Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pentecost: Holy Spirit brings LGBT visions

The Holy Spirit Arrives (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by Douglas Blanchard

Pentecost honors the Holy Spirit, an important aspect of God for LGBT people and our allies. We welcome the Spirit’s gender fluidity and ongoing work for change in the church. This year Pentecost is today (June 12). We celebrate here with queer art and literature, plus a rainbow call to action.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians and our allies recognize the work of the Spirit when churches begin to embrace LGBT members, bless same-sex marriages, ordain openly LGBT clergy, and teach queer theology. We may also identify with the Spirit’s unusual mix of male and female.

In church tradition, the Holy Spirit is often presented as the female (and easily ignored) person of the Trinity. She is sometimes called Sophia, the embodiment of Wisdom. But at other times She is referred to as “He.” Sounds rather queer, doesn’t it? And what kind of omnigendered or transgendered Trinity would include both female and male persons in Their Three-in-One identity?

This post also takes a Three-in-One approach to Pentecost, sometimes known as WhitSunday. It has three parts: 1) a reflection on the painting “The Holy Spirit Arrives” by Douglas Blanchard, from his series showing Jesus as a contemporary gay man, 2) an excerpt from the novel “At the Cross” by Kittredge Cherry, and 3) a call to action from the Rainbow Sash Alliance.

In the Bible account of Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit arrives as tongues of flame that land on Jesus’ disciples. Inspired by the Spirit, they speak in other tongues and a crowd gathers. People from all over the world are amazed to hear the mighty works of God in their own languages. But some scoff, so Peter explains by quoting the prophecy that begins the following reflection.

Pentecost in art
“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and the young shall see visions, and the old shall dream dreams.” -- Acts 2:17

Jesus promised his friends that the Holy Spirit would come. They were all together in the city on Pentecost when suddenly they heard a strong windstorm blowing in the sky. Tongues of fire appeared and separated to land on each one of them. Jesus’ friends were flaming, on fire with the Holy Spirit! Soon the Spirit led them to speak in other languages. All the excitement drew a big crowd. Good people from every race and nation came from all over the city. They brought their beautiful selves like the colors of the rainbow, and each one was able to hear them talking about God in his or her own language. The story of Jesus has been translated into many, many languages. Now the Gospel is also available with an LGBT accent.

Come, Holy Spirit, and inflame me with your love.
This is part of a series based on “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” a set of 24 paintings by Douglas Blanchard, with text by Kittredge Cherry. Click to view the whole series

Scripture quotation is from the Inclusive Language Lectionary (Year C), copyright © 1985-88 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Pentecost in literature
Pentecost is the final scene in “Jesus in Love: At the Cross,” a novel about an erotically alive Christ by lesbian Christian author Kittredge Cherry. Speaking in first person, Jesus blends male and female as he does humanity and divinity. The book includes a gay love story between Jesus and his disciple John. Here is an excerpt that imagines the Pentecost from the viewpoint of the risen 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.
Click here for a longer excerpt.

A call to action on Pentecost
Each year on Pentecost Sunday, LGBT Roman Catholics and their friends in the United States, Australia and England wear a rainbow sash while attending Mass at their local cathedral. Through their public, prayerful presence at the Eucharist, they call the Church to conversion of heart around issues of human sexuality. For more info, visit Rainbow Sash Alliance USA and

Happy Pentecost!

You might also like: Gender of the Holy Spirit at Wikipedia


Trudie said...

Again, a five-star post. Doug's painting, and the excerpt from "At the Cross" are an unbeatable combination. We were going over the Pentecost scripture reading at church this past Wednesday night, and both Bill and I agreed that we SHOULD HAVE just skipped the traditional reading from Acts that everybody pretty much knows by heart anyway and hence tends to tune out, and read that full chapter from your book instead. Oh, well -- next year!

Terence Weldon said...

Thanks, Kitt. I particularly like your reference to the gender ambiguity of the Trinity. This is a huge subject, of which there is much more to be said. (I plan to make a start for Trinity Sunday, next week).

For now, I was pleased to quote your observation in my own post at Queering the Church, where I have also placed some personal reflections on the readings from today's Catholic Mass.

KittKatt said...

Trudie, I’m amazed and honored that you want to replace the Bible reading at your church with a reading from my novel “Jesus in Love.” Thank you! But why choose? At MCC-SF, we used to do the usual Bible readings PLUS we added an extra reading from contemporary literature sometimes.

Terence, your comments about Pentecost last year helped inspire part of this post -- when you wrote about the movement of the Holy Spirit bringing LGBT people into full inclusion in the church. I’m looking forward to your reflections on the many-gendered Trinity at your blog next week. Next Sunday is also Father’s Day, so I am planning a piece on Reimagining God the Father. It’s already sparked some debate before it’s even posted. Many thanks for highlighting and linking to this post over at the Queering the Church Blog.

Here in Los Angeles, today is also the big LGBT Pride March. What a day for celebration!

Turtle Woman said...

If you look at Doug's painting on your computer at night, or on a very cloudy day, the painting glows with the little tongues of fire! Or look at the computer screen in a darkened room... a very striking effect!

KittKatt said...

Thanks, Turtle Woman, for alerting us to the candlelight effect that is possible with this Pentecost painting. We gather around our computer screens like our ancestors used to gather around campfires.