Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Artist turns anti-gay DVD into inclusive art



A Minnesota artist is transforming an archbishop’s anti-gay DVDs into art with an inclusive message.

Artist Lucinda Naylor has come up with a creative way to counteract 400,000 anti-gay DVDs that are being mailed to Catholic households across Minnesota this week by Archbishop John Nienstedt.

“Give me your DVDs and I’ll recycle them into art: transforming a message of fear into hope,” she says on the “DVD to Art” Facebook group that she started.

Because of the protest, Naylor was fired on Sunday from her post as artist in residence at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, losing about a third of her income. She had held the position for 15 years.

Naylor is asking everyone who receives the DVD to give it to her for an art project. She plans to use the DVDs to build a large sculpture with a positive theme using fire or water as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

Naylor got the idea for the project last week when she read the news about the pre-election mass mailing. The DVDs have a 14-minute video message urging Catholics to seek a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. They were produced by the Knights of Columbus with mailing costs paid by a secret donor.

In news reports, Naylor said she was prompted to act by the experience of her friends who are mothers of gay children. They wrote to Nienstadt earlier this year begging him to soften his rhetoric against same-sex marriage. All they got in return was a form letter questioning their salvation.

Volunteers are helping Naylor collect the DVDs in front of churches and at drop boxes at supportive businesses.

“I have a button that says ‘art changes everything,’ Let’s use the Archbishop’s DVD to change the message from one of division and fear into a piece of art about inclusion and the joyful Spirit that moves among us,” Naylor says.

For more info, click these links to visit:

DVD to Art Facebook Group

DVD to Art Blog

Video news report

Don’t forget to check out her beautiful art at LucindaNaylor.com. Naylor has done hundreds of Christian images in a variety of media.

(Special thanks to Terence Weldon of the Queering the Church Blog for giving me the news tip about DVD to Art.)


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Friday, September 24, 2010

Gay Jesus vision appears in new mystery novel

Dirk Vanden

A gay Jesus vision is at the heart of the new gay mystery novel “All of Me” by Dirk Vanden.

Vanden is a multitalented visionary and gay elder, a “dirty book” author and an artist since before Stonewall. He envisioned a gay Jesus in 1970, only one year after the Stonewall Rebellion sparked the modern LGBT liberation movement.
Take Away the Cross

Now 77 and living in California, Vanden had a life-changing vision that Jesus is gay and gays are Jesus. A fictionalized version appears in his new book and is excerpted later in this post.

Vanden was raised Mormon and struggled for years to accept his homosexuality. As he explains on his website DirkVanden.net:

“For many years I felt betrayed and deserted by Jesus. I had truly believed that He was my Savior and pledged my young life to Him -- and ended up irreversibly homosexual! I didn’t know why for years. I didn’t really believe I was born Queer. After many years of soul-searching -- and a couple of very exciting, beneficial Acid Trips -- I finally realized that I had followed the Jesus Path out of the Church and into Homosexuality. When that idea finally stopped being blasphemous, it started making sense.”

Vanden comes from an era when gay books had to be porn to get published. He has been called “a pioneer of gay erotica.” Seven of his erotic novels were published to high critical acclaim in 1969-73, when homosexuality was illegal and gay literature was banned. Some of his original books are available at DirkVanden.com.

The gay Jesus vision changed Vanden’s life and gave him a new sense of purpose. He did two paintings based on his vision, “Take Away the Cross” and “Jumping Jesus.” They appeared here previously in a post titled “Gay Artist Does Inspiring Jesus Art.”

Vanden describes a fictionalized version of his vision in “All of Me” (published by RoseDog Books). The scene occurs in a gay bathhouse in San Francisco on Christmas Eve about 40 years ago.

********

I turned and looked into a room which seemed to be behind a large window behind the wash basins, where a long-haired, bearded naked man stood looking back at me.

Jumping Jesus
There was no doubt in my mind who it was; I recognized him instantly, easily! It was someone I had once adored, but had abandoned, many years ago because it seemed he had abandoned me! I had seen that face, that beard and long hair, in a thousand religious illustrations: It was Jesus! The Come-Unto-Me Jesus – Jesus knocking on your door – Jesus and the little lamb – even the glow-in-the-dark plaster Jesus who stood guard in my grandmother’s bedroom.

But then, the door opened and the “window” wavered, and I realized I was looking at my own reflection in a mirror.

Jesus grinned and winked at me, and God sang “See who you are!”

The conclusion was obvious: I was Jesus!

The idea should have terrified me, but instead, something in my brain went click-click-click and I thought “Oh! All right. Of course! Why didn’t I see it before?” Suddenly it all made perfect sense!

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild!

Then, through the open doorway, another long-haired, bearded, naked man came in. Obviously he, too, was Jesus! He smiled beatifically and nodded – a little almost-Oriental bow – and went into the showers. As I stepped out into the theatrically-lit, purple-carpeted, tinsel-draped corridor, a dozen other naked and near-naked Jesuses – black ones, brown ones, tan-and-pink ones – were moving to the music like some kind of bizarre avant-garde ballet! In the background music, singers were pretending to be musical instruments, making a dance-tune out of “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful!” I joined the parade and went up to my room with a happiness welling up inside me, ready to explode.

There was something divinely ironic about learning all this on Christmas Eve, in the House of David. Homosexuality was the “Key of David!” Half of our Gay institutions were named after the King of the Jews who said of Jonathan, when he died: “Greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” The other half were named “Lambda.” We were the “Lambs who had gone astray!” The “first fruits of the Lamb of God!” Revelations flowed through my head like a river! We were the “last” who would soon be “first!” We were those “redeemed from the earth, who sang, as it were, a new song!” We were the “Eunuchs” who had made ourselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. We were the seeds the Sower had sown, long, long ago, finally blossoming! In us were all the prophesies fulfilled! Jesus had returned, not as one man, but as millions of lovers of men.

Look out, world, here come the meek!

…That event is why I came to write my books – why I did everything I did after that. That one event in my life totally changed my life. Or, rather, it illuminated my life. It told me why I was who I was. Somehow, improbably, I was a Jesus-clone. That would slowly start to make more and more sense as the years went by. I had unknowingly accepted and incorporated a kindof secret code – a computer-program — hidden in the Biblical stories of Jesus. As a child, in Sunday School, I had sung “I’ll be a sunbeam for Jesus!” Unlike all the other kids, I had meant it. I had “believed” it. That made it my operating system. The others went on to make babies, like good Mormons. I went on to be a Sunbeam. If you open a sunbeam, it turns into a rainbow! My “vision” changed my attitude toward myself – toward all Gay people. I allowed myself to stop feeling guilty and sorry for myself for being Queer. I stopped condemning others for being weak and imperfect. Instead of a perversion, it became a Divine Commandment – and I finally started to enjoy it!

It’s okay to forgive yourself for loving men. Jesus told you to!

Forgiving yourself is like spiritual masturbation!

I finally understood that I was who I am because of what I’d been taught to elieve. My brain had been programmed, like a computer, to be “Like Jesus.” “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” “Love each other.” “Judge not.” I wasn’t the bad guy everyone, including myself, wanted to believe. I was actually one of the good guys. Only nobody knew it yet.

The next day I decided that, somehow, I had been selected by some higher power – God or Fate or Karma – to tell the Gay world – or maybe the whole world – the story I’ve just told here – but after I’d come down, back to earth, had gone home and slept for twenty hours into Boxing Day, I discovered that my “task” was not going to be easy to accomplish.

********

This vision is set is set in the middle “All of Me.” The novel uses Vanden’s publishing experiences as the basis for a gay murder mystery and romance. Rick, the main character, is a California real estate broker. He gets a death threat accusing him of being “an abomination in the sight of God” for writing “dirty books.” He searches for clues with He searches for clues with David, his new, younger friend, who has also been threatened by the same murderer. Their romance starts to blossom, dwindles, then rekindles as they almost die for their love.

Warning: “All of Me” contains coarse language that some may find offensive.

Vanden’s friends all scoffed at his gay Jesus vision when he told them about it 40 years ago. Now he is delighted to see that more people have come to see Jesus his way.

“I’ve believed in a Gay Messiah for 40 years. I’m watching it come together right now,” Vanden says. “It is definitely being shouted from the rooftops: JESUS IS GAY. Not WAS but IS! Jesus is in love! With you! With me! With ALL of Us!”

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Related link:
Remembering Dirk Vanden (Lambda Literary Review)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The queer cost of becoming a saint: John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman, left, and Ambrose St. John

John Henry Newman, who is often considered a gay saint, was beatified Sunday (Sept. 19) by the Pope. But Papal recognition comes with a queer cost.

The Catholic Church is trying to downplay Newman’s loving relationship with priest Ambrose St. John. The Pope even stooped so low as to disturb the grave that the two men share in an unsuccessful effort to separate them. (They’re also covering up Newman’s criticism of Papal infallibility.)

Even the mainstream media is buzzing with headlines such as “Will the Pope canonize a gay saint?

Newman is Britain’s most famous 19th-century convert to Catholicism. He began as an Anglican priest and had to give up his post as an Oxford professor due to his conversion. Eventually he rose to the rank of Cardinal. Because Newman was an excellent scholar, Catholic centers on U.S. college campuses are named after him. Newman tells his own story in his acclaimed spiritual autobiography, "Apologia Pro Vita Sua." With Newman in the news, it’s important to remember why many honor him as a gay saint.

He spent most of his life with his closest friend Ambrose St. John. After St. John died in 1875, Newman wrote, “I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or a wife’s, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or anyone’s sorrow greater, than mine.”

Here is a short bio of Newman written by Terence Weldon. It appeared first at his ever-informative blog “Queer Saints and Martyrs (and Others).”

Newman deserves particular attention from LGBT Catholics for two reasons:
As a man, he had a well known lifelong deep commitment to his friend, Ambrose St. John. This relationship was so intense that he particularly desired to be buried alongside his friend. This became controversial among gay activists when, as part of the beatification process, the Vatican insisted on removing the remains of Newman, but not those of his friend, to the Birmingham Oratory. In the event, the activists lost the battle, but gained smug satisfaction when the grave was found to contain no human remains. (Some advanced this a further ‘miracle’ in support of his cause).

“An excavation of the Cardinal’s grave at the Oratory House in Rednal near Birmingham, last year revealed no human remains. It is believed his body, which was buried in a wooden coffin, had completely decomposed.

Newman was buried alongside his close friend – who some presume to have been his gay lover – Ambrose St John. But the Vatican wanted his remains to be moved to the Birmingham Oratory, in preparation for his beatification.” [The Independent]

Many people object to the description of Newman as ‘gay’ on the grounds that there is no evidence that the deep friendship with St John took sexual expression. This is irrelevant: all priests are under a vow of celibacy. Many, whether gay or straight, keep their vow, some do not. The adherence or otherwise to the vow does not affect or determine their underlying orientation. (We do not claim that celibate priests are thereby not heterosexual).

As a theologian, Cardinal Newman played an important role in developing the modern formulation of the primacy of conscience, which is of fundamental importance to LGBT Catholics who reject in good conscience the standard teaching on sexuality – or the high proportion of heterosexual couples who reject “Humanae Vitae”.

The venerable, soon to be Blessed, John Henry has a strong claim to be regarded as a patron saint of English gay Catholics.


Thank you, Terry, for sharing your thoughts on John Henry Newman here. And thanks to Michael at the Hell’s Teeth Blog for alerting me to the article, “Vatican orders Cardinal Newman to be parted from priest friend in shared grave” in telegraph.co.uk.

I conclude this post with more of Newman’s own words, as quoted in that article: “I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Father Ambrose St. John’s grave - and I give this as my last, my imperative will,” he wrote, later adding: “This I confirm and insist on.”

With beatification, Newman is now only one step away from official sainthood. He is already a saint in the hearts of many, including the LGBT people who are inspired by his life and love. Let’s keep his full truth alive.

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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hildegard of Bingen: Mystic who loved women


Hildegard of Bingen was a medieval German nun, mystic, poet, artist, composer, healer and scientist. She founded several monasteries, fought for women in the church and wrote with passion about the Virgin Mary. Some say she was a lesbian because of her strong emotional attachment to women, especially her personal assistant Richardis von Stade. Hildegard was declared a doctor of the church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2013. Her feast day is Sept. 17 (today).

For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Hildegard of Bingen and Richardis: Medieval mystic and the woman she loved


The title “Doctor of the Church” is a rare honor, bestowed upon only a few saints whose writings have universal value to the church. Their “eminent learning” and “great sanctity” must be affirmed by the Pope. Currently the Roman Catholic Church has only 33 doctors, including three women.

The friendship -- or love story -- between Hildegard and Richardis is included in a 2009 film from German feminist director Margarethe von Trotta called Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen. Von Trotta is one of the world’s most important feminist filmmakers and a leader of independent German cinema. Von Trotta allows Hildegard to speak for herself by using a script based on Hildegard’s own writings and a soundtrack filled with Hildegard’s music. Watch a trailer at the end of this post.

Richardis von Stade (center, played by Hannah Herzsprung) and Hildegard (left, Barbara Sukowa) in the biopic “Vision” (from zeitgeistfilms.com)

Hildegard also inspired a play by lesbian feminist playwright Carolyn Gage. In the play “Artemisia and Hildegard,” Gage has two of history’s great women artists debate their contrasting survival strategies: Gentileschi battled to achieve in the male-dominated art world while Hildegard created women-only community to support her art by founding a nunnery.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), the tenth child of a noble family, was offered to the church as a “tithe” when she was very young. She was raised from the age of 8 in the hermitage that later became her Benedictine abbey. She founded two other convents where women performed her music and developed their artistic, intellectual and spiritual gifts. She spent almost all of her life in the company of women.

“Hildegard: The Vision” by Tricia Danby

She had visions throughout her life, starting at age 3 when she says that she first saw “the Shade of the Living Light.” She hesitated to tell others about her visions, sharing them only with her teacher Jutta.

When she was 42, Hildegard had a vision in which God instructed her to record her spiritual experiences. Still hesitant, she became physically ill before she was persuaded to begin her first visionary work, the Scivias (Know the Ways of God).

"St. Hildegard of Bingen" by Plamen Petrov

Hildegard was nursed in her illness and encouraged in her writing by Richardis von Stade, a younger woman who was her personal assistant, soul mate and special favorite. Whether or not they were physically intimate, Hildegard’s actions suggest that she was a lesbian in the sense that her primary love interest was in women.

In 1151, Hildegard completed the Scivias and trouble arose between her and her beloved Richardis. An archbishop, the brother of Richardis, arranged for his sister to become abbess of a distant convent. Hildegard urged Richardis to stay, and even asked the Pope to stop the move. But Richardis left anyway, over Hildegard’s objections.

Hildegard wrote intense letters begging Richardis to return: “I loved the nobility of your conduct, your wisdom and your chastity, your soul and the whole of your life, so much that many said: What are you doing?”

Richardis died suddenly in October 1151, when she was only about 28 years old. On her deathbed, she tearfully expressed her longing for Hildegard and her intention to return.

“The Universe”
by Hildegard of Bingen

Wikimedia Commons
Hildegard’s grief apparently fueled further artistic creation. Many believe that Richardis was the inspiration for Ordo Virtutum (“Play of Virtues”}, a musical morality play about a soul who is tempted away by the devil and then repents. According to Wikipedia, “It is the earliest morality play by more than a century, and the only Medieval musical drama to survive with an attribution for both the text and the music.”

In an era when few women wrote, Hildegard went on to create two more major visionary works, a collection of songs, and several scientific treatises. She was especially interested in women’s health. Her medical writings even include what may be the first description of a female orgasm.

“Hildegard of Bingen: Vision of Music” by Tricia Danby

As a church leader, Hildegard had to support its policy against homosexual behavior. But she often wrote about the divine feminine and the dignity of women, presenting sexuality in a generally positive way. She wrote, “Creation looks on its Creator like the beloved looks on the lover.” Many readers today delight in her erotic descriptions of marriage as a metaphor for the union of a soul with God. Hildegard writes:

The soul is kissed by God in its innermost regions.
With interior yearning, grace and blessing are bestowed.
It is a yearning to take on God's gentle yoke,
It is a yearning to give one's self to God's Way.

In the Symphonia, a collection of liturgical songs to Mary, Hildegard writes with ecstatic passion of her love and devotion to the Virgin Mary. She extols Mary as “greenest twig” and sings the praises of her womb, which “illuminated all creatures.”

Her songs to Mary are available for listening in the following video and on the Sequentia recording, “Hildegard von Bingen: Canticles of Ecstasy.” Her music is still just as beautiful today.

Hildegard died on Sept. 17, 1179 at age 81. The sisters at her convent said they saw two streams of colorful lights cross in the sky above her room. She became a saint by popular acclamation.

The icon of Hildegard and Richardis at the top of this post was painted by Colorado artist Lewis Williams of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO). He studied with master iconographer Robert Lentz and has made social justice a theme of his icons. This post also features images of Hildegard by artists Tricia Danby and Plamen Petrov.

Hildegard appears as a young woman in new portraits by Tricia Danby, a spiritual artist based in Germany and a cleric in the Old Catholic Apostolic Church. Her images reveal a sensuous side to Hildegard’s rapturous connection with God.

Stained-glass artist Plamen Petrov of Chicago is known for his window showing the male paired saints Sergius and Bacchus at St. Martha Church in Morton Grove, Illinois. His Hildegard window shows her illuminated with beautiful aquamarine colors.

“Hildegard von Bingen” by Tobias Haller

Hildegard was sketched in blue with intense blue eyes by Tobias Haller, an iconographer, author, composer, and vicar of Saint James Episcopal Church in the Bronx. He is the author of “Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality.” Haller enjoys expanding the diversity of icons available by creating icons of LGBTQ people and other progressive holy figures as well as traditional saints. He and his spouse were united in a church wedding more than 30 years ago and a civil ceremony after same-sex marriage became legal in New York.

“Saint Hildegard of Bingen” by Robert Lentz

Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar known for his innovative and LGBT-positive icons, portrays Hildegard with a wild rose. She used to dip a rose in the Rhine River and use it to sprinkle water on people as a blessing when she traveled between monasteries. Lentz is stationed at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Maryland.

LGBT-affirming creation theologian Matthew Fox has written two books on the life and work of Hildegard. The newest is Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century, which presents her as an "eco-warrior" who meets such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Howard Thurman, Dorothee Soelle and Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Fox also wrote Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen.

Hildegard was the subject of a major sermon by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori when the House of Bishops met in Taiwan on Sept. 17, 2014. “Hildegard speaks scientifically and theologically of divine creativity as viriditas, reflecting both greenness and truth… Hildegard’s vision motivates all healers of creation who understand the green web of connection that ties creation together in Wisdom’s body,” she said. (Thanks to Ann Fontaine at Episcopal Café for the news tip.)





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Related links:

Pope sets date to declare two new church doctors (Catholic News Agency)

Ritual to Honor Hildegard of Bingen by Diann L. Neu (WATER)

To read this post in Spanish / en español, go to Santos Queer:
Hildegarda de Bingen y Richardis: Una mística que amaba a otra mujer

To read this post in Italian / in Italiano, go to gionata.org:
La forza della visione. La vita della mistica Ildegarda di Bingen
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Top image credit: “St. Hildegard of Bingen and Her Assistant Richardis” by Lewis Williams, TrinityStores.com

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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.

The Hildegard icons are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at TrinityStores.com





Wednesday, September 15, 2010

GLBT group lists books on spirituality and religion

An updated list of religion and spirituality books and DVDs for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals has been posted by the American Library Association.

The comprehensive list was prepared by the ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table. Check it out at:

http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/rts/glbtrt/popularresources/religion3.cfm

I’m proud to say that I’m included on the new ALA list. My book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” is listed under “Alternative Viewpoints and Journeys.”

Other categories include ceremonies, history, Bible interpretation, pastoral care and devotional literature. It covers Christianity (both Protestant and Roman Catholic) as well as Jewish and Eastern traditions. This is a valuable resource for anyone interested in LGBT faith, religion and spirituality.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gay saints of 9/11: Mychal Judge and Mark Bingham

“Father Mychal Judge” by Brother Robert Lentz, trinitystores.com

Ten years ago Father Mychal Judge, chaplain to New York firefighters and unofficial “gay saint,” died helping others in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

To honor the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we present an excerpt from a new spirituality book, “Mychal's Prayer: Praying with Father Mychal Judge” by Salvatore Sapienza, a former monk who worked with Father Mychal to form St. Francis AIDS Ministry in New York City. Sapienza is also the author of Seventy Times Seven: A Novel, a novel about a young Catholic brother torn between his sexuality and his spirituality as an out and proud gay man.

His book “Mychal’s Prayer” mixes prayers with stories from the chaplain’s life. It begins with Father Mychal’s own words, a text that has come to be known simply as “Mychal’s Prayer”:

Lord, take me where You want me to go;
Let me meet who You want me to meet;
Tell me what You want me to say; and
Keep me out of your way.

An excerpt from “Mychal’s Prayer”

Wherever he was, Father Mychal Judge was usually the center of attention. Part of the reason for this was purely physical. Mychal was tall and handsome and was almost always wearing his Franciscan habit. Even in a city like New York, where anything goes, the sight of a man in a monk’s robe and sandals riding the subway was unusual and garnered him stares.

At the time I had entered religious life, the custom of wearing a religious habit had gone by the wayside. Though some nuns, brothers and priests were still walking the streets in their religious garb, most were now wearing secular clothing for most of the day.

I asked Mychal once why he still wore the brown monk’s robes. “People see a policeman in uniform and know to go to him for help, right?” he said. “I want people to see me on the street and know they can come to me for spiritual help.”

In that regard, I think Mychal liked being seen. Friars who lived and worked with him have commented that he loved to have his picture taken, especially when he first donned his fire chaplain’s uniform for a professional photographer. He loved the camera, and the camera loved him.

Mychal’s work often brought him the spotlight, as well. Befriending a celebrated police officer paralyzed in the line of duty, comforting relatives of those killed in a major airline disaster, or marching openly with the first gay group allowed in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade, Mychal was often front and center.

Not everyone would be comfortable in this position, and maybe that’s why Mychal gravitated towards such high profile situations. While others might shy away from newsworthy media events, for Mychal this was one way he could use his gifts to be the public face of God.

The last line of Mychal’s prayer (“and keep me out of your way”) was most likely his reminder to self to keep his ego in check, to make sure that the attention he was receiving was not for his benefit, but for the bigger picture.

When religious figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa or the Dali Lama have attended public events, their presence has often helped shine the spotlight on the plight of those who are often ignored by the media and the society at large. I think Mychal’s motivations were in the same vein.

It should come as no surprise then that God called Mychal to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, for the photograph of Mychal’s body being carried from the site remains, for many of us, the most ingrained image in our memories of that day.

Ten years later, the names and faces of the terrorists have faded away for many of us, but Mychal’s image remains. His selfless act that day continues to shine the light of God’s presence in the face of despair.

Reflection on the Gay Saint of 9/11

A gay priest is considered a saint by many since his heroic death in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Father Mychal Judge (1933-2001), chaplain to New York City firefighters, was killed while praying and administering sacraments at the World Trade Center. He was the first recorded victim of 9/11. Many people consider him a saint.

He responded quickly when extremists flew hijacked planes into the twin towers. He rushed with firefighters into the north tower right after the first plane hit. Refusing to be evacuated, he prayed and administered sacraments as debris crashed outside. He saw dozens of bodies hit the plaza outside as people jumped to their deaths. His final prayer, repeated over and over, was “Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”

While he was praying, Father Mychal was struck and killed in a storm of flying steel and concrete that exploded when the south tower collapsed. He was the first officially recorded fatality of the 9/11 attack. Father Mychal was designated as Victim 0001 because his was the first body recovered at the scene. More than 2,500 people from many nationalities and walks of life were killed. Thousands more escaped the buildings safely.

After Father Mychal’s death, some of his friends revealed that he considered himself a gay man. He had a homosexual orientation, but by all accounts he remained faithful to his vow of celibacy as a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan order.

The charismatic, elderly priest was a long-term member of Dignity, the oldest and largest national lay movement of LGBT Catholics and their allies. Father Mychal voiced disagreement with the Vatican’s condemnation of homosexuality, and found ways to welcome Dignity’s AIDS ministry despite a ban by church leaders. He defied a church boycott of the first gay-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens, showing up in his habit and granting news media interviews.

Many people, both inside and outside the LGBT community, call Father Mychal a saint. He has not been canonized yet by his own Roman Catholic Church, but some feel that he has already become a saint by popular acclamation, and the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America did declare officially declare him a saint.

The icon at the top of this post was painted by Brother Robert Lentz, is a Franciscan friar known for his innovative and LGBT-positive icons. He is stationed at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Maryland.

An icon of Father Mychal was also done by Father William Hart McNichols. He shows Father Mychal with St. Francis of Assisi as the World Trade Center burns behind them. In the text accompanying the icon, Father McNichols describes Father Mychal as a Passion Bearer who “takes on the on-coming violence rather than returning it… choosing solidarity with the unprotected.”

“Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge and St. Francis of Assisi”
By Father William Hart McNichols

McNichols is a Roman Catholic priest based in New Mexico. He has a deep connection to New York City because he worked at an AIDS hospice there in the 1980s. Both McNichols and Lentz have faced controversy for painting gay-positive icons. They are two of the 11 artists whose life and work are featured in “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More ” by Kittredge Cherry.

Father Mychal’s life, including his gay orientation and his support for LGBT rights, is chronicled in the film documentary Saint of 9/11 - The True Story of Father Mychal Judge.

Another artist’s portrait of Father Mychal is based on Shannon Stapleton’s famous photo of his body being carried from the World Trade Center. “Faces of Courage,” original oil painting by Marion McGrath, also incorporates a cross and the collapsed world Trade Center. It can be seen at this link:
9/11 Memorial Museum

On the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy, may these images and stories inspire people with Father Mychal’s legacy of love and service.

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Related links:
Mark Bingham: Gay hero of 9/11 died fighting hijackers

Saint Mychal Judge Blog (very complete and up-to-date!)

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Mychal Judge is the first recorded victim of 9/11 -- and also the first saint in the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series began on Sept. 11, 2009, and has grown to include more than 40 saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) and queer people and our allies. They are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

The Mychal Judge icon is available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at TrinityStores.com

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dialogue on ‘Sensational Religion’ canceled

[Update: This event has been canceled.] “Sensational Religion,” a public dialogue on visual culture and religious controversy, will be held Thursday, Sept. 30 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

It will be moderated by USC art history professor Richard Meyer, author of “Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art.”

Speakers will include Los Angeles artist Alex Donis and Sally Promey, professor of religion and visual culture at Yale.

They will discuss the queering of divine and secular imagery in contemporary art. Visual practices of devotion, sacrilege, and iconoclasm will be addressed, as will multi-sensory religious experience.

Donis is a cutting-edge artist with a “tri-cultural” identity: pop, queer, and Latino. He sparked sparked controversy by painting kisses between unlikely same-sex pairs, including “Jesus and Lord Rama,” which is on the poster for the event. It has also appeared previously on this blog and in the book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” by Kittredge Cherry.

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Room 250 of the Social Sciences Building on the USC campus. More info is available at the “Sensational Religion” Facebook page.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

What if Christ and Krishna made love?

Above: “Krishna and Christ,” artist unknown
Below right: “Jesus and Lord Rama” by Alex Donis, frumkingallery.com

What if Christ met Krishna? They are two of the greatest teachers of love that the world has ever known. Would they speak of love, even make love? We celebrate this delightful possibility today in honor of Krishna’s birthday or Janmashtami (Sept. 2 this year).

"Jesus and Lord Rama" by Alex Donis
Many have noticed the similarities between Christ and the Hindu deity Krishna, but now the two god-men are portrayed as gay lovers in the work of artistic visionaries like artist Alex Donis, whose work appears at right, and poet Brian Day. His poem “Krishna and Jesus in Algonquin Park” is reprinted in full below.

Those who value love, sexuality and interfaith dialogue may find enlightenment by imagining an erotic encounter between Jesus and Krishna.

Like Christ, Krishna is a savior who taught love. Both are believed to be divinely conceived by God and a human woman, making them human AND divine.  Jesus called himself a shepherd and Krishna herded cattle, but both healed the sick, worked miracles and forgave enemies.

One difference between the two is that Jesus is considered celibate in Christian tradition, while Krishna is a fantastic lover who is “all-attractive” to men as well as women. Legends glorify Krishna’s many amorous encounters with all kinds of admirers: female and male, milkmaids and cowboys, human and divine.

A related question is: Did Jesus visit India? Krishna’s worship dates back 3,000 years before the birth of Christ, so they could not have met in the physical world, but it is possible the Jesus did travel to India. One popular theory suggests that Jesus went to India during his “unknown years” between ages 12 and 30, the period that is not documented in the New Testament. There he learned Hindu and Buddhist wisdom that is similar to his teachings in the Bible.

Would sparks fly if these two great teachers of love did meet? Toronto teacher Brian Day writes about their ineffable intimacy in “Krishna and Jesus in Algonquin Park,” a poem from his book “The Daring of Paradise.” The book, which explores the commonalities between multiple religions in a homoerotic way, was  released by Guernica Editions in 2013. Many thanks to Brian for permission to reprint the whole poem below. Algonquin Park is a provincial park in Ontario, Canada.

Another Day poetry book, “Conjuring Jesus,” features homoerotic poems about Christ. His book “Azure” includes “The Love Between Krishna and Jesus,” a poem that begins, “They approach one another with cool flowers of language…”

In a related work, California artist Alex Donis painted a sublime interfaith kiss in “Jesus and Lord Rama.” (Krishna and Rama are both blue-skinned incarnations of Vishnu.) It is part of his “My Cathedral” series of kisses between unlikely same-sex pairs.

The Donis exhibit electrified viewers when it opened in San Francisco in 1997. Heated arguments erupted in the gallery, followed by threatening phone calls and letters, and then physical violence. Vandals threw rocks and traffic barriers through the gallery windows—not once, but twice in three weeks. They smashed two of the artworks: first Jesus and Rama, and then Che Guevara kissing Cesar Chavez. The Christ-Rama image and its harrowing story appear in my book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More. Many thanks to Alex for permission to post the controversial painting here.

Most modern scholars reject the theory that Jesus visited India, but the idea has been explored in many books, including the 19th-century volume “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ” (The Life of Saint Issa) by Nicolas Notovitch and “Jesus Lived in India: His Unknown Life Before and After the Crucifixion” by Holger Kersten. There is even a movie version, “Jesus in India,” based on the book “King of Travelers: Jesus' Lost Years in India” by Edward T. Martin.

A thoughtful analysis of the similarities of Hindu-Christian philosophies is presented in “The Gospel of John in the Light of Indian Mysticism” (Christ the Yogi) by Ravi Ravindra.

Krishna also plays a central role in another Hindu festival that is especially popular with third-gender people. The Aravan Festival, held in April-May in south India, celebrates the marriage of Krishna and the male deity Iravan, considered the patron god of transgender communities. Iravan’s dying wish was to marry, so Krishna granted his wish by switching to his female Mohini female form and wedding him.

The idea of a queer Jesus shocks and offends some traditional Christians, but he can be liberating for LGBT people and our allies. The pansexual Krishna may serve the same purpose among Hindus.

People throughout history have pictured Jesus looking like one of them: black Jesus in Africa, white Jesus in the West, and Jesus who looks Asian or Latin American in those parts of the world. It’s OK to add queer Christ to the mix because he taught love for all and embodied God’s wildly inclusive love for everyone, including sexual minorities. Gay Jesus images are needed now because conservatives are using religious rhetoric to justify discrimination against queer people.

If Jesus and Krishna met, would there be conflict or kisses? Brian Day’s new poem offers a beautiful glimpse into how they might love each other.


Krishna and Jesus
in Algonquin Park
By Brian Day

They hoist their canoe to the lichened rocks
and face the smooth light they’ve paddled across.

Shucking the weight of their pale-coloured clothes
and plunging to the knuckly cupped hand of the lake,

they meet in the green, share their scents with the water,
feel their bodies enlivened with cool liquid sensation,

and turn in the still black waters of their minds.
As they ripple the mirror between world and world,

each sights the stroking phantoms of the other’s limbs,
and touches skin as papery smooth as birch.

They climb the smoothed ladder of rocks at the shore,
their abdomens slick and quick with their breath,

and lie with their backs baked sweet with stone.
Blue and clouds tumble to creation in their eyes.

Leading each other down pine-cooled trails,
the air sultry with blueberry and warm golden grasses,

they step to the island’s needled shade,
and each scents the lake-sweet on the other’s skin.

When evening has come and their hungers are sated,
their senses warmed by the perch where they sit,

their thoughts float calm as loons on the water—
then plunge to surface, later, someplace else.

Their bodies as languid as the swaying of trees,
they listen to the applause of breeze in the aspens,

know the touch of each star as it plays on their skin,
and lie down in the circling of heavens on earth.



Reprinted with permission from the book “The Daring of Paradise,” published by Guernica Editions.) ”
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Krishna-like figures are shown in more sexually explicit homoerotic scenes by artist Attila Richard Lukacs. They can be viewed in his “Varieties of Love” series at the following link:

Diane Farris Gallery

Here are other popular images that add Buddha to the mix to depict interfaith friendship at the highest level.

“May Loving-Kindness Abound” by VisionWorks (www.changingworld.com)

“May Loving-Kindness Abound” from Changingworld.com shows figures from three religions offering blessings. Jesus holds a lotus blossom as he sits cross-legged between Krishna and Buddha.

Christ, Buddha and Krisha walk together. Artist unknown.

The above image of three religious figures is often posted online with a quote from bisexual spiritual teacher Ram Dass: “We’re all just walking each other home.”

For more info on Krishna and other Hindu deities who transcend sexual and gender norms, visit the Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association at:
http://www.galva108.org
The GALVA website is packed with fascinating material on Hindu saints and deities who embody the full spectrum of gender and sexual diversity, including but not limited to LGBTQ and “third sex.”

“The Love Between Krishna and Jesus” by Brian Day is reprinted in a previous version of this post and in his book “Azure.”

Related book:
Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex: Understanding Homosexuality, Transgender Identity, And Intersex Conditions Through Hinduism” by Amara Das Wilhelm.

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Does anybody know who created the picture of Krishna and Christ at the top of this post? Or the one of Christ, Buddha and Jesus walking together. They are all over the Internet, but I haven’t been able to identify the artists. I would love to honor the artists by name.

Thanks to Mario Gonzalez for the tip about images.

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This post is part of the LGBT Saints and Queer Christ series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, humanitarians, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year. The queer Christ series gathers together visions presented by artists, writers, theologians and others.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
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