Wednesday, March 18, 2015

From Selma to Palm Sunday: A gay vision

News photos of the recent Selma march bear an uncanny resemblance to the Palm Sunday painting in a gay vision of Christ’s Passion painted 14 years ago.

President Obama led the crowd marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7 for the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” -- a civil rights march that ended there in violent confrontation with police.

New York artist Doug Blanchard used photos of civil rights marches as inspiration when he painted “Jesus Enters the City” and other images in “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision.” He shows Jesus as a gay man of today in a modern city. All 24 paintings are included in a new book with reflections by lesbian theologian Kittredge Cherry.

It is eerie how much images look alike. The Selma march and the Palm Sunday painting both show a thin black man in a white shirt and tie walking beside a person in a wheelchair at the front of the crowd. Even the bridge in Selma looks similar to the arch that Blanchard imagined. He painted this in 2001 -- before 9/11 and long before Obama was president. It’s like he saw the future.

One big difference is that Jesus is missing from the news photo. Blanchard’s Christ figure is not the Obama look-alike, but a young gay man riding a donkey in the middle of the crowd.

In the Bible the Palm Sunday march into Jerusalem leads up to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Let’s hope the similarity does not go that far.

A full reflection on “Jesus Enters the City” will launch a series on the gay Passion of Christ at the Jesus in Love Blog on Palm Sunday, March 29. Daily reflections will continue through Holy Week until Easter.

The image at the top of this post comes from “Introduction to the Queer Christ,” a Slate Project video by Sara Shisler Goff. She combines an Associated Press photo by Jacqueline Martin with “Jesus Enters the City” by Doug Blanchard and prophetic words by martyred civil rights icon Martin Luther King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Related links:
Fifty Years After 'Bloody Sunday,' Obama Calls Selma a Place Where Meaning of America Was Defined (ABC News)

Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision book website

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