If Islam is “quivering with male sexual insecurity” should the same verdict be handed down on the “macho-Jesus” type of Christianity? I’m referring to those churches and evangelists who protest (perhaps too strongly?) against a certain effeminate image of gentle Jesus meek and mild. And who express shock and horror at those maudlin wispy glazed-eyed pastel portraits. They push the “masculine” Jesus! The one who commanded tough fishermen, who cast out the money changers from the temple with a whip, who had the courage and strength to endure the blood sacrifice of his body, who is coming again with an iron rod to punish and rule the earth!
Mirrors were invented by god to help us see ourselves better so how about checking this mirror from Hindu India?
Stephen Crittenden: The British novelist, Martin Amies, has described contemporary Islam as ‘quivering with male sexual insecurity’. You in a way, show that exactly the same process has been operating in Hindu India.
Martha Nussbaum: Yes, and I think it was compounded in this case by the fact that the British really despised the male sexual self-image of Hinduism. They thought that this idea of gods as sensuous, as playful, Krishna lounging around playing his flute, longing for Rada, that all this was contemptible, and that real men ought to be much more tough and aggressive. And in fact I talk about a novel of Rabindranath Tagore , in which he imagined his Hindu nationalist hero wishing that he was able to rape the woman that he loves, and he finds he can’t do it, and he blames this on his Hindu heritage. He says that he can hear this Hindu flute music in his head and he wishes that he could hear in his head the music of the British military band. So it’s that kind of longing to replace the traditional kind of sensuousness and playfulness with something much more aggressive, that proves so dangerous in this case.
But Christians are different? And there is no question of their Jesus playing his flute and longing for Mary? Maybe not, but there without doubt is a widespread image of Jesus that many do object to for its effeminacy.
And there is in Christianity, as much as in Islam, a certain sexual repression and defensiveness. Tamas Pataki cites these as points 8 and 9 in his list of characteristics of religious fundamentalism. He also discusses at length in his book (Against Religion) the psychological origins of this sexual issue in many unfortunate persons and families, and how religion can become involved as a consequence. The thwarting of full personality development through sexual denial is not an issue reserved for certain sections of Christianity or Islam, either.
But the repression and control of sexual desires is a major concern of Christian and other religious doctrines. Sexuality is also a major factor quite apart from religion in anyone’s psychological development. A boy used to physical comfort from his mother can, through is own psycho-social sexual growth, reach a point where he is embarrassed by this, or even fears it, feels threatened by it. Add to this direst warnings about horrendous consequences of “illegitimate” sexual activity and sexuality, and some minds can get really messed up. Female sexuality can become threatening to this mind. It needs to be controlled — both the female sexuality and the messed up male mind. Most Christians and Muslims stress clearly defined dress and social codes for women. Lurid Dante-purgatorial curses are believed to inevitably follow from breaking any of the rules and taboos — with the greatest curse of all reserved for the one who would deny his or her essential male or female role, for a man to be, well, lets say ‘effeminate’.
Next time I hear an evangelist going to town about how much “a MAN”Jesus was, I think I’ll take time to ask “Is he as repressed as the Taliban, whose problem is not that they want virgins, but that they are virgins?” (Hitchens’ way of putting it.) But he’ll probably be married, yet I’ll know he still has the same hormones as any other man, with the same drives and temptations. But I could wonder why he seems to feel it so vital to “go to town” over being a MAN. Does he “protest too much?”
But that would be a pointless waste of secret-gossipy time. What would be more humane would be to ask what to do about the burden one inevitably must feel about the damage he is doing in continuing to mess-up minds in so many. One small ant-bite size thing, I suppose, would be to at least write down my thoughts about the matter to share with others.
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