Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wanted: LGBT-positive Christian poetry

An open and affirming Christian poetry contest is being sponsored by NuWine Press, an independent publishing company offering fresh perspectives on Christianity. The deadline is March 15 and winners will be featured in an upcoming book.

For the contest, NuWine Press is seeking poems and free verse about encounters with God from individuals disenfranchised by the Christian community. These “writers at the extremes of Christ's body “ may include Christ-followers of all races, denominations, genders, sexual orientations and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as those who may be physically and mentally challenged.

Aimee Maude Sims
NuWine Press was founded in 2007 by Aimee Maude Sims, a multimedia reporter and music writer. Her own writing embodies a playful, intelligent spirituality in which God embraces gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Watch her YouTube video above for her wonderful poem “Come Claim Me Jesus” said to her own music.

Her wit and spirit also sparkle in her recent essay “ Top 10 ways we know God loves gay people.” It includes such gems as “LBGT = Loved By God Truly!”

Sims’ award-winning work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Associated Press and international papers. She holds a B.S. In Political Science and Urban Affairs from Barnard College, and a M.S. In Journalism from The Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. She also completed studies in web design at Medger Evers College.

For more info on the NuWine poetry contest, visit

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Unprotected Texts: Bible has mixed messages on sex

A new book on sexuality and religion is causing a buzz among friends of the Jesus in Love Blog: "Unprotected Texts: The Bible's Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire" by Jennifer Wright Knust.

She says that the Bible gives so many conflicting messages about sex that it cannot be used as a simple rule book for the sex lives of people today. For example, she shows that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.  Some parts of the Good Book even express acceptance of same-sex love, polygamy, slavery, prostitution, and premarital sex. Ultimately Knust she wants people to think for themselves about how to apply the Bible to today's sexual choices.

Knust is assistant professor of religion at Boston University and ordained as an American Baptist pastor.  Her  book is referenced in a couple of fascinating new articles:

CNN: My Take: The Bible’s surprisingly mixed messages on sexuality
By Jennifer Wright Knust

The author of "Unprotected Texts" herself writes at the CNN Blog that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. Here's an excerpt:

We often hear that Christians have no choice but to regard homosexuality as a sin - that Scripture simply demands it.

As a Bible scholar and pastor myself, I say that Scripture does no such thing.

"I love gay people, but the Bible forces me to condemn them" is a poor excuse that attempts to avoid accountability by wrapping a very particular and narrow interpretation of a few biblical passages in a cloak of divinely inspired respectability….

Despite common misperceptions, biblical writers could also imagine same-sex intimacy as a source of blessing. For example, the seemingly intimate relationship between the Old Testament's David and Jonathan, in which Jonathan loved David more than he loved women, may have been intended to justify David’s rise as king.

Click here for the whole article

USA Today: On gay rights, keep fighting or adapt?
By Tom Krattenmaker

It appears increasingly obvious that social acceptance of gay men and lesbians and insistence on their equal rights are inexorable. If the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" weren't enough to signal the turning point, or the classification of several gay-resisting Christian right organizations as "hate groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there came news that Exodus International was ending its involvement in the anti-homosexuality "Day of Truth" in U.S. high schools. "We need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace," Exodus President Alan Chambers explained….

Rubbing some people the wrong way is of little concern if you're convinced you're representing the Straight from the Bible, Capital-T Truth, as conservative Christian organizations are quick to assert. The problem is that such a stance is increasingly difficult to maintain as society begins taking a more complex look at what the bible says and doesn't say about sex.

Click here for the whole article

Special thanks to Eric and Mark for sending these links!

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Brothers by affection: Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus

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

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

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. 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


Friday, February 11, 2011

February newsletter is out!

Our February newsletter is out with these headlines: Top stories of 2010, Uganda's gay martyr, Queer Lady of Guadalupe, censorship and acrobats who strip for the Pope.  Click here to see the Jesus in Love Newsletter February 2011 issue.

The monthly e-newsletter is a quick and lively summary of highlights from the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts. If you enjoy this blog, you will like our newsletter.

For a free subscription, add your e-mail address in the box below.

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You can view past issues in our newsletter archive.

What others are saying about the Jesus in Love Newsletter and blog:

“One of the most refreshing voices I currently encounter online. Kitt’s posts are all about, in my humble opinion, the extravagant, redemptive love of God.”
-- Eric Hays-Strom

"What a gift you are giving to us!!"
-- Rev. Jane Spahr, lesbian minister and founder of That All May Freely Serve.

"Very nice, sophisticated, uncluttered newsletter -- with some interesting info as well."
-- journalist Eileen Lockwood.

Please leave a comment telling us what YOU think of the Jesus in Love Newsletter. We may quote you in a future newsletter announcement. Thanks!

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

2010’s top 7 LGBT spiritual arts stories named

“Krishna and Christ,” artist unknown

Homoerotic love between Christ and Krishna became the top LGBT spiritual arts story for 2010, the Jesus in Love Blog announced today.

The story that got the most page views for the year at the blog was "What if Christ and Krishna made love?" It celebrates new art and poetry about possible gay connections between two of the world’s greatest teachers of love. The post was viewed more than 2,140 times during the year.

The top seven LGBT spiritual arts stories of the year were named today by lesbian Christian author Kittredge Cherry. She founded to promote LGBT spirituality and the arts with a blog, e-newsletter and related websites.

“2010 was an exciting year for queer spirituality and the arts,” Cherry says. “Gay-affirming visions of an erotic Christ balanced alarming reports of religion being used as a weapon against LGBT people during the year. Queer people and our allies found strength and inspiration in the erotic Christ, the queer Virgin of Guadalupe and LGBT saints and martyrs."

Here’s a round-up of the year’s top stories with links to the original posts at the Jesus in Love Blog:

1. What if Christ and Krishna made love?
"What if Christ and Krishna made love?" was the most popular story of 2010 with 2,140 page views. A possible gay relationship between two of the world's great religious teachers of love is explored in art and poetry, including the work of Brian Day and Alex Donis.

Most interesting photo of 2010
"Crucifix" by Elisabeth Olson Wallen
2. Erotic Christ/ Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People Today
An essay on the Erotic Christ launched this blog’s major five-part series "Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People Today" by gay Asian-American theologian Patrick Cheng. It was the year's second most popular story here with 1,241 page views. In the introductory post, Cheng wrote, “If the Erotic Christ is understood as God’s deepest desire to be in relationship with us, then sin – defined as what opposes the Erotic Christ – can be understood as exploitation, or the complete lack of mutuality or concern for the needs and desires, sexual or otherwise, of another person.” The photo for this post, "Crucifix" by Elisabeth Olson Wallen, was rated the most interesting photo of the year at Jesus in Love’s Flickr image archive.

3. Religious threats to LGBT people exposed in Jerusalem photos
Religion-based oppression of LGBT people is revealed in “Jerusalem,” a controversial new photo exhibit by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin in Sweden. The year's third most popular story draws attention to the Christian, Jewish and Muslim scriptures that threaten queer people. Photos show local LGBT people in Jerusalem with homophobic texts projected on or near their bodies. "Tranny," a photo of a Jerusalem drag queen, was also the most popular image of the year at Jesus in Love’s Flickr image archive with 385 views.

4. Queer Lady of Guadalupe: artists reimagine an icon
Queer art based on Our Lady of Guadalupe brings a message of holy empowerment that speaks to LGBT people today. Artists Alma Lopez, Alex Donis and Jim Ru re-envisioned the Aztec version of the Virgin Mary in amazing ways, making Guadalupe the most popular saint of the year at the Jesus in Love Blog.

5. Ex-gay movement as genocide
Most people think of genocide as mass murder of a group, but scholars say the “social death” inflicted on LGBT people by the ex-gay movement is an early stage of genocide that can lead to mass murder. Visitors to the Jesus in Love Blog shared this startling post frequently with their friends on Facebook and other social media, making it the most shared story of the year. Ex-gay art by Christine Bakke and James Ingram is featured.

6. New paintings honor gay martyrs
Men killed in gay-bashing murders are honored in powerful new paintings by gay artist-philosopher Matthew Wettlaufer. This post generated the most comments of the year at the Jesus in Love Blog with 33 comments from 10 people. The post includes an interview with Wettlaufer along with his art. Wettlaufer painted Matthew Shepard (1976-98), a university student who was killed in Wyoming, and Allen Schindler (1969-92), a naval officer who was killed by two of his shipmates in Japan. Both were brutally beaten to death for being gay.

7. It Gets Better video: Message to LGBT youth
“It gets better” is the theme of a video message to LGBT youth from Jesus in Love founder Kittredge Cherry. Her heartfelt message became our most popular video of the year with more than 1,000 views. She made it for the It Gets Better Project, a new website where LGBT adults and allies can share stories of hope with LGBT youth.

Founded in 2005, Jesus In Love promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer spirituality and the arts. It supports artistic and religious freedom and teaches love for all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or religious faith. “We specialize in new gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender art that is too queer for religious institutions and too religious for GLBT organizations,” Cherry says. She was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served as its national ecumenical officer.

Jesus In Love has reached thousands of people all over the world, won many honors -- and gotten a lot of hate mail from religious conservatives.

“The ongoing religious bigotry proves that Jesus in Love is needed now as much as ever,” Cherry says. “Christian rhetoric is being misused to justify hate and discrimination against LGBT people, but Jesus taught love for all.”

Saturday, February 05, 2011

White House appoints lesbian minister

Rev. Nancy Wilson
Rev. Nancy Wilson was appointed yesterday by President Barack Obama to the White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She is moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches and one of my role models as a lesbian minister. I worked closely with Nancy when I was national ecumenical officer for Metropolitan Community Churches.

Watch out, White House, here comes a powerful voice for LGBT rights!

Rev.Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, was appointed to the same council. She appeared on this blog before when she riled up conservatives by choosing gender-bending art for Christmas card. See our previous post "Conservatives blast inclusive Christmas card."

Click here to read the official White House news release announcing the appointments.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

St. Brigid loved her female soulmate Darlughdach

For a new version of this article, click
Brigid and Darlughdach: Celtic saint loved her female soulmate

“Saint Brighid and Darlughdach of Kildare” by Rowan Lewgalon and Tricia Danby (

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.  Her followers still keep a flame burning for her.

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

"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)

To read this article in Spanish, go to:
Santa Brigid y Darlughdach: Irlandés santo amaba a su alma amiga (Santos Queer)

To read this article in Italian, go to:
Il fuoco di Santa Brigida e la sua anima gemella. Due monache nell’Irlanda medioevale (


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 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. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.