Homoerotic Jesus at Pride Parades? This Christian Says, “Yes, Please!” by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir


Trelawney bio pictureRecently, some Christian communities have been angrily sharing these photos of lesbian and gay Jesus figures from Brazil’s pride parade in Sao Paolo. Conservative Christians tend to denounce anything to do with Pride as part of their general rejection of any celebration of LGBTQ folks as equally in the divine image. However, some progressive Christians and queer Christians have also expressed that they are offended by these images, which they characterize as “extreme,” because they believe the people in the Pride parade intended to offend Christians by insulting Christianity.

I love them. To me, these images express powerful theology: Jesus as gay, lesbian, a lover, fully human, present in homoeroticism… I find these images beautiful and powerful. I’m also not sure these queer Jesus folks are merely trying to cause offense. Maybe they are trying to cause shock; however, I see these acts as a positive statement rather than a negative one. I see these depictions of queer Jesus as a powerful statement about how Jesus is crucified whenever any oppressed group or person is denigrated, excluded, subjugated, or harmed by the more powerful community. People have previously compared Jesus to victims of homophobic hate crime such as Matthew Shepard and noted that such violence is widespread and comparatively socially acceptable.

I think many progressive, and even moderate Christians resonate with that parallel nowadays – homophobia has become increasingly taboo, support for same sex marriage has steadily risen, and the idea of a persecuted young gay murder victim seeming “Christ-like” probably has fairly strong purchase nowadays. In addition, just as in the Christmas song “Some Children See Him,” progressive Christians increasingly accept portrayals of a black Jesus, female Jesus, or Asian Jesus, as symbols of a Christ who transcends any human category and comes to each believer looking like h/er. Artistic depictions of a gay Jesus have also gained some publicity, some of which include erotic imagery.

Gay Pride JesusI agree that eroticism should be used to depict a gay or lesbian Jesus. After all, how else does one portray a gay or lesbian Jesus, but by showing that Jesus feels erotic attraction for someone of the same sex? And to show two gay or lesbian Jesus’s kissing, as some of the pride floats did, sends the message that Jesus is found in that love, in the giving and receiving of love between two people.

It also behooves us to examine what about pictures or portrayals of a homoerotic Jesus makes us assume offense was intended, or consider them “extreme”? What is offensive about sexuality, such that we should characterize a sexual Jesus as offensive? Is sexuality or eroticism shameful or offensive in some way? What is offensive about homoeroticism, that it cannot be considered utterly sacred, holy, and divine? I am seeing these Pride floats as living artwork, and to me, a piece of artwork that depicted Jesus as homoerotic would truly inspire and move me. I’m not saying there’s no way they were intended to be extreme or to offend or insult Christianity – but why would we leap to that conclusion, or why would we not instead embrace these images and define them in this alternative beautiful way?

Honestly, if some of these Pride floats WERE trying to be offensive, I can’t help but be kind of glad about that, too, weird as that sounds. The Christianity they denounce is that part of the church that offends me, too. They denounce the diseased, frightened, oppressive parts of the church that have wounded and killed them – that is their target. Sure, we share symbols with that part of the church. But I’d feel the same way about a Pakistani family who lost their children to an American drone, who then desecrates the American Flag: good for them, for standing up to an oppressive, violent force in their lives. It’s a symbol, and while I use that symbol to represent myself sometimes, their statement does not actually target me or my engagement with that symbol. It targets something I, myself, also reject and denounce.

Moreover, as Christians, our response to these floats should always take into account the incredibly deep wounds the Church has inflicted on the LGBTQ community. If we are asking, “Do these photos offend me?” we are asking the wrong question. The right questions are, “What do these depictions represent to the LGBTQ community? What can the Church learn from these people about who we have been, who we want to be, and how we can become more faithful? How can we enter into conversation with them so that we can learn and grow together? How can we be a force of healing for this community? How can we better celebrate, embrace, and honor homoeroticism and LGBTQ persons as divine, holy, sacred, and beautiful gifts?”

The Church has truly, spectacularly failed on the issue of human sexuality – it has treated sexuality as a shameful, fearful, oppressive taboo to be repressed and denounced. The Church’s diseased, sinful treatment of sexuality has contributed to incredible sexism, heterosexism, and violence. If it is to remain relevant to humanity, the Church MUST produce a powerful, compelling, liberative, salvific, healing, intelligent approach to human sexuality, one which celebrates homoeroticism as a natural part of life, and embraces human sexuality as divine and beautiful.

 

Trelawney Grenfell-Muir is an adjunct professor in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance with a specialization in Cross-Cultural Conflict at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She holds an M.Div. from the Boston University School of Theology with a concentration in Religion and Conflict, and a Ph.D. in Conflict Studies and Religion with the University Professors Program at Boston University. She was a fellow at the Institute of Culture, Religion, and World Affairs and at the Earhart Foundation. Grenfell-Muir has conducted field research in situations of ongoing conflict in Syria, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland. Her dissertation explores the methodology, constraints, and effectiveness of clergy peacebuilders in Northern Ireland. She has been an invited speaker in community settings and at MIT, Boston University, Tufts, and Boston College on topics of gender violence, economic injustice, and religious or ethnic conflicts and has also moderated panels on genetic engineering, cloning, and other bioethics issues.

Advertisements


Categories: Activism, Christianity, Eroticism, Jesus, LGBTQ

Tags: , , , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. I’m sorry, but those people look like they’re participating in a boycott of the Catholic Church, which worships the Man/God, Jesus. Bringing gender confusion into the life of Jesus is a lie. How could God Incarnate be confused about gender; He created two and only two genders. We know this from the Bible, which tells about the Great Flood that destroyed humankind because people’s thoughts were always evil continually. Even the children were destroyed. They were being taught lies from their mothers and fathers. Lies that presumably had to do with reproduction because of how the rest of the story goes about the ark that carried righteous Noah and his family away from the flood that God told him would come and destroy the world’s evil people.

    When Noah brought the animals into the ark, he brought a male and a female of each kind. Then, forty days later, the ark settled on Mount Ararat and the rainbow came out, signifying that God would never again punish mankind with a flood. God didn’t direct Noah to take two males or two females of each species, He directed him to take a male and a female of each animal.

    Little children learn about gender differences when their parents teach them about the ark and the Great Flood. To reach the conclusion that God was mistaken about gender, you apparently must have a handful of degrees from universities in courses of study that are way off track about the way God teaches things. Somewhere along the line, there must have been some people who crept in and stole the common sense way of teaching from the Bible and replaced that way with a way that doesn’t really teach according to basic facts. It may have been people who were trying to be nice to gender-confused individuals, I don’t really know. But God was directly involved in carrying out the destruction of humankind except for a few, and that is one part of the Bible that should be closely looked at for clues as to which way humanity should proceed on gender issues, one would hope and pray.

    It would take someone of great moral strength and personal courage to assert that the modern version of the ark , the animals in pairs, and the rainbow is being misunderstood, badly misunderstood. It would take, ironically, a modern-day Noah type of person to buck that trend today. But, who knows what blessings are in store for that person, that person’s family, and all of humanity for that one person’s witness to God’s Eternal Plan?

    Like

    • Oh my what a vengeful God you worship. I hold to the view that the divinity we worship must be worthy of our worship. In other words, if we don’t condone parents who kill their children to teach a lesson, we should not condone a God who does the same thing. Why not accept that some parts of sacred texts “got it wrong’?

      Like

    • Thank you for your reply. I do realize that your way of viewing religion, scripture, and gender, is common among a certain subset of people. It is far from the only perspective, and it leads to much oppression and suffering. LGBT youth suicides are horribly high, because of that kind of perspective. I do hope you can find tolerance for gentler perspectives, even if you don’t agree with them yourself.

      Like

    • But… How could Noah only have two red deer, when they have three genders? White-throated sparrows have four genders. Side-blotched lizards have five genders! So, two made it on the boat and the rest swam?

      If only (heterosexual) men can image Christ, then he only saves men, and the whole theological structure falls apart. If women can’t see themselves in Christ and can’t see Christ in themselves, then the whole premise of Christianity is a lie. Fortunately, it isn’t so. God isn’t the one confused about gender!

      God created men AND women, not merely men OR women. She also created intersex, transgendered, and homosexual people… She created the whole spectrum of humanity, with love. She sent Her son to teach us more about love when we grew distant from Her. So if you’re uncomfortable with Her wonderous children, don’t point the finger at God. Don’t outsource your disdain. Examine your heart before you tangle with the Bible.

      Like

  2. Love your post! Even though–the idea that there is a single savior of humanity means nothing to me personally. For me, Jesus is one among the many who have challenged the status quo and moved the people of their times towards a vision of a better world. I see no need to make him female, or gay, or Asian, or Black or Northern European. (Though I understand that those who see him as the one and only Savior would feel drawn to do so.) I am happy to let him be a Jewish male of his own times, who surely had his limitations as well as his strengths.

    Like

    • Thank you, Carol! I love your thoughts (as usual). I have a symbolic relationship with my faith. To me, Jesus is a symbol of certain truths about the divine: the immanence of the divine, the importance of courageous and self-sacrificial advocacy, the compassion and inclusiveness of God/ess, etc. I don’t know whether anyone named Jesus ever existed in ancient Palestine/Israel, or if he did, whether he said or did any of the things recorded in the scriptures. I don’t mind one way or the other. My own Christianity doesn’t depend on it. I find that living with a certain set of Christian symbols brings wellness within and around me. I use many symbols from secular and other spiritual or religious sources as well. Symbols are true if they are salvific, if they create wellness. So since I find symbolic, mythological truth to be more important than historicity in terms of my devotional relationship with Jesus and/or Sophia-Christ. Historicity is fascinating to me in my scholarly relationship with scriptures, though. Those two relationships aren’t rigidly separate, but they are distinct.

      Like

      • This so perfectly captures my own relationship with Christianity that I can hardly stand it! Myth and symbol are where the potency lies, for sure.

        Like

  3. One of the most powerful and moving teachings of Christianity (as I understand it) is that we all participate in Christ’s incarnation. We are to see and serve Christ in one another. He was a man of his place and time who has always been translated into other times, places, and cultures. Welcome, LBGTQQI Jesus.

    Like

    • Elizabeth, I really like what you say here – and you have me thinking now, about how Christmas symbols can use your idea of welcoming a queer Jesus. I see great potential for a new Christmas carol… :)

      Like

  4. Trewlaney,

    This is a great post, the second I’ve read by you in 2 days! Welcome to FAR. I look forward to more of your wisdom.

    For me your most important statement is your last: “If it is to remain relevant to humanity, the Church MUST produce a powerful, compelling, liberative, salvific, healing, intelligent approach to human sexuality, one which celebrates homoeroticism as a natural part of life, and embraces human sexuality as divine and beautiful.” I agree with you completely. In fact, the lack of such an approach was the reason I left Christianity in the 1960s. If we look at the history of this religion, we already have a problem with sexuality at the outset, i.e. within Judaism. The monotheistic god of Judaism is supposedly asexual, despite his overwhelmingly masculine attributes. This not only denies women access to a divine image of their own, but also places a question mark over the significance of sexuality in general. As Christianity developed out of Judaism, this asexual god becomes an all-male trinity, continuing the trend. But in order to expand in Europe, a feminine image was necessary to the people there who had worshipped goddess(es). The Virgin Mary takes over that role, but as a completely asexual woman. And then there’s Augustine, who declares that our sin is original, originating in the sex act itself. So to ask your question again, “What is offensive about sexuality, such that we should characterize a sexual Jesus as offensive? Is sexuality or eroticism shameful or offensive in some way?” Within Christian history, the answer until very recently has been a resounding “Yes.”

    Like

    • Thank you, Nancy – what a wonderful comment. I agree – it always troubles me when people say “God isn’t male or female: he’s spirit.” And yes, of course Mary must be asexual, because sexual women are terrifying to patriarchy. I do hope we can come up with a good approach to sexuality – one that moves beyond the simple rebelliousness of “anything goes, it’s all great” to find a truly life-giving model, one which encapsulates how we can give and receive Divine Love through the blessings of our incarnation.

      Like

  5. I applaud this courageous and thoughtful piece. What is central for me are these lines: As Christians, our response to these floats should always take into account the incredibly deep wounds the Church has inflicted on the LGBTQ community. If we are asking, “Do these photos offend me?” we are asking the wrong question. The right questions are, “What do these depictions represent to the LGBTQ community? What can the Church learn from these people about who we have been, who we want to be, and how we can become more faithful? How can we enter into conversation with them so that we can learn and grow together? How can we be a force of healing for this community? How can we better celebrate, embrace, and honor homoeroticism and LGBTQ persons as divine, holy, sacred, and beautiful gifts?”

    These aren’t easy topics to bring up in a church I’ve stayed in so I can move people from within. But my two gay sibs – who had to leave after struggling for a long time to find their place, and there clearly was no place for them – would just love every word. Thanks so much.

    Like

    • Thank you so much, friend, I am glad to think that your siblings might find something helpful here. It is courageous of YOU to stay and try to move your church from within, and courageous of your siblings to leave. I do hope that they, and you, can find all the support and affirmation you need to nourish you in your journey. Peace and blessings!

      Like

  6. What a wonderful post! Here in West Hollywood we have our own Jesus too that frequents all our Pride events – http://isawjesus.tumblr.com/

    Like

  7. Gay Jesus and queer Christ images connect me with the presence of God in powerful ways… as you probably know because you included links to the Advocate articles on two of my books on the subject (“Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” and “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision”)

    The collage of four queer Christ images seems to have been compiled as a right-wing attack. They don’t give credits telling the sources, but I can tell you for sure that the photo on the upper right was taken in August 2011 at Burning Man in the Nevada desert. It shows the actor who played in “Corpus Christi” kissing Benjamin Rexroad, who directed that production of the play. I know this because in 2012 I went to a lot of trouble to get permission from Benjamin to run that photo on my blog, the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT Spirituality and the Arts. You can see it at this link:
    http://jesusinlove.blogspot.com/2012/03/gay-jesus-kiss-corpus-christi-play.html

    The people who compiled and attacked this image are disrespecting copyright law as well as disrespecting God’s LGBT children.

    Everyone who likes LGBTQ images of Jesus is invited to visit the Jesus in Love Blog, where I continue to post the newest and best ones available.

    Like

    • Thank you so much for commenting, and especially for the information about the photos. I looked and looked, but I somehow missed that info. I’m glad queer Jesus is at Burning Man, too! IMO, the more queer Jesus’s the better. It will be radical… until it isn’t. I love your site– blessings on all your good works!

      Like

  8. Trewlaney,

    Thank you for writing this beautiful post. I think depictions of a homerotic Jesus are great, because all Christians should be able to see themselves in Christ! You are so correct that the church needs to embrace the LGBTQQI community and learn from that community. My denomination, United Church of Christ, does embrace the LGBTQQI community and I am glad we do. Not only is it the right thing to do, but I believe we straights are also enriched by the LGBTQQI community. My little church has a gay pastor who is a feminist and he has opened our eyes and hearts and been a fabulous, and Christ-like minister.

    Like

    • Dear Linda – I am so glad that you have a wonderful minister and faith community. What a blessing! I do agree – we non-queer folks NEED queer voices at the table, to teach us unique truths about God/ess, religion, faith, life, love, etc. Blessings on you and your church!

      Like

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: