Bohache – Christology from the Margins

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Bohache’s Christology from the Margins is an impressive work. It is divided into three parts: Traditional Christologies, Contextual Christologies, and Queering Christ. The first section is composed of three chapters, which focus on pre-Nicene Christology, the development of orthodox Christology (from Nicaea to 20th century modern theology) with a final section on historical Jesus studies. The first part will mostly be a review for students of theology. There is nothing especially new in Part I, although it serves as a nice introduction to orthodox Christology. Although the second part was simply a literature review of Christology from the perspective of liberation theology, I found this to be the most compelling section. Bohahce does fine job of summarizing the various contextual Christologies and presented them in a coherent manner. Chapter 4 focuses on Christology from the perspective of race and culture, with a primary emphasis on the discussion of black liberation theology (James Cone) and Asian liberation theology (CS Song). Next, he presents a discussion of Christology from Latin America (Segundo, Sobrino, Boff, etc). The sixth chapter presents Christology from the feminist perspective including a historical discussion about the rise of feminist theology. Again, the coverage is quite comprehensive, discussing everyone from Daly to Brock to Johnson. The final chapter of Part II focuses on Christology from women of color. He discusses the various Christological proposals from womanist theology along with a brief review of Christology from a mujerista perspective.

Part III is the heart of the work. Bohache spends the first chapter discussing not only the homophobia of Christians, but also the Christophobia of homosexuals. He remarks that many homosexuals have given up on Jesus Christ considering that he has been a source of terror in their lives. Chapter 9 focuses on “queer” as a social location along with a review of the gay and liberation theology. Although Bohache appreciates the work of Comstock and Clark, he criticizes them their anti-Christology. These gay theologians have discouraged an engagement with the person of Christ because of the damage Christ has had on queer communities. He is more receptive of the work of Robert Goss who famously published his queer theology in his famous Jesus ACTED UP. Bohache is encouraged by Goss’s work with his more positive focus on Jesus, especially his focus on the Reign of God. However, Bohache believes he does not properly develop a comprehensive Christology since his primary interest is to create a political queer liberation theology.

In the final two chapters Bohache develops his own queer Christology. He is unconcerned with question about Jesus’ own sexual activity and more interested in developing a queer Christ who “stir[s] things up and even perhaps spoils them, in order not to settle for the easy answers of the status quo. The queer Christ articulates a solidarity with the ‘fags’, ‘bitches’, and ‘niggers’ of his day and our day” (213). This chapter reviews four types of queer Christologies: 1) an anti-Christology, 2) a Christology of queer embodiment, 3) a radical Christology, and 4) a mystical Christology. I’ve already discussed the first type of queer Christology, and next he focuses on the body theology of Isherwood as representative of a queer incarnation Christology. He next reviews the radical Christology of Goss and Althaus-Reid. Bohache is quite critical of Althaus-Reid believing her Christology remains quite vague and cryptic. It appears that Bohache does not see the value of Althaus-Reid’s project of perverting and ‘indecenting’ theology “unless something constructive results” (223). Bohache claims that his discomfort with Althaus-Reid’s Bi/Christology does not result from being prudish but rather a desire to say something constructive for queer Christians in the church. Althaus-Reid is post-Christian in many respects, and unlike Bohache, does not give a damn about the institutional church. Hence, it is no surprise given Bohache has spent the majority of his career pasturing a queer-affirming church in New Jersey. Ultimately, Bohache charges Althaus-Reid for displaying the Christophobia and anti-Christology he finds to be common in early gay and lesbian theologies from the 80s.

In the final chapter Bohache develops his own Christology grounded in his reading of the Gospel of Matthew. Although he recognizes many liberation theologians (especially from Latin America) have used Luke to argue for God’s preferential option for the poor, Bohache prefers to focus on the notion of inclusion and welcoming of queer individuals in the Matthew’s Gospel. Bohache believes that “this Christ presence dwells in all people, that is innate to our being and our consciousness” (235). From his perspective, we are all on a journey to cosmic Christness. Bohache’s Christology is a queer appropriation of Schleiermacher’s idea of Christ’s perfect God-consciousness. Unlike Althaus-Reid who criticizes the annunciation (as rape of the Virgin Mary), Bohache elevates it to great significance for queer Christology. Bohache wants to emphasize the central affirmation he finds in the annunciation, namely, that God calls us to do great things. He then takes the reader through a queer journey through the Gospel of Matthew. He argues that baptism can signal the coming out process for queer individuals. Perhaps the most interesting move is to read the passion, death, and resurrection through the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who “was beaten, tied to a fence and abandoned to die alone in the wilderness” (254). Bohache writes “I believe that Matthew Shepard is the most famous example of the crucifixions of gays and lesbians that have occurred for generations. His humiliation and suffering were meant, like the scarecrow, as a warning for queers and to ‘keep away’ from ‘decent’ people, and, like ancient crucifixions, as an example to queers of what might happen if they ‘flaunt’ themselves on heteropatriarchal territory” (254). Resurrection is queer because God stirred the pot by raising from the dead a political criminal. A queer resurrection would be God’s absolute NO to homophobia and heterosexism.

At end of the work Bohache writes “I have intentionally sought not to shock, although I may have inadvertently done so, for it has been my intent in creating this Christology to appeal to the so-called ‘middle-of-the-road’ gays and lesbians as well as the ‘cutting-edge’ queers” (261). In Elizabeth Stuart’s work Gay & Lesbian Theologies she notes that queer theology has tended to either borrow heavily from the methodology of liberal theology or liberation theology. I think here we see the tension in Bohache’s work. There’s a sense in which his queer theology is apologetic hoping to not offend liberal Christians. However, by trying to walk the fine line, I worry Bohache’s work ultimately suffers by trying so hard not to offend. His constructive chapter on Christology does not offer anything particularly new, and I suspect most liberal theologians would find nothing offensive or queer, despite his best intentions. I’d recommend Bohache’s work for the great literature review on the liberation theology’s Christology, but I worry his desire to appeal to his less radical queer Christians ultimately removed the offense of the gospel.

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2 Responses to “Bohache – Christology from the Margins”

  1. Wes Says:

    There were a couple of things I appreciated in this work. Like you, I particularly enjoyed his queer hermeneutical key of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. I find it very empowering to not think of the crucifixion and resurrection having only happened once and for all in history, but something that continues to happen in our lives as we journey with each other in the world.

    I also think he did a great job of establishing (or justifying, take your pick of words) sexual orientation (specifically ‘queer’) as a legitimate social location to do theology from. (Which I think is the reason he spent so much time reviewing previous Christological interpretations, to point out that a queer Christology is not so different than say a womanist Christology.)

    Jeremy, this thought just popped into my head. Might you be dis-interested in his queer christology because of its mythical foundation (given the influences of Fox and Eckhart)?

  2. Jeremy Says:

    I agree with you concerning hermeneutics.

    You caught me. I didn’t appreciate the mythical Christology.

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