Sunday, October 30, 2011

LGBT-friendly Memorial for All Saints, All Souls and Day of the Dead

This queer-friendly memorial for All Saints, All Souls and Day of the Dead highlights those who died in the past year. Religion and society have often dishonored and desecrated LGBT lives. This is a place for ALL saints and ALL souls to be restored to wholeness and holiness. More info at the end of the memorial

Compassionate Spirit of God, unite us with the lives and visions of lesbian and gay heroes of our time… Unite us with all the souls living and dead, especially those souls taken by violence and AIDS. Unite us with all who boldly pioneered a way of pride and justice.
--from “Invocation for All Saints Day” by James Lancaster, published in Equal Rites

In memory of
Frank Kameny
gay rights pioneer
Died Oct. 11, 2011

white candle Pictures, Images and Photos

In memory of
Jamey Rodemeyer
Suicide brought attention to gay bullying
Died Sept. 18, 2011

white candle Pictures, Images and Photos

In memory of
Peter Gomes
Harvard minister, gay African American, LGBT rights advocate
Died Feb. 28, 2011

white candle Pictures, Images and Photos


In memory of
David Kato
Ugandan LGBT rights activist
Murdered Jan. 26, 2011

white candle Pictures, Images and Photos

In memory of
Rev. Elder Jean White
Metropolitan Community Churches elder from London
Died Nov. 8, 2010 

white candle Pictures, Images and Photos

In memory of
Dr. Ken Blair
Pioneering AIDS doctor in Austin, Texas
Died Nov. 1, 2010

white candle Pictures, Images and Photos

“The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints,
went up before God from the angel’s hand.”
      -- Revelation 8:4

white candle Pictures, Images and Photos
In memory of: Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase, Asher Brown, Cody J. Barker, Harrison Chase Brown, Caleb Nolt; Billy Lucas, Jeanine Blanchette, Chantal Dube and all other gay and lesbian youths who have committed suicide. Gwen Araujo, Rita Hester, Brandon Teena and all others who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. Harvey Milk, Matthew Shepard, Alan Schindler and all others who were murdered in homophobic violence. Jill Johnston, Mary Daly, and all lesbians whodied in 2010. Rock Hudson, Rev. Ron Russell-Coons, Rev. Jim Sandmire, Rev. Howard Wells and all others who died of AIDS. And for all saints and all souls, named and unnamed.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
--Hebrews 12:1

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle Autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush.
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.
-- Anonymous

Candles from Wikimedia Commons
Here we emphasize those who died between Nov. 1, 2010 and Oct. 31, 2011. Feel free to suggest more names by adding them as comments. Click here to visit our all-time memorial.

In Catholic and Protestant Christianity, the Feast of All Saints commemorates all saints, known and unknown. The following day, the Feast of All Souls, pays respect to the faithful departed who have not yet reached heaven. Prayers are offered to ask the saints to help the living, and to offer help to the souls of deceased friends and family.

All Souls Day is celebrated in Latin America as the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). The holiday is especially popular in Mexico, where the happy celebration is one of the biggest events of the year.

All Saints Day used to be called All Hallows Day, and the preceding evening was the Eve of All Hallows, now celebrated as Halloween. These holidays are associated with the Celtic Festival of the Dead (Samhain). They grow out of the pagan belief that the souls of the dead return to visit at this time of year.

Related links:

LGBT Saints Series

Why we need LGBT saints: A queer theology of sainthood by Kittredge Cherry

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 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people of faith and our allies.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Noah’s Ark: Queer views of a rainbow story

Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise” by Paul Richmond

Queer visions of Noah’s Ark sail into view today for Shabbat Noach, the day when the story of Noah’s Ark is read in synagogues. This year it falls on Oct. 28-29.

LGBT perspectives on Noah’s journey are offered by Paul Richmond, who painted “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise,” and by the Objective Queer Bible Scholar, who wonders: When God told Noah to take “two of every kind” on the ark, did that mean two lesbians, two gay males, two bisexuals, two transsexuals, two heterosexuals, and so on?

Rainbows are a symbol of the LGBT community, and they play a big role at the end of the passage about Noah. God promises that floods will never again destroy all life, and sets a rainbow in the sky as a sign of this covenant.

Happy gay and lesbian animal couples mingle under the rainbow with today’s LGBT celebrities in “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise,” a painting by Ohio artist Paul Richmond. Same-sex pairings of cuddling elephants, giraffes, penguins, chimps, and flamingos cuddle on board his gay version of Noah’s ark. Human couples include Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Elton John and David Furnish, and Rosie O’Donnell and Kelli Carpenter.

Elsewhere on Richmond’s queer cruise ship, Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie come out of the closet to watch from a porthole as a “God hates fags” sign sinks beneath the waves, along with opponents of LGBT rights such as Ann Coulter, Ken Starr, Pat Boone, Fred Phelps, and even Larry Craig with his toilet!

“I chose to symbolize our inevitable victory in the fight for marriage equality by painting my own adaptation of the biblical flood,” Richmond says. For more info and detailed images, see our previous post “Noah’s gay wedding cruise pictured.”

Other queer twists on Noah’s story are offered by the Objective Queer Bible Scholar at the BW16 Blog: “This classic Sunday school tale includes a number of LGBT motifs, my favorite being the command from God to Noah to ‘take two of every kind’ on the ark (6:20), presumably this would include couplings of heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, and pan-sexuals.” For more of his analysis, see BW16’s post “Two of Every Kind” Intercourse Texture in Noah’s Ark.

Related links:
Noah’s Ark Bible text: Genesis 6:1 - 9:17

Blessing Our Pets: In The Spirit Of St. Francis And Judaism by Jon M. Sweeney (Huffington Post)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Allen Schindler: Gay martyr in the military

The Murder of Allen Schindler by Matthew Wettlaufer

Allen Schindler (1969-1992) brought international attention to anti-gay hate crimes and gays in the military when he died on this date (Oct. 27) in 1992.

Maybe Allen Schindler is resting more peacefully now that the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy against gays and lesbians in the military ended on Sept. 20, 2011.

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Allen Schindler: LGBTQ role the military highlighted by murder of gay sailor

Today also happens to be Navy Day in the United States. Remembering the service of Allen Schindler is a fitting way to mark the day.

Allen R. Schindler, Jr.
Schindler was a U.S. naval petty officer who was brutally beaten to death because he was gay by two of his shipmates in a public restroom in Sasebo, Japan. Schindler’s murder was cited by President Bill Clinton and others in the debate about gays in the military that culminated in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The crime is portrayed in an epic painting by gay artist Matthew Wettlaufer, who makes connections between anti-gay violence and other human rights struggles in his art.

At first the Navy tried to cover up the circumstances of Schindler’s death. The movie “Any Mother’s Son” tells the true story of how his mother, Dorothy Hadjys-Holman, overcame her own homophobia and Naval cover-up attempts to get justice for her gay son. She also spoke at the 1993 March on Washington for LGBT Rights.

Wettlaufer discusses his painting of Schindler and his other gay-related political art in my previous post “New paintings honor gay martyrs.”

Related link:

American Veterans for Equal Rights
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.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wear purple for Spirit Day to support LGBT youth

Wear purple today to show support for LGBT youth on Spirit Day (Oct. 20).

Millions of people are wearing purple today to speak out against bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by Brittany McMillan, a 16-year-old Canadian girl, in response to high-profile suicides by young LGBT people such as Tyler Clementi.

On Spirit Day individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, media professionals and celebrities wear purple, which symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag. They also “go purple” by making their profile pictures purple at Facebook and other social media websites. More than 1.6 million Facebook users from around the world signed up for Spirit Day last year.

Spirit Day is being promoted by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Visit for more info, including an interview with McMillan about why she founded Spirit Day.

“The purpose of the event was so that people who were being bullied at their schools could come to school on Spirit Day and look around at all the people wearing purple, all the people who they could trust, all the people who would support them….I honestly had a bit of a pessimistic view of it. I thought that I would only get a few hundred people wearing purple and then my school. I never thought it would get as big as it did,” she said.

McMillan noted that Spirit Day is also a day to mourn the youths already lost. “A lot of events are always doing things for the present or the future, but they don’t really look back on the past. Spirit Day is a day where you can presently support LGBTQ teens, promise to stand up to homophobic bullying and also remember teens from the past,” she said.

Related links

Tyler Clementi: Gay martyr driven to suicide by bullies (Jesus in Love Blog)

Rutgers University student Tyler Clement sparked efforts to support LGBT youth after he jumped to his death on Sept. 22, 2010. He was driven to suicide by cyber bullying and harassment. Artist Louisa Bertman shows how anti-LGBT politicians created the hostile environment that drove Tyler Clementi to suicide in her drawing “Tyler Clementi, Jump!”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fear, faith and gay Jesus: Interview with author Paul Hartman

Paul Hartman

Revelations that Jesus was gay lead to deeper spiritual insights -- and a deadly chase -- in “The Kairos,” a new suspense novel by Paul Hartman.

He discusses how and why he wrote “The Kairos” in the following in-depth interview with Kittredge Cherry, author of “Jesus in Love,” a novel about a bisexual Jesus. Based in Washington state, Hartman is a Presbyterian elder and retired PBS / NPR broadcast executive and on-air personality.

“The Kairos” addresses the timely issue of homosexuality and religion, but its underlying theme is timeless: Human fear and God’s reassuring response: “Fear not.”

Kittredge Cherry: Readers at Jesus in Love are interested in the idea of a gay Jesus. How does “The Kairos” explore that theme?

Paul Hartman: The Kairos (Greek for “a divine breakthrough into human time”) is a novel premised on seven Dead Sea Scrolls fragments having been hidden by two scholars for forty years.  The two had feared the carbon-dated evidence would explode the faith of a billion Christians worldwide.  Although the revelations were eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ teen years and why He was considered divine by contemporaries, they also stated that He and John, the Beloved Disciple, became intimate life-companions there in Qumran.

Wherever I have a chance, I’ll emphasize that this story is not really about a gay Jesus.  It’s about fear, and more importantly, God’s simple, loving words to us about that basic human emotion.  One “horrible fear” for some would be that the premise could have been true, that Jesus might have been not just sexual, but homosexual.  Two other, more-universal fears are of failure and of death.  These three threats drive the protagonist in The Kairos.  I trust that readers will remember by the end of the story that our loving Creator has addressed every kind of fear in the first divine words in almost every biblically-recorded kairos moment.  Those two words—just like the first two spoken by Bethlehem’s herald angels—are the theme of this novel.

KC: In your book the Vatican and the CIA try to stop the hero from revealing that Jesus was gay. Has anyone tried to stop you from writing the book or accused you of blasphemy yet?

PH: Only one person has tried to stop me from writing and publishing this story: my own fearful self.  Just like the protagonist, I have worried and prayed endlessly for decades that this be used to further God’s Kingdom, not to hurt people or (God forbid!) turn believers into atheists.  And just like God’s first kairos words in stories from Genesis to Revelation, the Divine has understood my fears and repeatedly, lovingly allayed them.  Even if (when!) there are accusations of blasphemy, I’ll keep looking back to our glimpse of Perfect Love and try to live like Him.

KC: Why did you decide to tackle this controversial subject? Is “The Kairos” related to your own coming-out process as a gay man?

PH: The story first came to me during a worship service at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, NY.  I wrote the first words—which survived all revisions and edits almost intact—on the bulletin.  I was in the closet then as I had been for over 30 years, and I remained in that dark fearful place for almost 20 more. Retirement has helped ease the fears, and then nine months ago I found the love of my life.  Even knowing that I should have found courage solely in my faith, being with Bruce has given it to me.  So both the book and I are coming out this year.  Praise God that recent trends in the world and the Church are making this less “courageous” than it would have been even a few years ago.  I’m so thankful to you, Kitt, for your pioneering, among others’.

KC: You’re a Presbyterian elder and lay preacher. What do you believe about Jesus’ sexuality? Was he attracted to other men? Did he have a male lover? What is the evidence or basis for your own beliefs?

PH: My lay preaching and coaching is in the area of stewardship (annual- and capital-campaigns), and I emphasize to fellow Christians that God is not needy but instead commands us to give because He loves us.  As a perfect Parent, God knows the “miser” in us makes us “miserable.”  (I welcome consulting inquiries from open and affirming congregations!  Ok, ok, end of commercial. :-)  )   It’s that same spirit that informs my understanding of Jesus’ entire earthly life, which confirms for me that everything, including our sexual orientation, is a gift to be celebrated and shared.

Do I believe Jesus was sexually active?  All I can say is He would still be my God if so, but of course I don’t know.  With a man or woman?  Same answer.  Two of my favorite chapters in The Kairos explore those questions, all of which hinge on whether we believe He was fully human.  (If we don’t, of course, we subscribe to the Gnostic heresy…the belief that all matter is evil, meaning Jesus wouldn’t have been human but only an apparition.)  Chapter 20 depicts a fundamentalist character’s reaction when she is asked various questions about His physical life.  In exasperation, she ends it exclaiming, “I don’t want to think about Jesus’ penis!”  Well I don’t know anyone who wants to, but if that’s symbolic of our rejection of our God-given physical bodies, then I can’t believe our Creator is happy about that.  He looked out over all that He had made and said it was very good.  Another favorite Kairos chapter, 33, presents one character’s mock debate with himself over the “clobber passage” issues attendant to these questions.

KC: One of the fascinating parts of your book is the “manuscript within a manuscript” -- the seven chapters that read like long-secret Dead Sea Scroll fragments on the sexuality of Jesus. What research did you do to ensure that these sound authentic?

PH: Just two of the seven broach the topic of sexuality; the other five introduce Him to the Qumran community and tell stories showing why the elders and youth alike were astounded at His gentleness, kindness, playfulness.  And His grace.  You might imagine that I approached writing each of these with some…well, fear!  The responsibility of sharing imagined words and actions of Jesus’ was almost crushing.  I felt an overwhelming need to stay close to the core of His life and message as best I know it.  So I spent a lot of time in the Synoptics during those writing periods.  I hope readers will hear echoes of gospel accounts in the words and actions I created, extensions of known sayings and behaviors more than anything brand new.  That is, except for the intimacy hinted at.  

Regarding my research in situ, I spent about 22 days in the Holy Land region in the year 2000, including about four days in Jerusalem and Qumran.  I was a docent at the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in 2006 at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center.  That gave me numerous opportunities for close-up examination of scroll fragments and other artifacts.  And I’ve read pretty extensively and watched almost every documentary produced.  The Dead Sea Scrolls absolutely fascinate me.  To see the tetragrammaton in two-millennia-old handwriting …it’s breath-taking.

KC: How has your own spiritual journey been affected by the process of writing “The Kairos”?

PH: I’m probably one of the most progressive “born-again” Christians you’ll ever meet, and have been blessed with a deep faith ever since the day of that spiritual birth.  (Mine was the real-life experience written up as the Eskimo pastor’s in Chapter 51.)  Writing it prompted me to finally make the Trip of A Lifetime to the Holy Land (which is detailed on my website  And deciding to finally publish it has been a leap of faith both financially and in coming out.  Here’s a germane anecdote: I had long thought that I would have to use a nom-de-plume if I published it, to avoid direct questions from the media about my own orientation.  But I finally realized, Duh!?  A book whose theme is “fear not”…written by an author who’s afraid to put his name on it?  How self-contradictory can a guy get?

KC: Without spoiling the surprise, can you offer any words of wisdom for those who will be shocked by the conclusion?

PH: You know, if a story’s conclusion has a powerful effect on a reader—whether leaving them in a flight to joy or a descent to sadness—it means s/he has solidly connected with the protagonist and that character’s driving motivation.  One reader finished this novel and immediately wrote, “You know you have reached people when they have an emotional reaction—lump in throat kind—at the end.”  Those of us who believe in a death-conquering Deity understand that His repeated kairos words are not shallow, whistling-in-the-dark encouragements.  When we embrace them—as the protagonist finally does—they can become truly powerful in our own lives.

By the way, I strongly encourage readers to share their personal reactions after finishing The Kairos.  I’ll send each person who emails me (in the “Contact Us” section of “Sharing Ideas” at a few words that early readers have found helpful…but which I know wouldn’t be appropriate to print following its conclusion.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Matthew Shepard: Modern gay martyr and hate-crime victim

Matthew Shepard brought international attention to anti-gay hate crimes when he died on Oct. 12, 1998. He was a 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming at the time.

Shepard (1976-1998) was brutally attacked near Laramie, Wyoming, on Oct. 6-7, 1998 by two men who later claimed that they were driven temporarily insane by “gay panic” due to Shepard’s alleged sexual advances. Shepard was beaten and left to die.

Now the Matthew Shepard Foundation seeks to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance. U.S. President Obama signed "The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act" into law on Oct. 28, 2009. It broadens the federal hate-crimes law to cover violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Matthew Shepard” by Tobias Haller

Shepard has become a cultural icon, inspiring dozens and dozens of paintings, films, plays, songs and other artistic works -- with more still being created every year. Among the new images is a sweet portrait of him with a rainbow halo by Tobias Haller, an iconographer, author, composer, and vicar of Saint James Episcopal Church in the Bronx. He is the author of “Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality.” Haller enjoys expanding the diversity of icons available by creating icons of LGBTQ people and other progressive holy figures as well as traditional saints. He and his spouse were united in a church wedding more than 30 years ago and a civil ceremony after same-sex marriage became legal in New York.

Shepard’s martyrdom gives him the aura of a Christ figure. His torturous death evokes the Good Shepherd who was crucified. The officer who found Shepard said that he was covered with blood -- except for the white streaks left by his tears. Based on this report, Father William Hart McNichols created the striking icon at the top of this post. McNichols dedicated his icon The Passion of Matthew Shepard to the 1,470 gay and lesbian youth of commit suicide in the U.S. each year, and to the countless others who are injured or murdered.

McNichols is a New Mexico artist and Catholic priest who has been rebuked by church leaders for making icons of saints not approved by the church, including one of Matthew Shepard. McNichols’ own moving spiritual journey and two of his icons are included in the book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More by Kittredge Cherry. His Matthew Shepard icon appears in his book “Christ All Merciful,” which he co-authored with Megan McKenna.

Another new project inspired by Shepard is “Matthew Shepard Meets Coyote,” a play that blends Christianity, queer experience and Native American folklore. In the final moments of Shepard’s life he encounters Coyote, the trickster god of the American West, who urges him to move beyond the cruel tricks that life has played on him. It was written by Harry Cronin, a priest of Holy Cross and professor in residence at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. In 2014 it was performed at the San Francisco Fringe Festival and at Bay Area churches as a way to spark dialogue. Cronin currently writes plays about redemption in alcoholic and queer experiences.

Several works were released in 2013 for the 15th anniversary of Shepard’s death.  They include the musical tribute “Beyond the Fence,” the film “Matt Shepard was a Friend of Mine” and the book “The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard.”

"Matthew Shepard: Beyond the Fence," a musical tribute celebrating a life that helped change the world, premiered in October 2013 in a production by the South Coast Singers, a LGBTQ performance troupe in Long Beach, California. Written by SCC creative director Steve Davison, it incorporates existing music by gay composers Levi Kreis, Ryan Amador and Randi Driscoll. Videos from “Beyond the Fence” are posted on YouTube, including the poignant song “Hello,” sung by Julian Comeau.

The documentary film “Matt Shepard was a Friend of Mine” is directed by Michele Josue, who indeed was a close friend of Shepard. She takes a personal approach, exploring his life and loss by visiting places that were important to him and interviewing his friends and family. View the trailer below or at this link.

Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine: Teaser #2 from Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine on Vimeo.

Award-winning gay Journalist Stephen Jimenez does extensive research into the circumstances of the crime in “The Book of Matt.” He finds that Shepard was not killed for being gay, but for reasons far more complicated.

Other books about Shepard include “The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie” and “A World Transformed” by his mother (Judy Shepard) and “October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard” by Lesléa Newman, a novel in verse about the murder.

“Saint Sebastian and Matt Shepard Juxtaposed” by JR Leveroni

“Saint Sebastian and Matt Shepard Juxtaposed” by JR Leveroni is a painting that makes an important connection between a gay Christian martyr from history and the gay victims of hate crimes today. Leveroni is an emerging visual artist living in South Florida. Painting in a Cubist style, he matches Shepard’s death with the killing of another gay martyr, Saint Sebastian. The suffering is expressed in a subdued style with barely a trace of blood. A variety of male nudes and religious paintings can be seen on his website (warning: male nudity).

“The Murder of Matthew Shepard” by Matthew Wettlaufer

The grim scene of Matthew’s death is vividly portrayed in “The Murder of Matthew Shepard,” above, by gay artist-philosopher Matthew Wettlaufer. He lived in El Salvador and South Africa before returning to California. For an interview with Wettlaufer and more of his art, see my previous post “New paintings honor gay martyrs.”

“The Last of Laramie” by Stephen Mead
Above is a lyrical painting dedicated to Matthew Shepard: “The Last of Laramie” by gay artist Stephen Mead.of New York. It appears in his book “Our Book of Common Faith.” For more about Mead and his art, see my previous post “Gay Artist Links Body and Spirit.”

"The Candlelight Vigil for Matthew Shepard (NYC Oct. 19, 1998)” by Sandow Birk

California artist Sandow Birk painted a candlelight vigil for Shepard. With a drummer and a rainbow flag, it seems to echo “The Spirit of 76,” a famous patriotic painting of Revolutionary War figures by Archibald MacNeal Willard. But it is based on the 1889 painting (“The Conscripts” by Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret, a work that takes a hard look at the toll of war, especially the conscription of young people into the military during the Franco-Prussian War.

For more about Sandow Birk’s art, see my previous post Stonewall's LGBT history painted: Interview with Sandow Birk.

The play “The Laramie Project” by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project has been performed all over the world since it premiered in 1998. Many American performances were picketed by Westboro Baptist Church members, who appear in the play picketing Shepard’s funeral as they did in real life. “The Laramie Project” draws on hundreds of interviews with residents of Laramie conducted by the theater company. A film version of The Laramie Project was released in 2002.

Matthew’s story has also been dramatized in biopic movies such as “The Matthew Shepard Story” with Sam Waterson and Stockard Channing as the grieving parents.

More than a 30 songs inspired by Matthew Shepard are listed in “Cultural Depictions of Matthew Shepard” at Wikipedia. They come from a variety of singers, including Melissa Etheridge, Janis Ian, and Elton John.

The Altar Cross of LGBTQ Martyrs from Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco

The Altar Cross of LGBTQ Martyrs from Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco features photos of Matthew Shepard, Harvey Milk, Gwen Araujo and others. In the center of the cross is the fence where Shepard was tortured and murdered in Laramie, Wyoming.

The tendency to acclaim Shepard as a martyr is analyzed in a scholarly paper that won the 2014-15 LGBT Religious History Award from the LGBT Religious Archives Network. “The Martyrdom of Matthew Shepard” was written by Brett Krutzsch, religion professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio. It is an excerpt from his Ph.D dissertation, “Martyrdom and American Gay History: Secular Advocacy, Christian Ideas, and Gay Assimilation,” which examines how religious rhetoric and gay martyr discourses facilitated American gay assimilation from the 1970s through 2014. He finds that secular gay advocates invoked Shepard as a gay martyr, using Christian ideas to present gay Americans as similar to the dominant culture. He questions the politics of martyrdom and analyzes why the deaths of a few white, middle-class, gay men have been mourned as national tragedies.

The award announcement explains: “The paper argues that Shepard’s appeal was connected to constructions of him as Christ-like and as an upstanding young, Christian man. His posthumous notoriety reveals a historical moment when Christian ideas significantly shaped arguments for American gay social integration. In turn, Matthew Shepard became an icon of the apparently ideal late twentieth-century gay citizen: a white, nonsexual, practicing Protestant.”

Related links:
Cultural Depictions of Matthew Shepard (Wikipedia)

Top image credit: “The Passion of Matthew Shepard” by William Hart McNichols

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

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New gay Jesus novel comes out on National Coming Out Day

A new novel with a gay Jesus theme is coming out today for National Coming Out Day. “The Kairos” by Paul Hartman is a suspense novel in which Dead Sea Scrolls name Jesus’ life partner John and spark a deadly chase. It’s a wild ride that reads like a gay version of “The DaVinci Code.”

The author is a Presbyterian elder and retired PBS / NPR broadcast executive and on-air personality.  An interview with him will be posted soon here at the Jesus in Love Blog.

Here is the official description of the book from the author’s website:
In 1991 Dr. Lute Jonson, one of two co-directors of the Dead Sea Scrolls International Study Team in Jerusalem, decides to reveal explosive news contained in 2000-year-old fragments he and his friend and co-director Father Sean O’Derry have kept secret for 40 years. The seven fragments contain carbon-dated evidence of where the teenaged Jesus of Nazareth lived, and who He loved. Fr. O’Derry vehemently objects to their release, arguing that the faith of a billion Christians could be destroyed if this “spiritual virus” were released. Lute steals the originals and escapes to America to make the announcement. A deadly global chase ensues, leaving a wake of astounding revelations about a new kairos, a new “breakthrough by God into human time.” The Kairos is a suspense novel with a sexual subject that’s timely and a human-spirit theme that’s timeless.”

Coming out the closet as a lesbian played a huge role in my life, so I celebrate National Coming Out Day today with a video, links, prayer and book except.

Ever since National Coming Out Day was founded in 1988, LGBT people have been encouraged to come out and be honest about themselves on Oct. 11. In recent years the scope has been broadened.

“Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or not, be proud of who you are and your support for LGBT equality this Coming Out Day!” says the Human Rights Campaign, which manages the event.

I wrote about the process in depth in my book Hide and Speak: A Coming Out Guide, which is also available in a Polish translation.

My book Hide and Speak tells positive ways to come out to yourself, create a circle of supporters and deal with family, job and school. Each chapter includes real-life examples and tested, highly effective exercises that I used in coming-out workshops nationwide. Readers will learn how to live proud, free and balanced.

Here is an excerpt from Hide and Speak:

“Many people, myself included, assumed that LGBT visibility would make books like this obsolete. That day is still well in the future. The difficulties of coming out in the twenty-first century hit home for me recently when a younger relative finally told me he was gay. His big sister, a lesbian activist, had come out to the family twenty years before, but her example didn’t seem to make it any easier for her brother. “It was something I had to figure out and deal with on my own terms,” he explained to me. The newly visible LGBT community is no more appealing to him than the old stereotypes had been to me and my peers.”

I reflect on my own coming out process in the short video below. It’s still my most popular video, with 2,755 views. I made it for the Human Rights Campaign’s 2007 video contest.

I’ll close with an excerpt from a Coming-Out Liturgy by Malcolm Boyd, from the book Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations:
“Leader: Have you been forced to play a dishonest role in order to survive?

Participant: I have. My family seemed often to require it, at least to desire it. At school it was necessary, and whenever I dropped my mask I was punished. The same was true of my life at work where I sought acceptance and advancement. What I had to confront made me feel confused, emotionally fatigued, and often worthless. Any kind of a relationship posed a threat and a danger. I wondered how much rejection I could stand. When I reached out for understanding or help, I usually received yet another rebuke. However, I just could not be who I'm not. It nearly killed me when I tried so hard and found it hopeless.

Community: We offer you validation for yourself as you have been created and celebration of your gayness as a gift of God.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

We'wha of Zuni: Two-spirit Native American remembered on Columbus Day

“We’wha of Zuni” by Br. Robert Lentz OFM,

We’wha was a two-spirit Native American Zuni who served as a cultural ambassador for her people, including a visit with a U.S. president in 1886. Contributions of Native Americans are remembered today for Columbus Day. Today We’wha is honored by many, including Native Americans and LGBT people.

Almost all Native American tribes traditionally recognized third and sometimes even fourth genders for people who mixed male and female characteristics. Today the many and varied Native American terms for alternative genders are called “two spirit,” because one body housed both feminine and masculine spirits. From a Western cultural viewpoint, they have been seen as gay or transgender.

We’wha (pronounced WAY-wah) was the most famous “lhamana,” the Zuni term for a male-bodied person who lived in part as a woman. Lhamanas chose to specialize in crafts instead of becoming warriors or hunters.

We’wha (1849-1896) was a skilled weaver and potter who helped Anglo-American scholars studying Zuni society. In 1886 We’wha traveled from her home in New Mexico to Washington DC, where she met president Grover Cleveland. She was welcomed as a celebrity during her six months in Washington. Everyone assumed that the 6-foot-tall “Indian princess” was female.

The spiritual side of We’wha is emphasized in an icon by Brother Robert Lentz (above). She is dressed for a religious ceremony as she prepares to put on the sacred mask of the man-woman spirit Kolhamana.

Jim Ru painted We’Wha in an icon (below) with a dramatic blue background. It was included in his show “Transcendent Faith: Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Saints” in Bisbee Arizona in the 1990s.

We’wha is the subject of the book “The Zuni Man-Woman” by gay anthropologist Will Roscoe. He also wrote “Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America” and “Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-Sex Love.” Roscoe’s newly redesigned website offers resources in the Native American two-spirit tradition, third genders in the ancient world, and studies in early Christianity.”

“We’wha” by Jim Ru

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.

Icons of We’wha and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores

Friday, October 07, 2011

Gay saints Sergius and Bacchus honored in new art

Saints Sergius and Bacchus were third-century Roman soldiers, Christian martyrs and men who loved each other. Their story is told here in words and pictures for their feast day today (Oct. 7).

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”). Scholars believe that they may have been united in the rite of adelphopoiesis (brother-making), a kind of early Christian same-sex marriage.

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Sergius and Bacchus: Paired male saints loved each other in ancient Roman army

From ancient times until today these “gay saints” have inspired some of the most beautiful art depicting the holiness of same-sex couples, sometimes in a homoerotic way. One of the newest is the icon at the top of this post. It was painted by a member of the Cristianas y Cristianos de Madrid LGTB+H (CRISMHOM), an LGBT Christian community in Madrid, Spain. The artist is serving as a missionary in Mozambique.  He portrays Christ inside a rainbow medallion uniting Sergius and Bacchus as they join hands and gaze into each other's eyes. Sacred flames burn in their hearts.

A classic example of paired saints, Sergius and Bacchus were high-ranking young officers. Sergius was primicerius (commander) and Bacchus was secundarius (subaltern officer). They were tortured to death around 303 in present-day Syria after they refused to attend sacrifices to Zeus, thus revealing their secret Christianity.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus. 7th Century icon from St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. Now in an art museum in Kiev, Ukraine. (Wikimedia Commons)

The men were arrested and paraded through the streets in women’s clothing in an unsuccessful effort to humiliate them. Early accounts say that they responded by chanting that they were dressed as brides of Christ. They told their captors that women’s dress never stopped women from worshiping Christ, so it wouldn’t stop them, either. Then Sergius and Bacchus were separated and beaten so severely that Bacchus died.

According to the early manuscripts, Bacchus appeared to Sergius that night with a face as radiant as an angel’s, dressed once again as a soldier. He urged Sergius not to give up because they would be reunited in heaven as lovers. His statement is unique in the history of martyrs. Usually the promised reward is union with God, not with a lover. Over the next days Sergius was tortured and eventually beheaded.

Sergius’ tomb became a famous shrine, and for nearly 1,000 years the couple was revered as the official patrons of the Byzantine army. Many early churches were named after Sergius, sometimes with Bacchus. They have been recognized as martyrs by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. The pair was venerated through the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Latin America and among the Slavs.

Yale history professor John Boswell names Sergius and Bacchus as one of the three primary pairs of same-sex lovers in the early church in his book “Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe”. (The others are Polyeuct and Nearchus and Felicity and Perpetua.)

The Roman Catholic Church stripped Sergius and Bacchus from its liturgical calendar in 1969 -- the same year that New York’s Stonewall riots launched the modern gay liberation movement. Supposedly they were “de-canonized” due to lack of historical evidence, but some see it as an anti-gay action since they clearly had churches dedicated to them long before medieval times. Sergius and Bacchus continue to be popular saints with Christian Arabs and now among LGBT Christians and their allies.

“Sergius and Bacchus” by Alessio Ciani

In a striking 2013 painting, Alessio Ciani of Italy shows young Sergius and Bacchus embracing in their red-and-white military uniforms. He has done a wide variety of LGBT illustrations and gay homoerotic art. His work has been exhibited in Milan and Perugia.

“Sts. Sergius and Bacchus” by Plamen Petrov, St. Martha Church, Morton Grove, IL

Another new image of third-century gay saints Sergius and Bacchus is a stained glass window donated in 2011 to an Illinois church by its LGBT parishioners. The new Sergius and Bacchus window (above) was dedicated in September 2011 at St. Martha’s Church in Morton Grove, Illinois, as a gift from its LGBT members. Rev. Dennis O’Neill, pastor, believes it is the first window dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus in any church in the United States. O’Neill is the author of Passionate Holiness: Marginalized Christian Devotions for Distinctive People. The book includes a chapter retelling the love story of Sergius and Bacchus with historical detail.

The Sergius and Bacchus window is part of a project in which members of St. Martha’s diverse congregation were selecting and paying for a set of 20 windows of saints from their various homelands. LGBT members contributed the “friendship window” depicting Sergius and Bacchus. It is a companion to the “marriage window” which shows St. Elizabeth of Hungary and her husband, Blessed Ludwig of Thuringia.

Artist Plamen Petrov worked with Daprato Rigali Studios to design and create the stained glass windows. He was born in Sevlievo, Bulgaria in 1966 and currently lives in Chicago. He graduated from University St. Cyril and St Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria’s Faculty of Fine Art in 1995, with an M.F.A. in graphic art - printmaking and pedagogy of figurative arts. For more than a dozen years he specialized mostly in stained glass, but his creativity takes many forms, since he also works in mosaics, murals, oil, acrylic, photography and graphic design. His artwork may be seen across Chicago and Illinois, and in many countries all over the world.

“Baccus and Sergius” by Brandon Buehring

Massachusetts artist Brandon Buehring included Sergius and Bacchus in his “Legendary Love: A Queer History Project.” He uses pencil sketches and essays “to remind queer people and our allies of our sacred birthright as healers, educators, truth-tellers, spiritual leaders, warriors and artists.” The project features 20 sketches of queer historical and mythological figures from many cultures around the world. He has a M.Ed. degree in counseling with an LGBT emphasis from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He works in higher education administration as well as being a freelance illustrator based in Northampton, Massachusetts.

The painting below is by California gay artist Rick Herold. “I over the years as a painter have been interested in the idea of the spirit and the flesh as one -- began by Tantric art influences and then using my Catholic background,” he told the Jesus in Love Blog. He paints with enamel on the reverse side of clear plexiglas.

“Saints Sergius and Bacchus” by Rick Herold (details below)

Herold has a bachelor of arts degree in art and theology from the Benedictine Monastic University of St. John in Minnesota and a master of fine arts degree from Otis Institute of Art in Los Angeles. His religious artwork included a Stations of the Cross commissioned by Bob Hope for a church in Ohio before a conflict over modern art with the Los Angeles cardinal led to disillusionment with the church. Herold came out as gay and turned to painting male nudes and homoerotica, which can be seen at RickHerold's website. (Warning: his home page has male nudity.)

“St. Bacchus and St. Sergius: Patrons of Same-Sex Couples by Maria Cristina

A banner saying “patrons of same sex couples” hangs above Bacchus and Sergius in a colorful icon by Maria Cristina, an artist based in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

“Saints Sergius and Bacchus” by Ray Avito

On the day that California artist Ray Avito first heard the story of Sergius and Bacchus, he sketched a  delightfully unpretentious portrait of the pair (pictured above).  He said it was based on “the suspicion that they may have been more than just comrades in arms.”

“Marriage of Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus” (2013) by Tony de Carlo

“Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus” by Tony de Carlo

Sergius and Bacchus are among the many saints painted by Georgia artist Tony de Carlo. Raised Catholic, he started painting saints to counteract the church’s demonization of LGBT people. For more info, see my article Tony De Carlo: Artist affirms gay love with saints, Adam and Steve, and marriage equality paintings.

“Saints Sergius and Bacchus” by Ryan Grant Long

Historical men who loved men, including Sergius and Bacchus, are painted by American artist Ryan Grant Long in his “Fairy Tales” series. Sergius and Bacchus are usually portrayed as static icons, side by side staring straight at the viewer. But Long catches them gazing into each other’s eyes during a private moment in their prison cell. For more info, see my article Artist paints history’s gay couples: Interview with Ryan Grant Long.

“Bacchus” and “Sergius” from the series “Five Saints” (2008) by Anthony Gayton. © Anthony Gayton /

Noted British photographer Anthony Gayton does stylized homoerotic photos based on the history of gay culture. He shows Sergius and Bacchus stripped and bound as prisoners in two separate photos. The images are intended to be shown together, but by design they can also be separated.

Appropriate Bible quotes are on banners above them. For Bacchus: “But I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.” (Psalm 89:33). For Sergius: “All thy commandments are faithful, they persecute me wrongly; help thou me.” (Psalm 119: 86)

His Sergius and Bacchus photos belong to the series “Five Saints.” In addition to exploring saints, Gayton’s work uses historical themes inspired by such diverse sources as mythology, Renaissance and Baroque painting and early photography. Gayton's work is published in his book Sinners and Saints.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus
By Brother Robert Lentz OFM,

The Living Circle, an interfaith LGBT spirituality center founded by Dennis O’Neill, commissioned the above icon of the loving same-sex pair. It was painted by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his innovative icons. “Saints Sergius and Bacchus” 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. They caused such a stir that in order to keep the peace between his Franciscan province and the Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Lentz temporarily gave away the copyright for the 10 controversial images to his distributor, Trinity Stores. Lentz’ own moving spiritual journey and some of his icons are included in the book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More by Kittredge Cherry.

A 20th-century icon of Saints Sergius and Bacchus appears in the courtyard of the Monastery of Mar Sarkis and Bakhos in Maaloula, Syria. (Wikimedia Commons)

Their same-sex love story is set amid dramatic events of the Roman Empire events in the 2014 novel “The Passion of Sergius and Bacchus” by David Reddish. The explosive gay romance of the soldier-saints unfolds during the Roman Empire in the 2014 novel “The Passion of Sergius and Bacchus” by  David Reddish. Sergius and Bacchus meet, fall in love, have a commitment ceremony, and face deadly threats in a novel based on historical and archeological discoveries. It dramatizes the final gasp of paganism, the politics of newborn Christianity, and the re-discovered rites of same-sex unions performed by the early church. From the forests of Gaul to the streets of Constantinople, from the secret Christian hideaways of the deaconess Macrina to the palace of the emperor, the novel provides adventure and romance while examining questions of sexuality, faith, sacrifice, patriotism and the nature of God. It was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in the gay romance category.

A screenwriter as well as a novelist, Reddish has won awards for his political activism as well as pop culture acclaim for his fashion design work. He graduated with a degree in film from the University of Central Florida and resides in Los Angeles.

Icons of Sergius and Bacchus as “patrons of homosexuality” have been created by the artist known as Shoushan. They are available as cufflinks, pendants, lockets and bracelets through her My Altar shop.

One of the many traditional hymns to Saints Sergius and Bacchus includes this verse:

How good, or how pleasent is the brotherly knowledge of Your Martyrs, O God.
For they did not know natural brothers in the flesh,
but for the faith were considered brothers who struggled until death.
Through their prayers, O God, have mercy on us.

Related links:

La Adelphopoiesis de San Sergio y San Baco” (“The Same-Sex Union of Sergius and Bacchus”) by Alfredo Müller Suárez Arana of Bolivia (Warning: male nudity)

Many icons, statues, and churches dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus can be viewed at:

Honoring (and Learning from) the Passion of Saints Sergius and Bacchus -- at The Wild Reed

St. Sergius and St. Bacchus at the Legacy Project

To read this article in Spanish (en español), go to:
Santos Sergio y Baco: Una pareja masculina martirizada en la antigua Roma (Santos Queer)

To read this article in Italian, to to:
La storia di Sergio e Bacco continua ad ispirare gli artisti contemporanei (

Top image credt: “Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus” from Cristianas y Cristianos de Madrid LGTB+H (CRISMHOM), an LGBT Christian community in Madrid, Spain

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 Sergius and Bacchus and many other saints are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores