Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome the New Year with Bridge of Light!

Happy New Year! Welcome the new year with Bridge of Light, a new winter holiday honoring LGBT culture.

Rainbow Arch candle holder
People celebrate Bridge of Light by lighting six candles, one for each color of the rainbow flag, on New Year’s Eve -- or from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, one candle per day.

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Welcome the New Year with rainbow candles! Bridge of Light honors LGBTQ culture

Each candle stands for a spiritual principle and its expression in the lives and history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. The candles are intended to provide a starting point for individual and group meditations on these principles:

1. Red - The Root of Spirit (Community)
2. Orange - The Fire of Spirit (Eros)
3. Yellow - The Core of Spirit (Self-Esteem)
4. Green - The Heart of Spirit (Love)
5. Blue - The Voice of Spirit (Self-Expression and Justice)
6. Purple - The Eye of Spirit (Wisdom)
7. All Candles - The Crown of Spirit (Spirituality)

Together these colors form a rainbow, a time-honored symbol of a bridge between two worlds: heaven and earth, East and West, male and female, queer and non-queer.

The principles are beautifully expressed in a new benediction prayer written for Bridge of Light by Yewtree (Yvonne Aburrow) of the Dance of the Elements Blog:

Let us embody the values of the rainbow flag of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Red is the root of spirit, found in beloved community,
Orange is for Eros, the fire of spirit, the experience of erotic connection,
Yellow is for self-esteem, the strong core of spirit,
Green is for love, the heart of spirit, the verdant growth of the soul,
Blue is for self-expression, the voice of spirit, calling out for justice,
Purple is the eye of spirit, which sees inwardly with the eye of wisdom.
And all the colours together form the crown of spirit, the experience of spirituality.

Joe Perez, author of “Soulfully Gay,” founded Bridge of Light in 2004. It has obvious parallels to Kwanzaa, the African-American cultural holiday started by Ron Karenga in 1966.

“Bridge of Light is an interfaith and omni-denominational cultural and spiritual tradition,” Perez says. “The annual winter ritual...has helped to draw attention to the positive contributions made by members of the LGBT community in the areas of spiritual growth, inner transformation, and religious leadership.” His most recent post on the subject is “Why I (still) celebrate the Bridge of Light.”

Bridge of Light continues to evolve. Aburrow suggested adding sacred foods, such as “rainbow-tinted marble cake maybe, or one food of each colour?”

I like the idea of doing a daily candle for each color, but every year Dec. 26-31 is such a busy week for me! I wonder if Bridge of Light could also be celebrated at the summer solstice in connection with LGBTQ Pride?

This year I compiled a new, more detailed summary of the seven principles of Bridge of Light. It includes historical time periods, foods and more about the chakras, the energy centers of the human body. I synthesized and developed this info based on the resource links at the end of this post. For Jesus in Love readers I highlighted Christian history with links to LGBT Saints and theologian Patrick S. Cheng’s models of Christ that arise from the experiences of LGBT people.

1. Red - The Root of Spirit (Community)

Red evokes life, energy and blood. Shadow side: violence/death.

Time period: Before Christ / Before the Common Era
Celebrate same-sex love in goddess worship, paganism and other pre-patriarchal spiritualities, in ancient myths and cultures, and in the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament.

Mary, Diana and Artemis: Feast of Assumption has lesbian goddess roots

David and Jonathan

Ruth and Naomi

Foods: Root vegetables (carrots, beets, potatoes, etc.), protein-rich foods, sweet and spicy tastes.

2. Orange - The Fire of Spirit (Eros)

Orange evokes fire, passion and relationships. Shadow side: lust/addiction.

Time period: 1st - 4th centuries
Celebrate same-sex love in the life of Christ, among early Christians, in the late Roman Empire and other cultures.

Historical Jesus and the Beloved Disciple

Erotic Christ (sin as exploitation; grace as mutuality)

Mary and Martha

Sergius and Bacchus

Perpetua and Felicity

Foods: Foods growing from ground-level to 2 feet (melons, strawberries, squash, etc.), sweet and salty tastes.

3. Yellow - The Core of Spirit (Self-Esteem)

Yellow evokes confidence and personal power. Shadow side: fear/anger.

Time period: Middle Ages, 4th - 15th centuries
Celebrate same-sex love in medieval times. Queer medieval Christians include pairs of lovers in monasteries and convents, writers of homoerotic verse, and cross-dressing women. Medieval mystics describe erotic-ecstatic union with God.

Out Christ (sin as the closet; grace as coming out)

Brigid and Darlughdach (c.451-525)
Symeon of Emessa and John (c. 522-c. 588)
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Aelred of Rievaulx (c.1110-1167)
Rumi (1207 - 1273)
Julian of Norwich (1342-c. 1417)

Foods: Foods growing 2-6 feet above the ground (grains, sunflower seeds etc.), bitter and minty tastes.

4. Green - The Heart of Spirit (Love)

Green evokes growth, nature, balance and compassion. Shadow side: jealousy/greed, hatred.

Time period: Renaissance, 15th-17th centuries (c. 1400-1699)
Celebrate same-sex love in the era that included the Age of Discovery, the Protestant Reformation and the invention of the printing press.

Compassionate Christ, healer and lover of outcasts.

Joan of Arc (c.1412-1431)
John of the Cross (1542-1591)
Juana de la Cruz (1648-1695)
Gay Popes, Papal Sodomites (Queering the Church Blog)

Foods: Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, green tea, etc.), sour and savory tastes.

5. Blue - The Voice of Spirit (Self-Expression and Justice)

Blue evokes peace, communication and independence. Shadow side: depression/arrogance.

Time period: Modern, 1700 to 1950
Celebrate same-sex love in modern times, including gender role evolution in Romanticism, Transcendentalism, secular philosophy, and the movements for women’s suffrage and abolition.

Liberator Christ (sin as apathy; grace as activism)

Bernardo de Hoyos (1711-1735): Mystical same-sex marriage with Jesus
John Henry Newman (1801-1890) and Ambrose St. John
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
We’wha of Zuni (1849-1896)

Foods: Food that grows 6 feet or more above ground (apples, oranges, avocadoes, etc.), sour and salty tastes.

6. Purple - The Eye of Spirit (Wisdom)

Purple evokes vision, intuition and understanding. Shadow side: passivity/nightmares.

Time period: 1950 to present
Celebrate same-sex love and gender role defiance in recent LGBT, queer, feminist and black liberation movements, including the struggle for LGBT religious rights. LGBT-affirming churches and religious institutions are founded. Pluralistic expressions of sexuality and gender multiply, but some are martyred in anti-gay hate crimes.

Transgressive Christ (sin as conformity; grace as deviance)

Saints of Stonewall
Harvey Milk
Bayard Rustin
Mychal Judge: Gay saint of 9/11
Matthew Shepherd
Mary Daly
Audre Lorde

Foods: Dark purple foods (blueberries, purple grapes, red wine, etc.), subtle tastes (poppyseed, lavender, etc.).

7. All Colors / White - The Crown of Spirit (Spirituality)

When all the colors of the rainbow mix, they create white light, evoking universal consciousness.
Time period: Now and the future
Celebrate same-sex love now and in the future! Be a witness of love in all its expressions. Sainthood is a state to which all are called.

Hybrid Christ (sin as singularity; grace as hybridity)

Foods: Fasting. Instead of eating, inhale incense and smudging herbs such as sage. Or… Celebrate with a slice of rainbow cake!

Links to other resources for Bridge of Light:

Each principle has a “Correspondence in LGBT history” according to the “Revisions to Bridge of Light” by Joe Perez

Rainbow Christ Prayer: LGBT flag reveals the queer Christ (Kittredge Cherry and Patrick Cheng)

Same Sex Lovers in church history (Queering the Church)

The Story of the "Queer Saints and Martyrs" by Terence Weldon

Foods that Fuel Your Chakras

Author Carolyn Myss connects the seven chakras with the seven sacraments of the church in her book “Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing.”

CD set of meditations based on the chakras, “Activating Your Chakras Through the Light Rays.” It’s definitely “new age,” but it’s the best of its kind.

Happy Bridge of Light, everybody!  Be renewed and refreshed as the New Year begins! May 2012 bring everyone peace, health and prosperity!

Image credits:
Top: “Rainbow Stripes Background” by Philippa Willitts

Chakra images by Anodea Judith of

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 LGBT and queer people of faith and our allies.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

David and Jonathan: Biblical men who loved each other

For a new version of this article, click this link at
David and Jonathan: Love between men in the Bible

Jonathan and David
by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Intense love between men is celebrated in the Bible with the story of David and Jonathan. They lived about 3,000 years ago, but they still inspire LGBT people of faith -- and many others. David’s feast day is today (Dec. 29).

David, the second king of Israel, was an acclaimed warrior, musician and poet. He is credited with composing many of the psalms in the Bible. The gospel genealogies list David as an ancestor of Jesus.

The modern idea of sexual orientation didn’t exist in Biblical times, but the powerful love story of Jonathan and David in 1 and 2 Samuel suggests that same-sex couples are affirmed and blessed by God.

The love between the two men is honored in a controversial golden icon by Brother Robert Lentz. Unlike most images of Jonathan and David, the Lentz icon shows Christ above blessing their relationship. It is one of 10 Lentz icons that sparked a major uproar in 2005 when conservative Roman Catholic leaders accused Lentz of glorifying sin.

The story of Jonathan and David gets more chapters in the Bible than any other human love story. The two friends met when David was a ruddy young shepherd and Jonathan was the privileged eldest son of Saul, Israel’s first king. David was taken to see King Saul right after beheading the Philistine giant Goliath. Jonathan fell in love at first sight of the handsome hero. As the Bible says, “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David.” (1 Samuel 18:1)

Artists throughout the ages have tried to capture the romantic moment described in 1 Samuel 18:3-4: “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”

“David and Jonathan” by Ryan Grant Long

Ryan Grant Long, a young gay artist based in Wisconsin, emphasizes the homoeroticism of the gesture as Jonathan strips off his robe and wraps it around David with a kiss on the neck in the image at the top of this post. For more about Long, see our previous post Artist paints history's gay couples.

“David and Jonathan” by Italian painter Cima da Conegliano, 1505-1510 (Wikimedia Commons)
“Jonathan Made
a Covenant with David”
by Trudie Barreras
Collection of
First Metropolitan
Community Church
of Atlanta

A more traditional view is presented by 16th-century Italian painter Cima da Conegliano (above). In both images David is still carrying the head of Goliath as he bonds with his new friend Jonathan, hinting at the union of violence and eroticism. In contrast Atlanta artist Trudie Barreras shows the new friends putting aside their armor to make a covenant with each other (left).

The Bible chronicles the ups and downs of David and Jonathan’s relationship over the next 15 years, including tears and kisses. An 18th-century German “friendship medal” (below) captures another highlight as Jonathan pledges to David, “I will do the desires of your heart” (“Ich will die thun was dein Herz begehrt”) from 1 Samuel 20:4.

German friendship medal of Jonathan and David by Philipp Heinrich Müller, c.1710 (Wikimedia Commons)

David and Jonathan became so close that it looked like someday they would rule Israel together. But that day never comes because Jonathan was killed in battle. David mourned deeply for him with his famous lament from 2 Samuel 1:26:

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.

Jonathan and David embrace.
Manuscript illustration, circa 1300
La Somme le roy
Gay-positive Bible scholars have written extensively about the relationship between David and Jonathan. The classic book on the subject is “Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times” by Thomas Horner.

The love between the two men is celebrated in the classic poem “The Meeting of David and Jonathan” by 19th-century English poet John Addington Symonds. He is known as an early advocate of male love (homosexuality) and wrote many poems inspired by his own homosexual affairs. In “The Meeting of David and Jonathan” he writes:

There by an ancient holm-oak huge and tough,
Clasping the firm rock with gnarled roots and rough,
He stayed their steps; and in his arms of strength
Took David, and for sore love found at length
Solace in speech, and pressure, and the breath
Wherewith the mouth of yearning winnoweth
Hearts overcharged for utterance. In that kiss
Soul unto soul was knit and bliss to bliss.

The full poem appears in “Many Moods: A Volume of Verse” by Symonds.

It’s impossible to know whether David and Jonathan expressed their love sexually. Some consider David to be bisexual, since the Hebrew scriptures also recount how he committed adultery with Bathsheba and later made her one of his eight wives. There is no doubt that many people today do honor David and Jonathan as gay saints.

Their story is used by contemporary LGBT Christians to counteract conservatives who claim that the Bible condemns homosexuality. The “David loved Jonathan” billboard below is part of the Would Jesus Discriminate project sponsored by Metropolitan Community Churches. It states boldly, “David loved Jonathan more than women. II Samuel 1:26.” For more info on the billboards, see our previous post, “Billboards show gay-friendly Jesus.”

David loved Jonathan billboard from GLBT Christian billboards from and

Related links:

David and Jonathan: Why did God focus on their intimate partnership? (GayChristian101)

Pharsea’s World: Homosexuality and Tradition: David and Jonathan

Subjects of the visual arts: David and Jonathan (

David the Prophet and Jonathan, His Lover (Queer Saints and Martyrs - And Others)

Bible story of David and Jonathan’s first meeting: 1 Samuel 18

Bible story of Jonathan’s death: 2 Samuel 1

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

Icons of Jonathan and David and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holy Innocents Day: Queer genocide?

Massacre of the Innocents by Giotto from Wikimedia Commons

Today is Holy Innocents Day, honoring the baby boys killed by King Herod in order to avoid losing his throne to the newborn Jesus, the king foretold by the Magi. Some see the Massacre of the Innocents continuing today in the form of female infanticide, the search for a “gay gene” and other attempts to enable the selective abortion of unborn LGBT people.

The Biblical story of the slaughter of the innocents (Matthew 2:16-18) has a silver lining: Jesus escapes. His parents got him out of Bethlehem before the massacre. People may try to systematically destroy groups through infanticide and genocide, but it’s not 100 percent effective. Someone always escapes.

The genocide of queer people is also explored in our previous post, “Ex-Gay movement as genocide.” The ex-gay movement fits the definition of genocide as outlined by the United Nations, according to startling new scholarship that may help prevent mass murder.Most people think of genocide as mass murder of a group, but the “social death” inflicted on LGBT people by the ex-gay movement is a form of genocide that can lead to mass murder, according to a ground-breaking article by professors Sue E. Spivey and Christine M. Robinson of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Edited comments from a previous discussion of Holy Innocents Day at the Jesus in Love Blog:

Turtle Woman said...
I have another theory that many children of god were born, but the girls were killed. Thus, patriarchy killed many girl messiahs along the way. Think about it.

KittKatt said…
I once read a moving short story by feminist Christian Reta Finger about how Jesus was born a girl in ancient Palestine and was killed soon after birth.

pennyjane said...
the story of the murdered female Jesus really does hit home. i fear, sometimes, that modern science will discover a cause for transsexualism and offer a "solution" to pregnant mothers...perhaps the option of a pill that would bring the mind and body into congruence while yet in the womb. what mother wouldn't accept that option? (poof) the end of us.

for some...perhaps would seem like me, it's more like genocide.

what would Jesus do?

Consider the implications as you experience Coventry Carol, the solemn Christmas carol based on this tragedy. This version is by Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt’s version from her “Midwinter Night’s Dream” album (video below).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

John the Evangelist: The man Jesus loved

Christ the Bridegroom, Br. Robert Lentz, OFM, © 1985.

Many believe that John the Evangelist was Jesus’ “beloved disciple” -- and possibly his lover. His feast day is today (Dec. 27).

For a new version of this article, click this link to
John the Evangelist: Beloved Disciple of Jesus

John was an apostle of Jesus and is the presumed author of the Gospel of John, Book of Revelation and Epistles of John. The Bible describes their warm relationship in depth. Jesus called John “son of thunder.” John participated in many of the main events in Christ’s ministry, and was the only male disciple present at the crucifixion. From the cross, Jesus entrusted John with the care of his mother. Many believe that John was the “beloved disciple” who sat next to Jesus at the Last Supper and rested his head on Jesus’ chest. There is even a medieval European tradition that John and Jesus were the bridal couple at the Cana wedding feast.

Reputable Bible scholars have explored the controversial idea that Jesus and John were lovers. An excellent analysis is included in “The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament” by Theodore Jennings, Biblical theology professor at Chicago Theological Seminary. He finds the evidence “inconclusive” as to whether the beloved disciple was John, but it leaves no doubt that Jesus had a male lover.

“A close reading of the texts in which the beloved disciple appears supports the hypothesis that the relationship between him and Jesus may be understood as that of lovers. As it happens, both Jesus and the beloved are male, meaning that their relationship may be said to be, in modern terms, a ‘homosexual’ relationship,” Jennings writes (p. 34).

After Jesus left the earth, John went on to build a close, loving relationship with his disciple and scribe, Prochorus, bishop of Nicomedia. For more info, go to “St John the Evangelist and Prochorus” at the Queer Saints and Martyrs (and Others) Blog.

The love between John and Jesus is illustrated in the icon above, “Christ the Bridegroom,” by Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar known for his innovative icons. Author-priest Henri Nouwen, famous but struggling with a secret gay identity, commissioned it in 1983. He asked for an icon that symbolized the act of offering his own sexuality and affection to Christ. Research and reflection led Lentz to paint Christ being embraced by his beloved disciple John, based on an icon from medieval Crete.

“Henri used it to come to grips with his own homosexuality,” Lentz said in an interview for my book “Art That Dares,” which includes this icon and the story behind it. “I was told he carried it with him everywhere and it was one of the most precious things in his life.” Nouwen’s goal was celibacy and he did not come out publicly as gay before his death in 1996. The icon takes the Biblical theme of Christ as bridegroom and joins it to the medieval motif of Christ with John. The resulting image expresses their intimate friendship with exquisite subtlety.

Becki Jayne Harrelson painted an especially realistic and loving version of Jesus and the Beloved at the center of her “Last Supper” (beloa). She is a lesbian artist who uses LGBT people as models in her religious art. Raised in a fundamentalist Christian family, she uses art to express her passion for justice.

Detail from Study for The Last Supper
by Becki Jayne Harrelson

Another intimate icon of Jesus and the beloved disciple was painted by Jim Ru (below). It was displayed in his show “Transcendent Faith: Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Saints” in Bisbee Arizona in the 1990s.

“Jesus and the Beloved Disciple” by Jim Ru

I also wrote about John as the beloved disciple in my novels “Jesus in Love” and “At the Cross.”  In honor of John’s feast day, I post this scene from “Jesus in Love: A Novel.” Jesus, the narrator, remembers the day he met John:

I became distracted by the not unwelcome presence of somebody standing close behind me, closer than necessary in the loosely packed crowd. I sensed that it was John, and spun around to see him planted there like a tall cedar tree. He leaned against me, eyes flashing. “I can’t wait for the Messiah to come. I’ve seen him in visions.”

“Really? Tell me what you remember.” It was exciting to find someone who was aware of God’s efforts to communicate.

“The Messiah is like a gentle lamb who sits on a throne with a rainbow around it. And yet his eyes flame with fire, and a sharp sword comes out of his mouth to strike down evildoers.”

“The truth is large,” I said.

“Are you saying my vision isn’t true?” he challenged.

“No, I’m not saying that. I expect that you will see more.”

When John smiled, his faced crinkled into a fascinating landscape of wrinkles. His eyes felt black and mysterious like the midnight sky as they roamed over me. “Do you want a prayer partner tonight?” he asked.

If anyone else had asked, I would have said no, but I looked again at John’s handsome, bejeweled soul and his long, sinewy body.

“Sure,” I agreed impulsively.

Only then did I notice that the Baptist had finished preaching. John steered me toward the caves where the Baptist and his inner circle of disciples lived. Lower-ranking disciples were ready with water vessels and towels to assist everyone with ritual purification before we ate a spartan meal of locusts and wild honey. One of them approached me.

“Wash up, and we’ll get together after supper,” John said as we parted.

More images of John by artists are posted below.
Related links
Dec. 27: John the (Queer) Evangelist (Queering the Church Blog)

Pharsea’s World: Homosexuality and Tradition: Jesus, John and Lazarus

This post is part of the GLBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.
Icons of Christ the Bridegroom, John the Evangelist and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores

Below is another contemporary image of John the Evangelist available from

“St. John the Evangelist” by Louis Glanzman,

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Jesus in Love Blog!

Merry Christmas!

Kittredge Cherry
Jesus in Love

(That's me on the right at age 4 in 1962, putting zoo animals into a Nativity scene in Iowa City. More info)

The gorgeous poinsettia in the photo was growing in the yard near my home.

Click the headlines below to enjoy more queer cheer and Christmas highlights from the Jesus in Love Blog.

Queer Nativity scenes show LGBT love

Seven people from 3 countries sent images for the 2011 Queer Nativity project at the Jesus in Love Blog. They present Christ's birth in an amazing variety of liberating, loving new ways.

Good (gay?) King Wenceslas 

There’s good reason to believe that Good King Wenceslas was gay. Yes, the king in the Christmas carol. Many details in the carol are pious fiction, but historical research documents the love between the king and his page Podiven. More info

Lesbian couple portrays Madonna (Photo by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin)

The Madonna and her female lover are portrayed by a real lesbian couple, seven months’ pregnant through artificial insemination in “Annunciation” by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin.

Lesbian Madonna, lover and son affirm Christmas (Painting by Becki Jayne Harrelson)

Two lesbian mothers cuddle the Christ child in “Madonna, Lover and Son” by Becki Jayne Harrelson.

Transwoman Jesus tells Christmas story

Jesus’ angelic birth highlights the holiness of EVERY birth in the following scene from the controversial new play “Jesus, Queen of Heaven” by transsexual Jo Clfford.

Conservatives blast inclusive Christmas card

Conservatives attack an Episcopal bishop’s gender-bending Christmas card because it shows a multi-racial trio of female Magi visiting the baby Jesus and his mother (“Epiphany” by Janet McKenzie).

Inclusive Christmas tree: Anti-gay DVDs become ornaments

DVDs against same-sex marriage are being recycled now as decorations for the inclusive Christmas tree of Minnesota artist Lucinda Naylor.

Can you imagine? A gay Nativity scene

Video and commentary on Amsterdam’s gay Nativity scene with live actors

Gay and lesbian nativity scenes show love makes a family
What if the child of God was born to a lesbian or gay couple? Because, after all, LOVE makes a family, including the Holy Family.

Animals symbolize peace at Christmas, so the Jesus in Love Blog gladly dedicates a special post to animals.

Alternative Christmas art shown
Nine artists mix Christmas imagery with a progressive vision of GLBT rights, racial and gender justice, and a world without war, poverty or pollution

Christmas offering: Give to Jesus In Love Blog
The Jesus in Love Blog is collecting a Christmas offering to support LGBT spirituality and the arts. Your $10 gift pays for 100 visits to our blog and lets one person get our newsletter for a year.

May God be born anew
in unlikely places
this holiday season!