Thursday, February 28, 2013

Peter Gomes: Gay black Harvard minister preached "scandalous gospel"


“The Rev. Peter Gomes, of Plymouth, 1942 – 2011” by Jon Dorn

Peter Gomes was a gay black Baptist minister at Harvard and one of America’s most prominent spiritual voices against intolerance. Gomes reportedly hated being labeled “gay minister,” yet he used his national celebrity to make the religious case for LGBT people. He died two years ago today at age 68 on Feb. 28, 2011.

A man of many contradictions, Gomes became a Democrat in 2007 after decades as a conservative Republican. He even gave the benediction at President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985 and preached at the National Cathedral for the inauguration of Reagan’s successor, George Bush.

Gomes (May 22, 1942 - Feb. 28, 2011) was born in Boston to a black African immigrant father and a mother from Boston’s African American upper middle class. He grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  He studied at Bates College (where a chapel was named after him in 2012) , earned a divinity degree at Harvard University, and taught Western civilization at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama for two years before returning to work at Harvard in 1970. Four years later he became the first black person to serve as chief minister to Harvard. He held the positions of Pusey minister at Harvard’s Memorial Church and Plummer professor of Christian morals for the rest of his life.

He came out publicly as “a Christian who happens as well to be gay” at a student rally in 1991 after a conservative student magazine at Harvard published a condemnation of homosexuality.  “I now have an unambiguous vocation -- a mission -- to address the religious causes and roots of homophobia,” he later told the Washington Post. “I will devote the rest of my life to addressing the 'religious case' against gays.”

In his 1996 best-seller, “The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart,” he showed how the Bible was misused to defend homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and sexism.

His 2007 book “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?” went on to show that Jesus was a subversive whose radical gospel always overturns the status quo.

Among Gomes’s many admirers is artist Jon Dorn, who drew the portrait at the top of this post. Dorn is a cartoonist, filmmaker, and Master of Fine Arts student at Emerson College in Boston. He also serves on the Plymouth Cultural Council.



A musical tribute to Gomes is “I Beseech You Therefore, Brethren” by composer Craig Phillips, music director at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. It was originally commissioned by members of Harvard’s Class of 1978 to celebrate his retirement, but he died before its premiere so it was sung at his memorial. The anthem has become a memorial to Gomes' legacy. It is included on the 2014 album “Spring Bursts Today: A Celebration of Eastertide” by Harvard University Choir. Gomes himself selected the text, which was one of his favorite scriptures:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1–2)

Gomes’ blend of scholarship, wisdom and accessibility is expressed in a few selected quotations:

“Hell is being defined by your circumstances, and believing that definition.” -- Peter Gomes

“The question should not be ‘What would Jesus do?’ but rather, more dangerously, 'What would Jesus have me do?'” -- Peter Gomes in The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?

“To some, the temporal triumph of the Christian community in the world is a sign of God's favor and the essential righteousness of the Christian position. The irony of the matter, though, is that whenever the Christian community gains worldly power, it nearly always loses its capacity to be the critic of the power and influence it so readily brokers.” --Peter J. Gomes in The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?

“The battle for the Bible, of which homosexuality is the last front, is really the battle for the prevailing culture, of which the Bible itself is a mere trophy and icon. Such a cadre of cultural conservatives would rather defend their ideology in the name of the authority of scripture than concede that their self-serving reading of that scripture might just be wrong, and that both the Bible and the God who inspires it may be more gracious, just and inclusive than they can presently afford to be.” -- Peter Gomes in The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart

___
Books by Peter Gomes include:

The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?

Sermons: Biblical Wisdom For Daily Living

The Good Life: Truths that Last in Times of Need

Strength for the Journey: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living

___

Related links:

Peter Gomes at LGBT Religious Archives Network

Rev. Peter Gomes: The Accidental Gay Advocate (Irene Monroe at HuffPost)

Gay, Black, Republican, Baptist Preacher, Rev. Peter Gomes, 1942-2011 (Candace Chellew-Hodge at Religion Dispatches)

Rev. Peter J. Gomes Is Dead at 68; A Leading Voice Against Intolerance (New York Times)

Video: Peter Gomes discusses: Would Jesus Support Gay Marriage? (also posted below)



___
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts



Saturday, February 23, 2013

Esther, Vashti and eunuchs on Purim: Queer models for such a time as this

Queen Esther by Jim Padgett, Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing (Wikimedia Commons)

Queen Esther, a role model for LGBTQ people, helped save the Jews from destruction in ancient Persia, an event commemorated today in the Jewish festival of Purim (March 4-5 this year). LGBT Jews see her as an inspiration for coming out. A possible lesbian love story between Biblical queens Esther and Vashi has fired the imagination of a lesbian playwright, while a scholar says both queens are role models for gay and lesbians in ministry.

Esther hid her Jewish identity in order to become the next queen of Persia. Later she "came out" as Jewish to the king, thereby saving her people from a planned massacre. Their story is told in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament). Vashti was a Persian queen who refused to obey a summons from her drunken husband, the king.

Queer characters fill the Book of Esther. Every chapter includes at least one eunuch -- an ancient term for gender nonconformists who today would be called LGBTQI. There are a dozen eunuchs in the Book of Esther: Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, Carcas, Hegai, Shassshagaz, Teresh, Bigthana and Hathach. They play a variety of roles, including messengers, advisors, guards, assassins and soldiers.

The Washington Post article Gay Jews Connect Their Experience To Story of Purim reports that some see Purim as an unofficial LGBT Pride Day. Esther is traditionally considered the heroine of the story, but independent-minded Vashti has been reclaimed by feminists and now LGBT people.

Lesbian playwright Carolyn Gage imagined a love story between the two queens in her play “Esther and Vashti.” Gage describes her play as “a fast-paced, high-action drama where the love story of two women of different cultures and class backgrounds plays itself out against a backdrop of anti-Semitism and the sexual colonization of women.” Her “radical feminist retelling” fills in the blanks of scripture. In her version, Esther, a radical Jewish lesbian living in exile, and Vashti, a Persian woman of privilege, were lovers before Vashti married the king. The plight of the two women coincides with their successful effort to stop the impending massacre of the Jews.

Rev. David Bahr applies the strategies of the two queens to contemporary challenges in “Openly Gay and Lesbian Pastors Called by Predominantly Straight UCC Congregations,” a research project for his Doctor of Ministry degree at Wesley Theological Seminary in 2006. His theological reflection states, “As Esther and Vashti wrestle with their callings, I believe they can be instructive for gay men and lesbians called to ordained ministry. When should we wait, wondering if we are being prepared for something bigger? And when is enough, enough? What gives us the greatest sense of integrity? Or perhaps, who is best served? Both Esther and Vashti also present ‘models of resistance to wrong’ – one of direct dissent and one of working within the system.” Bahr went on to become pastor of Park Hill Congregational Church UCC in Denver, Colorado.

In a famous quote from the Book of Esther, the man who had urged her to hide her Jewish identity changes his advice when their people are about to be massacred: “Perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) Now is a good time to reflect what Esther and Vashti mean to queer people and our allies today.

___
Related links:
The Proudest Queen of Purim (Human Rights Campaign)

Eunuch-Inclusive Esther–Queer Theology 101 by Peterson Toscano

Closets (Esther 4:13-14) (The Bible in Drag Blog)

Esther: The Queen Who Came Out (Talking Dog)

Mona West also writes about Esther in The Queer Bible Commentary

Carolyn Gage page at Amazon.com
____
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

The traditional view of Esther is presented in the following:


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Marcella Althaus-Reid: Queer theology pioneer

Marcella Althaus-Reid

Marcella Althaus-Reid was a queer theologian whose controversial books include “Indecent Theology” and “The Queer God.” Born in Argentina, she became the first woman appointed to a chair in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 2006. She held that post when she died at age 56 on Feb. 20, 2009 -- six years ago today.

Althaus-Reid (May 11, 1952- Feb. 20, 2009) was baptized as a Roman Catholic and grew up in Buenos Aires. She earned her first theological degree there from ISEDET (Instituto Superior Evangelico de Estudios Teologicos), Latin America’s renowned center for studying liberation theology, which emphasizes God’s “preferential option for the poor.”

Next she gained recognition for working on social and community projects in the slums of Buenos Aires. As she continued her studies, Althaus-Reid applied the principles of liberation theology to women and sexual minorities, including LGBT people.

Her first book, “Indecent Theology,” was published in 2000 and established her international reputation as a self-proclaimed “indecent, Latina, bisexual theologian.” The book challenges the sexual oppression behind traditional Christian concepts of decency and introduces theology rooted in the context of people whose sexual freedom has been limited. In 2003 she wrote “The Queer God,” in which she aims to liberate God from the closet of sex-negative Christian thought and embrace God’s role in the lives of LGBTQ people.

According to her obituary in the Herald Scotland, Althaus-Reid was a member of Moderator Nancy Wilson’s advisory theological team in Metropolitan Community Churches and felt at home in MCC’s Edinburgh congregation although she was formally a member of the Quakers and the Church of Scotland.

Her writing style is dense and her books continue to be controversial, even among LGBT people of faith. But nobody denies that Althaus-Reid took risks to raise important issues based on queer life and spirituality.

Her originality and flashes of insight are expressed in the following quotation from “The Queer God”:

“Our task and our joy is to find or simply recognise God sitting amongst us, at any time, in any gay bar or in the home of a camp friend who decorates her living room as a chapel and doesn’t leave her rosary at home when going to a salsa bar.”

___
Links to books by or about Marcella Althaus-Reid:

Indecent Theology: Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender and Politics

The Queer God

From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology

Liberation Theology and Sexuality

Dancing theology in fetish boots: Essays in honour of Marcella Althaus Reid

More books by Marcella Althaus-Reid

___
Related links:

Official website Althaus-Reid.com

"Marcella Althaus-Reid: Saint of a sexually embodied spirituality" by Hugo Córdova Quero (Jesus in Love)

Prof Marcella Althaus-Reid obituary and memorial page: Light a candle or add your own tribute

Remembering Marcella Althaus-Reid, “Indecent theologian” (Queer Saints and Martyrs - And Others)

En La Caminata: Remembering Marcella Althaus-Reid” by Alejandro Escalante (Indecent Theology blog)


____
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday: Queer martyrs rise from the ashes

Dutch massacre of sodomites,
detail (Wikimedia Commons)
Today on Ash Wednesday queer martyrs rise from the ashes as we recall the thousands who were executed for homosexuality throughout history.

This is not just a historical issue. The death penalty for homosexuality continues today in 10 countries (Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and United Arab Emirates).

Christians traditionally put ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance on Ash Wednesday. It is an appropriate time to reflect on the sins of the church and state against queer people, including the burning of “sodomites” and thousands of executions for homosexuality over the past 800 years.

Some of the executions for sodomy were recorded by artists, either long ago or in recent times. This post features images, both new and historical, to remember and honor those whose lives were desecrated and cut short.

The whole sad history of church- or state-sanctioned executions of queer people stretches from the 13th century almost to the present. For the first 1,000 years of church history, Christianity was relatively tolerant of homoerotic relationships.

Then came campaigns of terror that started to use the terms “heresy” and “sodomy” interchangeably.  Eventually hostility began to be directed at same-sex erotic behavior in particular. Terence Weldon of Queering the Church discusses the fateful period when the atrocities began in a well researched overview titled “Lest We Forget: The Ashes of Our Martyrs”:

In 1120, the Church Council of Nablus specified burning at the stake for homosexual acts. Although this penalty may not immediately have been applied, other harsh condemnations followed rapidly. In 1212, the death penalty for sodomy was specified in in France. Before long the execution of supposed “sodomites”, often by burning at the stake, but also by other harsh means, had become regular practice in many areas.

The church contributed to the deaths of thousands for homosexuality over the next 700 years. Witch burning occurred in the same period and claimed the lives of countless lesbian women whose non-conformity was condemned as witchcraft. (Current events in Uganda and elsewhere prove that some are STILL using Christianity to justify the death penalty for homosexuality up to the present day.) As Weldon concludes:

Obviously, the Catholic Church cannot be held directly responsible for the judicial sentences handed down by secular authorities in Protestant countries. It can, however, be held responsible for its part in fanning the flames of bigotry and hatred in the early part of the persecution, using the cloak of religion to provide cover for what was in reality based not on Scripture or the teaching of the early Church, but on simple intolerance and greed.

It is important as gay men, lesbians and transgendered that we remember the examples of the many who have in earlier times been honoured by the Church as saints or martyrs for the faith. It is also important that we remember the example of the many thousands who have been martyred by the churches – Catholic and other.

Sodomy is often considered a male issue, but the facts of history make clear that queer women were persecuted under sodomy laws too. The meaning of sodomy has changed a lot over the centuries. The “sin of Sodom” in the Bible was described as arrogance and failure to care for travelers and the poor.

“Catharina Margaretha Linck, executed for sodomy in Halberstadt in 1721” by Elke R. Steiner. Steiner’s work is based on Angela Steidele’s book "In Männerkleidern. Das verwegene Leben der Catharina Margaretha Linck alias Anastasius Lagrantinus Rosenstengel, hingerichtet 1721." Biographie und Dokumentation. Cologne: Böhlau, 2004. ("In Men's Clothes: The Daring Life of Catharina Margaretha Linck alias Anastasius Rosenstengel, Executed 1721.")

German artist Elke R. Steiner illustrates the last known execution for lesbianism in Europe. Born in 1694, Catharina Margaretha Linck lived most of her life as a man under the name Anastasius. She was beheaded for sodomy on Nov. 8, 1721 in Halberstadt in present-day Germany. Linck worked at various times as a soldier, textile worker and a wandering prophet with the Pietists. She married a woman in 1717. Her mother-in-law reported her to authorities, who convicted her of sodomy with a "lifeless instrument," wearing men's clothes and multiple baptisms. The subject is grim, but Steiner adds an empowering statement: “But even were I to be done away with, those who are like me would remain.”

“Catharina aka Anastasius Linck” by Ria Brodell

Genderqueer Boston artist Ria Brodell portrays Linck and several other historical women who were killed for sodomy in her “Butch Heroes” series. They include Katherina Hetzeldorfer of Germany, drowned in 1477 for female sodomy, and Lisbetha Olsdotter aka Mats Ersson of Sweden, who was decapitated in 1679 for cross-dressing and other crimes.

“The Shameful End of Bishop Atherton and his Proctor John Childe,” hanged for sodomy in 1641 in Dublin (Wikimedia Commons)

John Atherton, Anglican bishop of Waterford and Lismore, and his lover John Childe were hanged for “buggery” in 1640 in Dublin, Ireland. The bishop was executed under a law that he helped to institute! The picture comes from an anonymous 1641 booklet titled “The Shameful End of Bishop Atherton and his Proctor John Childe.” The title tries to shame and blame the victims, but the shame belongs to the church and society who killed them for who and how they loved.

Balboa executing two-spirit Native Americans for homosexuality in 1513 in Panama -- engraving by Théodore De Bry, 1594 (Wikimedia Commons).  

The Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa found homosexual activity among the Native American chiefs at Quarqua in Panama. He ordered 40 of these two-spirited people thrown to his war dogs to be torn apart and eaten alive to stop the “stinking abomination.” Executions for homosexuality continued during the “Mexican Inquisition,” an extension of the Spanish Inquisition into the New World. In one of the most notorious examples, 14 men were executed by public burning on Nov. 6, 1658 in Mexico City.

The knight of Hohenberg and his servant, accused of sodomy, were executed by burning in Zürich in 1482. (Wikimedia Commons)

The knight of Hohenberg and his servant, accused sodomites, were executed by burning before the walls of Zurich, Switzerland in 1482. Source: Diebold Schilling, Chronik der Burgunderkriege, Schweizer Bilderchronik, Band 3, um 1483 (Zürich, Zentralbibliothek)


Execution of sodomites in Ghent in 1578 -- drawing by Franz Hogenberg (Wikimedia Commons)

Five Catholic monks were burned to death for homosexuality on June 28, 1578, in Ghent, Belguim.


"Timely Punishment..." shows Dutch massacre of sodomites in Amsterdam in 1730-31 (Wikimedia Commons)

A total of 96 gay men were executed for sodomy in the Netherlands years 1730-31.

More recent examples include the Holocaust or "homocaust" of persecution by the Nazis, who sent an estimated 5,000 to 60,000 to concentration camps for homosexuality. Executions on homosexuality charges in Iran continued to make news multiple times since 2011.

Many more die in attacks fueled by religion-based hate, including those killed in the arson fire at the UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans.

Milder forms of anti-LGBT persecution continue in the church. Now it is common to freeze LGBT people out of church leadership positions. Gay pastor and author Chris Glaser writes about the exclusion from clergy roles as a “fast imposed by others” in the following prayer based on the practice of fasting during Lent, the season of individual and collective repentance and reflection between Ash Wednesday and Easter.

One: Jesus,
     our fast has been imposed by others,
     our wilderness sojourn their choice more than ours.
Many: Our fast from the sacraments,
     our fast from ordination:
     our only choice was honesty.
One: With the scapegoats of the ancient Hebrews,
     sexual sins of generations
     have been heaped upon our backs,
     and we have been sent away,
     excommunicated, into the wilderness to die.
Many: Yet we choose life,
     even in our deprivation
One: Jesus, lead us to discern our call
     parallel to your own:
     rebelling against the boundaries,
     questioning the self-righteous authorities,
     breaking the Sabbath law
     to bring healing.


This prayer comes from “Rite for Lent” by Chris Glaser, published in Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations. Glaser spent 30 years struggling with the Presbyterian Church for the right to ordination as an openly gay man before he was ordained to the ministry in Metropolitan Community Churches in 2005. He writes progressive Christian reflections at chrisglaser.blogspot.com.

Faggots We May Be,” a 2015 poem by Georgia poet S. Alan Fann, makes connections between gay men burned to death, global warming and the Rainbow Christ.

It is horrifying to remember the "burning times," especially for those LGBT people who consider themselves part of the Christian tradition. Let us rise from the ashes with these verses from the Bible:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
[Psalm 51: 10, 17]

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a you to humble yourself?
Is it to bow down your head like a rush,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under you?
Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to God?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily.
[Isaiah 58:5-8]

___
Related links:

“Burned for sodomy” (Queering the Church)

Lest We Forget: The Ashes of Our Martyrs (Queering the Church)

The blood-soaked thread (Wild Reed)

List of people executed for homosexuality (Wikipedia)

LGBT Victims (Gay History Wiki)

List of unlawfully killed transgender people (Wikipedia)

Victims of anti-LGBT hate crimes (Wikipedia)

Victims of Hate” gallery on Facebook

Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death (Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2014)

Significant acts of violence against LGBT people (Wikipedia)

BURN BABY BURN: A Knight, a Squire, a Bishop, a Steward, Five RC Monks and Millions of murders initiated by bigots at Church! (Eruptions at the Foot of the Volcano Blog)

The Gay Holocaust (Matt and Andrej Koymasky)

Catharina Margaretha Linck, Executed for Sodomy (Queering the Church)

A History of Homophobia, 3 The Later Roman Empire & The Early Middle Ages (Rictor Norton)

A History of Homophobia, 4 Gay Heretics and Witches" (Rictor Norton)

Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook (Rictor Norton, editor)

“Pilloried” - a poem by Andrew Craig Williams

Queering All Saints and All Souls, Celebrating the Queer Body of Christ by Adam Ackley (Huff Post) (litany also suitable for Ash Wednesday)

Blessing the Dust: A Blessing for Ash Wednesday by Jan Richardson

Iran's New Gay Executions (Daily Beast, 8/12/2014)
"Two men, Abdullah Ghavami Chahzanjiru and Salman Ghanbari Chahzanjiri, were hanged in southern Iran on August 6, possibly for consensual sodomy..."

Four Iranian men due to be hanged for sodomy (Pink News, 5/12/2012)
"Iran court sentenced four men… to death by hanging for sodomy… named ‘Saadat Arefi’, ‘Vahid Akbari’, ‘Javid Akbari’ and ‘Houshmand Akbari.’"

Iran executes three men on homosexuality charges (guardian.com 9/7/2011)

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: We all wear the triangle (Jesus in Love)

Ex-gay movement as genocide (Jesus in Love)

Book: Homosexuality and Civilization by Louis Crompton
____
This post is part of the LGBT Holidays series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series celebrates religious and spiritual holidays, holy days, feast days, festivals, anniversaries, liturgical seasons and other occasions of special interest to LGBT and queer people of faith and our allies.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Brothers by affection: Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus


For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus: Brothers by affection

Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. © 1995, trinitystores.com

Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus were Roman soldiers in 3rd-century Armenia and “brothers by affection.” They are a prime example of same-sex lovers in the early church. Polyeuct’s feast day is Feb. 13.

The earliest account of Polyeuct’s martyrdom, a 4th-century Armenian biography, says that they were “brothers, not by birth, but by affection” and enjoyed “the closest possible relationship, being both comrades and fellow soldiers.”

St. Polyeuctus (Wikimedia Commons)
Nearchus was Christian, but Polyeuct was not. The men had a strong desire to spend eternity together, so Polyeuct converted from paganism to Christianity, the faith of his beloved Nearchus. With a convert’s zeal he attacked a pagan procession.  He was beheaded for his crime in the year 259 in the western Armenian city of Militene. Shortly before he was executed, he spoke his last words to Nearchus: “Remember our secret vow.” Thus Polyeuct is known as a protector of vows and avenger of broken promises, in addition to his role as a probable “gay saint.”

Yale history professor John Boswell names Polyeuct and Nearchus as one of the three primary pairs of same-sex lovers in the early church. (The others are Perpetua and Felicity and Sergius and Bacchus.) The love story of Polyeuct and Nearchus is told with extensive historical detail in two books, “Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe” by Boswell and “Passionate Holiness” by Dennis O’Neill. He is founder of the Living Circle, the interfaith LGBT spirituality center that commissioned the above icon of the loving same-sex pair.

The icon is 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.

Polyeuctus and Nearchus by Jim Ru
Artist Jim Ru was also inspired to paint Polyeuct and Nearchus. His version was displayed in his show “Transcendent Faith: Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Saints” in Bisbee Arizona in the 1990s.

O’Neill reports that French writer Robert Dartois recently took the story of Polyeuct and Nearchus from “Passionate Holiness” and turned it into a libretto, which was then set by the Swiss composer Thierry Chatelain as the oratorio “Polyeucte et Nearchus.”

There are many variations in the spellings of their names, such as Polyeuctus, Polyeuctes, Polyeuktos and Nearchos and Nearch. Polyeuct’s feast day is Feb.13 in the Catholic calendar, but falls on Jan. 9 in the Eastern Orthodox tradition and Jan. 7 in ancient Armenian calendars. The feast day for Nearchus is April 22.

___
Related links:

Saints Polyeuct and Nearchos, 3rd Century Lovers and Martyrs (Queer Saints and Martyrs -- And Others)

Hermanos de afecto: Santos Polieucto y Nearco (Santos Queer)

___
This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Qspirit.net presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

___

Icons of Polyeuct and Nearchus and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores


___


Saturday, February 09, 2013

Top 10 LGBT spiritual arts stories of 2012 named

“The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” by Douglas Blanchard, at JHS Gallery in Taos, NM (Photo by Dorie Hagler)

A gay vision of Christ’s Passion was the top LGBT spiritual arts story for 2012, the Jesus in Love Blog announced today.

In second place was a cartoon for marriage equality showing Jesus in bed with rock star Freddie Mercury.

The top 10 LGBT spiritual arts stories of the year were named today by Kittredge Cherry, founder of Jesus in Love. The ratings are based on pageviews reported by Google Analytics.

The blog’s most popular post of the year was an introduction to “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” a series of 24 paintings by Douglas Blanchard with reflections by Kittredge Cherry. The paintings present Jesus as a contemporary gay man in a modern city.

“The gay Passion series was most popular story of 2012, but religious cartoons and queer historical research were also big crowd pleasers,” Cherry said. “Marriage equality was a recurring theme that ran through several of the Top 10 stories this year. LGBT saints and queer Bible interpretation continued to be important to readers of the Jesus in Love Blog.”

Here is a list of the year’s top 10 stories. Click the headlines to see the original posts at the Jesus in Love Blog.

1. Gay Passion of Christ series

All 24 paintings in Douglas Blanchard’s epic masterpiece “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” were posted with new commentary by Kittredge Cherry for Holy Week last year. It covers the events of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Blanchard’s images show Jesus being jeered by fundamentalists, tortured by Marine look-alikes and rising again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God and friends. He faces forms of rejection that feel familiar to contemporary LGBT people.

Here is a list of individual gay Passion posts in order of popularity. All of these would have made this year’s top 10 list, but they are combined here to prevent the gay Passion from dominating the whole list:

Day 5: Jesus Before the Soldiers; Jesus is Beaten

Day 1: Jesus Enters the City on Palm Sunday

Day 6: Jesus goes to his execution, is nailed to the cross, and dies

Day 2: Jesus drives out the money changers and preaches in the Temple

Blanchard, a gay painter based in New York, and Cherry, a lesbian minister and art historian based in Los Angeles, plan to run an updated version of the series on the Jesus in Love Blog for Holy Week this year and later turn it into a book. More info


“Marriage Made in Heaven”
by Mr. Fish
2. Jesus and Freddie Mercury: Marriage Made in Heaven cartoon supports equality and other religious political cartoons

A gay Jesus cuddles in bed with rock star Freddie Mercury in “Marriage Made in Heaven” by cartoonist Mr. Fish of ClownCrack.com, also known as Dwayne Booth. He created the image to support marriage equality. After a vote banning same-sex marriage, Mr. Fish decided to expose the hypocrisy of anti-gay Christians indirectly by showing Jesus in bed with a gay icon. More info

Two other cartoons on religion and LGBT rights were also hugely popular at the Jesus in Love Blog in 2012:

Cartoon shows Pope mad at nuns and Jesus for not condemning homosexuality 

Cartoon: Jesus saves LGBT kids from jaws of clergy hat


3. Saints Sergius and Bacchus: Male couple martyred in ancient Rome

Sergius and Bacchus were third-century Roman soldiers, Christian martyrs and gay men who loved each other. Their story is told here in words and art, including historical works and contemporary art. The couple was openly gay, but secretly Christian -- the opposite of today’s closeted Christians. The close bond between Sergius and Bacchus has been emphasized since the earliest accounts, and recent scholarship has revealed their homosexuality. More info


4. Gay centurion: Jesus heals a soldier’s boyfriend in the Bible

Jesus praised a gay soldier as a role model of faith and healed his male lover in the gospels, according to many Bible experts. Both Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 tell how a Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal the young man referred to in Greek as his “pais.” The word was commonly used for the younger partner in a same-sex relationship. It is usually translated as boy, servant or slave. In recent years progressive Bible scholars have concluded that the centurion was in a homosexual relationship with the “slave who was dear to him” in the gospel story. More info


5. Jemima Wilkinson: Queer preacher reborn in 1776 as “Publick Universal Friend”

Jemima Wilkinson (1752-1819) was a queer American preacher who woke from a near-death experience in 1776 believing she was neither male nor female. She changed her name to the “Publick Universal Friend,” fought for gender equality and founded an important religious community. In 1776, the same year that America issued the Declaration of Independence, Wilkinson declared her own independence from gender. Wilkinson is recognized as the first American-born woman to found a religious group, but is also called a “transgender evangelist.” More info


6. Gay Jesus kiss: "Corpus Christi" play behind the scenes

Jesus kisses a man behind the scenes at “Corpus Christi,” a play about a gay Jesus by Terrence McNally, in a new photo. A traditional Christ seems to reach across 2,000 years of history to share a kiss with a 21st-century man in a tie-dyed shirt. Jesus is still carrying his cross, but that can’t stop him from expressing man-to-man love with a gay kiss. More info


7. Artist Tony De Carlo paints gay saints, Adam and Steve, and marriage equality art

Artist Tony De Carlo affirms the holiness of gay love with colorful, festive paintings of gay saints, Adam and Steve, same-sex marriage and much more -- all with a zesty Latino flavor.  Gay saints in his art include the martyred male couple Sergius and Bacchus and a series on Sebastian, the protector against plague. De Carlo began his ongoing Sebastian series in response to the AIDS crisis. De Carlo has done more than 20 paintings of Adam and Steve as the original gay couple. More info


8. Ash Wednesday: A day to recall queers executed for sodomy

Ash Wednesday is an appropriate time to reflect on the sins of the church and state against queer people, including the burning of “sodomites” and execution of thousands for homosexuality over the past 1,000 years. This article uses historical images and research to remember and honor all those killed for homosexuality in church- or state-sanctioned executions. In 2013 Ash Wednesday will be Feb. 13. More info


9. Joan of Arc: Cross-dressing warrior-saint

Joan of Arc was a tough cross-dressing teenage warrior who led the medieval French army to victory when she was 17. She is a queer icon, girl-power hero and patron saint of France. Smart and courageous, Joan of Arc (c. 1412-1431) had visions of saints and angels who told her to cut her hair, put on men’s clothes and go to war. At age 18 she helped crown a king and at 19 she was killed by the church that later made her a saint. She died for her God-given right to wear men’s clothing, the crime for which she was executed. More info


10. Francis of Assisi’s queer side revealed by historical evidence

Historical records reveal a queer side to Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the most beloved religious figures of all time. The 13th-century friar is celebrated for loving animals, hugging lepers, and praying for peace, but few know about his love for another man and his gender nonconformity.  Research by Franciscan scholar Kevin Elphick shows that when Francis was a young man, he had an unnamed male companion whom he dearly loved. Other friars called Francis as “Mother” and “Lady Poverty.” Francis allowed a widow to enter the male-only cloister, naming her “Brother Jacoba.” More info

__
Related links:

2011’s top 10 LGBT spiritual arts stories

2010’s top 7 LGBT spiritual arts stories

2009’s top 7 GLBT spiritual arts stories

2008’s top 5 queer-spirit arts stories

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Friday, February 01, 2013

Brigid and Darlughdach: Celtic saint loved her female soulmate



For a new version of this article, click

Qspirit.net:
Brigid and Darlughdach: Celtic saint loved her female soulmate

“Saint Brighid and Darlughdach of Kildare” by Rowan Lewgalon and Tricia Danby (tir-anam.weebly.com)

Saint Brigid and her soulmate Darlughdach were sixth-century Irish nuns who brought art, education and spirituality to early medieval Ireland. Brigid (c.451-525) shares her name and feast day (Feb. 1) with a Celtic goddess -- and she may have been the last high priestess of the goddess Brigid.

Raised by Druids, Brigid seems to have made a smooth transition from being a pagan priestess to a Christian abbess. Today she is Ireland’s most famous female saint. Her name is also spelled Bridget.  Legend says that when she made her final vows as a nun, the bishop in charge was so overcome by the Holy Spirit that he administered the rite for ordaining a (male) bishop instead.

A younger nun named Darlughdach served as Brigid’s ambassador and her “anam cara” or soul friend. The two women were so close that they slept in the same bed. Like many Celtic saints, Brigid believed that each person needs a soul friend to discover together that God speaks most powerfully in the seemingly mundane details of shared daily life. The love between these two women speaks to today’s lesbians and their allies. Some say that Brigid and Darlughdach are lesbian saints.

Brigid started convents all over Ireland and became the abbess of the “double monastery” (housing both men and women) at Kildare. Built on land that was previously sacred to her divine namesake, the monastery included an art school for creating illuminated manuscripts.

After Brigid turned 70, she warned Darlughdach that she expected to die soon. Her younger soulmate begged to die at the same time. Brigid wanted her to live another year so she could succeed her as abbess. Brigid died of natural causes on Feb. 1, 525. The bond between the women was so close that Darlughdach followed her soulmate in death exactly one year later on Feb. 1, 526.

Both Christians and pagans celebrate St. Brigid’s Day on Feb. 1. It is also known as Imbolc, a spring festival when the goddess Brigid returns as the bride of spring in a role similar to the Greek Persephone. People still celebrate her day by weaving twigs into a square “Brigid’s Cross,” an ancient solar symbol traditionally made to welcome spring.

Brigid’s main symbol was fire, representing wisdom, poetry, healing and metallurgy. The nuns at the Kildare monastery kept a perpetual fire burning in Brigid’s memory for more than a thousand years -- until 1540 when it was extinguished in Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The Order of St. Brigid was reestablished in 1807. Two Brigidine sisters returned to Kildare and relit the fire in the market square for the first time in more than 400 years on Feb. 1, 1993. The perpetual flame is now kept at the Solas Bhride (Brigid’s Light) Celtic Spirituality Center that they founded there. In addition, anyone may sign up to tend St. Brigid’s flame in their own homes through the Ord Brighideach Order of Flame Keepers.

Two Celtic Christian artists based in Germany collaborated on the sensuously spiritual portrait of Brigid and Darlughdach at the top of this post. On the left is Darlughdach, painted as a fiery redhead by Rowan Lewgalon, and on the right is fair-haired Brighid, painted by Tricia Danby. Lewgalon and Danby are both clerics in the Old Catholic Apostolic Church as well as spiritual artists whose work is online at tir-anam.weebly.com.

"Saints Brigid and Darlughdach of Kildare"
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. © 1999

Brigid and Darlughdach are shown with their arms around each other in the above icon by Brother Robert Lentz. He is a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his progressive icons. The two women are dressed in the white gowns worn by Druid priestesses and Celtic nuns. Flames burn above them and on the mandala of Christ that they carry. It is one of 40 icons featured in his book Christ in the Margins.

The icon was commissioned by the Living Circle, a Chicago-based interfaith spirituality center for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community and their friends. Four Living Circle members took the original icon to Kildare with them in 2000 for the flame-lighting ceremony at the recently excavated site of Brigid’s ancient fire temple.

Dennis O’Neill, the priest who founded the Living Circle, includes the icon and an in-depth biography of Brigid and Darlughdach in his book “Passionate Holiness: Marginalized Christian Devotions for Distinctive People.”

Brigid’s spirit of fun and hospitality is expressed in her reputation for loving beer. She made beer for the poor every Easter. In a well known poem attributed to Brigid, she envisioned heaven as a great lake of beer. Here are some of the words to St. Brigid’s Prayer, as translated and performed by Irish singer Noirin Ni Riain:

I’d sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer
We’d be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.

Riain also sings a heavenly Ode To Bridget on the video below and on her Celtic Soul album.


___
Related links:

February 1st: Celebrate Brigit's Day by Diann Neu (WATER)

Santa Brigid y Darlughdach: Irlandés santo amaba a su alma amiga (Santos Queer)
_________

Icons of Brigid and Darlughdach and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores



_______
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.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts