Thursday, August 26, 2010

Queer disciples in the Bible?

Detail from “The Last Supper” by Becki Jayne Harrelson,

“Dandy Discipleship: A Queering of Mark’s Male Disciples” by New Zealand theologian Robert J. Myles was published recently in a scholarly journal.

The article appears in the June issue of “The Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality,” an online scholarly, peer-reviewed journal.

Myles, a graduate student in the School of Theology at the University of Auckland, challenges the assumption of heterosexuality in the Bible and tries to liberate the scriptures from sex-negative misinterpretations. He does this by purposely rereading three Gospel stories in sexual (and homosexual) ways.

For example, he gives a homoerotic twist to the call of the disciples (Mark 1:16-20): “While cruising the seashores of Galilee, Jesus began his ministry by fetching a number of seemingly attached men to join his cohort of male admirers….Upon enticing them, they immediately left their father and their livelihood, to elope with the alluring Jesus.”

The article also offers queer versions of two other stories. Myles reexamines the disciples’ argument about “who is greatest” (Mark 9:33-37) in light of the male obsession with penis size. Then he looks at the arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43-52) by focusing on “the erotic texture of the betraying embrace” -- the scandalous kiss between two men, Judas and Jesus -- and the possibility that the mysterious naked youth in the story was a prostitute.

Myles is not trying to prove that the historical disciples were gay, but instead to present queer disciples as one valid possibility. “The ultimate goal is for the reconstruction of the biblical text in order that it is a redeeming text for all, rather than just redeeming for some,” he states in the conclusion. By liberating the scriptures with his queer approach, Myles hopes that the Bible may continue to liberate its readers.

Throughout the article, Myles uses a method of queer and gender criticism pioneered by theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid, author of “The Queer God” and “Indecent Theology.”

Myles admits that “the queer imagination deliberately transgresses normalcy in order to destabilize.” But there’s a reason for it. He sums up the purpose -- and the human condition -- with eloquent clarity: “Normalcy, as an ideological means of control, obscures our perception of reality.”

The full article is available online at:

The image above is a detail from “The Last Supper” by Becki Jayne Harrelson, an Atlanta artist who challenges mainstream religious beliefs via art. The painting is a tribute to Da Vinci and Caravaggio, but Harrelson’s multiracial version includes a drag king in the background! All Harrelson’s models are LGBT people in real life.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

New art book explores holiness and the feminine spirit

“Holy Mother of the East” is on the cover of Janet McKenzie’s new book

Artist Janet McKenzie takes wonderful risks by painting Jesus, saints and angels in multiracial, gender-bending new ways.

Now you can see her genius at work in a gorgeous new book, “Holiness and the Feminine Spirit: The Art of Janet McKenzie.”

The Vermont artist is committed to creating inclusive art celebrating women. She is best known for painting a controversial black female Christ in “Jesus of the People,” which was chosen by PBS art critic Sister Wendy Beckett to represent Jesus in the new millennium.

That painting is in the book, along with 27 more works by McKenzie. Another highlight is “Epiphany,” which presents the three “kings” as a multiracial trio of women. McKenzie’s daring view of the Magi angered conservatives when the head of the Episcopal Church used it as her Christmas card in 2007.

Even though McKenzie alters race and gender in her work, her art is never contrived. She makes it seem natural to see an Asian Madonna or the Holy Family with African features. The book also includes some historical people of color, such as Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American convert to Christianity.

Each picture is accompanied by an essay that provides historical background and theological reflection. McKenzie’s art is so profound that the essays pale in comparison, even though they were written by 28 well known women writers. Contributors include Sister Wendy, bestselling novelist Ann Patchett, womanist theologian Katie Cannon and feminist nun Joan Chittister.

The matching of authors and images is artful, sometimes even inspired. Helen Prejean, a nun who works against the death penalty, writes about “Jesus at Gethsemane.” Katharine Jefferts Schori is paired with “Epiphany,” her controversial Christmas card. Barbara Marian reflects on “Mary with the Midwives,” which she commissioned.

The book focuses on women’s spirituality, but it is not for women only. I recommend it for anyone seeking the Divine Feminine or alternative Christian imagery. The $28 price is extremely low for what you get -- a hardcover book of top-quality color pictures printed in Italy on glossy paper that is luscious to the touch. The book could easily fetch twice the price.

One category of women is noticeably under-represented: lesbians. None of the writers are identified as lesbian, and only two of them make references to LGBT people. Korean theologian (Chung) Hyun Kyung.includes “heterosexism” in her definition of sin and states, “Thanks to the rise of liberation theology, black theology, feminist theology, Asian theology, African theology, Indigenous theology, womanist theology, mujerista theology and queer theology, we can now reimagine Jesus and declare that Jesus is a campesino, black, female, Asian, African, Indigenous, Hispanic or queer.”

A more poetic approach to LGBT issues comes from poet Edwina Gateley. She imagines what Mary thought while pregnant with Jesus:

I birth you, my child
and in you is embraced
My divine love for all humanity --
black and white and brown,
male and female,
gay and straight.

McKenzie has demonstrated her own support for LGBT people by generously sharing her art here at the Jesus in Love Blog. She allowed me to use her famous “Jesus of the People” on the cover of my book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.” My book also includes McKenzie’s “Christ Mother,” a majestic nude female Christ bound in a crucifixion pose. That image is so challenging that it has been censored by the gatekeepers who decide what gets shown. Unfortunately it is also missing from “Holiness and the Feminine Spirit.”

The Catholic Press Association recently honored McKenzie’s new book with two awards. It won first place for Spirituality (hard cover) and third place for Design and Production. In this case, the Catholic authorities are right. This beautiful book goes a long way toward expanding and enhancing the ways we see holiness.

Before “Holiness and the Feminine Spirit” was published, some of the images were posted here at the Jesus in Love Blog. Click the following links to see our original posts:


The Holy Family

Christ Mother (Not in the new book -- and this is the only place to see it online!)

“Holiness and the Feminine Spirit: The Art of Janet McKenzie.”
Edited by Susan Perry
Orbis Books (the publishing arm of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers)
ISBN: 1570758441
Hardcover, $28, 146 pages

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Author Kittredge Cherry, left, with artist Janet McKenzie and her art at 2007 Festival of Progressive Spiritual Art in Taos, New Mexico

For more about Janet McKenzie, visit her website or watch this video of her on “Art Express” from Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh, NY. It includes interviews with the artist, scenes of her in action as she paints, and photos of the woman who modeled for “Jesus of the People.”

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pride photo: Maybe Jesus Was Gay

“Just a Thought” by San Diego Shooter Nathan Rupert

“Maybe Jesus Was Gay” declared a festive sign in the 2010 San Diego LGBT Pride parade July 17.

It was carried by the group from Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA.

Progressive Bible scholars believe that the gay Jesus is a real likelihood, and artists are envisioning it. Chicago Theological Seminary professor Theodore Jennings explores the Biblical hints about Jesus’ homosexuality in “The Man Jesus Loved.” I gathered some of the best queer Christ images into my book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.”

Special thanks to Eric Isaacson for alerting me to the photo above and taking the photo below. You made this post happen!

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Ex-gay movement as genocide

The Broken Image by Christine Bakke
Mixed Media, 2007

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 professors Sue E. Spivey and Christine M. Robinson of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Their groundbreaking article “Genocidal Intentions: Social Death and the Ex-Gay Movement” appears in the April 2010 issue of the scholarly journal “Genocide Studies and Prevention.”

Using UN documents, they present genocide as a continuum of oppression, with social death at one end and mass murder at the other. The UN definition of genocide includes “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.”

If causing serious MENTAL harm is genocide, then the ex-gay movement is clearly genocidal. Art by ex-gay survivors shows the serious mental harm inflicted by ex-gay conversion therapies. These therapies can break the spirit and shatter lives.

The damage is made visible in powerful art by ex-gay survivors appearing with this blog post and at More ex-gay art may be viewed online at:

Spivey and Robinson explain that the ex-gay movement is “predominantly an evangelical Christian Right social movement which aims to purge society of homosexuality and transgenderism.” The movement promotes the belief that “same-sex attraction” is a sinful disorder that can be cured through “reparative” and “conversion” therapies. The professors do an excellent job of analyzing the genocidal intentions expressed by ex-gay movement entrepreneurs and organizations such as Exodus International and Focus on the Family.

The UN definition of genocide also includes “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group” and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” As Spivey and Robinson point out, “ex-gay organizations seek to deny reproductive technologies and adoption rights for homosexuals, and support policies and court decisions that have forcibly removed children from the custody of their parents solely based on their homosexuality.”

The conclusion is clear. “The ex-gay movement is actively pursuing public policies that would, if implemented, constitute state-sponsored genocidal practices in the United States and globally,” Spivey and Robinson say in the article. Uganda’s notorious 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill is given as an example.

The authors admit that the original UN definition of genocide did not include social or political groups and was not applied to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. However, they noted that the recent International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda established a precedent by broadening the definition of possible genocide victims as any group sharing a common culture. The UN has also begun to formally recognize human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The new understanding of genocide can benefit people beyond the GLBT community. Seeing genocide as a continuum enables people to recognize its early stages, thus predicting and preventing mass murder.

Meanwhile, genocide or not, those who have survived ex-gay experiences are joining together to heal, thrive and create art. Two artists from the exhibit, Christine Bakke and Jason Ingram, agreed to share their work here at the Jesus in Love Blog.

Bakke takes the title of her artwork from the classic ex-gay book “The Broken Image.” Bakke explains, “For those of you who read ‘The Broken Image’ by Leanne Payne, or who were fed the notion that our sexuality or gender identity were broken, this piece of art is for you. For all those years that you were taught to see a broken image....perhaps it was only the mirror that was broken.”

Many thanks to the artists, the scholars and to Jallen Rix, author of “Ex-Gay No Way,” whose Advocate article first alerted me to the “Genocidal Intentions” scholarship.

Broken by Jason Ingram
Mixed media

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“Save Me” is the story of a young gay man who undergoes ex-gay therapy, but ends up finding romance with a guy he meets at the ex-gay retreat center. Told with compassion for both gays AND conservative Christians.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Same-sex marriage ban overturned

“Stop the H8” protest from 2008 (More photos here)

California’s ban on same-sex marriage was just overturned by a U.S. federal judge.

The judge ruled that the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. This is a big victory for justice, and for lesbian and gay couples. Thank God!

This is hot news that just happened around 2 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 4).  I wanted to let you know right away.


Two key sentences from the ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker: “California has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions. The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples.”

He concluded, “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples.”

Here is a link to a news report from the Advocate

You can read the full text of the ruling by clicking this link to According to commentator Rachel Maddow, “it’s better than whatever novel you are currently reading right now.”

Enjoy a video of the victory speech by Prop 8 plaintiff Chad Griffin. He’s the “mastermind of the federal lawsuit against Proposition 8,” according to the Advocate. Click here to see it.

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