Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Top 10 LGBT spiritual arts stories of 2013 named

Detail from Passion
by Doug Blanchard
"Saints Felicity and Perpetua"
by Maria Cristina

An artist’s gay vision of Christ’s Passion was the top LGBT spiritual arts story for 2013 at the Jesus in Love Blog.

Perpetua and Felicity came in second place as patron saints of same-sex couples, followed by the Intimacy with Christ paintings of Richard Stott.

The year’s top 10 LGBT spiritual arts stories were named today by Cherry, founder of the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT Spirituality and the Arts. 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 Cherry. The paintings present Jesus as a contemporary gay man in a modern city. The Passion paintings and commentary are set to be published as a book later in 2014. Click here to sign up for e-mail announcements about the book.

“Jesus in Love has become the go-to place for new and innovative material on queer saints -- in both English and Spanish,” Cherry said. “Readers love the pioneering LGBT Christian art presented here.  It is hard to find anywhere else except at Jesus in Love.”

Non-traditional takes on traditional saints attracted more readers than ever before, filling four of the Top 10 spots. Three of the top stories were about contemporary artists creating bold new paintings of Jesus in a queer context.

Another trend was the surging popularity of Jesus in Love articles in Spanish. The Santos Queer Blog was launched in late 2012 to provide translations of the LGBT Saints series throughout the year. In fact, some saints were a bigger hit in Spanish than in the original English. Over at Santos Queer, San Sebastián actually got more hits in 2013 than anything in English with 2,608 pageviews!

Two books tied for the top spot as the bestseller of the year at Jesus in Love: “Forbidden Rumi: The Suppressed Poems of Rumi on Love, Heresy, and Intoxication” and “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations.”

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

1. The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision

Gay Passion paintings on display
(Photo by Dorie Hagler)
Jesus challenges viewers by arriving as a young gay man of today in the “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” by Douglas Blanchard. The artist takes the most important narrative in Western culture and rescues it from fundamentalists and also from over-familiarity. All 24 paintings in the series were posted with expanded commentary and prayers by Kittredge Cherry for Holy Week and Easter last year. The series covers 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 his diverse group of friends. More info

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 again on the Jesus in Love Blog for Holy Week this year. Join the Passion book e-mail list to be notified when the book version is published.

2. Perpetua and Felicity: Patron saints of same-sex couples

Saints Perpetua and Felicity were brave North African woman friends who were executed for their Christian faith in the third century. Some consider them lesbian saints or patrons of same-sex couples.  They were arrested for their Christian beliefs, imprisoned together, and held onto each other in the last moments before they died together on March 7, 203. A banner saying “patrons of same sex couples” hangs above Felicity and Perpetua in the colorful icon at the top of this post. It was painted by Maria Cristina, an artist based in Las Cruces, New Mexico. More info

3. Gay artist paints "Intimacy with Christ": Richard Stott reflects on sensual spirituality

Detail from “Intimacy with Christ 3”
by Richard Stott
A gay man’s intimacy with Christ is expressed in new art and writing by Richard Stott, a Methodist minister and art therapist in Sheffield, England. Three large paintings that unite sexuality and spirituality emerged from Stott’s prayer life and meditations on the medieval Christian mystics, especially the poem “The Dark Night of the Soul” by Saint John of the Cross. More info

4. 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 thousand years. This article uses historical images and research to remember and honor all those killed for homosexuality in church- or state-sanctioned executions. Ash Wednesday also made the 2012 Top 10 list. In 2013 the Slacktivist blog sent a lot of extra visitors to the Ash Wednesday post by highlighting a quote from a woman executed for sodomy in 1721: “But even were I to be done away with, those who are like me would remain.”  In 2014 Ash Wednesday will be March 5. More info

5. LGBT Stations of the Cross show struggle for equality

Station 3 from LGBT Stations of the Cross
by Mary Button
courtesy of Believe Out Loud
“Stations of the Cross: The Struggle for LGBT Equality” is a new set of 14 paintings that link the suffering of Jesus with the history of LGBT people. Using bold colors and collage, artist Mary Button juxtaposes Christ's journey to Golgotha with milestones from the last 100 years of LGBT history, including Nazi persecution, the Lavender Scare, the Stonewall Rebellion, the assassination of Harvey Milk, the AIDS pandemic, the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester, and LGBT teen suicides. “In the sacrifices of martyrs of the LGBT movement, we can come to a new understanding of the cross, and of what it means to be part of the body of Christ,” Button said. More info

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

Sergius and Bacchus were third-century Roman soldiers, Christian martyrs and men who loved each other. The close bond between Sergius and Bacchus has been emphasized since the earliest accounts, and recent scholarship has revealed their homosexuality. The oldest record of their martyrdom describes them as erastai (Greek for “lovers”). Their story is told here in words and art, including historical works and contemporary art. Sergius and Bacchus are perennial favorites at Jesus in Love, where they also made the Top 10 list in 2011 and 2012. More info

7. New info on Francis of Assisi’s queer side revealed

Historical records revealed a queer side to Saint Francis of Assisi as Pope Francis visited the birthplace of his namesake in October 2013. “It will be interesting to hear Pope Francis’ message while he pilgrimages to Assisi. However, the gender-bending St. Francis has already clearly spoken through the ages to the LGBT community,” Franciscan scholar Kevin Elphick said. Saint Francis is one of the most beloved religious figures of all time, known for embracing poverty, loving animals, hugging lepers, and praying for peace. Elphick continued his research into the queer side of Saint Francis in 2013 with his own trip to Assisi, where he photographed artwork depicting the man he believes may have been the saint’s beloved soulmate: Brother Elias of Cortona. More info

8. Queer religious art resource list: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Paganism

Queer religious art resources from Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Paganism are listed on the Jesus in Love Blog. The list provides dozens of links to art created throughout human history, from ancient cave paintings to the most contemporary images of today. It includes Asian, African / African-American, Australian, Celtic, Latina/o, Native American and others. More info

9. Saint Sebastian: History’s first gay icon

“Saint Sebastian”
by Rick Herold
Saint Sebastian has been called history’s first gay icon and the patron saint of homosexuals. Sebastian was an early Christian martyr killed in 288 on orders from the Roman emperor Diocletian. He is the subject of countless artworks that show him being shot with arrows. Little is known about his love life, so his long-standing popularity with gay men is mostly based on the way he looks. Starting in the Renaissance, Sebastian has been painted many times as a near-naked youth writing in a mixture of pleasure and pain. The homoeroticism is obvious. More info

The Spanish translation of this article, San Sebastián: El primer ícono gay de la historia, was the most popular story of the year at the Santos Queer blog

10. Blasphemy debate on queer Nativity

A big blasphemy debate erupted when Believe Out Loud cross-posted a queer Nativity photo and essay by lesbian Christian author Kittredge Cherry in December 2013. "Everyone should be able to see themselves in the Christmas story, including the growing number of LGBT parents and their children," she wrote. Many said it was offensive, blasphemous, ridiculous, stupid, and "makes equality look bad," even though they are a LGBT-affirming Christian group. Others found it inspiring, empowering, and wonderful, providing "instant identity that this story includes me too." The Facebook debate grew to more than 140 comments. The original queer Nativity piece was posted at Jesus in Love in 2009.  It is on the Top 10 list now because it was the most controversial content of the year, even though it didn't generate a lot of traffic on the Jesus in Love in 2013. More info

Related links:

2012’s top 10 LGBT spiritual arts stories

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.
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Bestselling books of 2013:

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