The Rev. Franklin Graham rebuked the notion that Jesus Christ has a "trans body" after a research student at the University of Cambridge made that assertion during a sermon, offending many churchgoers in the process.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Graham reacted to the outrage that ensued after Joshua Heath, a junior research fellow at Cambridge, delivered a sermon at the school’s Trinity College on Nov. 20, likening Jesus’ side wound and blood flowing to the groin in Jean Malouel’s 1400 work Pietà to looking like a vagina.
John 19:34 says that when Jesus was crucified and died on the cross before His Resurrection, Roman soldiers broke the legs of the two men who were crucified alongside Him, but seeing that Jesus was already dead, one of the Roman soldiers decided not to break Jesus' legs but instead pierced His side with a spear, "and at once there came out blood and water."
According to The Telegraph, Heath displayed three paintings at a Sunday sermon, including the depiction of Jesus' crucifixion.
Heath contended that the wound, also depicted in the 14th century Prayer Book of Bonne of Luxembourg, “takes on a decidedly vaginal appearance.” The Telegraph also reported that Heath discussed “non-erotic depictions of Christ’s penis in historical art,” which the research fellow maintained “urge a welcoming rather than hostile response toward the raised voices of trans people.”
“In Christ’s simultaneously masculine and feminine body in these works, if the body of Christ as these works suggest the body of all bodies, then his body is also the trans body,” Heath declared. Heath’s sermon prompted considerable outrage, with one churchgoer writing a letter to Trinity College’s Dean Michael Banner recalling how they “left the service in tears.”
Graham joined the chorus of criticism directed at Heath’s sermon, which he described as “repulsive and shameful.” The prominent televangelist and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse asserted that “to insinuate that Jesus Christ, the Holy Son of God, is transgender or to sexualize in any way His sacrificial death on the Cross for the sins of mankind is utter heresy.”
Noting that “the Bible warns us about false teachers,” Graham maintained that “this speaker and the dean at the University of Cambridge who defended him are false teachers, preaching heresy.” Graham insisted that “people don’t need messages from the pulpit that are trying to interpret art like this speaker was — people need the truth of the Word of God that has the power of God to change hearts and lives for eternity!”
“The Bible warns us to beware … ‘there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction,’” he concluded. As Graham alluded to, top officials at the University of Cambridge stood by Heath following the firestorm that erupted due to his remarks.
For his part, Banner defended the sermon as “legitimate.” In a statement obtained by The Telegraph, the academic summarized the thesis of the speech as a suggestion “that we might think about these images of Christ’s male/female body as providing us with ways of thinking about issues around transgender questions today.”
“For myself, I think that speculation was legitimate, whether or not you or I or anyone else disagrees with the interpretation, says something else about that artistic tradition, or resists its application to contemporary questions around transsexualism,” he added. Banner insisted that “he would not issue an invitation to someone who I thought would deliberately seek to shock or offend a congregation or who could be expected to speak against the Christian faith.”
A spokesperson for the school issued a statement describing the sermon as an exploration of religious art “in the spirit of thought-provoking academic inquiry, and in keeping with open debate and dialogue at the University of Cambridge.”
As reported in The Christian Post, lawyers for the U.K.-based group Christian Concern called into question Cambridge’s commitment to “open debate and dialogue” earlier this year when contending that the school’s Fitzwilliam College violated national law by canceling an event organized by a group opposed to same-sex marriage.
A member of Fitzwilliam College’s staff told the event's organizer, Wilberforce Academy, that its views were “not compatible with the values of the college.” The values of the college, as identified on the University of Cambridge’s website and outlined in the school’s response to Heath’s sermon, include an expectation that staff and students “be tolerant of the differing opinions of others, in line with the university’s core value of freedom of expression.” The university also expressed the importance of tolerating the “diverse identities” of others.
Heath is not the only person to attempt to tie Jesus to LGBT ideology in recent weeks. On ABC’s daytime talk show “The View” earlier this month, co-host Sunny Hostin declared that “Jesus would be the grand marshal at the pride parade,” implying that Christ would fully support the LGBT movement at the center of the annual event.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com