Monday, April 27, 2009
Gay scholar and theologian Daniel Helminiak has “thrown down the gauntlet” to challenge Biblical literalists. His message is clear: Deal with the historical facts or abandon the anti-gay agenda. Helminiak is a professor at the University of West Georgia and the author of many books, including the bestseller “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. Visit his website, visionsofdaniel.net, to read his eloquent summary of the historical evidence behind the Bible passages that are often misused to condemn homosexuality. New material on the site also describes his frustrating recent conflicts with “so-called Christians” who oppose his pro-GLBT interpretations.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations.” She died April 13 after a brief illness. Stephanie worked with Westminster/John Knox Press (part of the Presbyterian Church) since 1992, most recently as executive editor. I appreciated her knowledge, enthusiasm, intelligence, editorial sense, and commitment to building faith through books. “Equal Rites,” and by extension its editor, brought liberation to many lives and churches In recent years Stephanie continued to give me editorial guidance with kindness and professionalism. I will miss her. With her passing, the world loses a great editor. She lives on in the hearts of those who knew her, and in the good books she brought into being. I close with an excerpt from a funeral service in “Equal Rites,” words that Stephanie herself edited:
“Let the best that was her be renewed in strength in us. May we now give to others the love that we no longer can give to her. For the lives we lead are now her honor and her memorial. She would bless our courage. May we dwell in peace. She would wish it so.”A Web page has been set up for friends to leave their cherished memories. It can be accessed at http://stephanie.wjkbooks.com.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Happy Easter! Be sure to watch the new Easter video of me speaking from a wilderness trail in the flowering hills of Los Angeles. I’m surrounded by wild mustard plants at the height of their blossoming. I admire the tall plants with their beautiful yellow flowers, and I remember what Jesus said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” (Matthrew 13:31-32) Jesus liked to talk about mustard seeds. On another occasion he said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) Now every time I walk among the mustard flowers, I remember the power of faith. On Easter and every day, may we all stay in touch with our potential to grow, blossom and move mountains. To see the video, click here or on the image above.
A queer version of Christ’s Passion is running in daily installments this week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Each daily post features a queer Christian painting and an excerpt from the novel Jesus in Love: At the Cross by Kittredge Cherry. Mary was sobbing at the mouth of my tomb. Her long, luxurious hair hung loose and she had torn her robe as a sign of mourning. When I drew near, she turned and looked at me. I would have been embarrassed by my nakedness in the past, but I had left all that behind at the cross. “Why are you crying?” I asked. “Sir, if you moved him, please tell me where you put him, and I will take him away,” she replied. I could not believe it: She was looking right at me, completely nude, and she thought I was the gardener! Tears couldn’t have blurred her vision that much. I understood then that resurrection had transformed my body into something new. When Mary looked at me now, she no longer saw me. She saw what she expected to see. I hoped that I could awaken her faith so she could see me more clearly. The waters of her soul had slowed to a sluggish ooze. I drew Mary’s soul to my divine heart and gave it a drink to get it flowing again. At the same time, I reached my hand out to her, aiming to comfort her. She recoiled in horror. “Whoa! That is a serious wound! What happened? You need to see a doctor immediately. Or maybe I could heal you in the name of— No, no, we have to get you to a doctor now!” I called her name out loud. “Mary. Mary Magdalene.” She gasped as she recognized me. Her soul convulsed and she grabbed me. “Rabboni! My beloved Rabbi!” She ran the palms of her hands over my arms and then my cheeks. We gazed at each other eye-to-eye, so close that our noses almost touched. “It’s really you,” she whispered. “You’re alive.”... [Later Jesus reunites with his beloved disciple John] …“Didn’t you hear me?” I half-shouted. “I said that you are forgiven!” His eyes flew open and he jumped for fright. “Rabbi! How long have you been here?” “Ever since you asked the Holy Spirit to come in my name. You heard my voice, didn’t you?” “Yes,” he answered uncertainly. “But I thought it was all in my mind.” He huddled in front of me, and his soul bowed before my divine heart. The curls on the back of his head shone like tarnished silver in the starlight. He began to blubber. “I ran away when they arrested you.” I waited one moment before I spoke, so we could both fully experience the way that his body and soul lined up in relation to me. “You’re here for me now. Begin again.” “But I failed you in so many ways…. I tried a different approach. “Do you know the Song of Songs?” John became more rational as he tried to remember. “I don’t think so.” “Well, ask Nicodemus to recite it for you sometime. It’s an ancient poem about erotic love, but it also symbolizes the love between God and each individual soul. Here’s how it starts: ‘Oh, if only you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!’” I leaned back a little and smiled at him, feeling full of mischief. John’s fiery, bejeweled soul was so alluring that I tried not to look at it. His dark eyes searched mine until a look of wonder dawned on his face. “You’re still flirting with me!” he accused happily.
Jesus Rises (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by F. Douglas Blanchard (firstname.lastname@example.org)(Happy Easter from author Kittredge Cherry and the Jesus in Love Blog.)
Saturday, April 11, 2009
A queer version of Christ’s Passion is running in daily installments this week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Each daily post features a queer Christian painting and an excerpt from the novel Jesus in Love: At the Cross by Kittredge Cherry. My cross seemed to grow taller. I was looking down on my enemies and friends at Golgotha from a greater height. Then I realized that I could see my own body nailed to one of the crosses below me…. I found myself in Gehenna, a scrubby desert valley just southwest of Jerusalem. People dumped and burned rubbish here. I had avoided this valley during my earthly lifetime because of its stink, its seemingly endless fires, and its frightening history. Some of my human ancestors had killed and burned their own children here as sacrifices on high altars built to foreign gods. The prophet Jeremiah warned that God would take such vengeance here that people would call the place “the Valley of the Slaughter.” But now my own Father had exiled me to Gehenna as a sacrifice. I sat down and considered my situation in the shade of an old acacia tree whose thick branches spread in a broad circle above my head. I seemed to be in the real earthly Gehenna, not any supernatural place. It was a spring afternoon exactly like the one on which I had died. The heat and smoke from Gehenna’s fires bothered me more than they normally would. I felt like I had a high fever, especially when I remembered all the times that I myself had warned people about Gehenna—which was also our name for the place where souls suffer after death. My words came back to haunt me: “If your right eye makes you sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to lose part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” The word I used for hell was “Gehenna.” I heard Satan’s noxious laugh twanging like an out-of-tune harp. As usual, he was invisible to me. Satan is actually boring, with all the interest generated by the host. I tried to meditate calmly and just be in Gehenna so Satan couldn’t hook me. When my mind began to wander, Satan spoke. “Welcome, Little Brother. I’m glad you’re here.” (Please come back tomorrow for the next daily installment in the Holy Week/Easter series at the Jesus in Love Blog.)
Friday, April 10, 2009
A queer version of Christ’s Passion is running in daily installments this week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Each daily post features a queer Christian painting and an excerpt from the novel Jesus in Love: At the Cross by Kittredge Cherry. I looked at John. His sorrow affirmed his love for me. Grief caused him to tighten his gnarled fingers into fists, screw up his wrinkled face, and raise those dark, wistful eyes toward heaven. I longed to comfort him and remind him of the new relationship I foresaw between us, something like my marriage to the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t say much, so I chose simple statements. I fixed my eyes on Mom until I was sure that she and John both saw me looking at her. Then I nodded my head a little to indicate John and called out, “Woman, here is your son.” To John I cried, “Here is your mother.” I hoped that he would understand the nuance behind my words. I wasn’t leaving them alone. We were a new kind of family. “Yes, we’ll take care of each other,” Mom shouted to me. Satan’s chilling laugh cut her off. “Not likely! Not tonight!” … The next time that I looked down from the cross to Golgotha… My divine heart bled for them and for all human souls tangled across time. The rosy light flared out from my heart, so intense that it seemed like darkness to some. My breath was sputtering out. “It is finished,” I sighed. (Please come back tomorrow for the next daily installment in the Holy Week/Easter series at the Jesus in Love Blog.)
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Here’s a quick interruption to this Holy Week series to say that this very series is being debated at Care2.com under a post titled, “Lesbian Author Re-writes The Crucifixion -- Makes Jesus Gay.” There are 38 comments, many denouncing the idea that Jesus might be gay as “blasphemy.” Here we go again -- crucifixion time. The main post by gay writer Steve W. is actually quite well reasoned. Here are some highlights:
“Does adding a gay love affair to the story of the life of Jesus make me feel more included in the story? No it doesn't. However, do I think it is wrong to retell these accounts in different contexts, even in a queer context? Again, no. The bible is a wonderfully elastic source, and it exists in a state of flux. It changes as we change and reveals new truths as old ones fade like flowers of the previous Spring. I do not think for a second that Kittredge Cherry is proposing that Jesus was gay in Jesus in Love: At the Cross, but rather is recasting the son of god in that light to give a deeper means of identification for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians, just as some have hinted at a relationship between he and Mary Magdalene. In a time of advancing gay civil rights, I do think, however, that this might stoke the fires of controversy in a way that hinders more than it helps.”However, many of his readers left judgmental comments condemning me and the possibility of Jesus feeling attracted to men. Click on the following link to read the post and comments at Care2.com -- and perhaps add your own comments. Here’s the link: http://www.care2.com/causes/civil-rights/blog/lesbian-author-re-writes-the-crucifixion-makes-jesus-gay/
Jesus Before the Priests (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by F. Douglas Blanchard (email@example.com)A queer version of Christ’s Passion is running in daily installments this week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Each daily post features a queer Christian painting and an excerpt from the novel Jesus in Love: At the Cross by Kittredge Cherry. “We are gathered today to hear testimony on capital crimes committed by Jesus of Nazareth. Will the first witness please come forward?” Caiaphas tended to speak quickly, with an upper-class Jerusalem accent. As the first witness swaggered to the front of the room, I saw that his soul had enchained itself by subjugating others, much like the soul of Annas. “What’s your name?” Caiaphas asked. “Reuben of Magdala.” “Occupation?” “Pimp.” He said it in the same offhand manner that he had used back when I liberated Mary from his brothel. “What can you tell us about Jesus?” Everyone leaned forward and pricked up their ears. They knew his testimony would go far beyond describing straight sex with a prostitute. That wasn’t even a minor crime for a bachelor like me. “Jesus is queer,” Reuben stated. “It’s his duty to raise up children for the people of Israel, but he hasn’t even gotten married.” Caiaphas frowned. “That’s certainly perverse, but there’s no law against it.” “You misunderstand me. Jesus has lain with a man as with a woman.” The level of fear in the room ratcheted up a notch, especially among the men who had experienced or fantasized about that forbidden pleasure. Caiaphas pounced on the charge. “You have witnessed the abomination?” he asked, so eager that his mouth was watering. Reuben slid his eyes over me in a calculating way without meeting my gaze. “Well, anyone can tell by the way that he looks at other men and greets them with hugs and long kisses.” … Annas hissed at his son-in-law, “What do you think you’re doing? The charge is supposed to be blasphemy.” “It’s not usually enforced, but there’s a law on the books that allows us to put a man to death for this kind of abomination,” Caiaphas explained in a hushed voice. “Perhaps on the old Jewish law books!” Annas snorted. “Have you forgotten that Rome doesn’t allow us to impose the death penalty anymore? We can’t count on the Romans to crucify him for the abomination between men. Their own gods and emperors shamelessly commit the same indecent acts! Keep the focus on his claim to be Messiah. We can twist that into a treason charge.” … “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God: Are you or are you not the Messiah, the Son of God?” Caiaphas demanded. “I am, and you’ll see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Almighty, and coming with the clouds of heaven,” I replied. A shockwave passed through the room. Caiaphas ripped his robes as if he were grievously offended, but he was grinning in triumph. “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You’ve heard his blasphemy now. What’s your verdict?” he cried. “He deserves the death penalty,” the members of the Sanhedrin yelled back…. “Kill the blasphemer! Faggot! Leper lover!” (Please come back tomorrow for the next daily installment in the Holy Week/Easter series at the Jesus in Love Blog.)
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
by F. Douglas Blanchard (firstname.lastname@example.org)A queer version of Christ’s Passion is running in daily installments this week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Each daily post features a queer Christian painting and an excerpt from the novel Jesus in Love: At the Cross by Kittredge Cherry. After supper all my disciples went with me to Gethsemane, even though it was late, the night was cold, and the olive garden was a long walk away… Lazarus was waiting for us inside the garden. He managed to look stylish even though he was wrapped in the kind of linen sheet worn during religious ritual. He spoke with unaccustomed seriousness. “I’ve been keeping a prayer vigil.” “Good,” I answered. “I want all of you to stay here and continue the prayer vigil.” “But—“ John caught himself and held his tongue. He and Lazarus fixed a pained, plaintive gaze at me. “But what?” I spat out the words impatiently. “I was going to baptize Lazarus tonight.” “Baptism!” I snorted. “You want to drown your old self so you can unite with God? You want to lose your life so you can gain it? Do you think you can take the baptism that I’m about to get?” “We can,” John and Lazarus chorused, as if my questions were just part of some ritual. My lips tightened. “Don’t worry. You’ll have your chance at a real baptism tonight—and so will I.” I looked around at the whole group. “I’m sick to death about what’s happening. Stay here and keep awake. I need to go pray by myself.” ... [Jesus’ prayers end when a small army arrives and arrests him.] My captors began goading me toward Jerusalem. We hadn’t gone far when we heard footsteps behind us. The soldiers and temple police tensed in alarm. I turned and saw Lazarus. Some of the men grabbed him, but Lazarus wriggled out of their grasp, leaving them holding only the ceremonial linen cloth. Lazarus sprinted away stark naked, his buttocks gleaming in the full moonlight. The whole squadron burst into laughter. “Why, it’s just a boy-whore!” “It looks like we spoiled the king’s evening entertainment!” “Too bad—pervert!” The insult was directed at me, along with some blows. (Please come back tomorrow for the next daily installment in the Holy Week/Easter series at the Jesus in Love Blog.)
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Study for The Last Supper by Becki Jayne HarrelsonA queer version of Christ’s Passion is running in daily installments this week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Each daily post features a queer Christian painting and an excerpt from the novel Jesus in Love: At the Cross by Kittredge Cherry. All of them, male and female, were seated around the table. They smiled at me eagerly when I took my seat. The air was filled with the inviting aroma of fresh-baked bread. John was on one side of me and Judas on the other. My disciples had been chatting and nibbling on olives and other appetizers, but now they all stopped in anticipation of the official start of the meal. … I tore the bread in half with my human hands. In my mind I ripped a chunk out of my own divine heart. A spark of sacred energy exploded into infinity when the two pieces of my heart separated. It hurt! I was bleeding red light. Shafts of pink and scarlet now pierced the white light that poured from me. “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me,” I said. When I passed the bread to my friends, I also offered them chunks of my divine heart…. I took a sip of the wine. It was dry and delicious, mixed with just the right amount of water. I prepared to pass this cup of blessing around the table according to our Jewish custom, but first I said something that was not part of the standard ritual. “Drink, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” … I handed the cup to John. He looked in it warily and saw his own reflection on the surface of the liquid. “Go ahead, drink up.” I touched his shoulder gently. He sipped. The Holy Spirit sighed. Inside John’s soul, a piece of my divine heart started beating. Somehow it was able to receive the red light that was bleeding from the wound in my heart. (Please come back tomorrow for the next daily installment in the Holy Week/Easter series at the Jesus in Love Blog.)
Monday, April 06, 2009
A queer version of Christ’s Passion is running in daily installments this week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Each daily post features a queer Christian painting and an excerpt from the novel Jesus in Love: At the Cross by Kittredge Cherry. That night John asked me to go to the garden of Gethsemane with him. I welcomed the chance to say goodbye to him privately before I died. … “It broke my heart when you cried over Jerusalem the other day,” he began. “I’m sorry that I’ve been ignoring you lately. When Lazarus died, I thought I had lost another lover. Then you brought him back to life and I got carried away.” I didn’t say anything, so John added, “You know that you come first with me, don’t you?” I knew. I paused, pondering how deeply he mourned his dead lovers. I wondered how he would manage to survive the grief of my death. No matter what I said, he refused to believe that I was going to die soon. I didn’t know if we could even say goodbye with his love for me blinding him to the hard truth of my future. … “My hour is coming soon,” I confirmed. “Any day now. Probably tomorrow.” John and I spoke of my physical death in metaphor because he couldn’t bear it otherwise. I loved his capacity for understanding the multiple meanings in my most poetic, mystical language. “I don’t want you to go.” He stifled a sob, for he knew from my group discussions with my disciples that there was no talking me out of it. I lay my head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat again while I let him hold and stroke my body as much as he wanted. We were both damp with sweat and tears. Our salty, musky smell evoked my compassion, like a low musical note purring where my womb would be. I spoke from that place: “I won’t abandon you. I’ll be back. The world won’t see me anymore, but you will see me,” I promised. … “God will give you Someone to be on your side forever. This Someone is the Spirit of truth.” He stretched against me, awed and awake. “Do you mean that you will be with me…forever?” “Yes! We’ll be wed. You know what the prophet Isaiah said: ‘Your Creator is your husband, and God Omnipotent is his name.’” (Please come back tomorrow for the next daily installment in the Holy Week/Easter series at the Jesus in Love Blog.)
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Jesus Enters the City (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by F. Douglas Blanchard (email@example.com)A queer version of Christ’s Passion is running in daily installments this week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Each daily post features a queer Christian painting and an excerpt from the novel Jesus in Love: At the Cross by Kittredge Cherry. After passing through the village of Bethany, we came to the place where the Mount of Olives starts descending into the Kidron Valley. I usually paused here to admire the panoramic view of Jerusalem on the other side of the valley, but today I saw something even more dramatic. Thousands of people thronged the road all the way to Jerusalem. They roared when they first saw me. “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God—the king of Israel!” They waved palm branches as they shouted. They covered the road with the leafy branches. Many people were even removing pieces of their own clothing and spreading them on the road…. Tears filled my eyes when I saw the city rising behind its walls, so close, yet so standoffish. My divine heart ached from the memory of all the violent rejections that God had suffered in this place, even though it was called the city of God. I pulled the donkey to a halt and let my tears flow freely as I cried out to my city, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets who are sent! So many times I wanted to gather my people together like a hen nestling her chicks under her wings, and you refused! If only you knew even today what makes for peace! But you don’t see it.” I sobbed, overcome by sorrow. Most in the crowd interpreted my lament as the tactics and theatrics of a man with political aspirations. The one who was most keenly attuned to me in that moment was John, who came up and touched my foot in reverence and condolence. His dark eyes poured out the tragic sense of helplessness he felt in the face of my grief. He was blind to how much his gesture comforted me. The donkey twisted his head around and eyed me, wondering what to do. I urged him onward into Jerusalem. (Please come back tomorrow for the next daily installment in the Holy Week/Easter series at the Jesus in Love Blog.)
Thursday, April 02, 2009
A queer version of Christ’s Passion will run in daily installments from Palm Sunday (April 5) through Easter (April 12) here at the Jesus in Love Blog. Each daily post features queer Christian art and an excerpt from “Jesus in Love: At the Cross,” a novel about a bisexual Christ by lesbian author Kittredge Cherry. Jesus is in love with his disciple John and faces religious homophobia in the selections from “At the Cross.” The eight-day series covers Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. The dramatic events of Christ’s Passion happen in the context of a gay love story between Jesus and John. Jesus has today’s queer sensibilities and psychological sophistication as he reveals experiences that may have led to the first Easter. “I’m doing the Holy Week 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 spirituality and the arts for GLBT people and their allies. “Christ’s story is for everyone, but GLBT people often feel left out because conservatives use Christian rhetoric to justify hate and discrimination,” she said. The online Holy Week series includes art by F. Douglas Blanchard, Gary Speziale and Becki Jayne Harrelson. Some conservatives labeled Cherry “a hyper-homosexual revisionist” because of the gay love story between Jesus and John. However, her books follow the Biblical text and standard Christian doctrine while speculating on Christ’s erotic inner life. “I get hate mail with warnings such as, ‘Gays are not wanted in the kingdom of Christ!’ This kind of religious bigotry is exactly why the queer Christ is needed,” Cherry said. Meanwhile, secular literary critics and progressive Christians affirm the Jesus in Love series as “profound,” “spiritually mature” and “beautifully written.” Gay spirituality author Toby Johnson praises it as “a real tour de force in transforming traditional myth to modern consciousness.” The Bay Area Reporter called it “revolutionary religious fiction” and Mel White, founder of Soulforce, says, “Kittredge Cherry has broken through the stained-glass barrier… a classic re-telling of the greatest story ever told.” “At the Cross” grows out of Cherry’s own spiritual journey and her experiences as a minister in the LGBT community. She served as national ecumenical officer for Metropolitan Community Churches. One of her primary duties was promoting dialogue on homosexuality at the National Council of Churches (USA) and the World Council of Churches. Her previous books include “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More,” “Equal Rites” and “Hide and Speak.” The New York Times Book Review praised her “very graceful, erudite” writing style. The Holy Week blog series includes art from “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” a compelling set of 24 paintings by New York artist F. Douglas Blanchard. The controversial “faggot crucifixion” by Atlanta artist Becki Jayne Harrelson is also featured, along with drawings by New York artist Gary Speziale. They are among 11 contemporary artists from the United States and Europe who are profiled in Cherry’s book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.”