Friday, March 30, 2012

Gay Passion of Christ series starts Sunday

“The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” by Douglas Blanchard, at JHS Gallery in Taos, NM (Photo by Dorie Hagler)

A gay vision of Christ’s Passion starts on this Sunday here at the Jesus in Love Blog. New posts will run daily through Easter.

The series includes all 24 paintings in Douglas Blanchard’s epic masterpiece “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” with new commentary by Kittredge Cherry and a short Bible passage. The paintings present Jesus as a contemporary gay man in a modern city as he lives out the dramatic events of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection.


For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Gay Passion of Christ series starts Sunday on Jesus in Love blog at Q Spirit

Click the titles below to view individual paintings and text in the series. Links will be added as the series is posted.

1. Son of Man (Human One) with Job and Isaiah
2. Jesus Enters the City
3. Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers
4. Jesus Preaches in the Temple
5. The Last Supper
6. Jesus Prays Alone
7. Jesus Is Arrested
8. Jesus Before the Priests
9. Jesus Before the Magistrate
10. Jesus Before the People
11. Jesus Before the Soldiers
12. Jesus Is Beaten
13. Jesus Goes to His Execution
14. Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross
15. Jesus Dies
16. Jesus Is Buried
17. Jesus Among the Dead
18. Jesus Rises
19. Jesus Appears to Mary
20. Jesus Appears at Emmaus
21. Jesus Appears to His Friends
22. Jesus Returns to God
23. The Holy Spirit Arrives
24. The Trinity

The posts are timed so that Christ dies on Good Friday and rises again on Easter itself.

Your comments on the gay Passion series are strongly encouraged, especially if something touches you deeply or raises an unanswered question. Comments from readers here will help me revise my text for publication in book form. I want to address the issues that are most important to readers.

Blanchard’s images show Jesus being jeered by fundamentalists, tortured by Marine look-alikes and rising again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God and friends. He faces forms of rejection that feel familiar to contemporary lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. He stands up to priests, businessmen, lawyers, and soldiers—all of whom look eerily similar to the people holding those jobs today. His surprisingly diverse friends join him on a journey from suffering to freedom.

New book
"The Passion of Christ:
A Gay Vision
Update: “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” with Blanchard's paintings and Cherry's text will be published in 2014 by Apocryphile Press. Click here to get updates on the gay Passion book.

“We are posting the gay Passion series to make Christ more accessible to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and our allies,” said Cherry, founder of JesusInLove.org. The website promotes artistic and religious freedom by supporting LGBT spirituality and the arts. “Christ’s story is for everyone, but queer people often feel left out because conservatives use Christian rhetoric to justify hate and discrimination,” she said.

Blanchard, an active Episcopalian who teaches college art history, spent four years painting the gay Passion. He started in summer 2001, but it took on new meaning on Sept. 11 when hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center near his studio on New York’s Lower East Side. “I understand that a lot of people rediscovered religious faith after September 11th. I had the opposite reaction,” he said. “I was horrified by the religious motivation of those attacks.” He used the paintings to address this conflict, concluding that Christ’s resurrection reverses the “grim arithmetic of power.”

The gay Jesus himself appears surprisingly accessible in Blanchard’s art. “I didn’t want him to seem in any way remote and unapproachably sacred,” he explained. Each of the Passion pictures is oil on wood panel, 18 inches by 14 inches.

Prints and cards
of Blanchard's Passion
are available
Reproductions of the Passion paintings are available as greeting cards and prints in a variety of sizes and formats online at Fine Art America.

Selections from Blanchard’s Passion appear in “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” by Kittredge Cherry. “Art That Dares,” a Lambda Literary Award finalist, is filled with color images by 11 contemporary artists from the U.S. and Europe.

Cherry is the author of six books, including “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More,” a Lambda Literary Award finalist. “Art That Dares” is filled with color images by 11 contemporary artists from the U.S. and Europe, including selections from Blanchard’s gay Passion series.

The New York Times Book Review praised Cherry’s “very graceful, erudite” writing style. Her other books include “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations” and “Jesus in Love: A Novel.” Her books have been translated into German, Polish, Chinese and Japanese. Cherry was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served as its national ecumenical officer.

Cherry founded JesusInLove.org in 2005 to support LGBT spirituality and the arts and show God’s love for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. With a focus on gay Jesus and queer saints, Jesus in Love grew quickly into an online community with a popular blog, videos, e-newsletter and image archive.

Click here for the 2011 Gay Passion series (Blanchard's art with different text)
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Related links for “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision”:

*Book

*Email list

*Blog series

*Prints and greeting cards
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For more Holy Week reflections on the queer Christ, read excerpts from "Jesus in Love: At the Cross" by Kittredge Cherry"

Also of interest:
Made In God's Image: Stations of the Cross for Inclusive and Affirming Communities by Rev. Janine C. Stock

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This post is part of the Queer Christ series series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series gathers together visions of the queer Christ as presented by artists, writers, theologians and others.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In memory of Adrienne Rich, lesbian poet (1929-2012)

Adrienne Rich (right), with writers Audre Lorde (left) and Meridel Le Sueur (middle) in 1980 (Wikimedia Commons)


In memory of
Adrienne Rich
Lesbian feminist poet
May 16, 1929 - March 27, 2012


white candle Pictures, Images and Photos




I light a memorial candle for lesbian feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich, who died March 27, 2012 at age 82.


For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Adrienne Rich: lesbian poet with spiritual impulses

Rich was one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. Her writing was a guiding light to me and countless others, both people of faith and secular readers. The following lines from her poem “Natural Resources” (from The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977) became like a creed for many of us:

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,

with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.

Rich, who had a Jewish father and Episcopalian mother, wrote about her conflicting religious background in her essay “Split at the Root” (from Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985). That volume also includes the insightful essay whose title alone was enough to dazzle me: "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence."

I had the honor of meeting Rich in person in the 1980s when she spoke to the mostly LGBT congregation at Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, where I served on the clergy staff. Informally among ourselves, we called her “the Great One.”

Her essay “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying” (from On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978) played a major role in helping me (and many other lesbians) decide to come out of the closet. I read the essay so many times that I  memorized parts of it.  I still refer to these words when I need to make difficult decisions:

An honorable human relationship-- that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word "love"-- is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.


Thank you, Adrienne.  Now your soul is continuing on that hard way.  I count you among the LGBT saints for all the wisdom that you have bestowed upon the world.

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Related links:

Adrienne Rich 1929-2012: A Poet of Unswerving Vision at the Forefront of Feminism (New York Times obituary)

In Remembrance: Adrienne Rich by Victoria Brownworth (Lambda Literary)
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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Gay Jesus kiss: "Corpus Christi" play behind the scenes


Jesus kisses a man behind the scenes at “Corpus Christi,” a play about a gay Jesus by Terrence McNally, in a new photo.

A traditional Christ seems to reach across 2,000 years of history to share a kiss with a 21st-century man in a tie-dyed shirt. Jesus is still carrying his cross, but that can’t stop him from expressing man-to-man love with a gay kiss.

The photo was taken in August 2011 at Burning Man in the Nevada desert. It shows Jesus kissing Benjamin Rexroad, who directed a production of “Corpus Christi.”

The play and surrounding controversy are examined in the new documentary film “Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption.” It will be released in April after five years of filming and two years of edits. The sneak-preview national tour starts in San Francisco with the first official screening on April 28. Watch the new trailer below or at this link.

Corpus Christi” retells the gospel with Jesus as a gay man in 1950s Corpus Christi, Texas. Bomb threats from religious conservatives almost prevented its Off-Broadway opening in 1998. The acclaimed play has continued to face censorship, protests, bomb threats, blasphemy charges and religious condemnation since an international revival tour by 108 Productions began in 2006.

In the new documentary, anti-gay religious groups meet “the gay Jesus play.” The film follows the troupe, playwright and audiences across the U.S. and around the world on a five-year journey where voices of protest and support collide on one of the central issues facing the LGBT community: religion-based bias.

Related links:
Official website: www.corpuschristi-themovie.com

Doc About “Gay Jesus” Play Corpus Christi Attacked By Christian Groups (Queerty, April 14, 2012)

(Photo courtesy of Benjamin Rexroad)
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This post is part of the Queer Christ series series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series gathers together visions of the queer Christ as presented by artists, writers, theologians and others.



Friday, March 23, 2012

Queer women saints honored for Women’s History Month


Women saints of special interest to LGBT people are listed here today because March is Women’s History Month. LGBT rights and women’s rights go together because both groups experience discrimination based on gender stereotypes.

Each woman’s name is linked to her individual profile in the LGBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. The series honors traditional and alternative saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures who are especially meaningful to LGBTQ people and our allies. Most are lesbians or queer themselves. This list is a work in progress and more names will be added.

***
Traditional Christian saints and holy women
Click on names for more info

Brigid and Darlughdach: Brigid loved her female soulmate


Esther and Vashti: Biblical queens inspire LGBT writers

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Artists imagine Queer Lady of Guadalupe


Hildegard of Bingen and Richardis: Mystic who loved women


Joan of Arc: Cross-dressing warrior-saint


Juana Ines de la Cruz: Mexican nun who loved a countess


Julian of Norwich: Medieval mystic celebrating Mother Jesus


Martha and Mary of Bethany: Sisters or lesbian couple?


Mary, Diana and Artemis: Feast of Assumption has lesbian goddess roots


Mary Magdalene: Undeserved reputation for sexual sins


Perpetua and Felicity: Friends to the end


Ruth and Naomi: Love between women in the Bible


Wilgefortis: Bearded woman saint


Alternative

Marcella Althaus-Reid: Queer theology pioneer

Artemisia Gentileschi: Baroque rape survivor paints strong Biblical women


Kuan Yin: Reflecting the queer Asian Christ


Saints of Stonewall: Launched LGBT rights movement


We'wha of Zuni: Two-spirited Native American remembered on Columbus Day

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Related links:

Artist paints holy lesbians and other women: Interview with Angela Yarber

LGBT Saints Series (male, female and everything in between) by Kittredge Cherry

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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

John Boswell: Historian of gays and lesbians in Christianity

John Boswell

John Boswell (1947-1994) was a prominent scholar who researched and wrote about the importance of gays and lesbians in Christian history. He was born 69 years ago tomorrow on March 20, 1947.

Boswell, a history professor at Yale University, wrote such influential classics as Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (1980) and Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (1994).

For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
John Boswell: Historian of gays and lesbians in Christianity


Boswell converted from the Episcopal Church of his upbringing to Roman Catholicism at age 16. He attended mass daily until his death, even though as an openly gay Christian he disagreed with church teachings on homosexuality. He also helped found Yale’s Lesbian and Gay Studies Center in the late 1980s.

A linguistic genius, he used his knowledge of more than 15 languages to argue that the Roman Catholic Church did not condemn homosexuality until at least the 12th century in his book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the 14th Century. A 35th-anniversary edition was published in 2015 with a foreword by queer religion scholar Mark Jordan.

Using some of his last strength as he battled AIDS, Boswell translated many rites of adelphopoiesis (Greek for making brothers) in his book Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, presenting evidence that they were same-sex unions similar to marriage.

A 25th-anniversary collection analyzing Boswell’s work was published as “The Boswell Thesis: Essays on Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality,” edited by Mathew Kuefler. Scholars take many different approaches, looking at Boswell’s career and influence, a Roman emperor's love letters to another man; suspected sodomy among medieval monks; and genderbending visions of mystics and saints.

A scholar challenges Boswell’s interpretations in the 2016 book “Brother-Making in Late Antiquity and Byzantium: Monks, Laymen, and Christian Ritual” by Claudia Rapp. She offers evidence that the brother-making rite bears no resemblance to marriage. The author is professor of Byzantine studies at the University of Vienna in Austria.

Boswell died an untimely death at age 47 from AIDS-related illness on Christmas Eve 1994. He remains an unofficial saint to the many LGBT Christians who find life-giving spiritual value in his historical research that affirms the value of queer people in Christian history.

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Boswell’s books include:

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the 14th Century

Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe
___
Related links:

John Boswell Page at Fordham University

John Boswell profile at LGBT Religious Archives Network

John Boswell tribute at Yale AIDS Memorial Project (yamp.org)

John Boswell profile at Elisa Reviews and Ramblings
____
This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Qspirit.net presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cheng’s new queer Christ book available today


From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ” by Patrick Cheng is in stock and ready to ship starting today at Amazon.com.  I highly recommend it.

Patrick S. Cheng
The much-anticipated book proposes seven new models of sin and grace based on LGBT experience. Cheng is a theology professor at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. A gay Asian American, he also earned a law degree from Harvard. His previous book, Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology comes from from the same publisher, Seabury Books.

Throughout church history, LGBT people have been condemned as sinners for their sexual orientation. As a result, many LGBT people are unable to understand the meaning of grace -- the unmerited gift of God’s love. Cheng argues that people need to be set free from the traditional legal model of sin as a violation of divine and natural laws. Instead he presents a Christologial model in which sin and grace are redefined in liberating terms based on queer experience.

In his new book “From Sin to Amazing Grace,” Cheng develops ideas that he presented here at the Jesus in Love Blog in 2010 with his popular series on “Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People.” At that time Cheng presented five models of a queer Christ:
1) Intro and Erotic Christ (sin as exploitation; grace as mutuality)
2) Out Christ (sin as the closet; grace as coming out)
3) Liberator Christ (sin as apathy; grace as activism)
4) Transgressive Christ (sin as conformity; grace as deviance)
5) Hybrid Christ (sin as singularity; grace as hybridity)

Cheng adds two more queer models in his new book:

Self-Loving Christ (sin as shame; grace as pride)
Interconnected Christ (sin as isolation; grace as interdependence)

I agree with Bible professor Tat-siong Benny Liew when he says, “Cheng’s work ranks among the best scholarship of a new generation of theologians.” I can hardly wait to get my hands on “From Sin to Amazing Grace” to be liberated and inspired by the Cheng’s vision.

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Find it on Amazon.com at this link:
From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ” by Patrick Cheng

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gay centurion: Jesus heals a soldier’s boyfriend in the Bible

“Traces of His Presence” by Eric Martin

Jesus praised a gay soldier as a model of faith and healed his male lover in the gospels, according to many Bible experts. The soldier, a centurion in the Roman army, is highlighted here today (March 15) for the feast day of Longinus, a centurion at the crucifixion of Jesus.


For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Gay centurion: Jesus heals a soldier’s boyfriend in the Bible

“Centurion”
by Luc Viatour
www.Lucnix.be
Both Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 tell how a centurion asked Jesus to heal the young man referred to in Greek as his “pais.” The word was commonly used for the younger partner in a same-sex relationship. It is usually translated as boy, servant or slave. In recent years progressive Bible scholars have concluded that the centurion was in a homosexual relationship with the “slave who was dear to him” in the gospel story.

Jesus was willing to go into the centurion’s house to heal his lover, but the centurion stopped him, saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Jesus marveled and told the crowd around him, “Not even in Israel have I found such faith!” To the centurion he said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And his boyfriend was healed at that moment.

Scholars believe that “boy” was the centurion’s sex partner not only due to the word “pais,” but also because it is unlikely that a soldier would care so much about an ordinary slave. It was common in Greco-Roman culture for mature men to pair up with a young man as his lover in “erastes-eromenes” pederastic sexual relationship.

This interpretation is promoted by LGBT-friendly church groups such as WouldJesusDiscriminate.org on billboards stating “Jesus affirmed a gay couple.” For more info, see my previous post, Billboards show gay-friendly Jesus.



The centurion’s story has gotten surprisingly little attention throughout history considering that Jesus himself was impressed by his faith. But the Roman soldier has always been an unlikely role model. Jesus’ contemporaries were probably shocked that the great healer would praise a military man who enforced Roman occupation of their land. Today people may find the centurion unappealing because he may have been queer, or a slave owner, or both. It was just like Jesus to take someone disreputable and praise them as holy.

Detail from “Healing the Centurion’s Servant” in Mother Stories From the New Testament by Anonymous, 1906

While the faithful centurion himself is rarely mentioned, his words do live on in a prayer used in many Catholic and Protestant eucharistic liturgies. For example, the prayer immediately before communion at Catholic mass paraphrases his words: “Lord I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Saint Longinus, whose feast day is today (March 15) is the centurion who pierced Christ’s side at the crucifixion and declared, “Truly this man was the son of God.” It’s possible that he is the same faithful gay centurion whose beloved boyfriend was healed by Jesus.

“Crucifixion” by Christopher Olwage (oil on canvas)

Gay New Zealand artist Christopher Olwage pictures the centurion and his “pais” with Jesus at the cross in his 2015 crucifixion painting. The scene is framed by a male couple: the Centurion on the left and the man “who was dear to him” on the right. The nude painting includes two other men who may have had male-male sexual relationships with Christ: John, who is most often identified as the Beloved Disciple and Lazarus. For more info, see the previous post Gay Jesus painting shown in New Zealand.

Jesus’ healing interaction with the same-sex couple has fascinated artist Eric Martin so much that he created two works based on their story. Martin is a gay poet, artist, and church organist in Burlington, North Carolina. He has a Master of Divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.

“Traces of His Presence” at the top of this post uses fluid lines and bold red to reveal the face of Christ in the holy space between the centurion and his beloved.

“The Visit” by Eric Martin

Martin takes a more realistic approach in “The Visit.” A rainbow arches behind Jesus as he gazes at the centurion and his pais. Their varied expressions draw the viewer deeper into the drama.

Books that explore the homosexuality of the centurion include:

Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times by Tom Horner

Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else by John McNeill

The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships by Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley

What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality by Daniel Helminiak

The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament by Theodore Jennings

“Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant” by Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) (Wikimedia Commons)
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Related links:

A gay centurion comes out to Jesus (Gay Christian 101)

Jesus and the centurion (Wild Reed)

Gay centurion (My Queer Scripture)

The centurion of great faith (Homosexuality and Scripture by Pharsea)

Jesus, the centurion, and his lover (Jack Clark Robinson at Gay and Lesbian Review)

When Jesus Healed a Same-Sex Partner by Jay Michaelson (Huffington Post)

The Gay Gospel? (The L Stop)

El centurión gay: Jesús cura al novio de un soldado romano en la Biblia (Santos Queer)

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This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Qspirit.net presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kuan Yin: A queer Buddhist Christ figure

“Kwan Yin is Coming” by Stephen Mead

Kuan Yin, the androgynous spirit of compassion in Buddhism, is sometimes thought of as a queer Christ figure. Buddhists celebrate the birth of Kuan Yin today (March 11) this year.

Gay writers who have explored the queer side of Kuan Yin include Patrick S. Cheng, theology professor at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Toby Johnson, a former Catholic monk turned author and comparative religion scholar.

In the introduction to his essay “Kuan Yin: Mirror of the Queer Asian Christ,” Cheng explains:

"Kuan Yin, the Asian goddess of compassion, can serve as a mirror of the queer experience. Specifically, Kuan Yin affirms three aspects in the life of queer people that are often missing from traditional images of the divine: (1) queer compassion; (2) queer sexuality; and (3) gender fluidity. In other words, Kuan Yin can be an important means by which gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can see ourselves as being made in the image of God."

Cheng writes clearly about the connection between Kuan Yin and Christ in the section where he describes his personal search for queer Asian Christ figures:

Olga’s Kuan Yin
By William Hart McNichols ©
www.fatherbill.org
"I have been intrigued by the possibility of Kuan Yin serving as a christological figure for queer Asian people. For me, it has been difficult to envision the Jesus Christ of the gospels and the Western Christian tradition as being both queer and Asian (although I do recognize that queer theologians and Asian theologians have tried to do so in their respective areas). It is my thesis that Kuan Yin might serve as a symbol of salvation and wholeness for queer Asian people of faith...."

Click here for the whole essay “Kuan Yin: Mirror of the Queer Asian Christ.”

Cheng's latest book “From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ” will be published this month. He is also the author of “Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology.” His series on “Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People Today” was one of the most popular stories of 2010 at the Jesus in Love Blog.

Another gay perspective on Kuan Yin is provided by Toby Johnson in our previous post “Kuan Yin: Androgynous spirit of compassion.” Johnson begins by retelling the traditional story of Kuan Yin. Then he explains that it is “a nice myth for gay people” because:

"It says we’re really all One, all reflections of one another, that the distinction between male and female is illusory and needs to be transcended and that transcending gender is part and parcel with experiencing heaven now."

A student of Joseph Campbell, Johnson has written 10 books, including the classic Gay Spirituality and Two Spirits. He is production manager of Lethe Press and former editor of White Crane Journal. Click here for more of his writing about Kuan Yin / Avalokiteshvara.

Images of Kuan Yin here are created by Stephen Mead and William Hart McNichols. Mead is a gay artist and poet based in New York whose work has appeared internationally in cyberspace, books, and galleries. McNichols is a New Mexico artist and Catholic priest who has been criticized by church leaders for making LGBT-friendly icons of saints not approved by the church. His icons have been commissioned by churches, celebrities and national publications.
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This post is part of the LGBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Esther, Vashti and eunuchs on Purim: Queer models for such a time as this

Queen Esther by Jim Padgett, Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing (Wikimedia Commons)

Queen Esther, a role model for LGBTQ people, helped save the Jews from destruction in ancient Persia, an event commemorated today in the Jewish festival of Purim (March 4-5 this year). LGBT Jews see her as an inspiration for coming out. A possible lesbian love story between Biblical queens Esther and Vashi has fired the imagination of a lesbian playwright, while a scholar says both queens are role models for gay and lesbians in ministry.

Esther hid her Jewish identity in order to become the next queen of Persia. Later she "came out" as Jewish to the king, thereby saving her people from a planned massacre. Their story is told in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament). Vashti was a Persian queen who refused to obey a summons from her drunken husband, the king.

Queer characters fill the Book of Esther. Every chapter includes at least one eunuch -- an ancient term for gender nonconformists who today would be called LGBTQI. There are a dozen eunuchs in the Book of Esther: Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, Carcas, Hegai, Shassshagaz, Teresh, Bigthana and Hathach. They play a variety of roles, including messengers, advisors, guards, assassins and soldiers.

The Washington Post article Gay Jews Connect Their Experience To Story of Purim reports that some see Purim as an unofficial LGBT Pride Day. Esther is traditionally considered the heroine of the story, but independent-minded Vashti has been reclaimed by feminists and now LGBT people.

Lesbian playwright Carolyn Gage imagined a love story between the two queens in her play “Esther and Vashti.” Gage describes her play as “a fast-paced, high-action drama where the love story of two women of different cultures and class backgrounds plays itself out against a backdrop of anti-Semitism and the sexual colonization of women.” Her “radical feminist retelling” fills in the blanks of scripture. In her version, Esther, a radical Jewish lesbian living in exile, and Vashti, a Persian woman of privilege, were lovers before Vashti married the king. The plight of the two women coincides with their successful effort to stop the impending massacre of the Jews.

Rev. David Bahr applies the strategies of the two queens to contemporary challenges in “Openly Gay and Lesbian Pastors Called by Predominantly Straight UCC Congregations,” a research project for his Doctor of Ministry degree at Wesley Theological Seminary in 2006. His theological reflection states, “As Esther and Vashti wrestle with their callings, I believe they can be instructive for gay men and lesbians called to ordained ministry. When should we wait, wondering if we are being prepared for something bigger? And when is enough, enough? What gives us the greatest sense of integrity? Or perhaps, who is best served? Both Esther and Vashti also present ‘models of resistance to wrong’ – one of direct dissent and one of working within the system.” Bahr went on to become pastor of Park Hill Congregational Church UCC in Denver, Colorado.

In a famous quote from the Book of Esther, the man who had urged her to hide her Jewish identity changes his advice when their people are about to be massacred: “Perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) Now is a good time to reflect what Esther and Vashti mean to queer people and our allies today.

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Related links:
The Proudest Queen of Purim (Human Rights Campaign)

Eunuch-Inclusive Esther–Queer Theology 101 by Peterson Toscano

Closets (Esther 4:13-14) (The Bible in Drag Blog)

Esther: The Queen Who Came Out (Talking Dog)

Mona West also writes about Esther in The Queer Bible Commentary

Carolyn Gage page at Amazon.com
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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

The traditional view of Esther is presented in the following:


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Friends to the end: Saints Perpetua and Felicity


For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Perpetua and Felicity: Patron saints of same-sex couples
Saints Perpetua and Felicity
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM, www.trinitystores.com


Saints Perpetua and Felicity were brave North African woman friends who were killed for their Christian faith in the third century. Their feast day is March 7.

The details of their imprisonment are known because Perpetua kept a journal, the first known written document by a woman in Christian history. In fact, her "Passion of St. Perpetua, St. Felicitas, and their Companions” was so revered in North Africa that St. Augustine warned people not to treat it like the Bible. People loved the story of the two women comforting each other in jail and giving each other the kiss of peace as they met their end.  Their names are familiar to Catholics because Perpetua and Felicity are included in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass.

Perpetua was a 22-year-old noblewoman and a nursing mother. Felicity, her slave, gave birth to a daughter while they were in prison. Although she was married, Perpetua does not mention having a husband in the narrative.

They were arrested for their Christian faith, imprisoned together, and held onto each other in the amphitheater at Carthage shortly before their execution on March 7, 203.

The icon of Perpetua and Felicity at the top of this post was painted by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his progressive icons. It is rare to see an icon about the love between women, especially two African women. The rich reds and heart-shaped double-halo make it look like a holy Valentine.

Felicity and Perpetua by Jim Ru
Artist Jim Ru was inspired to paint Felicity and Perpetua as a kissing couple. His version was displayed in his show “Transcendent Faith: Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Saints” in Bisbee Arizona in the 1990s.

Perpetua and Felicity are still revered both inside and outside the church. For example, they are named together in the Roman Canon of the Mass. They are often included in lists of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender saints because they demonstrate the power of love between two women. Their lives are the subject of several recent historical novels, including “Perpetua: A Bride, A Martyr, A Passion” by Amy Peterson and “The Bronze Ladder” by Malcolm Lyon.

I also recommend the 19th-century painting “The Victory of Faith” by St. George Hare. He paints a beautiful romanticized vision of what Perpetua and Felicity might have looked like as an inter-racial couple sleeping together nude in prison. Click here to see it at its home in the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia.

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Related links:

"Eternal Bliss" - SS Felicity and Perpetua, March 7th (Queer Saints and Martyrs - and Others)

Suspect 3rd Century Women Put to Death in Arena: Ancient Hate Crime? (Unfinished Lives: Remembering LGBT hate crime victims)

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This post is part of the LGBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

March is Women's History Month, so women will be especially highlighted this month at the Jesus in Love Blog.
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Icons of Perpetua and Felicity and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores