Thursday, May 27, 2010

Within every body is a sacred heart


“Inner Flame,” detail, photo © 2005 by Peter Grahame of ironic-horse.com


Within every body is a sacred heart.
-- Peter Grahame

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________________________________________


This photo and text come from “Contemplations of the Heart: A Book of Male Spirit” by Peter Grahame, a gay photographer and writer living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The 96-page hardcover book features transformational, spirit-centered male nude images, plus brief poetic text to go with each image.  Full disclosure: these are nudes who bare all -- the images on this blog are cropped for a general audience.

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


We will be posting more art by Peter Grahame every Tuesday in June as part of our celebration of LGBT Pride Month. Click here for the Peter Grahame series.

Click the titles below for previous posts with more of Peter’s gay male photos and commentary.

Gay spirituality versus everybody spirituality: A new closet?


Image: “After the Rainbow Ceremony,” detail, by Peter Grahame




Exploring Jesus the Bisexual

Image: “Saying Goodbye to John and Mary” by Peter Grahame

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost comes alive with erotic Christ


Today is Pentecost, when the church celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the apostles in tongues of flame. Pentecost is also the final scene in my novel about an erotically alive Christ, Jesus in Love: At the Cross. The book includes a gay love story between Jesus and his disciple John. Here is an excerpt that imagines the first Pentecost from the viewpoint of the risen bisexual Christ.


When the Holy Spirit loved me, our contact produced a ripple of energy similar to a heartbeat. She was ringing me like a bell, and the “sound” would roll on forever.

“It is without end, because it is without beginning,” She said. She rang me again, and this time when the edge of her heart crossed mine, the rapture made me lose control and we melted into One.

Our union was so powerful that the people there could actually see and hear Us, like tongues of fire and a whoosh of wind. Our appearance didn’t scare them because they had been expecting Us. Some of my disciples stopped singing long enough to exclaim, “It’s the Holy Spirit!”

We kissed everyone in the room, being careful to cool Our kisses to a comfortable temperature for humans. We licked them with Our flaming tongues. They welcomed Our electric kisses. Each of them inhaled sharply and deeply in preparation for a sigh. We swept into them as breath, passed through each soul’s new doorway and fertilized the sacred chamber within. At the same time, their sparkling souls penetrated my divine heart and swam into a new womblike space that had just unfurled for them. The glorious friction made me feel flushed. Holy Spirit and human spirit were wedded, catalyzing a chain reaction of power bursts. Every soul in the room ignited in such a way that flames appeared to blaze from each person’s body. They looked around at each other’s auras in astonished admiration.

All that happened on one inhalation. When they exhaled, they could taste how much God loved them as We flowed over their tongues. They let their tongues flutter and writhe in ecstatic abandon. Each one released the tension of the wedding consummation in his or her own unique speaking style. Some of it sounded like gibberish to them as they praised God. Others spoke in exalted words.

For John, it came out as a quotation from the prophet Isaiah: “My whole being rejoices in my God, for He has wrapped me in the robe of justice, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

The Holy Spirit and I rode the sound waves of their voices, still actively making love. We granted everyone within listening range the same gift that I had received that morning: the ability to hear pure thought.

…Two passersby from far-flung Phrygia were the first to speak up. “Hey, do you hear that?” asked one.

“Somebody’s speaking Phrygian! Let’s go see who it is,” the other replied.

They hurried to the upper room and knocked on the door. My disciples were still jabbering their thanks to God, no longer afraid to let others see and hear them. They propped the door open for the crowd that was gathering as the ecstatic voices carried me to people from every nation who were living in Jerusalem.

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Kittredge Cherry blogs at the Jesus in Love Blog and edits the Jesus in Love Newsletter on queer spirituality and the arts. She offers GLBT and progressive spiritual resources at JesusInLove.org.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Today is Harvey Milk Day

Harvey Milk of San Francisco
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. Copyright 1987
Courtesy of www.trinitystores.com (800.699.4482)

Today is first official Harvey Milk Day, a day designated by the state of California to honor the gay rights activist.

Milk (1930-1978) is the only openly gay person in the United States to receive such a distinction. The bill establishing Harvey Milk Day was signed in to law last fall, so this is the first time that the holiday will be observed. State employees still have to work, but California public schools are encouraged to conduct suitable commemorative exercises.

Harvey Milk was born on May 22, 1930 (80 years ago today). He is the first and most famous openly gay male elected official in California, and perhaps the world. He became the public face of the GLBT rights movement, and his reputation has continued to grow since his assassination on Nov. 27, 1978. He has been called a martyr for LGBT rights

“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country,” Milk said. Two bullets did enter his brain, and his vision of GLBT people living openly is also coming true.

Milk has received many honors for his visionary courage and commitment to equality. In 2009 he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and inducted into the California Hall of Fame. He was included in the Time “100 Heroes and Icons of the 20th Century” for being “a symbol of what gays can accomplish and the dangers they face in doing so.”

He is the subject of two Oscar-winning movies, “Milk” (2008) and “The Times of Harvey Milk” (1984), as well as the book “The Mayor of Castro Street” by Randy Shilts.

Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 after three unsuccessful efforts to run for office. He served only 11 months before he was killed, but in that short time he was responsible for passing a tough gay-rights law.

Haunted by the sense that he would be killed for political reasons, Milk recorded tapes to be played in the event of his assassination. His message, recorded nine days before his death, included this powerful statement:

“I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow, because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that's what this is all about. It's not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power — it's about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, hope. You gotta give them hope.”

Shots fired by conservative fellow supervisor Dan White cut Milk’s life short. More than 30 years later, the hope and the movement for GLBT rights are more alive than ever.

The Harvey Milk icon painted by Robert Lentz (pictured above) was hailed as a “national gay treasure” by gay author/activist Toby Johnson. Milk holds a candle and wears an armband with a pink triangle, the Nazi symbol for gay men, expressing solidarity with all who were tortured or killed because of their sexuality.

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 are now displayed there as a collection titled “Images That Challenge.”
_________
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.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Queer spiritual art needed now

Art about queer spirituality and activism is needed by May 24 for Tikkun, a national magazine on progressive politics and spirituality.

The Jesus in Love Blog strives to support artists in creating spiritual images that affirm LGBT people. So I am posting Tikkun’s “urgent call for art” in whole below.

I can personally vouch for Tikkun because they recently published my article “Take Back Jesus: The Queer Christ Arises for the Good of All.”
____

Tikkun Magazine’s July/August issue will have a special section on LGBTQ spirituality, politics, and activism.

Please help us find good photos and art to use as illustrations!

You can send all JPGs, links, and ideas to art.tikkun@gmail.com.

We are a nonprofit with a limited art budget and ask for artists’ most charitable rates.

Here's what we're looking for:

* Any kind of fine art that evokes something about spirituality and queerness. This is an INTERFAITH magazine, and we need art related to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Goddess religions, and more.

* Photos or paintings of queer or genderqueer or trans or same-gender-loving folks in the context of traditional religious spaces that they grew up in or are now part of (maybe holding hands or kissing outside or inside a synagogue, church, ashram, mosque, sangha, etc., or religious leaders with rainbow stoles or kippot or queer people engaging with religious texts or holding ritual objects)

* Photos or JPGs of paintings, prints or other sorts of fine art that evoke something about the socially transformative power of queer theory and LGBTQ political activism

* Photos of LGBTQ spiritual/religious events (i.e. people engaging in rituals or gatherings that have come out of different sorts of queer and trans theologies)

* Photos or paintings/drawings/prints of activists doing exciting work grounded in some mixture of queer politics, anti-racist commitments, and ideas of the intersectionality of oppressions.

Please pass along this call to your networks. All materials and questions should go to art.tikkun@gmail.com.

We need to receive art submissions ASAP -- by Monday, May 24, ideally.
___

That’s the end of the official announcement. If you do plan to submit your art, please leave a comment here to let me know that this post was useful.

You might enjoy visiting Tikkun’s online art gallery.

(Image credit: Brush and watercolors by Jennifer R., Wikimedia Commons)


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Monday, May 17, 2010

Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is today, May 17.

This year the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) campaign focuses on the role of religion in promoting -- or ending -- violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

We join LGBT people and our allies around the world in calling upon religions to condemn violence and prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and to create communities of respect for all people. Click here to read and sign the official IDAHO appeal. I signed it on behalf of this blog and JesusInLove.org.

Many IDAHO events are happening around the world, including the Great Global Kiss-In and an arts exhibition in New Caladonia.

May 17 was chosen for IDAHO because the date is the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s May 1990 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. I was shocked when I learned recently that this decision was made only 20 years ago. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a disorder in 1973.

I especially want to support the Day Against Homophobia because it is international. I have personal experience with religious homophobia at the international level, so I know how important it is. I confronted it when I worked with the World Council of Churches as ecumenical officer for Metropolitan Community Churches in the 1990s.

I also know how “internationalism” can be used to mask homophobia, because progressive religious leaders don’t want to “offend” the developing nations that they imagine are more prejudiced against LGBT people.

I decided to highlight the international nature of this blog by adding the “Flag Finder.” I’m an American, but as you can see below, only about half of our blog visitors come from the United States. The rest come from all across the globe.

I pledge to make this blog a safe space where everyone is respected. I pray for an end to hatred and violence against GLBT people in every nation.

Free counters!

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jesus has male lover in “Marien Revelation”



Gay Jesus themes run through “The Marién Revelation,” a daring new novel by Miguel Santana.

Born in Mexico, Santana is a gay man and an internationally published author. He holds a Ph. D. in Hispanic Literature from the University of Texas at Austin, and currently lives in Florida.

His novel weaves together the lives of Mary, mother of Jesus, and Marién Valbuena, a 21st-century feminist theology professor whose roots are both Mexican and Mormon. The relationship between Jesus and his male lover is only a minor subplot -- but what a subplot!

Santana writes with sensuous grace about the erotic connections between Jesus and the man called “Beloved.” Although the queer Christ plays only a small role in the book, it’s not hard to find the homoeroticism. It starts on the first pages of the prologue as the Beloved remembers Jesus: “I feel him, his arms sheltering me with the immeasurable tenderness of our first embrace, with the strength of his almighty love…. He, who invented a paradise with his mouth of flowers, who made love to me under breathless skies….”

The marketing of “The Marién Revelation” has been a work of art in itself, thanks to Santana’s life partner Ken Kimball, who is also his agent and publisher. Examiner.com named it one of the most anticipated novels of 2010. The marketing campaign includes a video (above) that is not to be missed. See Michelangelo’s beautiful male nudes while pondering such questions as, “What if the Bible suggested he had a male lover? Would you still believe in him?”

The book’s gay Christian material was enough to alienate some publishers. Santana’s first novel, “When Alligators Sing,” set off a bidding war among Spanish publishers, but his new book is getting a lukewarm reception in the foreign rights market. On his blog, Santana names the homophobia behind the resistance: “I get it; some people are uncomfortable with the notion of Christ as a human being and all the implications that entails… Yes, you have a pretty liberal mind but to question the heterosexuality, if any, of Jesus, well, let’s just not go there. That aversion is nothing but homophobia,” Santana says.

In “The Marién Revelation,” Mary is also liberated and unconventional. She comes from a long line of women who teach the mysteries of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and she is comfortable worshipping Greek and Roman deities. Among her students is her son, Jesus.

Santana presents both Mary and Jesus as flawed human beings. I welcome the way that he questions Jesus’ sexual orientation, but as a Christian I struggle with his secular explanation of Christ’s resurrection. The excruciatingly realistic violence and abuse depicted by Santana can also be disturbing.

The author has said that the inspiration for the novel was “intellectual curiosity” and “the connection I felt to a greater universality.” Santana decided to write it simultaneously in Spanish (his native language) and English. “If Spanish is the blood that flows through the novel, English channels it. If English structures my text, Spanish stimulates it,” Santana explained on his blog.

“The Marién Revelation” (Alligator Press, paperback, 210 pages $15.95) is a welcome addition to the growing number of books that explore the queer side of Christ. Click here for our list of the top 12 gay Jesus books.

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(Photo: Miguel Santana)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

We welcome our 50th follower

Fifty people are now following the Jesus in Love Blog. Hallelujah!

The 50th follower signed up today. Welcome, Glorfindel! Thanks for being the one who put us over the top to reach this blogosphere landmark.

Followers are people who show their interest in a blog. They get updates on new posts by clicking “follow” at the top of the page, by using the following gadget at right, or through their Blogger reading list. You can see all 50 public followers listed there.
You can also follow anonymously. Who knows how many people are doing that?

The number of followers here has been hanging at 48 or 49 since before the dinosaurs -- I mean, since before Easter.


Click here for more info on following a blog.
Maybe you would like to be Follower Number 51?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Transgressing gender in the Bible

Cover art for “Transfigurations” designed by Mila and Jayna Pavlin of Full Draw Studios

“Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible” is an LGBT-positive play that is now being made into a graphic novel.

“Transfigurations” was created by Peterson Toscano, a gay activist, actor and playwright who has performed in North America, Europe and Africa. His play wakes people up with transgender Bible characters who do not fit the gender binary. By transgressing and transcending gender, they find themselves at the center of some of the Bible’s most important stories. “Transfigurations” covers many Bible characters, including the Ethiopian eunuch who became the first non-Hebrew Christian.

Toscano drew inspiration for “Transfigurations” from his own life as well as interviews with transsexual, genderqueer and gender-variant individuals. He weaves their stories with the Hebrew and Christian scriptures..

Based in Pennsylvania, Toscano describes himself as “a queer quirky Quaker trying to make the world a better place.” He spent 17 years in ex-gay treatment as a conservative evangelical Christian trying to suppress his same-sex orientation and gender differences. Now Toscano sees ex-gay therapy as “a Biblically induced coma.”

Since coming out as a gay man in 1998, he has presented a GLBT-affirming message through talks, online projects and theater events such as “Transfigurations.” The one-person, multi-character play premiered in 2007 and has won praise from Bible scholars

Michael Willett Newheart, professor of New Testament language and literature at Howard University School of Divinity, states, “I attended a workshop with Peterson in which he announced that he was doing a show on the transgender people in the Bible. I thought to myself, Hey, I’m a biblical scholar, and I don’t know any transgender folks in the Bible! Now I know! I applaud Peterson for bringing to the fore in this play a new way of looking at the Bible! Bravo! No, bravissimo! I had to look at my own sexual stereotypes and how I bring them to biblical interpretation!”

Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, professor emeritus of English at William Paterson University of New Jersey, says, “His biblical exegesis is insightful and accurate, and you will glean a whole new perspective painlessly because of his charming performance.”

Full Draw Studios recently announced that it will turn “Transfigurations” into a graphic novel. “I am working with Jayna and Mila Pavlin, two amazing comic artists, podcasters and transgender activists,” Toscano says. “They are adapting my script for the page bringing it to life in a whole new way,” Toscano says.

In addition to the graphic novel portion of the project, the final book will include various scholars sharing insights from existing scholarship and their original research. Both scholars and public intellectuals in the fields of sacred text and in gender studies will contribute, resulting in a unique blend of art and academics.

Toscano is seeking scholars to contribute to the “Transgressions” book. Full Draw Studios issued this call for contributors:

“Peterson is currently connecting with scholars who are interested in taking part in the project. You may be an established published professor, just beginning your career, or a public intellectual engaging through speaking or on-line. Peterson will share sections of his script with you, share the scholarship he has done on the work and give you a chance to add to it. At this time we cannot offer financial compensation, but for each contributor, we will provide a full biography. And if we get a nice book contract, who knows? :-) If you are interested or simply wish to know more, please contact Peterson at p2son@earthlink.net.”

Toscano talks about “Transfigurations” and transgender characters in the Bible in the following video. It captures his lively and sensible approach to being queer and Christian. For more info, visit www.petersontoscano.com/transfigurations.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Black lesbian prayers and art offered

“Pray Together, Stay Together” by Joy A’Che

Black lesbian spiritual art is almost impossible to find, so it’s thrilling to discover “Pray Together, Stay Together” by Joy A’Che. The bodacious painting is on the cover of her equally wonderful book, “Prayers for My Lesbian Soul.”

[UPDATE: Joy’s work used to be available through Sexy Black Rainbows Entertainment, a lesbian-owned company that offered inspirational and erotic art and e-books for black lesbians and their friends. The company's motto was “bringing black hues to the rainbow color scheme,” but it was closed down when sales slowed.]

Joy A’Che (also known as Joy Shannon.) is a Los Angeles artist, writer and filmmaker. She says that the prayers in her book “are inspired by, and are for, the souls of my lesbian friends” -- and it shows. Her prayers have an authentic, down-to-earth voice, like what lesbians really say to each other and to God.

Simply reading the table of contents is uplifting. The titles of the book’s 40 prayers form a litany of lesbian aspirations: To accept and love my lesbian soul, to help with my anger issues, to want to keep living, to stop worrying about what straight people think of me, to read and learn more today than I did yesterday, to spend my money wisely, to bond with my gay brothers, to help stop homophobia… and so on.

Some lesbians embrace goddess worship, but Joy takes a balanced approach. Each prayer is addressed to “Mother/Father God” and ends with a cutely inclusive affirmation: “Awoman and Amen.”

The prayers address the full scope of lesbian life, including family, health, finances and aging. Parts of the book focus specifically on black lesbian experience in a way that is inviting to all. For example, there is a prayer “to help stop racism in the white LGBT communities.” As a white lesbian, I say: Awoman and Amen to that!

The cover art is my favorite, but the cartoon-style illustrations for each section inside the book also made me smile. The book includes one other full-color image: “Praying with My Woman.” It puts a sexy black lesbian spin on the classic “praying hands” theme.

Joy’s other books include “How One Black Woman Retrained Her Thoughts to Attract Abundance in 30 Days” and “Things to do Before Your Mother Dies.” She is also known for her stage play “Private Thoughts on Cumming Out,” which weaves together three African-American lesbian love stories during some of the most poignant periods in U.S. history.

Her website was serious about integrating sexuality and spirituality, requiring visitors to scroll past titles such as “The Adventures of a Strap-On Diva!” in order to find the prayer book.

Joy generously gave permission to reprint a few prayers below. Let’s join in prayer with the black lesbians whose souls gave birth to these prayers.

***

For My Lesbian Soul
By Joy A’Che

“Dear Mother/Father God,

I come to you the only way that I know, as a lesbian.
I come to you the only way that I am, as a lesbian.
Even if no one else on the planet knows.
Even if no one in my family knows.
Even if no one at my job knows.
You know. And, You knowing is all that truly matters.

You have known before I was born that I would grow up and love women.
You have known before there was a ‘me.’
You have known before I could say ‘I.’

Even if everyone in my family knows.
Even if everyone at my job knows.
Even if everyone in my neighborhood knows.
None of that matters as much as You knowing.

Thank you for making me a lesbian!
Thank you for designing me with the sweetness and gentleness to be of comfort to women.

I do not believe that you made me a lesbian only to cast me into hell.
I believe that you will judge me on my merits, on my earthly ways. On my thoughts, deeds and actions.

I feel good about myself. My femme, butch, bi, trans, dark black, light black, brown-black, yellowish-black, lesbian self. Whether, I’m in heels and a dress, or in a man’s suit, I feel good about myself knowing that you are judging me on my heart and on those I helped and gave to.

My clothes came from a store, but my heart came from you and that’s all you want back.

--Awoman and Amen”


***
For My Self Esteem from a Butch
By Joy A’Che

“Dear Mother/Father God,

Most straight people don’t understand it, but I feel good about myself being a butch lesbian. I’m not trying to be a man. I believe that my version of maleness is better! With no disrespect to you God, since you made men, but I am the best of both genders and I want to give you thanks and praise your name.

I have the insight of a woman, but the analytical thinking of a man.
I have the compassion of a woman, but the discipline of a man.
And I love like a woman, but I can support my family like a man. A good man that is.

So thank you God! Thank you for giving me the smooth body of a woman and as I step into my men’s shoes and pull up my men’s socks, and step into my men’s slacks and button my men’s shirt and adjust my men’s tie and tilt my men’s hat, I just want you to know that my male and female self esteem is doing quite well and I feel great about me!

--Awoman and Amen.”

***
To Find and Keep a Good Mate
By Joy A’Che

“Dear Mother/Father God,

Where will I find my next mate? In a loud and smoky night club? At a grimy bar? At a conference or women’s retreat? Will we meet online or through friends? Where ever I meet her, I want you there. Please help me to not only find her, but to keep a good mate. I can often find women, I just can’t keep them.

Help me to not only find a woman who makes my heart sing, but a woman who stays and sings with me during the hard times. Help me to find a woman who will share what she has and work with me to get what we don’t have, but need. God, I ask for a loving woman. One who is affectionate, kind, generous, sexual and fun to be with. Please let her have healthy thoughts and the ability to curb her temper. Let her have dreams and goals and want something out of life. I ask that she doesn’t abuse drugs, alcohol or me. Let us work well as a team and God if she doesn’t have those qualities, let us be able to work together to become that couple.

--Awoman and Amen.”