Sunday, November 11, 2012

Top 22 gay Jesus books: Queer Christ is ready for readers

I compiled a list of 22 books about the gay Jesus and the queer Christ. These books are important because conservatives use Christian rhetoric to justify hate and discrimination against LGBT people.

The number of books about the queer Christ continues to grow. They include works of theology, anthropology and history as well as art, poetry, and fiction. There might be others, but I don’t know about them -- yet.

Every community presents Jesus in their own way. There’s black Jesus, Asian Jesus -- and now gay Jesus to heal the damage being done in Christ’s name. The queer Christ has been denounced as blasphemy, but I experience the queer Christ as a blessing that builds faith by embodying God’s wildly inclusive love for all.

Some of Christ's followers preach hate, but Christ loved everyone, including sexual outcasts -- and was killed for it. Whenever anyone commits violence against another, Christ is crucified -- including when LGBT people are attacked or killed for loving someone of the same sex. Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers, you do unto me.” It’s okay to imagine yourself in the story of Jesus. He is ALL of us.” We are the body of Christ.

Nobody knows for sure whether the historical Jesus was attracted to other men. Being human, Jesus must have had sexual feelings. Being divine, Christ lives in every individual of every sexual orientation and gender identity. The following books explore his queer identity from a wide spectrum of different viewpoints.

1. The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament by Theodore W. Jennings Jr. Pilgrim Press, 2003.
The historical Jesus defied gender roles, supported same-sex relationships—and probably had a male lover himself. A Chicago Theological Seminary professor tells all. This is the definitive book on Biblical evidence for a gay Jesus.

2. From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ by Patrick Cheng. Seabury Books, 2012.
Cheng proposes seven new models of sin and grace based on LGBT experience. The author is an Episcopal Divinity School theology professor with a law degree from Harvard. He sweeps away the old law to make room for the Out Christ, the Erotic Christ, the Liberator Christ, and more.

3. Gospel of John in the Bible. The story is in every Bible, including fabulous new Queen James Bible with a rainbow cross on the cover and eight anti-gay verses edited. John’s gospel is where it all began -- with the account written by the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” The beloved disciple describes how he lay on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper and witnessed the crucifixion. He reports how Jesus spoke to him from the cross, entrusting his mother and his beloved into each other’s care. If you don’t already have a favorite Bible translation, I recommend The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version.

4. Corpus Christi by Terrence McNally. Grove Press, 1998.
Bomb threats almost prevented the off-Broadway opening of this bittersweet play about Jesus as a gay teen in 1950s-era Texas. The play is still causing controversy. A theater in Athens, Greece canceled performances of “the gay Jesus play” this month after protests by neo-Nazis grew violent. A behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the play is also available.

5. Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More by Kittredge Cherry. AndroGyne Press, 2007.
Art that dares to show Jesus as gay or female has been censored or destroyed. Eleven artists tell the stories behind their controversial images, and an introduction puts them into context, exploring issues of blasphemy and artistic freedom. This Lambda Literary Award finalist was written by a lesbian art historian. Packed with glorious color illustrations.

6. The Kairos by Paul Hartman. CarpeKairos Publishers, 2011.
Get ready for a wild ride that reads like a gay version of “The DaVinci Code.” In this thriller an archeologist finds evidence confirming a favorite dream of LGBT Christians: Jesus was gay! Dead Sea Scrolls fragments with eyewitness accounts that say Jesus and John, the Beloved Disciple, became intimate life-companions in Qumran. Powerful forces, including the Vatican and the CIA, unite to stop him from revealing the truth. Hartman is a Presbyterian elder and retired PBS/NPR exec.

7. Queering Christ: Beyond Jesus Acted Up by Robert E. Goss. Pilgrim Press, 2002.
Scholarly yet provocative and sometimes personal, this Lambda Literary Award finalist explores the queer Christ through such topics as erotic contemplatives and the heart-genital connection. Ordained as a Jesuit, Goss wrote the book when he was a religion professor at Webster University.

8. “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” by Kittredge Cherry with art by Douglas Blanchard.
Meet Jesus as a gay man of today in a contemporary city with these powerful paintings and commentary. The modern Christ figure and his diverse friends live out a 21st-century version of Jesus’ last days, including the crucifixion and resurrection. The illustrated book brings together a gifted gay artist and an established lesbian author who specializes in LGBT Christian art. Readers call it “accessible but profound.”

9. Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-Sex Love by Will Roscoe. Suspect Thoughts Press, 2004.
Did Jesus do a naked baptism rite with the man he loved? An anthropologist seeks answers in the Secret Gospel of Mark, tribal cultures, and his own life.

10. Jesus in Love: A Novel by Kittredge Cherry. AndroGyne Press, 2006.
A queer Christ has today’s emotional sophistication as he lives out the Christian story in first-century Palestine. The gender-blind, gender-bending Jesus falls in love with people of both sexes -- and with the omnigendered Holy Spirit. He leads disciples of both sexes beyond ordinary consciousness to reach ecstatic union with God. In the sequel, At the Cross, Jesus transcends gender identity, sexual orientation and ultimately death itself.

11. The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark by Morton Smith. Dawn Horse Press, 2005 (reprint).
A lost gospel with homoerotic details about Jesus’ relationship with a naked young man was discovered in 1958 by Morton Smith, professor of ancient history at Columbia University. His discovery caused a sensation and spawned other books studying the text. Alas, recently Secret Mark was discredited as a possible hoax in books. (See #15).

12. Conjuring Jesus by Brian Day. Guernica Editions, 2008.
A vibrantly alive Jesus, complete with homoerotic desires, emerges from the poetry of Toronto teacher Brian Day in this book. He conjures up a Jesus who is both sexual and spiritual, “wholly versatile” and “an unscrupulous party boy” who eats and drinks with sinners. Day’s 2013 poetry book “The Daring of Paradise” also includes some spectacular homoerotic poems about Jesus.

13. The Marien Revelation by Miguel Santana. Alligator Press, 2010.
Santana depicts Jesus as the lover of the male “Beloved” in this imaginative novel. Born in Mexico, Santana is a gay man and an internationally published author with a Ph. D. in Hispanic Literature from the University of Texas. His novel weaves together the lives of Mary, mother of Jesus, and Marién Valbuena, a 21st-century feminist theology professor whose roots are both Mexican and Mormon. The relationship between Jesus and his male lover is only a minor subplot -- but what a subplot!

14. The Gay Disciple: Jesus' Friend Tells It His Own Way by John Henson. John Hunt Publishing, 2006.
This novel reimagines the events of the New Testament from the viewpoint of minor characters such as the Beloved Disciple, who describes his infatuation with Jesus. The author is a LGBT Christian activist and retired Baptist minister in Wales.

15. The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark by Stephen C. Carlson. Baylor University Press, 2005.
Hopes ran high that the historical Jesus’ homosexuality could be proven by the Secret Gospel of Mark (See #6). Here an attorney debunks the document as a modern forgery. Another book unmasking the fraud is The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery by Peter Jeffery, Yale University Press, 2007.

16. Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low. AuthorHouse, 2011.
The author, a retired California physician, presents a disturbing portrait of a closeted Jesus who felt shame over his same-sex relationships. The whole book is an analysis of why Jesus was condemned to death. The “dark knowledge” of the title is that Jesus was executed for homosexual acts with John, witnessed by Judas.

17. If Jesus were Gay by Emanuel Xavier. Queer Mojo, 2010.
Both sacred and profane, Xavier’s poems honor Christ in a delightfully queer way. He makes sweet poetry out of his experiences as a gay Latino whose painful past includes sexual abuse at age 3 and rejection by his Catholic mother for being gay at age 16, leading to homelessness, drug dealing, prostitution -- and at last to poetry. The title poem questions whether people would still love and worship Jesus if he was gay.

18. It Was Too Soon Before: The Unlikely Life, Untimely Death, and Unexpected Rebirth of Gay Pioneer, Dirk Vanden”… by Dirk Vanden. Lethe Press, 2012.
In this autobiography Vanden tells how he fell in love with Jesus while growing up gay in a sexually repressive Mormon family. During an acid trip at a gay bathhouse in San Francisco in 1970, Vanden had a life-changing experience of seeing Jesus incarnated in every Gay man, including the author himself. He also writes about that gay Jesus vision in his gay murder mystery/romance All of Me (Can You Take All of Me?).

19. McCleary, Rollan. Signs for a Messiah: The First and Last Evidence for Jesus. Hazard Press, 2003. [Update: A newer, fuller treatment is in his 2012 book "Testament of the Magi: Mysteries of the Birth and Life of Christ."]
An Australian theologian finds evidence of Jesus’ homosexuality in the Bible and astrology.

20. Final Testament of the Holy Bible by James Frey. Hodder Export, 2011.
Jesus is an actively bisexual hipster in America today in this novel. It follows the spirit of the gospels and critics call it “brilliant.” Frey is the bestselling author who caused a scandal by fabricating parts of his bestselling autobiography "A Million Little Pieces."

21. Gay Jesus by Steve Gillman. Webhiker LLC, 2012.
“What if Jesus was gay?” is the provocative question explored in the title essay of “Gay Jesus” by entrepreneur Steve Gillman. He makes some witty and valid predictions about how conservative Christians would reveal their anti-gay prejudice. However, it seems like Gillman uses “gay Jesus” mostly as a gimmick to gain attention.

22. The Gay Jesus by Michael Brooks. Essays provide a satirical look at politics.

Image: A selection of gay Jesus books from my personal library,
including the good old family Bible (photo by Audrey)

Recommended by readers

Christology from the Margins by Thomas Bohache. SCM Press, 2009.

The Queer Bible Commentary by Deryn Guest (Author, Editor), Robert E. Goss (Editor), Mona West (Editor), Thomas Bohache (Editor). SCM Press, 2006.

Related links:

Top 35 LGBTQ Christian books of 2016 named

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2015 named (Jesus in Love)

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2014 named (Jesus in Love)

Queer Theology book list (from theologian Patrick Cheng)

Jesus in Love Bookstore (includes LGBT Christian classics)

15 LGBTQ Christian Valentine’s Day books, movies and gifts (Jesus in Love)

This post is part of the Queer Christ series series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series gathers together visions of the queer Christ as presented by artists, writers, theologians and others. More queer Christ images are compiled in my book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.

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


Terence Weldon said...

Thanks for this useful list, Kitt. I would add two books which are important, but a little broader in scope than your suggestions.

Thomas Bohache's "Christology from the Margins" covers all the margins, with the queer margin as the main focus. But by introducing the subject in more general terms, then going over Black Christology and feminist Christology, he underlines the point you make - "Every community presents Jesus in their own way. There’s black Jesus, Asian Jesus -- and now gay Jesus to heal the damage being done in Christ’s name".

Then, to complement your recommendation of John's Gospel, there's the encyclopedic "Queer Bible Commentary". This covers the entire bible from queer perspective, but it is so big a book, that the four chapters of Gospel commentary from queer perspective are just about enough to stand alone as a book on their own - in ideas, if not in pages.

Kittredge Cherry said...

I just added the two books you recommended to my blog article with links. Thanks! I was sorry to see that both are priced above $50, putting them out of reach for many readers. Both come from the same publisher, SCM Press, which is based in the UK. Maybe they are more affordable “across the pond” where you live, Terry.

Unknown said...

i need to change one "small" thing in your description of my acid-vision at Dave's Baths, in IT WAS TOO SOON BEFORE. i saw the Gay Messia in Gay Men, NOT ALL MEN. Thanks for inclusion in the list. Dirk Vanden

Unknown said...

PS: IT WAS TOO SOON BEFORE just received 2 Rainbow Awards from Lisa Rolle: BEST GAY MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY OF 2012, and tied for 3rd BEST GAY BOOK/NOVEL OF 2012

Anonymous said...

A provocative, courageous and crucial list. I am eagerly awaiting the day when Patrick Cheng's "Rainbow Theology" will be added to the list. Syabas!

Kittredge Cherry said...

Dirk, congrats on receiving Rainbow Award for your books. Today I went back and made the correction on my original article about “It Was Too Soon Before.” This Top-20 list already has it right because I noticed the correction that you posted at Amazon. I even capitalized “Gay” the way you like in this sentence: “Vanden had a life-changing experience of seeing Jesus incarnated in every Gay man, including the author himself.”

Queer Eye, I’m looking forward to “Rainbow Theology” too! It just became available this week for preorder at this link. The book will be published in March or April.

Terence Weldon said...

Sorry for being so late in replying to your response about the price of the two books I mentioned - but I missed seeing it earlier. I was lucky - I was able to get them at very substantially less than the published price.This is not because I'm across the pond (where the list price is also sky high), but through the efforts of a friend who runs a quite remarkable book stall at our Soho Masses, with many excellent titles at bargain basement prices. I paid £12 for the Queer Bible Commentary (list price £60), and (I think) £4 for Christology from the Margins.

Other readers will not be so fortunate, but looking for them on remaindered lists elsewhere may well turn up equivalent bargains.

Brian said...

Not specifically about a gay Christ, but Sex and the Single Savior by Dale Martin is an excellent excellent book that involves a lot of queer theology. (Martin himself is gay.)

Kittredge Cherry said...

Brian, thanks for recommending “ Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation” by Dale Martin. It looks like it cover many aspects of sexuality from a progressive Christian perspective.

Michael Brooks said...

I think there may be some people who might like a new book at Amazon called 'The Gay Jesus' which is mildly suggestive but wildly provocative leaving the reader with free choice. It is also the basis of Histories and Higher Ideals Church, which focuses on the higher ideals of history as a form towards linking to higher spiritualties. The book follows the four gospels and the time period loosely.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks, Michael. I added your book to the end of the list under "Late Additions."