In an explosive book, “the man jesus loved, the reputable biblical scholar Theodore Jennings mounts an extended argument that Jesus himself was actually gay and that the beloved disciple of John’s Gospel was Jesus’ lover. To support this provocative conclusion, Jennings examines not only the texts that relate to the beloved disciple but also the story of the centurion’s servant boy and the texts that show Jesus’ rather negative attitude toward the traditional family: not mother and brothers, but those who do the will of God, are family to Jesus. Jennings suggests that Jesus relatives and disciples knew he was gay, and that, despite the efforts of the early Church to downplay this “dangerous memory” about Jesus, a lot of clues remains in the Gospels. Piecing the clues together, Jennings suggests not only that Jesus was very open to homosexuality, but that he himself was probably in an intimate, and probably sexual, relationship with the beloved disciple.–Daniel Helminiak, Sex and the Sacred
In Catholic spiritual tradition, there is an important and honoured place for the idea of “The Bride of Christ”. At one level, we are taught to think of the Church as a whole as such a bride of Christ, and the wedding at Cana as a metaphor for the marriage of Christ to his bride, the Church. At another level, religious women think of themselves as forgoing human marriage, to become brides of Christ. The image is a powerful and valuable one, in developing that personal relationship with the Lord that we seek – but where does it leave men, who may find it difficult to imagine themselves as brides?
Surprisingly perhaps, Catholic tradition provides an equivalent route for men – at least, for gay men, and others who are not threatened by thoughts of homoerotic attraction. Gerald Loughlin has described a medieval German tradition in which the wedding at Cana was seen as celebrating the wedding of Christ and his “beloved disciple” (assumed to be John the Evangelist). St John of the Cross used extensive homoerotic imagery in his mystical writing. Blessed Bernardo de Hoyos combined both of these ideas, taking them to their logical conclusion. As Kittredge Cherry noted at Jesus in Love blog, in a valuable post for his feast day (yesterday, November 29th), Blessed Bernardo saw himself, in a mystical vision, as marrying Christ – as a man, becoming not a bride, but a “Groom of Christ”.
Always holding my right hand, the Lord had me occupy the empty throne; then He fitted on my finger a gold ring…. “May this ring be an earnest of our love. You are Mine, and I am yours. You may call yourself and sign Bernardo de Jesus, thus, as I said to my spouse, Santa Teresa, you are Bernardo de Jesus and I am Jesus de Bernardo. My honor is yours; your honor is Mine. Consider My glory that of your Spouse; I will consider yours, that of My spouse. All Mine is yours, and all yours is Mine. What I am by nature you share by grace. You and I are one!”
(quoted at Jesus in Love from “The Visions of Bernard Francis De Hoyos, S.J.[Image]” by Henri Bechard, S.J.)
Kittredge observes, quite correctly,
While the Catholic church refuses to bless same-sex marriages, the lives and visions of its own saints tell a far different story — in which Christ the Bridegroom gladly joins himself in marriage with a man.
Michael Bayley at the Wild Reed, who drew my attention to Kittredge’s post, thinks that we should declare Bernardo the patron saint of Catholic for Marriage Equality, MN. Why not the patron saint of marriage equality – period?
For more on the details of Bernardo’s story, cross to Jesus in Love. What I want to do instead, is share a personal experience, and to reflect briefly on the lessons for modern gay Catholics, and other Christians.
This resonates with me, as I have had a similar experience myself. I was on a six-day silent, directed retreat in 2002, when, quite early on, my reflection turned to the familiar idea of “the bride of Christ”. I asked myself to picture instead “the groom of Christ”, and was led, for the rest of the retreat, into the most extraordinarily intense spiritual experience of my life. It was as if I was on honeymoon with my new husband. By day, every moment was spent deeply focussed on his presence, whether out of doors, in my room, or in the chapel, where I sat for hours at a time gazing at the tabernacle. By night, I was alone in bed with my lover, and new husband.
Remarkably, the day after I began this journey, I was browsing through some spiritual journals in the lounge of the retreat centre, and came across an article with exactly the same idea: that men could profit from adopting the same image for themselves, as the groom of Christ (but imagining Christ as female). Given the ubiquity of the visual representations of Christ the man that we meet from childhood and throughout our lives, in art and in explicitly religious pictures, statues, books and films, picturing Christ as female may be difficult. As gay men, we have no need to do so: we may retain our traditional view of Christ as male (fully male, with a fully male body) and adapt instead the traditional image of ourselves as the brides of Christ, to the grooms.
Try it. After all, just like John the Evangelist, we are all Beloved Disciples.
According to Sir Elton John, the answer is clearly yes.
Sir Elton John is facing a backlash from conservative Christian groups after stating in an interview that Jesus was a gay man.
The 62-year-old musician also opened up to US magazine Parade about the “life-threatening downside” of fame and his relationship with partner David Furnish.
But it’s the Rocket Man’s views on Jesus’s sexuality which have sparked headlines across the world.
In the interview, to be published in America on Saturday, Sir Elton said: “I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.
“On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don’t know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East – you’re as good as dead.”
I don’t suppose Sir Elton has notable thological credentials for making this claim, but his fame alone will ensure that his remarks command wide attention.
This is welcome, because the subjeect deserves more consideration than the easy assumptions that usually underlie thinking and speking about Jesus the man. Simply by raising the issue, Sir Elton has ensured that there will be many voices raised in opposition and in support. Let us hope that some of these voices will offer some plain sense.
My own position here is simple. I do not for a minute believe that Jesus was “gay”, certainly not in any sense of the word that is recognisable in the moedern world. But I do believe he was undoubtedly “queer”, in that he emphatically did not conform to any usual expectations of sexual or gender conformity.
Let us begin with the obvious basics. We know and accept as basic to theology, that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. The divinity does not concern us here, but the “human” part surely does. As fully human, and specifically male, we know that he had a fully male physical body, and all that that entails. We must also accept that he had human emotions, human feelings – and those would certainly have included sexual feelings.
What he did about those, we do not know. Did he act on them? Did he sublimate them? Some argue on scanty evidence for a sexual relationship with John the Evangelist, or with Mary Magdalene, or with Lazarus. All this is speculation. We have no way of knowing for sure, although in thee absence of hard evidence, any of these are possible – as is complete celibacy.
So instead of complete celibacy, let us look at some basic facts, as we know them from Scripture and from history, starting with the latter. The Pontifical Bible Commission recommends that the interpretation of Scripture includes some consideration of the historical context. In first century Hebrew society, that would have included an overwhelming social expectation that all should marry and raise families, in a strictly hierarchical social structure. That society assumed an inferior position for women, who were not expected to join in religious discussion or leadership, assumed the place of slavery in human conduct, with extensive rights of slave owners over their “property”, and followed a complex set of purity regulations and taboos.
In his life and in his teaching, Jesus ignored all of these, and actively taught against some. He never married (as far as we know), and exhorted his disciples to leave their own families to follow him. His closest friends outside the twelve were the household of Mary, Martha and Lazarus – also all unmarried, living in a household that would surely have shocked many Jewish social conformists. On several occasions, he actively engaged with women in religious discussions. And in his dealings with social outcasts of all kinds, including prostitutes, lepers, slaves or menstruating women, he ignored the purity taboos. Doing so undoubtedly contributed to his getting up the noses of the religious leaders of the day, just as gay men, lesbians and transsexuals today continue to upset self-righteous and self-appointed religious leaders.
Jesus Christ – possibly not “gay” – but undoubtedly queer.
- Queer Inclusion in Church: Evangelicals Ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” (queertheology.blogspot.com)
- St John the Evangelist, the “Beloved Disciple”: December 27th (myqueerscripture.blogspot.com)
- Was Jesus Gay? Mark, and the “Naked Young Man”. (queering-the-church.blogspot.com)
- The Queer Bible: Beyond Family Values (myqueerscripture.blogspot.com)
At my primary blog, “Queering the Church”, and at my blogger site, “Queer Saints and Martyrs (and Others)“. one of the strands I have been exploring for some years now has been the place of LGBT/queer people in Christian history.
However, I have been dissatisfied with the blogger technology(and the way I set it up originally), and am in the process of transferring the entire site here, to the WordPress platform. Continue reading About “Queer Saints and Martyrs”
The opponents of gay same-sex marriage and of the “gay lifestyle” (whatever that is), like to claim that their opposition is rooted in traditional family values, “as found in the Bible.” This claim is so completely spurious, is is remarkable how seldom it is challenged. Just a little thought and reflection shows not only how the Gospel values have little to d with modern Western conceptions of the “traditional” family, but they are so far removed from it, that the real values espoused can certainly be described as “queer”,if not quite as specifically gay. Continue reading The Gospels’ Queer Values
This week, the Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family – so often an occasion of trial for those Catholics who are not living in officially approved families of Mom, Pop, kids, pets and picket fence. Subjected year after year to the same -old, same-old shallow sermons on the joys of family life, single people, the divorced, childless couples and queer Catholics can easily find that this Sunday is a very pointed reminder of how easily and thoughtlessly we can be excluded from the Church community. Most of the standard preaching on the Holy Family though is entirely misguided – the true nature of the Holy Family is very far from a celebration of the modern, but inappropriately named, “traditional family” .
Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said….
And they all forsook him and fled.And a youth (“neaniskos”) accompanied him, clothed in a linen cloth (“sindona”) over his nudity (“gumnos”). And they seized him. And he, leaving his linen cloth, fled nude (“gymnos”).
And they came into Bethany, and a certain woman, whose brother had died, was there. and, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, “Son of David, have mercy upon me.”..But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightaway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near Jesus rolled away a stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand nad raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, and he was rich. And and after six days Jesus told him what he wast to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. And then, arising, he returned to the other side of Jordan.
- Top 20 gay Jesus books: Queer Christ is ready for readers (jesusinlove.blogspot.com)