Jonathan and David by Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. © 1985
Courtesy of www.trinitystores.com
“Jonathan Made a Covenant with David” by Trudie Barreras, 2009
Acrylic, 20” x 16.” Collection of First Metropolitan Community Church of Atlanta, GA.
Intense love between men is celebrated in the Bible with the story of David and Jonathan. They lived about 3,000 years ago, but they still inspire GLBT people of faith. Today (Dec. 29) is the feast day of David, the king of Israel who is credited with composing many of the psalms.
The modern idea of a gay sexual orientation didn’t exist in Biblical times, and it’s impossible to know whether David and Jonathan expressed their love sexually. However, their powerful love story in 1 and 2 Samuel shows that gay relationships are affirmed and blessed by God. Many people honor David and Jonathan as gay saints.
The account begins with the two men making a covenant of love, which is illustrated in the painting above by Atlanta artist Trudie Barreras. She paints the scene in 1 Samuel 18:3-4: “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”
After Jonathan was killed in battle, David mourned for him with his famous lament from 2 Samuel 1:26:
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.
|Jonathan and David embrace.|
Manuscript illustration, circa 1300
La Somme le roy
The love between the two men is celebrated in the classic poem “The Meeting of David and Jonathan” by 19th-century English poet John Addington Symonds. He is known as an early advocate of male love (homosexuality) and wrote many poems inspired by his own homosexual affairs. In “The Meeting of David and Jonathan” he writes:
There by an ancient holm-oak huge and tough,
Clasping the firm rock with gnarled roots and rough,
He stayed their steps; and in his arms of strength
Took David, and for sore love found at length
Solace in speech, and pressure, and the breath
Wherewith the mouth of yearning winnoweth
Hearts overcharged for utterance. In that kiss
Soul unto soul was knit and bliss to bliss.
The full poem appears in “Many Moods: A Volume of Verse” by Symonds.
The golden icon at the top was painted by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his innovative icons. It is one of 10 Lentz icons that sparked a major controversy in 2005. Critics accused Lentz of glorifying sin and creating propaganda for a progressive sociopolitical agenda, and he temporarily gave away the copyright for the controversial images to his distributor, Trinity Stores. All 10 were displayed there as a collection titled “Images That Challenge.”
The “David loved Jonathan” billboard below is part of the Would Jesus Discriminate project sponsored by Metropolitan Community Churches. It states boldly, “David loved Jonathan more than women. II Samuel 1:26.” For more info on the billboards, see our previous post, “Billboards show gay-friendly Jesus.”
David loved Jonathan billboard from GLBT Christian billboards from WouldJesusDiscriminte.com and WouldJesusDiscriminte.org
This post is part of the 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 are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.