Tuesday, April 28, 2015

100 years of lesbians making peace and making history

American delegation to the 1915 peace conference

One hundred years ago today the world’s longest-standing peace organization was formed -- with significant help from women who would probably be called lesbian or queer now.

The Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom traces its start to April 28, 1915, when 1,200 delegates from 12 countries convened in the Hague, Netherlands for the International Congress of Women, aiming to stop World War I and prevent future conflicts. The WILPF is gathering again now in the Hague for its 100th-anniversary conference April 27-29.

LGBT rights was added to the group’s platform in 1999, but some historians believe that lesbians were part of it from the beginning. The 1,200 who attended the 1915 conference included many unmarried women who had romantic friendships with other women.

Among them were future Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams, who founded Hull House in Chicago to alleviate poverty as part of the settlement house movement. Her 40-year relationship with her intimate partner Mary Rozet Smith is included in “To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America” by Lillian Faderman.

Also at the 1915 conference was Mabel Hyde Kittredge, author, social reformer -- and great-aunt of Jesus in Love founder Kittredge Cherry. Mabel was the beloved intimate friend of Lillian Wald, activist nurse and founder of the Henry Street Settlement in New York City. One of the books that discusses their relationship is “Lillian D. Wald: Progressive Activist” by Clare Coss.  And there are many more examples waiting to be told.

The WILPF is a secular organization that brings together women of different faiths, but making peace is itself a spiritual activity. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

For updates on the current peace conference, visit their website womenstopwar.org.

Related links:
Centenary stand: female activists head for The Hague to set a new peace agenda (guardian.com)

This Day in History: International Congress of Women opens at The Hague - Apr 28, 1915 - (HISTORY.com)

Pray for Peace” poem by Ellen Bass, Lambda Literary Award winner for lesbian poetry

Honoring Jane Addams: A WILPF Commitment to Gay Rights by Jessica. Bombasaro Brady

This post is part of the LGBT Calendar 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.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Christina Rossetti: Queer writer of Christmas carols and lesbian poetry

Cover illustration for Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market and Other Poems” (1862) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

Portrait of Christina Rossetti
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Christina Georgina Rossetti was a 19th-century English poet whose work ranged from Christmas carols to sensuous lesbian love poetry. A devout Christian who never married, she has been called a “queer virgin” and “gay mystic.” Her feast day is today (April 27) on the Episcopal and Church of England calendars.

For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Christina Rossetti: Queer writer of Christmas carols and lesbian poetry

Many consider her to be one of Britain’s greatest Victorian poets. Rossetti’s best-known works are the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Goblin Market,” a surprisingly erotic poem about the redemptive love between two sisters who overcome temptation by goblins. The homoeroticism is unmistakable in verses such as these:

She cried, “...Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeez’d from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me…”

She clung about her sister,
Kiss’d and kiss’d and kiss’d her…
She kiss’d and kiss’d her with a hungry mouth.

Some of these verses were set to music in a choral piece commissioned by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir: “Heartland” by Matthew Hindson.

There is no direct evidence that Rossetti was sexually involved with another woman, but historian Rictor Norton reports that her brother destroyed her love poems addressed to women when he edited her poetry for publication. Rossetti is included in “Essential Gay Mystics” by Andrew Harvey.  A comprehensive chapter titled “Christina Rossetti: The Female Queer Virgin” appears in “Same Sex Desire in Victorian Religious Culture” by Frederick S. Roden. Rossetti is also important to feminist scholars who reclaimed her in the 1980s and 1990s as they sought women’s voices hidden in the church’s patriarchal past.

Rossetti (Dec. 5, 1830 - Dec. 29, 1894) was born in London as the youngest child in an artistic family. Her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti became a famous Pre-Raphaelite poet and artist. Encouraged by her family, she began writing and dating her poems starting at age 12.

When Rossetti was 14 she started experiencing bouts of illness and depression and became deeply involved in the Anglo-Catholic Movement of the Church of England. The rest of her life would be shaped by prolonged illness and passionate religious devotion. She broke off marriage engagements with two different men on religious grounds. She stayed single, living with her mother and aunt for most of her life.

Christina posed
for this Annunciation
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
During this period she served as the model for the Virgin Mary in a couple of her brother’s most famous paintings, including his 1850 vision of the Annunciation, “Ecce Ancilla Domini” (“Behold the Handmaid of God.”)

Starting in 1859, Rossetti worked for 10 years as a volunteer at the St. Mary Magdalene “house of charity” in Highgate, a shelter for unwed mothers and former prostitutes run by Anglican nuns. Some suggest that “Goblin Market” was inspired by and/or written for the “fallen women” she met there.

Goblin Market” was published in 1862, when Rossetti was 31. The poem is about Laura and Lizzie, two sisters who live alone together and share one bed. They sleep as a couple, in Rossetti’s vivid words:

Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Lock’d together in one nest.

But “goblin men” tempt them with luscious forbidden fruit and Laura succumbs. After one night of indulgence she can no longer find the goblins and begins wasting away. Desperate to help her sister, Lizzie tries to buy fruit from the goblins, but they refuse and try to make her eat the fruit. She resists even when they attack and try to force the fruit into her mouth. Lizzie, drenched in fruit juice and pulp, returns home and invites Laura to lick the juices from her in the verses quoted earlier. The juicy kisses revive Laura and the two sisters go on to lead long lives as wives and mothers.

“Goblin Market” can be read as an innocent childhood nursery rhyme, a warning about the dangers of sexuality, a feminist critique of marriage or a Christian allegory. Lizzie becomes a Christ figure who sacrifices to save her sister from sin and gives life with her Eucharistic invitation to “Eat me, drink me, love me…” The two sisters of “Goblin Market” are often interpreted as lesbian lovers, which means that Lizzie can justifiably be interpreted as a lesbian Christ.

In 1872 Rossetti was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an auto-immune thyroid disorder, which caused her to spend her last 15 years as a recluse in her home. She died of cancer on Dec. 29, 1894 at age 64.

She wrote the words to “In the Bleak Midwinter” in 1872 in response to a request from Scribner’s Magazine for a Christmas poem. It was published posthumously in 1904 and became a popular carol after composer Gustav Holst set it to music in 1906. Her poem “Love Came Down at Christmas” (1885) is also a well known carol.  “In the Bleak Midwinter” continues to be sung frequently in churches, by choirs, and on recordings by artists such as Julie Andrews (video below), Sarah McLaughlin, Loreena McKennitt and James Taylor. The haunting song includes these verses:

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ....

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air -
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

The Episcopal Church devotes a feast day to Christina Rossetti on April 27 with this official prayer:

O God, whom heaven cannot hold, you inspired Christina Rossetti to express the mystery of the Incarnation through her poems: Help us to follow her example in giving our hearts to Christ, who is love; and who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Rossetti herself may well have felt ambivalent about being honored by the church or outed as a queer. She shared her own thoughts for posterity in her poem “When I am dead, my dearest” (1862):

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Related links:

The Many Weird and Wonderful Illustrations for Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market (Unpretentious Blabberings)

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.
Qspirit.net presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day: LGBTQ theologians join in protecting the environment

Kittredge Cherry visits a green-cross sculpture honoring the early environmental movement

Protection of the environment is celebrated today on Earth Day (April 22) by people around the world, including queer theologians.

LGBT Christians are transforming the larger church with a message of inclusion and embodiment, showing that God’s all-inclusive love goes beyond traditional categories to welcome every sexual orientation and gender expression. A few pioneering LGBTQ green theologians are taking the next step to extend the church’s welcome to the earth itself.

For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Earth Day: LGBTQ theologians join in protecting the environment

“My passion for the Earth came with the recognition of queer Christian inclusion and the radical inclusive mission of Jesus,” says Robert Shore-Goss, a theologian and pastor who brings together queer and green spiritualities.

He wrote a comprehensive chapter called “Grace is Green: Incarnational Inclusivities” in the 2013 book that he co-edited, “Queering Christianity: Finding a Place at the Table for LGBTQI Christians.”

“Christian blood atonement theologies have historically been violent, if not bloodthirsty -- scapegoating Jews, women, Muslims, indigenous peoples, non-Christian religions, and LGBT folks,” he writes in the chapter. By contrast, he says, “The green cross includes all life everywhere.”

Shore-Goss puts queer green theology into practice as pastor of Metropolitan Community Church / United Church of Christ in the Valley in North Hollywood, California. His mostly LGBT congregation installed solar panels, jack-hammered an asphalt area to make a garden on their property, and found many ways to cut their church’s use of energy and water. As described on his website mischievousspiritandtheology.com, water conservation became a spiritual discipline for Lent and gardening was an Easter practice.

“We understood the Earth as a living being, producing and evolving diverse life forms,” he wrote in his chapter. “We made the Earth a member of the church on one Earth Day Sunday to symbolize the great commandment that loving God and loving our neighbor included loving the Earth and taking responsibility for diversity of life.”

Green spirituality has been explored by many people, from ecofeminists to radical faeries, but Shore-Goss is among only a handful of theologians who have written about the connections between ecology and Christianity from a LGBTQ perspective. Others include:

* Kathy Rudy, lesbian feminist activist and associate professor of ethics and women’s studies at Duke University, applies her experience of the LGBT liberation movement to animal rights in her book “Loving Animals: Toward a New Animal Advocacy.”

* John Michael Clark, who taught English and religious studies at various colleges in Atlanta, shows the contribution that the LGBT liberation movement makes in an eclectic ecological vision with his book“Beyond Our Ghettos: Gay Theology in Ecological Perspective.”

* Daniel T. Spencer, who teaches environmental studies at the University of Montana, weaves together gay and ecological perspectives to build a solid Christian ethic in his book “Gay and Gaia: Ethics, Ecology, and the Erotic.”

The photo at the top of this post shows Jesus in Love founder Kittredge Cherry with a monument honoring the early environmental movement. A female Christ figure stands in front of a green cross with arms outstretched over a pile of tree stumps and sawed-off logs. Her plea is stated on the pedestal: “Help save our trees.”

“Miss American Green Cross” was sculpted in 1928 by artist Frederick Willard Potter for the Green Cross Society, an ecology group based in Glendale, California. According to press reports, “It is the first of dozens of statues to be erected all over America as part of the doctrine of saving the nation’s forests.” The organization disbanded in the 1930s, but the statue and its strikingly contemporary message remain.

Some have mistaken the mysterious Miss American Green Cross for Joan of Arc about to be burned at the stake. But this goddess-like bronze figure appears to be a female Christ, embodiment of Holy Wisdom (Sophia). She seems to express the theology of the green cross described by Shore-Goss and others, drawing parallels between the destruction of forests and the crucifixion of Jesus. The sculpture is located at the Brand Library in Glendale. The photographer was Audrey Lockwood.

Cherry, a lesbian author ordained by MCC, wrote an animal blessing in the book she co-edited, “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations.”Here is an excerpt:

Animals are important in the lives of many lesbian and gay people. Cats and dogs often become surrogate children for same-sex couples…. The discrimination faced by lesbian and gay people is linked to attitudes that devalue animals and the rest of nature. Western thought sets up dualities in which spirit is better than body, male is better than female, human is better than animal, intellectual is better than sexual -- and sexuality defines gays and lesbians in this way of thinking. Gays and lesbians, like nature itself, are seen as something that must be controlled. The result is a sterile, exclusive church and a polluted earth. Many lesbians and gay men seek to remedy this situation by healing the spirit-body split in Christianity. For all these reasons, it is appropriate to bless animals in the context of lesbian and gay spirituality….

May we remember that humanity is but one small, fragile strand in the interdependent web of life.

May we remember that we human beings are not the only ones created to look at flowers, to taste cool water, to listen to the wind, and to feel the earth beneath our feet.

May we remember that what befalls the earth befalls all who live on her lovely shores.

May we never forget that to harm the Earth is to scorn the Creator.

We pray for the animals who are our companions.

We pray for the wildlife displaced as we develop land for human use.

We pray for the animals who work for us, including the seeing-eye dog, the carriage horse, and the laboratory rat.

We pray for animals who are bought and sold, animals who live in cages, and animals who live free.

We pray for animals indigenous to this particular place, including [name a few species].

We pray for the animals who have made our lives possible by becoming food and clothing for us.

We pray for endangered species, including the giant panda and the California condor, and we remember the dinosaurs, passenger pigeons, and other extinct species.

We pray for all human beings who have felt degraded by being compared to animals.

God, we know that you hear all or prayers, those spoken and those that we hold silently in our hearts. We claim your loving presence with us now.

Related links:
Pope Francis Steps Up Campaign on Climate Change, to Conservatives’ Alarm (New York Times)

This post is part of the LGBTQ Calendar series by Kittredge Cherry. The series celebrates religious and spiritual holidays, events in LGBTQ history, 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.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Qspirit.net presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sor Juana de la Cruz: Nun who loved a countess in 17th-century Mexico City

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz by Miguel Cabrera, 1750 (Wikimedia Commons)

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a 17th-century Mexican nun whose critically acclaimed writings include lesbian love poetry. She is considered one of the greatest Latin American poets, an early advocate of women’s rights, and some say, North America's first lesbian feminist writer. Her feast day is today (April 17).

For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Nun who loved a countess in 17th-century Mexico City

Sor Juana (Nov. 12, 1648 - April 17, 1695) was born out of wedlock near Mexico City in what was then New Spain. She was a witty, intellectually gifted girl who loved learning. Girls of her time were rarely educated, but she learned to read in her grandfather’s book-filled house.

When she was 16, she asked for her parents’ permission to disguise herself as a male student in order to attend university, which did not accept women. They refused, and instead she entered the convent in 1667. In her world, the convent was the only place where a woman could pursue education.

Sor Juana’s convent cell became Mexico City’s intellectual hub. Instead of an ascetic room, Sor Juana had a suite that was like a modern apartment. Her library contained an estimated 4,000 books, the largest collection in Mexico. The portrait from 1750 shows her in her amazing library, surrounded by her many books.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
By Lewis Williams, SFO trinitystores.com

She turned her nun’s quarters into a salon, visited by the city’s intellectual elite. Among them was Countess Maria Luisa de Paredes, vicereine of Mexico. The two women became passionate friends. It’s unclear whether they were lesbians by today’s definition, but Maria Luisa inspired Sor Juana to write amorous love poems, such as:

That you’re a woman far away
is no hindrance to my love:
for the soul, as you well know,
distance and sex don’t count.

Click here for more of Sor Juana’s lesbian poems in English and Spanish.

The romance between Sor Juana and Maria Luisa has long been an inspiration for authors and film makers. Poet and Chicano studies scholar Alicia Gaspar de Alba writes about it vividly in her novel “Sor Juana’s Second Dream.” The novel became the basis for the play “The Nun and the Countess” by Odalys Nanín.

Gaspar de Alba also writes about Sor Juana in her new book “[Un]framing the ‘Bad Woman’: Sor Juana, Malinche, Coyolxauhqui, and Other Rebels with a Cause.” It was published in 2014 by the University of Texas.

María Luisa Bemberg, one of Latin America’s foremost female directors, explored the love between the nun and the countess in “I, the Worst of All” (Spanish: Yo, la peor de todas). The 1990 film was Argentina’s Academy Award entry for Best Foreign Language Film that year. The DVD cover uses a quote from the Boston Globe to describe the film: “Lesbian passion seething behind convent walls.” It includes woman-to-woman eroticism without objectifying the women. The movie is based on “Sor Juana: Or, the Traps of Faith” by Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz of Mexico.

Production began in fall 2014 on a movie based on Gaspar de Alba's novel. Mexican actress Ana de La Reguera will play Sor Juana in "Juana de Asbaje," the film adaptation of Gaspar de Alba’s novel. She co-wrote the screenplay with the film's director, Rene Bueno.

Church authorities cracked down on Sor Juana, not because of her lesbian poetry, but for “La Respuesta,” her classic defense of women’s rights in response to opposition from the clergy. Threatened by the Inquisition, Sor Juana was silenced for the final three years of her life. At age 46, she died after taking care of her sisters in an outbreak of plague.

She is not recognized as a saint by the male-dominated church hierarchy that she criticized, but Sor Juana holds a place in the informal communion of saints honored by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith and our allies.  She is especially revered as a role model by Latina feminists.

The icon that appears with this post was painted by Colorado artist Lewis Williams of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO). Sor Juana sits between Mexico City’s two volcanoes, the male Popocatépetl and the female Iztaccíhuatl, symbolizing the conflict between men and women that she experienced in trying to get an education. She holds a book with a quote from her writings: “The most unforgivable crime is to place people’s stature in doubt.”

Related links:

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz at the Legacy Project

Sor Juana de la Cruz: La monja le encantó la Condesa en la Cidade do México en el siglo 17 (Santos Queer)

Related books:

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Feminist Reconstruction of Biography” (2014) by Theresa A. Yugar with a foreword by Rosemary Radford Ruether

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Selected Works” (2015), translated by Edith Grossman with an introduction by Julia Alvarez

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.
Qspirit.net presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Icons of Sor Juana de la Cruz and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Day of Silence Prayer: Stop bullying God's LGBTQ youth

A new prayer by Jesus in Love founder Kittredge Cherry is one of the few religious voices supporting Day of Silence, a national student-led protest of anti-LGBT bullying. It happens tomorrow on Friday, April 17.

For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Day of Silence Prayer: Stop bullying God's LGBTQ youth

Another LGBT-affirming spiritual resource is “For Mary’s Child,” a Facebook page calling on faith communities to support Day of Silence.

Christianity has been used to justify the harassment that Day of Silence seeks to prevent. The conservative Christian group Focus on the Family even organized an annual event in opposition to Day of Silence. Day of Dialogue, which is happening today (April 16) encourages students to speak up about “God's design for sexuality.”

Once again religious faith gets equated with discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression. I wrote the Rainbow Day of Silence prayer to give voice to the deeper truth that LGBTQ people are part of God’s good creation.

Day of Silence Prayer (Twitter version)
by Kittredge Cherry
Silence is memory
Remembering those
Driven to suicide by bullies

Silence is action
Calling attention to those who are silenced
When bigotry is disguised as humor

Silence is solidarity
Students, family, teachers, friends
Who stand with the queer and questioning

Silence is pride, LGBTQ pride
Ignoring bullies,
Claiming our right to be
Part of God’s rainbow.

Silence is prayer
When any child is bullied,
Christ is bullied.
Listen in the silence
For God.

Day of Silence Prayer (long version)
by Kittredge Cherry

Silence is memory....
Remembering those who died young,
Driven to suicide by bullying
Or killed
Because of who they loved
Because of the way God created them
Because they were called
Gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, sodomite…
Remembering Tyler Clementi, Leelah Alcorn, Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard, Gwen Araujo, Haylee Fentress, Paige Moravetz, and many, many more.

Silence is action….
Calling attention to how people are silenced
When bigotry is disguised as humor,
When prejudice turns into threats
And even violence.

Silence is solidarity…
Students, family, teachers, friends
Who care enough
To share the stigma,
To stand with the queer and questioning
Stopping hate with compassion.

Silence is pride, LGBTQ pride…
Not letting the bullies win.
Claiming our right to be.
With dignity
Part of God’s rainbow.

Silence is prayer…
For Mary’s child.
Whenever any child is bullied,
Christ is bullied.
Whenever any child is called names,
Christ is called names.
Mary’s child said,
“Whatever you do to the least of these,
you do to me.”
With sighs too deep for words,
Listening in the silence
For the still small voice of God.

Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The first Day of Silence was organized at the University of Virginia in response to a class assignment on non-violent protest. More than 8,000 schools have participated in the event, which is held every year in April.

(Credit: The image at the top of this post comes from For Mary's Child: A Way of Hope)
Related links:

Dayofsilence.org (official website)

Dayofdialogue.com (official website)

Day of Silence Prayer by Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer (ucc.org, 2007)
This post is part of the LGBT Calendar 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.

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

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Kuan Yin: A queer Buddhist Christ figure

Kuan Yin, the androgynous spirit of compassion in Buddhism, is sometimes thought of as a queer Christ figure or LGBTQ role model. Buddhists celebrate the enlightenment of Kuan Yin today (July 22) this year.

For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Kuan Yin: A queer Buddhist Christ figure

Christians honor Christ as savior, and Kuan Yin is a type of Buddhist savior figure called a bodhisattva -- an enlightened person who is able to reach nirvana (heaven) but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save others from suffering.

Artists often show Kuan Yin with eyes in her/his hands and feed. They are like the wounds of Christ, but Kuan Yin can see with them.

Kuan Yin is also known as the goddess of mercy and goes by different names in different places, including Avalokiteshvara in India, Tara (female) or Chenrezig (male) in Tibet, and Kannon in Japan.

Writers and scholars who have explored the queer side of Kuan Yin include Patrick S. Cheng, an Episcopal priest who teaches at Chicago Theolgical Seminary; Hsiao-Lan Hu, religious studies professor at the University of Detroit Mercy; and Toby Johnson, a former Catholic monk turned author and comparative religion scholar.

In the introduction to his 2003 essay “Kuan Yin: Mirror of the Queer Asian Christ,” Cheng explains:

"Kuan Yin, the Asian goddess of compassion, can serve as a mirror of the queer experience. Specifically, Kuan Yin affirms three aspects in the life of queer people that are often missing from traditional images of the divine: (1) queer compassion; (2) queer sexuality; and (3) gender fluidity. In other words, Kuan Yin can be an important means by which gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can see ourselves as being made in the image of God."

Cheng writes clearly about the connection between Kuan Yin and Christ in the section where he describes his personal search for queer Asian Christ figures:

Olga’s Kuan Yin
By William Hart McNichols ©
"I have been intrigued by the possibility of Kuan Yin serving as a christological figure for queer Asian people. For me, it has been difficult to envision the Jesus Christ of the gospels and the Western Christian tradition as being both queer and Asian (although I do recognize that queer theologians and Asian theologians have tried to do so in their respective areas). It is my thesis that Kuan Yin might serve as a symbol of salvation and wholeness for queer Asian people of faith...."

Click for the whole essay “Kuan Yin: Mirror of the Queer Asian Christ” in English or in Spanish.

Cheng's latest book Rainbow Theology: Bridging Race, Sexuality, and Spirit was published in 2013. He is also the author of “From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ”, “Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology.” His series on “Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People Today” was one of the most popular stories of 2010 at the Jesus in Love Blog.

Hsiao-Lan Hu presented a paper on “Queering Avalokiteśvara” at the 2012 American Academy of Religion annual meeting. She noted that the Lotus Sutra says that Avalokitesvara will appear to teach different beings in different forms, based on what they can accept.

In the summary of her paper, Hu writes, “Of the 33 forms listed in the Lotus Sutra, 7 are explicitly female, indicating that the Bodhisattva of Compassion transcends gender identity…. What is the theoretical ground in the Buddhadharma (Buddha’s teaching) that justify or even propel such conceptualization? How does that theoretical ground compare to modern-day queer theory?”

She summed up her paper in the 2013 Women’s and Gender Studies Newsletter from the University of Detroit Mercy: “Avalokiteśvara's multi-morphic manifestation affirms different beings in their specific identities, while his/her transformability points to the possibility of moving beyond the confinement of any particular identity. For people of minority identities, the Bodhisattva thus can be both a source of comfort and a model for coping with reality in which they often need to perform different roles.”

Hu is the author of This-Worldly Nibbana: A Buddhist-Feminist Social Ethic for Peacemaking in the Global Community.

Another LGBTQ perspective on Kuan Yin is provided by Toby Johnson in Kuan Yin: Androgynous spirit of compassion, which he wrote for the Jesus in Love Blog. Johnson begins by retelling the traditional story of Kuan Yin. Then he explains that it is “a nice myth for gay people” because:

"It says we’re really all One, all reflections of one another, that the distinction between male and female is illusory and needs to be transcended and that transcending gender is part and parcel with experiencing heaven now."

A student of Joseph Campbell, Johnson has written 10 books, including the classic Gay Spirituality and Two Spirits. He is former production manager of Lethe Press and former editor of White Crane Journal. Johnson discusses Kuan Yin as an androgynous figure who embodies compassion in his articles “Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara” and “Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.”

Queer theologian Robert Shore-Goss applies the bodhisattva concept to queer Christian life in “Bodhisattva Christianity: A Case of Multiple Religious Belonging” in the 2013 book “Queering Christianity: Finding a Place at the Table for LGBTQI Christians.” Goss pastored Metropolitan Community Church in the Valley (North Hollywood, CA) after serving as chair of the religious studies department at Webster University in St. Louis.

Images of Kuan Yin posted here were created by Tony O’Connell, Stephen Mead, Ralfka Gonzalez and William Hart McNichols. Mead is a gay artist and poet based in New York whose work has appeared internationally in cyberspace, books, and galleries. McNichols is a New Mexico artist and Catholic priest who has been criticized by church leaders for making LGBTQ-friendly icons of saints not approved by the church. His icons have been commissioned by churches, celebrities and national publications.

“Avalokitishvara” by Tony O’Connell

O’Connell is a gay artist based in Liverpool. Raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, he has been a practicing Buddhist since 1995. He creates an artwork celebrating Avalokitishvara / Kuan Yin every year on his/her birthday. Viewers who look closely at his painting here will see an eye in the palm of the Compassionate One's hand.

“There is an amazing statue of Avalokiteshvara in a Liverpool museum with a text that explains how the mustache was painted over to alter his gender as the people who met the monks on the spice routes from India struggled with the idea of a manifestation of compassion being male and wanted to see him as female. It occurs to me that there are subtle ranges of the same personality between Avalokitishvara, Kuan Yin and Tara as one gender ambiguous enlightened mind,” O’Connell said.

He explains that Tara came into being in compassionate response to samsara, the cycle of birth and death: “There is a beautiful scripture that talks about how even with all his enlightened abilities to benefit living beings, Avalokiteshvara saw the suffering of samsara was almost beyond measure. His heart broke for living beings and he wept tears of compassion. When the first tear hit the ground a lotus flower grew up and blossomed to reveal Tara. Her first words as a Buddha were, 'Do not weep- I will help you.'”

For more about Tony O’Connell and his art, see my previous posts Reclaiming sainthood: Gay artist Tony O’Connell finds holiness in LGBT people and places and Olympics: Spiritual art supports Russia’s LGBT rights struggle.

Guadalupe as Chenrezig by Ralfka Gonzalez

Outsider artist Ralfka Gonzalez links Kuan Yin not with Christ, but with his mother by painting Chenrezig as Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the Gonzalez image, he/she is wrapped in Juan Diego's cloak.

His interpretation fits with the practices of Japan’s “hidden Christians,” who created statues of Mary disguised as Kuan Yin (Maria Kannon) when Christianity was outlawed from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Pictured here is the first of many “Buddha Lupe” images painted by Gonzalez. He is a self-taught Chicano artist and gay Latino activist who divides his time between Oaxaca, Mexico and San Francisco. He often paints Mexican and/or gay themes in a colorful folk-art style.

An in-depth discussion of this post happened on my Facebook page with various people adding valuable background info on Kuan Yin and his/her many incarnations:

Related links:

Korean Christ” icon by Robert Lentz

Christ Sophia” by Br. Michael Reyes, OFM (Christ with Chinese characters and lotus blossom)

Art by He Qi

Kuan Yin: Espejo del Cristo queer asiático by Patrick Cheng

Top image credit: “Kwan Yin is Coming” by Stephen Mead

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.
Qspirit.net presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Gay Jesus: Live video interview Thurssday with Kittredge Cherry

Kittredge Cherry did a live webcam interview about "The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision" on HuffPost Live!

They invited me to speak on HuffPost Live because my article Gay Passion of Christ Envisioned and Attacked got 10,000 views and caused a big controversty at HuffPost with more than 2,200 comments.

Host Josh Zepps also asked about whether I would portray the founders of other religions as gay. Earlier in the day he interviewed movie star Alan Alda!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter from Jesus In Love and Kittredge Cherry -- with murals of Los Angeles

I found Jesus painted on the walls of the Los Angeles neighborhood near my home. Folk-art religious murals are a wonderful part of the Latino street culture here.

These colorful murals express the Easter spirit of Jesus vibrantly alive among the common people. When I visited the Jesus murals, I dressed for the occasion by wearing my rainbow-flag T-shirt that proclaims, “God loves me just as I am.”

Jesus raises a wounded hand in blessing on the side of the Highland Theater at 5604 North Figueroa Street in Los Angeles. Artist John Zender Estrada merges urban Chicano and Catholic sensibilities in his religious street art.

"I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land." -- Psalm 143:6

I touched the most sacred heart of Jesus!

Jesus stretches his arms wide to welcome me at Guerrero’s Produce Market on the corner of York Boulevard and N. Avenue 56 in the Highland Park art of Los Angeles.

“I will hold you always in the palm of my hand.” -- Isaiah 41:13

All photos by Audrey Lockwood.

I am collecting an Easter offering to support my work at Jesus in Love for LGBT spirituality and the arts. Please give now at my donate page.

For the whole Easter story, check out The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision with art by Douglas Blanchard and expanded commentary by Kittredge Cherry.

Thank you to everyone for the many ways you show support.  Christ is risen indeed!  Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Day 8: Jesus rises, appears to Mary and friends, and more (Gay Passion of Christ series)

18. Jesus Rises (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by Douglas Blanchard

“I am the resurrection and the life.” -- John 11:25 (RSV)

A handsome young Christ in blue jeans leads a joyous jailbreak in “Jesus Rises” from “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” a series of 24 paintings by Douglas Blanchard. He holds hands with a prisoner as he steps upward, leading the captives to freedom. Jesus still bears the wounds of his crucifixion, but he glows with life and health. For the first time in this series, Jesus also has a halo. Beams of light shoot from his head in four directions, forming a diagonal cross behind him. Jesus does not bask in his own glory, but is determined to use his new-found power to free others. Christ is even more powerful as a liberator because he is also one of the prisoners. His inner light illuminates the shadowy crowd behind him.

Blanchard dares to paint a communal resurrection. One prisoner raises a fist in victory, a broken chain dangling from his shackled wrist. Another waves his hat in celebration. The scene can be read as “gay” because Jesus appears to hold hands with another man. The arch motif recurs in the brick wall behind them, but this time Jesus rises above it. Even the picture frame cannot hold back the risen Christ. He heads directly for the viewer, making eye contact, ready to burst through the flat surface of the image and into our lives. The frame cracks open at the top as light breaks through in this naturalistic yet supernatural scene. The words painted on the inseparable faux frame inform the viewer that this is the moment of cosmic significance when “Jesus Rises.” He overcomes death itself in an updated vision of the first Easter.

The resurrection is one of the most difficult parts of the Passion story for modern people, who mistrust miracles and are suspicious of happy endings. Artists and theologians struggle to reconcile a realistic understanding of the human condition with hope for a tortured world. Skeptics question whether the resurrection really happened, but it is central to the faith of most Christians. Easter is when Jesus becomes more than a great teacher, when minds are challenged to stretch and take a leap of faith. By rising from the dead Jesus completes the mystery of saving a broken world and embodies a new truth: Love transcends history; love is stronger than death. Death ceases to be a prison and becomes a passage to new life.

Jesus was a unique historical person, but he also epitomizes the sacred archetype of the god-man hero who returns from the dead with new powers to help others. There are many ancient myths of gods who die and return, sometimes in harmony with the seasons. Cycles of death and rebirth repeat in nature and in the hearts of people who must let parts of themselves “die” in order to grow. Christ lives again the actions of countless martyrs, prophets, and humanitarians throughout history up to the present. Jesus triumphs not by denying death, but by moving through it. Ultimately he unites birth and death in himself.

Illustrating the resurrection has always been a challenge for artists. The Bible doesn’t describe the actual moment when Jesus rose from the dead, but instead conveys the good news with reports of the empty tomb and appearances of the risen Christ. For more than a thousand years artists followed suit and avoided depicting the resurrection itself. Even the traditional Stations of the Cross stops short of the resurrection. The subject became more common in art starting in the twelfth century. At first Christ was usually shown stepping out of a Roman-style sarcophagus. Then artists began to picture Jesus hovering in the air. The 16th-century Isenheim Alterpiece by Matthias Grünewald matches its horrific crucifixion with an equally extreme resurrection in which a radiantly robust Jesus floats above his tomb, serenely awake. But church authorities clamped down on the trend, insisting that Jesus’ feet remain firmly on the ground. Renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci pioneered a more natural approach with Jesus emerging from a rock-hewn cave.

In art history it is almost unprecedented to see others rising along with Jesus. Usually Jesus rises alone, perhaps accompanied by angels and bowling over or even trampling upon the Roman guards outside the door to his tomb. Blanchard’s group scene has a lot in common with another artistic tradition. Artists show Jesus rescuing the souls of the dead in a scene known as the Anastasis or Harrowing of Hell, but that is usually a separate event before the resurrection. The subject arose in Byzantine culture and then spread to the West around the eighth century. It continues to be more prominent in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Blanchard cites English Romantic artist William Blake as a visual source for some of his resurrection and post-resurrection imagery.

The original painting “Jesus Rises” hangs in my own home, a gift from the artist. Blanchard wanted me to have this particular painting because it brought us together. In 2005 was hunting for queer Christian images for my JesusInLove.org website, which was still in the design stage. It was hard to find any kind of LGBT-oriented Christ figures, but the rarest of all was the queer resurrection. I was delighted when an Internet search finally led me to Blanchard’s “Jesus Rises.” After emails, letters, and phone calls, he eventually agreed to let me use it on my website. Later I shared more of his Passion series in my book “Art That Dares” and a 2007 exhibit that I helped organize at JHS Gallery in Taos. “Jesus Rises” hangs in my living room, where it serves as a constant reminder to maintain hope no matter what happens.

Blanchard’s resurrection does not occur in a vacuum or even in a lonely cave. His Jesus is no isolated individual experiencing a one-of-a-kind miracle, but first in the diverse group that will become the body of Christ in the world. He leads an uprising, as much insurrection as resurrection. These particular “prisoners” are the dead, but the prison can stand for any kind of limitation, including the closets of shame where LGBT people hide. The struggle to reconcile the resurrection with harsh reality can be especially tough for LGBT people who have endured hate crimes, discrimination, and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. The risen Christ leads the way to a state of being where hate does not always lead to more hate, and anger becomes a motivation for life, not destruction.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. -- -- Romans 6:5 (RSV)

Christ lives! Nobody knows exactly how it happened, but Jesus rose to new life on the third day after his crucifixion. The mystery of resurrection replaced the law of cause and effect with a new reality: the law of love. Jesus lives in our hearts now. Just as he promised, he freed people from all forms of bondage. Captives are released from every prison. LGBT people are free to leave every closet of shame. Christ glows with the colors of all beings. People of all kinds -- queer and straight, old and young, male and female and everything in between, of every race and age and ability -- together we are the body of Christ.

Jesus, welcome back! 

19. Jesus Appears to Mary (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by Douglas Blanchard

“Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene.” -- Mark 16:9 (RSV)

Two friends meet at sunrise in “Jesus Appears to Mary.” They circle each other as Mary Magdalene gestures with happy surprise at finding Jesus alive in the graveyard. It almost looks like Jesus is dancing with his own shadow. A patch of sunlight catches the risen Christ, now restored to health and handsome in his blue jeans. Mary, a black woman, remains in darkness with her back to the viewer. The morning star shines in a gorgeous blue sky while the first rays of dawn awaken the spring-green grass. The frame itself is green -- even the faux wood has sprung to life!

On the distant horizon are excavating machines. A body of water separates Jesus and Mary from the faraway city skyline. They are surrounded by numbered gravestones. The one behind Jesus is marked “124” -- the same number on the mysterious tag around Jesus’ neck in the first painting of this series. The artist has stated that he chose “124” because it has no special meaning in Christianity. His Jesus died with a random number, a human castoff stripped of his name. The gravestones and setting look like Hart Island, a public cemetery for the unknown and indigent in New York City. Operated by prison labor, Hart Island is the world’s largest tax-funded cemetery with daily mass burials and almost a million people buried there.

First Mary was blinded by grief, and then she saw a deeper truth: The living Christ is here now. In such moments, supreme awareness breaks through ordinary perception, awakening awe for the ultimate mystery that transcends all names. The scene can symbolize any “aha moment” when sudden clarity leads to life-changing insight.

The dynamic tension between the figures suggests that this is the moment known as “Noli me tangere,” the Latin phrase usually translated as “Don’t touch me.” Jesus spoke these words to Mary Magdalene in John 20:17 when they meet after his resurrection. In John’s gospel, Mary went to visit Jesus’ tomb before sunrise on Easter. She was distraught that his corpse was missing -- until the risen Christ called her name. Overcome with emotion, she started to hug him, but he stopped her with a request that has multiple translations. The original Greek is best translated as “Stop clinging to me.” But the Latin translation is embedded in cultural tradition: “Don’t touch me (noli me tangere) for I have not yet ascended.” The scene has been an iconographic standard for artists throughout the Christian world since late antiquity. Modern artists are still keen to portray the suffering and death of Jesus, but most won’t touch the subject of his resurrection appearances. Indirect references continue. For example Picasso’s mysterious 1903 allegorical painting “La Vie,” the masterpiece of his Blue Period, includes references to “Noli Me Tangere” by Renaissance painter Antonio da Correggio.

Jesus appearing to Mary is good news for all the disenfranchised, including today’s LGBT people. Like Jesus here, LGBT people cannot take touch for granted and become untouchable. The reason that Jesus rejects Mary’s touch is because he has “not yet ascended,” but in a gay vision it also suggests an aversion for heterosexual contact. Jesus made his first post-resurrection appearance to a woman in an era when women weren’t even allowed to testify at legal proceedings. And yet the risen Christ chose a woman as his first witness. Mary Magdalene has an undeserved reputation for sexual sins. The church mistakenly labeled her as a prostitute for centuries, but the Bible does not support this view. Progressive theologians are reclaiming her as a role model for church leaders. The Bible portrays Mary Magdalene as the most important woman follower of Jesus. She supported his ministry with her resources, traveled with him on his teaching tours, witnessed his crucifixion, and hurried to his tomb before sunrise. In Luke’s gospel angels ask a question to Mary Magdalene and the other women at the empty tomb: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” LGBT Christians and allies sometimes ask themselves the same question as they seek the living Christ in the rusty, deadening rituals and relics of the institutional church.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” -- Luke 24:5 (RSV)

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of her friend Jesus early on Sunday morning. It was empty! She started crying and someone came up to her. Mary thought he was the gardener until he spoke her name. Her heart leaped as she recognized Jesus. Human beings often miss the presence of God right before our eyes. Like Mary, we get lost in our emotions. It feels like God is far away or even dead. Then something happens and suddenly we see: God was with us all along. Jesus chose an unlikely person as the first witness to his resurrection. Women were second-class citizen in the time of Jesus, not unlike LGBT people in some countries today. But Jesus, who loved outcasts, gladly revealed himself to the woman who came looking for him. Christ is ready to speak to each of us by name, even if we are looking in all the wrong places.

Jesus, where are you now? Will you speak to me?

The final five paintings in the gay Passion series are presented below with short meditations only.

20. Jesus Appears at Emmaus (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by Douglas Blanchard

“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” -- Luke 24:30-31 (RSV)

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” -- Matthew 18:20 (RSV)

Two travelers met a stranger on the way to a village called Emmaus. While on the road they told the stranger about Jesus: the hopes he stirred in them, his horrific execution, and Mary’s unbelievable story that he was still alive. Their hearts burned as the stranger reframed it for them, putting it in a larger context. They convinced him to stay and join them for dinner in Emmaus. As the meal began, he blessed the bread and gave it to them. It was one of those moments when the presence of God breaks through ordinary life. Suddenly they saw: The stranger was Jesus! He had been with them all along. Sometimes even devout Christians are unable to see God’s image in people who are strangers to them, such as LGBT people or others who have less social status. People can also be blind to their own sacred worth. But at any moment, the grace of an unexpected encounter can open our eyes.

Come and travel with me, Jesus. Or are you already here?

21. Jesus Appears to His Friends (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by Douglas Blanchard

“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see.” -- Luke 24:39 (RSV)

“The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” -- John 20:26 (RSV)

Jesus’ friends were hiding together, afraid of the authorities who killed their beloved teacher. The doors were shut, but somehow Jesus got inside and stood among them. They couldn’t believe it! He urged them to touch him, and even invited them to inspect the wounds from his crucifixion. As they felt his warm skin, their doubts and fears turned into joy. Jesus liked touch. He often touched people in order to heal them, and he let people touch him. He defied taboos and allowed himself to be touched by women and people with diseases. He understood human sexuality, befriending prostitutes and other sexual outcasts. LGBT sometimes hide themselves in closets of shame, but Jesus wasn’t like that. He was pleased with own human body, even after it was wounded.

Jesus, can I really touch you?

22. Jesus Returns to God (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by Douglas Blanchard

“As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” -- Acts 1:9 (RSV)

“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” -- Isaiah 62:5 (RSV)

Words and pictures cannot express all the bliss that Jesus felt when he returned to God. Some compare the joy of a soul’s union with the divine to sexual ecstasy in marriage. Perhaps for Jesus, it was a same-sex marriage. Jesus drank in the nectar of God’s breath and surrendered to the divine embrace. They mixed male and female in ineffable ways. Jesus became both Lover and Beloved as everything in him found in God its complement, its reflection, its twin. When they kissed, Jesus let holy love flow through him to bless all beings throughout timeless time. Love and faith touched; justice and peace kissed. The boundaries between Jesus and God disappeared and they became whole: one Heart, one Breath, One. We are all part of Christ’s body in a wedding that welcomes everyone.

Jesus, congratulations on your wedding day! Thank you for inviting me!

Bible background
Song of Songs: “O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!”

23. The Holy Spirit Arrives (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by Douglas Blanchard

“There appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” -- Acts 2:3-4 (RSV)

“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and the young shall see visions, and the old shall dream dreams.” -- Acts 2:17  (Inclusive Language Lectionary)

Jesus promised his friends that the Holy Spirit would come to empower them. They were together in the city on Pentecost when suddenly they heard a strong windstorm blowing in the sky. Tongues of fire appeared and separated to land on each one of them. Jesus’ friends were flaming, on fire with the Holy Spirit! Soon the Spirit led them to speak in other languages. All the excitement drew a big crowd. Good people from every race and nation came from all over the city. They brought their beautiful selves like the colors of the rainbow. Each one was able to hear about God in his or her own language. The story of Jesus has been translated into many languages. Now the Gospel is also available with an LGBT accent. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we too can hear God’s story. We are the flaming friends of Jesus!

Come, Holy Spirit, and kindle a flame of love in my heart.

24. The Trinity (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision) by Douglas Blanchard

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”-- Luke 23:43 (RSV)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the realm of heaven.” -- -- Matthew 5:10 (Inclusive Language Lectionary)

God promises to lead people out of injustice and into a good land flowing with milk and honey. We can travel the same journey that Christ traveled. His spirit and legacy live on in everyone who remembers his Passion. Opening to the joy and pain of the world, we can experience all of creation as our body -- the body of Christ. As queer as it sounds, we can create our own land of milk and honey. The Holy Spirit inspires each person to see heaven in his or her own way. Look, the Holy Spirit celebrates two men who love each other! She looks like an angel as She protects the same-sex couple. Are the men Jesus and God? No names can fully express the omnigendered Trinity of Love, Lover, and Beloved… or Mind, Body, and Spirit. God is madly in love with everybody. As Jesus often said, heaven is here among us and within us. Now that we have seen a gay vision of Christ’s Passion, we are free to move forward with love.

Jesus, thank you for giving me a new vision!

This is part of a series based on “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” a set of 24 paintings by Douglas Blanchard, with text by Kittredge Cherry.  For the whole series, click here.

This concludes the series based on “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” a set of 24 paintings by Douglas Blanchard, with text by Kittredge Cherry. For the whole series, click here.

The book version of “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” was published in 2014 by Apocryphile Press.

Holy Week offering: Give now to support LGBT spirituality and art at the Jesus in Love Blog

Reproductions of the Passion paintings are available as greeting cards and prints in a variety of sizes and formats online at Fine Art America.

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.

Scripture quotations are from Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations are from the Inclusive Language Lectionary (Year C), copyright © 1985-88 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.