Sunday, September 19, 2010


Now we're in the mega-urban-floating-in-a-diaspora age and what the heck does that mean for fathers? Clearly resurrection is off the table now. But not crucifixion (AIDS, for instance).

A father is supposed to protect, nurture, educate, be a role model, provide a living. A lot of fathers do exactly that. Some don't. Some have never evolved beyond being hunter/gatherer/warriors and only know how to do that. The best they can do is to throw the kid into the pickup with them when they light out for the territories. They are Esau, the hairy man, the hunter.

Maybe today is not for a generation of fathers. Maybe now it's up to the brothers. Jesus had brothers or at least half-brothers. We don't know about Joseph’s or Mary’s brothers. Let’s try imagining Jesus' Uncle Jimmy, the one who is gay. This is a sort of new gospel. There are a LOT of really old gospels, you know -- old scrolls stuffed into jugs and lying in caves. The authorities just picked out the ones they liked (four of them) for the New Testament and put some of the others in the Apocrypha, but there are even more. In one of them Jesus keeps kissing John on the mouth. So much is well-known and accepted in the study of religiion that ministers are not allowed to take back to congregations. But this “gospel” (good news) is one I’m making up. Not in a spirit of mockery, but as an exploration. You won’t find any confirmation.

I had an Uncle Jimmy, actually my great uncle, my grandfather’s brother. An ugly little man who worked his heart out every day and had the gentlest, most generous spirit of anyone I've ever known. Totally unlike my fiery unreasonable grandpa. Yet when we pulled into his yard late one night and put up our tent trailer, he came out with the shotgun because he thought we were stealing off his woodpile. He was capable of being fierce. He was not gay; in fact, not very sexy at all, but he was quite real. I borrow his name with fondness.

NA tribes who didn't have a tight grip on conception -- so couldn’t always point to the father -- expected the mother's brothers to do the teaching and protecting. And disciplining. So let’s imagine that Jesus has an Uncle James. (Maybe he was gay, but he certainly didn’t have AIDS, which didn’t make the jump to humans until later, though they say now that the monkeys had it 30,000 years ago.)

Let’s get outrageous. What if Jesus turned on Joseph one day, the way he did on the money-changers, and said, "Joseph, old man, you're a loser. I don't want to be a carpenter all my life, I'm outta here." And maybe in exasperation Joseph beat him. In those days he could legally stone his son to death. And then maybe Uncle Jimmy (who was after all not Joseph's brother but Mary's brother) came to find Jesus and took him home and comforted him and sent him off to India, the San Francisco of those days. (Still is!) And Jesus picked up a lot of ideas over there and brought them back with him. Things like “no violence” and compassion for the poor, magic like how to multiply loaves and fishes. Gandhi sorts of things.

Consider Mary’s point of view. Being inseminated by God must be quite terrifying. None of the girls of the Greek myth world seemed to welcome Zeus. Their children didn't fare so well. But then neither did Jehovah's son. I should think at that point Mary would have been pretty grateful for a sheltering man with a home and a job, despite the amount of moving around they seemed to have to do, but maybe she also depended on her brother Jimmy quite a bit. He had no children. That might NOT be because he was gay, because gay men can still inseminate and they can still be “turned on” circumstantially to women or they might simply be adaptable.

Among the Plains Indians there was a certain “type” who enjoyed women’s work, dressed as a woman, and had a special fondness for children -- NOT pedophilia (that’s a Euro concept, isn’t it?) but “uncleness,” care for the well-being of nieces and nephews. I’ve known local tribal men like this. They didn’t dress like women, but they enjoyed women’s work, even as defined contemporaneously. (Secretaries and nurses.) I don’t know any stories about transvestites in the Bible -- just in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” But that’s irrelevant anyway. Gay is not the same as cross-dressing which is more like identity confusion. Of course, Jesus wears a long dress and some people argue about his sexuality. In fact, I reject the whole thing of male versus female as a construct sometimes useful and often not. I think gender/sexuality exists as a spectrum in society and as uniqueness in individuals.

What does gay Uncle Jimmy have to contribute in a male role model sort of way? One thing that comes to mind is love of the arts -- not that one has to be gay, but my girl friend in the fourth grade had a gay uncle who took us to the ballet. (I didn’t realize he was gay then.) Of course, my theatre classmates included a lot of gay guys -- quite various, not types. Among my students I noticed that some boys were good friends to girls. Some protected smaller, weaker boys. Might or might not have been gay.

Biologists have known all along that maybe a tenth of males in any mammal species will attempt sex with other males rather than females. The question is how they have escaped being weeded out by evolution. The answer is that survival fitness is not a matter of individual success but of the persistence of the whole group, the tribe. If individual success is at the expense of the group, survival is endangered. Contributions to survival in the cases of both gays and grandmothers is not in reproduction, but in the health and resourcefulness of the children once they are born. Life is a continuation of the gestation begun by insemination in the womb, extended outside the mother. Even the sacrifice of the occasional fetus/infant/youngster in the interest of better lives for the rest of the group can be a “fitness for survival.” We are mistaken to think that aggressive fierceness in men is a fitness when it destroys groups and possibly nations in useless wars.

The importance of the Uncle Jimmies of the world is that they share genes with their families and contribute to their health, defense and wealth without producing more children who consume and burden. Anyway, I find them to be lovable and dependable friends.

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