#MeToo Jesus: Jesus as Victim of Sexual Abuse

On 16 January 2018, Dr Jayme Reaves (Public theologian, Dorset) and Professor David Tombs (University of Otago) delivered the joint paper “#MeToo Jesus: Why Naming Jesus as a Victim of Sexual Abuse Matters”, a Shiloh Project lecture at the University of Sheffield.

 

The #MeToo hashtag and campaign created by Tarana Burke in 2007 and popularized by Alyssa Milano in October 2017 has confirmed what feminists have long argued on the prevalence of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexually abusive behaviour. It has also prompted a more public debate on dynamics of victim blaming and victim shaming which contribute to the silences which typically benefit perpetrators and add a further burden to survivors. As such, the #MeToo movement raises important questions for Christian faith and theology. A church in New York offered a creative response in a sign which adapted Jesus’ words ‘You did this to me’ in Mt 25:40 to read ‘You did this to #MeToo’. This presentation will explore the biblical and theological reasons for naming Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse drawing on earlier work presenting crucifixion as a form of state terror and sexual abuse (Tombs 1999). It will then discuss some of the obstacles to this recognition and suggest why the acknowledgement nonetheless matters. It will argue that recognition of Jesus as victim of sexual abuse can help strengthen church responses to sexual abuses and challenge tendencies within the churches, as well as in wider society, to collude with victim blaming or shaming.

For further reading, see David Tombs, ‘Crucifixion, State Terror, and Sexual Abuse’ in Union Seminary Quarterly Review (1999).

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David Tombs on The Rape and Sexual Abuse of Jesus

Professor David Tombs (University of Otago) presented a Public Lecture at the University of Auckland on July 20, 2016 entitled “Acknowledging Jesus as Victim of Sexual Abuse”.

Feminist and womanist theologians have questioned traditional Christian models of atonement that appear to render God complicit in the extreme violence of the cross, likening Jesus’ crucifixion to a form of ‘divine child abuse’. These models of atonement often reinforce unhealthy attitudes towards the acceptance of sexual violence and abuse.

Professor Tomb’s presentation will link the critiques of atonement to recent research on crucifixion, which re-reads the historical and scriptural evidence on Roman crucifixions to suggest that sexual humiliation and sexual violence were prominent features in this event. This will lead to discussion on the theological and ethical relevance of such an understanding of crucifixion, including its significance in light of recent sexual abuse scandals within the church.

The paper may be listened to in mp4 format, with accompanying visuals here, or the mp4 file may be downloaded here.

h/t: Caroline Blyth