GLBT Christian billboards from WhyWouldWe.orgGay-positive Jesus images are in the national news lately, thanks to billboards in the Dallas-Forth Worth area asking, “Would Jesus discriminate?” MSNBC, the Advocate, and other major news media covered these wonderfully effective billboards, which were posted by five local Metropolitan Community Churches in Texas. They send a strong message by putting a traditional portrait of Jesus with a simple statement based on GLBT understanding of the Bible. “Jesus affirmed a gay couple. Matthew 8:5-13,” states one billboard. It refers to Jesus’ healing a Roman soldier’s servant -- actually his gay lover according to progressive Bible scholars. “The early church welcomed a gay man. Acts 8:26-40,” says another billboard, based on the Ethiopian eunuch who was first Gentile convert to Christianity. Then the billboards ask, “Would Jesus Discriminate?” The question is a play on a phrase that is popular with evangelical Christians: What would Jesus do? (often abbreviated WWJD) “Our viewpoint is that discrimination was not a part of Jesus’ message, nor is it part of the best of any Christian church’s ministry,” says the campaign’s website, WhyWouldWe.org. “This campaign seeks to educate people through active dialog and friendly discussion.” The billboards are part of a larger Would Jesus Discriminate project sponsored by Metropolitan Community Churches at the national level. More billboards (shown below) were posted in the Indianapolis area in 2006. They include the following powerful messages: “Jesus said some are born gay. Matthew 19:10-12.” Jesus used an ancient term for GLBT people when he declared that some people are “eunuchs who have been so from birth.” “Ruth loved Naomi as Adam loved Eve. Genesis 2:24, Ruth 1:14.” The same Hebrew word for love was used for both couples. “Jonathan loved David more than women. II Samuel 1:26.” When Jonathan died, his friend David declared, “Your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.” The following three “Would Jesus Discriminate” websites offer detailed info on these Scriptures and other Biblical evidence affirming GLBT people and their relationships: WhyWouldWe.org WouldJesusDiscriminate.com WouldJesusDiscriminate.org These billboards are so inspiring that I had to post five of them. (I especially love the classic lesbian picture on the Ruth and Naomi billboard!) They also remind me of the debate about art versus advertising or propaganda. Critics have accused GLBT Christian art of being billboards, not true art. For example, a church leader declined to endorse my book “Art That Dares” because, as he wrote, “I felt like too much of the collection was agenda-driven more than necessarily good art…. The art which is most subversive is when the message is in the art itself, and not so much a billboard effect that often sets up opposition and dualistic thinking. Great art is precisely not dualistic but inviting into a much bigger arena where transcendence can speak.” Compare for yourself the billboards of the “Would Jesus discriminate?” campaign with the GLBT Christian art in “Art That Dares” on our gallery page. The difference is obvious. I celebrate our art AND our billboards. The “Would Jesus Discriminate?” billboards may be stirring some opposition, but they’re also making a positive impact. “Individuals who have seen the billboards… reached out to us to say that they have been struggling with coming out issues and the billboards gave them information and hope,” says Rev. Nancy Wilson, MCC Moderator.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
A new book on LGBT Christian spirituality features two longtime friends of JesusInLove.org: writer Yvonne Aburrow and artist Becki Jayne Harrelson. Harrelson’s provocative painting of a lesbian Madonna is the cover art for “Contemporary Christianity and LGBT Sexualities.” It features a detail from Harrelson’s “Madonna, Lover, and Son,” which also appears in my book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.” Harrelson has generously shared her art with JesusInLove.org websites from the very beginning. Congratulations, Becki Jayne, on your book cover! Aburrow contributed one of many fascinating chapters in “Contemporary Christianity and LGBT Sexualities,” an anthology edited by Stephen Hunt, reader in the sociology of religion at the University of the West of England in Bristol. The book is being released by Ashgate Publishing today (Sept. 30). Aburrow’s chapter examines queer and LGBT imagery and themes in contemporary paganism and Christianity, concluding that there is a distinctly queer spirituality rooted in LGBT experience. Aburrow is a Unitarian and a Wiccan who has written four books on mythology and folklore. She completed an MA in contemporary religions and spiritualities at Bath Spa University in the United Kingdom. In her spare time, she blogs at Dance of the Elements and Stroppy Rabbit. She also supports JesusInLove.org with wonderful blog comments and emails. I was glad to help when she asked me for information in researching her chapter. Congratulations, Yvonne, on your “first proper academic publication”! Other chapters in the book are: * Introduction: saints and sinners: contemporary Christianity and LGTB sexualities, Stephen Hunt * The gift (?) that dare not speak its name: exploring the influence of sexuality on the professional performances of gay male Anglican clergy, Michael Keenan * Between subordination and sympathy: evangelical Christians, masculinity and gay sexuality, Kristin Aune * Common pathways, different lives: comparing the ''coming out'' narratives of Catholic nuns and lesbians in Poland, Marta Trzebiatowska * Bisexual Christians: the life-stories of a marginalised community, Alex Toft * Transgendering Christianity: gender-variant Christians as visionaries, Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip and Michael Keenan * Human rights and moral wrongs: the Christians ''gay debate'' in the secular sphere, Stephen Hunt * Christians and gays in Northern Ireland: how the ethno-religious context has shaped Christian anti-gay and pro-gay activism, Richard O'Leary * Trends in spiritual direction for LGBT people, Derek Jay
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Transvestite Jesus by Bill Burch, 2009
A transvestite Jesus and a female Jesus appear in a new series of alternative Christ photos by Colorado artist Bill Burch.
The images explore, expand and maybe even explode the gender of Jesus. They are part of an ambitious project to create a collage of 100 alternative Jesus images arranged to form a traditional Jesus portrait.
“When viewed from a distance the piece will appear to be a large (very large!) portrait of a traditional Jesus, but when viewed close up it will become the many alternative faces of Christ crucified,” Burch explains.
The model for “Transvestite Jesus” (pictured above) is not a transvestite in real life. Instead Burch found a friend who could represent a traditional Jesus, and challenged him to portray an atypical version. “I coaxed him into the bra and panties for five minutes to shoot these images, then he was back in his paint stained blue jeans and t-shirt,” Burch recalls.
The concept for “Fur Coat Jesus” (pictured below) came from the 62-year-old model herself. “She wanted to portray a feminist Jesus and picked the items of her costume accordingly,” Burch says. He describes the model as a pragmatic feminist who “enjoys stirring the pot, challenging our male dominated Biblical-oriented society.”
“Fur Coat Jesus” is disturbing on many levels because not everyone thinks of high heels and fur as feminist. Perhaps this photo makes a statement that high-heeled shoes are part of the “cross” of oppression born by women… and the animals sacrificed for women’s fashions.
So far Burch has shot Black Jesus, Skinhead Jesus, Fur Coat Jesus and Transvestite Jesus, in color and black and white. The color images, collectively titled “I and my father are one,” show Jesus looking into the light. In the black and white images, Jesus turns away from the light. Their collective title is “Why hast thou forsaken me?”
Alternative images of Christ are the subject of my book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.” These radically new Christ figures embody and empower people who are left out when Jesus is shown as a straight man. They can free the minds of everyone who sees them. I appreciate Bill Burch for inviting viewers question their assumptions about Jesus and connect with Christ in new ways.
Fur Coat Jesus by Bill Burch, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
“Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge and St. Francis of Assisi”
By Father William Hart McNichols
By Father William Hart McNichols
A gay priest is considered a saint by many since his heroic death in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.
Father Mychal Judge (1933-2001), chaplain to New York City firefighters, responded quickly when Muslim extremists flew hijacked planes into the twin towers. He rushed with firefighters into the north tower right after the first plane hit. Refusing to be evacuated, he prayed and administered sacraments as debris crashed outside. He saw dozens of bodies hit the plaza outside as people jumped to their deaths. His final prayer, repeated over and over, was “Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”
While he was praying, Father Mychal was struck and killed in a storm of flying steel and concrete that exploded when the south tower collapsed. He was the first officially recorded fatality of the 9/11 attack. Father Mychal was designated as Victim 0001 because his was the first body recovered at the scene. More than 2,500 people from many nationalities and walks of life were killed. Thousands more escaped the buildings safely.
After Father Mychal’s death, some of his friends revealed that he considered himself a gay man. He had a homosexual orientation, but by all accounts he remained faithful to his vow of celibacy as a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan order.
The charismatic, elderly priest was a long-term member of Dignity, the oldest and largest national lay movement of LGBT Catholics and their allies. Father Mychal voiced disagreement with the Vatican’s condemnation of homosexuality, and found ways to welcome Dignity’s AIDS ministry despite a ban by church leaders. He defied a church boycott of the first gay-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens, showing up in his habit and granting news media interviews.
Many people, both inside and outside the GLBT community, call Father Mychal a saint. He has not been canonized by his own Roman Catholic Church, but some feel that he has already become a saint by popular acclamation, and the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America did declare officially declare him a saint. For more info on Father Mychal, visit his Wikipedia entry or the Saint Mychal Judge Blog.
The above icon by Father William Hart McNichols shows Father Mychal with St. Francis of Assisi as the World Trade Center burns behind them. They hold out a veil to gather and help people who cry out in times of violence and terror. In the text accompanying the icon, Father McNichols describes Father Mychal as a Passion Bearer who “takes on the on-coming violence rather than returning it… choosing solidarity with the unprotected.”
Father McNichols is a renowned iconographer and Roman Catholic priest based in New Mexico. After earning a Master of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute in New York, he studied icon painting with the Russian-American master Robert Lentz. Like Lentz, he paints icons with contemporary subjects, as well as many with classical themes. Some of his icons express compassion for people with AIDS, based on his experiences working at an AIDS hospice in New York City in the 1980s. Father McNichols is one of 11 artists featured in “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” by Kittredge Cherry.
This post launches the new GLBT 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 will be covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
JesusInLove.org is introducing its first-ever T-shirt. Click here to order a shirt with the stylish JesusInLove.org logo. I’ve dreamed of creating T-shirts with our logo for years. I finally made my dream into a reality when I needed something special to wear for my Equality March video. Now anyone can wear our logo with pride. The shirt can be customized into a variety of sizes, styles and fabrics, including my personal favorite: classic heavyweight 100% cotton t-shirt. The logo featurs a pink triangle as the “V” in the word “love.” Gay prisoners wore pink triangles in Nazi concentration camps. Following Christ’s example, JesusInLove.org joins queer people in transforming suffering into power. The price includes a $24 donation to JesusInLove.org. We promote artistic and religious freedom by supporting spirituality and the arts for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies. Please support us by buying and wearing your own JesusInLove.org T-shirt.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
I made a new video for the National Equality March supporting full equality for all LGBT Americans. The video is part of the “I Believe in Equality” campaign to prepare for the march on Oct. 10-11 in Washington, DC. Every Equality March video features somebody making a short statement for justice: “My name is ____ (your name), I am ____ (your sexual orientation or gender identity), I am from the __th Congressional District of ____ (your congressional district number and your state), and I believe in full equality for all straight and LGBT Americans.” I expected the videos to be similar because we all follow the same script. But the videos are surprisingly varied! In fact, I am one of the few who says, “I am a lesbian.” There are many variations beyond the “classic” categories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Some participants identify themselves as “genderqueer” or “pansexual transman” -- and I was also pleasantly surprised to see many straight allies in the videos. Click here to see a diverse group of “I Believe in Equality” videos. For the video, I fulfilled my long-time dream of creating a T-shirt with the JesusInLove.org logo. I’m wearing my new T-shirt in the video -- and you can get one, too. Click here for info on how to order a JesusInLove.org T-shirt. The shirt can be customized into a variety of sizes, styles and fabrics. The logo includes a pink triangle as the “V” in the word “love.” Gay prisoners wore pink triangles in Nazi concentration camps. Following Christ’s example, JesusInLove.org joins queer people in transforming suffering into power. Are you going to attend the National Equality March? If so, please contact me so we can post your reports, photos and videos here at the Jesus in Love Blog.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
[Part of a series on Eros and Christ] Romance with Jesus is a popular theme in contemporary Christian rock music. A good example is “Love Song for a Savior” by the Grammy-winning Christian rock band Jars of Clay. Gender studies professor Hugo Schwyzer wrote in a previous post about how the song brings together eroticism and Christianity. See a video of Jars of Clay singing the love song in concert by clicking here or on the image above. You’ll hear men singing to Jesus, “I want to fall in love with You.” ____ This concludes our summer series on Eros and Christ… but it has been so popular that we promise to return to the subject regularly from now on.