It’s not like the Romans lacked imagination when it came to cruel and unusual punishments, is it?

The convention in Christian art of covering Christ’s nakedness on the cross with a loincloth is perhaps an understandable response to the intended indignity of Roman crucifixion. But this should not prevent us from recognising that the historical reality would have been very different.

Very different? Will this be the plot of the next Dan Brown thriller?

“Renkowned undergarment expert Robert Langdon uncovers a terrible truth the Vatican have kept secret for centuries when he stumbles upon a skid-marked loincloth buried in the basement of the Louvre that he can prove was torn from Jesus moments before he was crucified.”

I’m getting good at this blurb writing, aren’t I?

This is not just a matter of correcting the historical record. If Jesus is named as a victim of sexual abuse it could make a huge difference to how the churches engage with movements like #MeToo, and how they promote change in wider society. This could contribute significantly to positive change in many countries, and especially in societies where the majority of people identify as Christian.

Ah. This is all about bashing Christians who aren’t woke enough. But just Christians, though. Yeah, because they’re the ones who keep turning up in courtrooms charged with rape and sexual assault.

Some sceptics might respond that stripping a prisoner might be a form of violence or abuse, but it is misleading to call this “sexual violence” or “sexual abuse”. Yet if the purpose was to humiliate the captive and expose him to mockery by others, and if the stripping is done against his will and as a way to shame him in public, then recognising it as a form of sexual violence or sexual abuse seems entirely justified.

Perhaps, but I’m confident not even the most miserable medieval peasant was ever tortured as much as this argument.

The scene highlights the vulnerability of the naked prisoner who is stripped and exposed in front of the assembled ranks of hostile Roman soldiers.

Those Romans who were famous for their communal baths and shithouses?

The scene also hints at the possibility of even greater sexualised violence which might be in store.

The authors’ argument for overturning centuries of Christian thought is based on what is hinted at in an episode of a TV series.

Analysis of the gendering of nakedness by Margaret R. Miles demonstrates that we view male and female nakedness differently.

As Patricia Arquette allegedly said: “Things you’ll never hear a woman say: ‘My, what an attractive scrotum!’”

Some present day Christians are still reluctant to accept that Jesus was a victim of sexual violence and seem to consider sexual abuse as an exclusively female experience.

The sexual abuse of Jesus is a missing part of Passion and Easter story retellings.

Rather than trying to convince people that Jesus was sexually abused in the absence of any biblical or historical evidence, these academics might want to look at what the Bible has to say about hubris and conceit.

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20 thoughts on “Rape Culture, Religion & the Bible. But just the Bible.

  1. This article was also on the op-ed page of yesterday’s Telegraph. Yes. The Daily Telegraph. Almost choked on my eggy soldier.

    Of course the woman is a Professor of the Sociology of Religion, an essentially worthless ‘discipline’, and is desperate to find something new and controversial to say after the mere two thousand years that have passed since the event in question.

    Still, she does comply with the cliche that all theology or religious studies academics hate Christianity with a passion

  2. By modern standards, surely a better candidate for the ‘religion is based on sexual abuse’ argument is Aisha…? 🤔

  3. I expect the Church of England will soon fall into line on this rubbish. Meanwhile the independent churches and the evangelicals will keep growing.

    I’m not a Christian, but I was raised as one, I understand the lessons, so I get what it’s all about, and why it all works. And the important thing is that getting into roman era history is as irrelevant as questioning the historical accuracy of Shakespeare, Middle Earth, Arthurian legend or asking which galaxy far, far away, a long time ago, Star Wars happened. It’s mythology. It’s what we had before those other texts and films. The throne room scenes in Return of the Jedi are the temptation of Jesus by the devil, right down to him ultimately rejecting it and facing death.

  4. I feel Western society has life that’s too easy – we don’t struggle to survive, we have enough money for food and luxuries.

    We don’t have to spend 14 hours down a pit each day to sustain ourselves.

    There’s not enough survival stress in our lives and twaddle like this is the result of some of us – those that don’t have the talent to do something productive – of trying to keep ourselves from being bored.

  5. Some sceptics might respond that stripping a prisoner might be a form of violence or abuse, but it is misleading to call this “sexual violence” or “sexual abuse”. Yet if the purpose was to humiliate the captive and expose him to mockery by others, and if the stripping is done against his will and as a way to shame him in public, then recognising it as a form of sexual violence or sexual abuse seems entirely justified

    The only way this argument could possibly hold is if humiliation, mockery and shame are inherently sexual.

    (Christ was definitely subjected to violence and abuse after his arrest: the gospels are quite explicit about it and all historical evidence about the Romans suggests the same, so the only question is whether this violence and abuse was of a type which it is fair to call ‘sexual’.)

  6. We don’t have to spend 14 hours down a pit each day to sustain ourselves.

    Strange you should mention it, that’s exactly what I’d suggest we do with academics who conjure up this sort of nonsense.

  7. Ironically she’s using the later Christian view of nudity to make her argument, rather than the rather-less-bothered Greco-Roman view…

    I love these massively un-self-aware pistes d’argumentation.

    And indeed, someone should tweet at her “Now do Aisha”.

  8. The Romans did sports naked too. So was running the sprint or wrestling also a form of Roman sexual abuse?

  9. “Strange you should mention it, that’s exactly what I’d suggest we do with academics who conjure up this sort of nonsense.”

    How many rabid wolves in the pit with them, though..?

  10. Crucifixion, or crucifiction?

    “Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse – I mean, scourged and nailed to a piece of wood in the broiling heat while my Mum wept helplessly – I realised that some people could actually see my willy!”

    This is a pathetic attempt to co-opt a powerful cultural story to serve a particular identity-politics narrative. We had “gay Jesus” back in the 1960s, I believe. And didn’t Pilate say “Ecce Homo?”. I’m sure we had the racism, antisemitism, and imperialism of the occupying Romans – that’s an easy one. Disability would be a strong contender, but I’m saving my prize until we have an article on “trans Jesus”.

  11. Jesus went to Jerusalem intent on committing suicide by cop.

    He succeeded.

    Sex has bugger all to do with it.

  12. @ abacab

    Many thanks! I kind of knew as soon as I posted that someone would be able to recall or find something about Trans Jesus. There are no other protected categories to which Christianity can be applied, so I guess that means they’ll have to invent some new categories to keep the persecution narrative running…

  13. I’m trying to picture a commander of a Roman Legion gathering the Legion around and exhorting them to humiliate the enemy with nudity. Rather than telling them, kill them all, if anyone is still moving strike them again, then we will burn their city and sow the earth with salt.

    Has the Monty Python version of history taken over academia? How the hell do these people keep their jobs positing such horse apples? I suppose their are no adults left in charge.

  14. Why am I getting a Brer Rabbit “Don’t throw me in the briar bush” feeling.

    I suspect that he didn’t gave a damn about the ‘humiliation’ aspect once they started banging in the nails…

    I can just imagine it. “OK, I don’t mind the scourging, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion and being stabbed with a spear but I insist I keep my underpants on. Otherwise you’ll be hearing from my lawyer.”

    And I just be that they didn’t provide sunscreen for him. The health and safety risks of skin cancer were totally ignored.

    Truly, as the Greeks said, they whom the Gods would destroy, they first make insane”.

  15. Worth remembering that removing the wedding tackle was reputed to be part of the hanging, drawing & quartering practised in Christian realms.

    And served much the same purpose as crucifixion. A painful & humiliating death to those who challenge the ruling order. The subject is not the purpose of the process. It is the deterrent aspect.

  16. The rather silly thing is that we have documentary evidence that if the Romans wanted to sexually humiliate prisoners they had no qualms about doing so. Boudicea’s daughters were raped in front of her and this is recorded as a matter-of-fact bit of history.

  17. I think that the JC cult may have been dreamt up by some marketing genius that worked for the Emperor around about the time that they rolled out Brand JC in AD 325.

  18. A theology professor bashing on Christians is about as surprising as a history professor bashing on about the British Empire’s ‘crimes’.

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