Amid a nationwide BLM movement calling for the removal of statues and monuments that enshrine, even glorify, the genocidal, colonizing, enslaving, and imperialistic past of the United States, well-known BLM activist Shaun King tweeted that “The statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down” and in his next tweet adds: “All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form of white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.” Predictably, a swirl of some positive and extremely negative responses, including death threats, ensued.
What has struck me as I follow the fallout of King’s response is the opinion shared by some, perhaps by many, that simply put, King is wrong. That he is equivocating when he conflates Sunday’s liturgical art with social realities outside the ecclesial walls. That we can, and in fact should, draw a clear line between the sacred art of “white Jesus” and the atrocities committed on this continent (and others) by whites against native and African folk (in the name of “white Jesus”). In brief, that there is no complicity between the representational modalities of sacred art and genocide, slavery, cultural supremacy, and systemic racism. This perspective is historically and theologically untenable.
The Wheel is a quarterly journal that strives to articulate the Gospel “intelligently and constructively for the 21st Century” from Orthodox perspectives. It offers an accessibly thoughtful and well-researched platform for Orthodox self-expressions and often features world-renown contributors. Andrew Louth edited this volume, which “initiates discussion” (14) concerning Orthodoxy and sexuality. I commend the editorial decision to incorporate vehemently disparate viewpoints as an overture to a multi-partisan and long overdue conversation. I treat here some of the salient discussions in this issue, though I warmly encourage reading it in full.
Louth calls attention to an increase in cultural sexualization and a positively correlated “coolness and lack of physicality” (17) that runs the risk of reducing all human relations to sexual terms. Behr proposes a different vision whereby Christian asceticism (married or not) ought to sublimate sexual difference by becoming human in Christ (28). On Behr’s reading, sexual difference corresponds to being “in Adam, not in Christ” (29). This framework invites deeper reflection on human embodiment. Kelaidis’ article calls for just such an engagement with “the human body as a site of divine revelation” (33), but unfortunately it sometimes deals in platitudes (e.g., its handling of Platonic dualism and “Gnosticism,” pp. 34–35) and I would suggest that the author’s tacit disappointment (33) that Orthodoxy has not produced something of the same “scope and magnitude” (33) as John Paul II’s Theologia corporis is misguided. Collectively, the many extant Orthodox meditations on the body and sexuality are tesserae in a kaleidoscopically shifting mosaic, whose complexity hints—and no more—at the mystery of embodied personhood. Continue Reading…