Thursday, September 06, 2007

Exploring Jesus the Bisexual

Saying Goodbye to John and Mary by Peter Grahame

Jesus Christ was human, so he must have had sexual feelings, but maybe he was so enlightened that his attractions were not limited to a single gender.

The bisexuality of Jesus is a new subject being explored by a variety of artists and authors. For example, I wrote about it in my novel, Jesus in Love, and photographer Peter Grahame explores it in his photo montage Saying Goodbye to John and Mary.

Jesus, John and Mary embrace in a naked trio with bread and chalice in the foreground of Grahame’s richly symbolic image. A future scene appears in the background, where Jesus rises while Mary carries a child of light and flowers multiply around John.

In the text accompanying the image, Grahame writes:
“The night before he was to die, after his last supper with the twelve and
before going to the garden's hilltop to pray, Jesus expressed his deepest most
profound Love to Mary and to John, the two he loved more than his own soul.
And Mary brought forth his daughter.
And John brought forth his word.”
Grahame contacted me from his studio in New Mexico after he discovered Jesus in Love, my fictional autobiography of a bisexual Jesus. “You make Jesus seem like some sweet guy I just met!” Grahame wrote to me while he was reading the novel.

I felt an immediate kinship with Grahame’s art. His specialty is “transformational, iconographic” male nude photos. He has compiled many of them into a beautiful book called Contemplations of the Heart: A Book of Male Spirit. It’s a gem with poetic text, glossy pages and a wide variety of male nudes all set in a spiritual context.

Although it was created as a gay men’s meditation book, Contemplations of the Heart also moved and inspired me, a lesbian. I was caught off-guard by the appealing, authentic and spiritual qualities of the photos. I've often thought that women’s bodies are objectified in western culture, but this book made me see that men have been subjected to equally strange misrepresentations in pornography and popular culture. Grahame’s nudes are a relief and a blessing.

“The book is about self image, and its intention is to help alleviate self hatred and internalized homophobia,” Grahame says. “The images are sensuous but not overly erotic and present guys of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages (all over 18.)”

Contemplations of the Heart began as a couple of hand-bound volumes that Grahame passed around to men on gay retreats, straight retreats and even at a Native people’s ceremony where it was blessed by a two-spirit elder. Their encouragement led to publication in its current hardcover form. Now Grahame is working on his next book, which will focus on queer spirit archetypes and further explore the sacred feminine.

Grahame lets viewers figure out his symbolism for themselves, but he did offer this reflection on his bisexual Jesus image: “In the back Jesus ascends to ever-new adventures in the cosmos, leaving his legacy behind... as each and every one of us will also do... what will our spiritual legacy be? It’s up to each of us.”

Click here for more of Peter Grahame’s work at the Jesus in Love Blog.


Cinnumeg said...

Hello there, Ms. Cherry--

I'm so glad I found your site! I log into the Gay spirituality site a couple times a week.

I love gay Jesus art! My partner and I are both practitioners of more pagan works in the community. But each of us works with Jesus in his own way. There's a meditation tool called "The Iron Pentacle" that is about running energy through the body to points representing right-sized relationships to Sex, Pride, Self, Power and Passion. The first time I worked the Iron Pentacle, the instructors told us to allow a guide to come in and help us to anchor the pentacle in our bodies. Jesus appeared as sort of my "Iron Pentacle Master" as it were.

You might be interested to know that I have a "gay Jesus" screenplay, though it's not so much about Jesus-as-gay, so much as it is about a chubby gay kid's relationship with Jesus as he understands Jesus--a big ol' Jewish faygele! I'd like to add a verse to that song "Some Children See Him" which would go something like:

"Some children see him gay as a goose,
The young man Jesus' virile caboose!
Some children see him gay as a goose,
tenderly kissing his man."

If you're interested, I can send you a copy. The other interesting thing about "Hunting Bears" is that it's set in my hometown of Littleton, Colorado around the time of Amendment 2, but a few years before the Columbine massacre that put that town on the map.

Wishing you success with your blog

KittKatt said...

Hi Cinnumeg,

Yes, I would love to see your “gay Jesus” screenplay. I believe that there is a blossoming of literary and artistic work on the subject, and we are in the exciting early stage of discovering that our seemingly private efforts are all part of a larger movement of the Spirit.

“Some Children See Him” will never be the same! I’ve sometimes wished for a queer verse, and now my wish is granted.

Thanks for your story about how Jesus appeared to you as a guide. I feel that a special connection with people who are somehow drawn to Christ although they are outside the institutional church -- I've spent much of my life in that position.

Please email me at to send the screenplay.

Rollan McCleary said...

Kitt being a very generous hearted person, and very experimental and artistic too, she is open to the suggestions above that Jesus appears to neo-pagans to become a “guide” in the Iron Pentacle meditations. With the greatest respect to these esoteric practitioners and practices and Kitt’s enthusiasm I cannot accept this is happening, (nor for that matter that people should like these practioners be referring to Jesus, poetically or otherwise as "gay as a goose". That's unnecessary to making even the strongest gay point theologically, artistically or in whatever way).

More importantly the real Jesus is never summoned in the mode indicated. One summons spirits, not divinity and summoning spirits is itself forbidden in Judeao-Christian tradition after the manner of the Witch of Endor story. In dreams and vision Jesus may however appear at will to believers (and to unbelievers summoning them to belief and action - there are currently widespread reports out of Muslim countries of “the Man in White”, Isa, challenging people to leave Islam). But even here there must be the utmost care the reported experience is not what is biblically called “a lying vision”. They are some of religion’s biggest problems.

Only recently I have written an article on the new controversies around Mother Teresa
whose Jesus gave her visions then inexplicably disappeared for the rest of her life causing her endless pain and doubt in relation to him. The question nobody seems to be asking is did the true Jesus ever appear to her? For example, the Jesus who so rudely tells her he’s choosing her because she’s so incapable (which she absolutely, objectively wasn’t) doesn’t sound terribly Jesus-like and could well have been some force of deception in her life that gave her sorrow accordingly. So one does need to tread a bit carefully here.

As art the work of Peter Graham (which raised this whole issue of Jesus as “guide/influence” etc) has a lot going for it and I appreciate much of what it seeks to do. But again some of it raises questions at the theological/spiritual level beyond the scope of this brief comment. (I might devote an article to the implications some time). Sufficient to say here while appreciating the art I can't follow Mel White in regarding this as outright the work and voice of the Spirit - though obviously it has something to do with gay spirit in lower case.

QueerforChrist said...

Well, I often act on impulse, and so it was with the email I just sent to you, kittkatt. In it, I called these images "amazing." I should not have been so quick to call the images you promote "amazing" without also adding the sometimes contradictory adjectives "challenging, upsetting, intriguing, disturbing, pointless, provocative."

I am fully on board with idiomatic depictions of Jesus as male, female, gay, lesbian, latino, black, asian, PWA/HIV and on and on. I get off the train, however, when it comes to artists depictions of specific erotic behaviors and situations that do not seem to serve any purpose beyond shock, provocation and gratification, and which have little basis in history or tradition. To illustrate, I adore "Sermon on the Mount” by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, and Janet McKenzie is an icon in our house. But "Saying Goodbye to John and Mary" by Peter Grahame doesn't really tell a story or further a more expansive concept of the Christ of Faith, it just seems like so much self-gratification (not to mention poorly-conceived pseudo-surrealism). Why do we as queer folk need to see Jesus in sexual situations? Did 2000 years of heterosexual monopoly on his identity ever need to do that (aside from the Magdalene 'theory'?) Do we not then create a spirituality based on sexual behavior, rather than our core queer identity which, it seems to me, should not depend for its definition on specific behavioral manifestations.

Obviously, I am sorting through my feelings and confronting my assumptions, which is, of course, what art is intended to do to us. I am not an art critic, though I am a performer and a writer. Still, I am having trouble with some of this, and since I know that is what is intended, I thought I should speak out. Please accept these comments in that spirit.

KittKatt said...

Thanks Rollan and QueerforChrist -- for your comments and your open expression of reservations. I agree that Grahame’s “Saying Goodbye” is a challenging image, perhaps more challenging than the images in my book Art That Dares. I see this blog as an excellent forum to discuss such challenges as I myself wrestle with newly discovered queer Christian art.

QueerforChrist raises an important question: “Why do we as queer folk need to see Jesus in sexual situations?”

It’s not just queers who can benefit from seeing Jesus as a sexual being. Our whole sexually dysfunctional Western society needs to see Christ in a way that honors the human body, including sexuality. Most people refuse. Queers are in the vanguard of people willing to embrace an erotically alive Christ. However, it’s not just queer. Many heterosexual allies tell me that they support and benefit from my efforts to explore Christ’s sexuality.

I’ve pondered the need for a sexual Christ deeply because my novel Jesus In Love shows Jesus in erotic situations. I wrote about a sexual Jesus because human beings are sexual. I believe that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. If we imagine he lacked sexual feelings, we lose the power of his incarnation, that God took human form.

I explain more in the introduction to Jesus in Love:

“I didn’t see why it was disrespectful to know Jesus intimately, or to imagine that he might share my queer sexuality. After all, the Bible says that he is the divine bridegroom who became human out of love. It says we are created in God’s image, sexuality included….

“Jesus in Love can be an antidote to the right-wing monopoly on Jesus, and also to the secular monopoly on sex. Today’s hypersexual society is reducing sex to an addiction or a sales tool. It is crucial to find models for reconciling body and spirit. Sexual ecstasy symbolizes divine union in almost all spiritual traditions, but in Christianity the concept has been buried. Jesus in Love dares to reclaim this lost treasure. Erotic interludes and the Biblical metaphor of marriage effectively convey the intensity of God’s love for humankind. With Jesus as guide to the sacred sexual, the human body and the human spirit are reunited and revitalized to face whatever comes.”