Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sex and spirit mix on new Jesus book cover

A homoerotic Christ on the cover of a new German book is sparking international debate as Christmas approaches.

The provocative cover appears on the German translation of Jesus in Love, my novel about a queer Christ.

The cover art by Berlin painter Alexander von Agoston shows a near-naked Jesus and John the Baptist rising from the water together after Christ’s baptism. The men’s genitals shine through their wet clothes. A shared halo affirms the union of body and spirit.

My book says that gay sexuality is holy to Christ and I’m a passionate promoter of queer spiritual art. However, even I thought the German image was too frankly erotic for a cover at first. Discussions with my German publisher, Edition EuQor changed my mind.

“German readers are used to seeing nudity on covers, much more than Americans,” my publisher told me. “Sure, the cover attracts attention. That’s what a cover is for.”

Gay-positive Christian images are needed now because conservatives are using religious rhetoric to justify discrimination against queer people. The cover goes all the way in showing that God loves gays. Jesus is completely comfortable in his skin. Now I’m sure that it’s the right cover for the German edition.

The German translation of Jesus in Love was released in time for Christmas by Edition EuQor, a start-up German press specializing in provocative books.

“When Jesus in Love was published in English, websites in Germany buzzed with excitement,” the publisher told me. “The idea of a bisexual Jesus seemed to fascinate Germans more than anyone else outside the English-speaking world. Soon Edition EuQor offered to do a German translation.”

Reactions to the Jesus in Love cover vary widely from delight to shock and disdain, even within the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community.

The original English version of Jesus in Love was published in 2006 by AndroGyne Press with a more romantic cover drawing of Jesus and John wreathed in roses. Conservative Christians attacked the novel as blasphemy because it portrays a Jesus who felt sexual attraction to men. However, it received praise from literary critics and GLBT Christian leaders.

Mel White, founder of the GLBT Christian activist group Soulforce, endorsed the English version. “Kitt Cherry has broken through the stained-glass barrier,” White said. “This is not a prurient look at the sex life of Jesus, but a classic re-telling of the greatest story ever told.”

Theology professor Carter Heyward called it “a lovely, gentle, playful book.” Toby Johnson, author of “Gay Spirituality,” described it as “a wonderful, gay-sensitive, and delightfully ‘shocking’ reassessment of the stories of the old-time religion.”

What do YOU think of the new book cover? Please post your comments here or email them to


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
This is a major and vital contribution that lgbti people can bring to the churches, and to Christian spirituality at large, to help Christians to be comfortable with our bodies and our sexual natures. Some people will hate it, but until we come to terms with our bodily nature we can't properly accept God Incarnate.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Debate is raging about the book cover at the Gay Spirituality Blog, where this is cross-posted.

Ten interesting comments, both for and against the book cover, are posted. Some highlights:

Another example of Europe taking the lead in all matters pertaining to religion and reasonableness. Jesus was a man with a penis! He is on the cover, with a wet cloth on - what happened with his baptism? Was he miraculously dried before he got out? Did his penis disappear? The beauty of the male form is nothing but God given….
Posted by: Enlightened One

Wow. A real Rorschach test.
I see a quaint, primative piece of art. Nothing particularly erotic. I don't see obsured uninflated penises as erotic.
But, if your whole idea of your 'personal' Jesus was somehow wrapped up in a diety that is asexual, then I suppose it would be pretty upsetting. Childish, but upsetting. How could anyone who is that full of the spirit of G*D be asexual? …
Posted by: Slinky

There was a principle in Christian Theology that if Jesus did not assume any part of our experience it was not redeemed. I believe that this is still operative. Human sexuality in every variety would therefore be under God's Redemptive Love….
Posted by: Jack Oxford

Read all the comments in full at the Gay Spirituality Blog.