Friday, March 28, 2014

Gay Passion of Christ prints and cards for sale now


Prints and cards
of Blanchard's gay Passion of Christ paintings
are available now


Prints and greeting cards of Douglas Blanchard’s gay Passion of Christ paintings are available for purchase now for the first time ever.

Order high-quality giclee reproductions in a wide variety of sizes and formats at:
douglas-blanchard.fineartamerica.com

Order now and you will receive your prints and cards in time for Holy Week, which starts April 13. The 24 images show Jesus as a gay man of today in a modern city.

“Doug and I keep getting requests from people who want to buy reproductions of his Passion paintings, so we worked together to set up the new website. We see this as a service to individuals and organizations that want to foster spiritual reflection, especially during Holy Week,” said Kittredge Cherry, author of a forthcoming book on the gay Passion series.

Reproductions of the Passion are offered through Fine Art America, one of the largest, most-respected giclee printing companies in the world with over 40 years of experience producing museum-quality prints. They provide expert printing, custom framing and matting, shipping worldwide within three business days, and a 30-day money back guarantee.

All of their prints are produced on state-of-the-art, professional-grade Epson printers. They use acid-free papers and canvases with archival inks to ensure that your prints will last a lifetime without fading or loss of color.

Fine Art America is also one of the biggest and best custom framers in the world. They stock more than 250 different frames that can be used to create museum-quality masterpieces. They also offer “metal prints” printed on aluminum and mounted on wood, and “acrylic prints” printed on a sheet of clear, high-gloss acrylic.

The greeting cards are 5 by 7 inches and can be customized with your own personal text printed on the inside.

If you are interested in buying a complete set of all 24 prints, contact Kitt and Doug for a discount price quote. (Not available for cards.)

Eleven of the original paintings are also for sale, priced at $2,000 apiece. Each one is oil on wood panel, measuring 14 by 18 inches. Contact us if you are interested.

"The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision" by New York artist Doug Blanchard presents a liberating new vision of Jesus' final days, including Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and the arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. The contemporary Christ figure is jeered by fundamentalists, tortured to death by soldiers, and rises again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God. His surprisingly diverse friends join him on a journey from suffering to freedom. Viewers call it “accessible but profound.”

The gay Passion series will be featured here at the Jesus in Love Blog next month from Holy Week to Easter, April 13-20.  Blog posts will include reflections by lesbian Christian author and art historian Kittredge Cherry and art by Blanchard.  Their illustrated book about the gay Passion will be published later this year by Apocryphile Press. Click here to be notified when the book is published

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Related links for “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision”:

*Book

*Email list

*Blog series

*Prints and greeting cards

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Adrienne Rich: lesbian poet with spiritual impulses

Adrienne Rich portrait by Sharon McGill

Adrienne Rich, a lesbian feminist and one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, died on March 27, 2012 at age 82.

For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Adrienne Rich: lesbian poet with spiritual impulses


Her writing was a guiding light to me and countless others, both people of faith and secular readers. The following lines from her poem “Natural Resources” (from The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977) became like a creed for many:

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,

with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.

Rich was born on May 16, 1929 to a Jewish father and Episcopalian mother. She wrote about her conflicting religious background in her essay “Split at the Root” (from Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985). That volume also includes the insightful essay whose title alone was enough to dazzle me: "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence."

I had the honor of meeting Rich in person in the 1980s when she spoke at Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, where I served on the clergy staff. Informally among ourselves, we called her “the Great One.”

Many years later I was impressed all over again when I listened to my cassette tape of her remarks and reading at MCC-SF on Nov. 7, 1987. I was there in person and I remember it well.  Speaking to the mostly LGBT audience from both Jewish and Christian traditions, she emphasized the importance of bringing together sacred and secular, Christian and Jew, lesbian and gay and straight. The event was co-sponsored by Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, a progressive Reform Jewish congregation in San Francisco.

I transcribed what she said about her connection to spirituality:

The coming together of those of us who are non-congregants with you who are is very important. A couple of years ago in a talk and reading that I gave at UCLA Hillel, I described myself as a secular Jew and later in a discussion Andy Rose (Avi Rose) asked me why, since he felt the poetry I was reading to be spiritual rather than secular in its impulse. I’ve thought a lot about that and about the lines drawn in Judaism between secular and religious, and between various degrees and forms of observance.

Along with all the work being done by observant Jewish feminists, the re-creation of liturgy towards a theology of wholeness, I think there are some of us who are drawing a deep spiritual sustenance from the Jewish secular progressive tradition, who are trying to fuse the material and the spiritual rather than leave them in the old dichotomous opposition, coming from a secular rather than a religious orientation and wanting to keep asking the questions of flesh and blood, of justice, of bread, the questions of this world.

Maybe we don’t know exactly what we are trying to do nor yet have a language for it. Liberation theology is not quite it, though the concrete examples of liberation theology in action, both Jewish and Christian, have revealed certain possibilities. The wealth of blessing that proliferate in Jewish tradition -- the tradition that bids Jews bless all kinds of everyday as well as exceptional events and things: new clothes, a new moon, bread, wine, the washing of hands, our teachers, spices, the sight of lightning, the sound of thunder -- this tradition has implications as well. And for me this has implications for poetry. And since I would never claim that poetry can be purely secular, I will have to leave it for now at that.

She also talked eloquently about LGBT life with words that are still just as true more than 25 years later:

There is no simple way to speak about what’s happening in lesbian and gay communities at the end of the 20th century. We know that in the history of our communities there have been many efforts and many ways of defining ourselves against the hostile and destructive definitions that have been ground out by a heterosexuality badly in trouble and terrified of its own complexity, terrified of its own fragility. Nothing obviously but a deep sense of anxiety of identity could produce the kind of projective thinking and scapegoating which has targeted lesbians and gay men along with any women and men who have refused the straightjackets of gender.


Rich had a big impact on the lives of many people, including artist Sharon McGill whose art graces this post. Her tribute "Wonder Woman: Adrienne Rich" is posted at her McGillustrations blog.

Artist Sharon McGill illustrated a quote from Adrienne Rich: “Art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage.”

Rich's essay “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying” (from On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978) played a major role in helping me (and many other lesbians) decide to come out of the closet. I read the essay so many times that I  memorized parts of it.  I still refer to these words when I need to make difficult decisions:

An honorable human relationship-- that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word "love"-- is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.


Thank you, Adrienne.  Now your soul is continuing on that hard way.  I count you among the LGBT saints for all the wisdom that you have bestowed upon the world.

___
Related links:

Adrienne Rich 1929-2012: A Poet of Unswerving Vision at the Forefront of Feminism (New York Times obituary)

In Remembrance: Adrienne Rich by Victoria Brownworth (Lambda Literary)

Adrienne Rich and transmisogyny (You're Welcome blog)

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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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

John Boswell: Historian of gays and lesbians in Christianity

John Boswell

John Boswell (1947-1994) was a prominent scholar who researched and wrote about the importance of gays and lesbians in Christian history. He was born 69 years ago tomorrow on March 20, 1947.

Boswell, a history professor at Yale University, wrote such influential classics as Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (1980) and Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (1994).

For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
John Boswell: Historian of gays and lesbians in Christianity


Boswell converted from the Episcopal Church of his upbringing to Roman Catholicism at age 16. He attended mass daily until his death, even though as an openly gay Christian he disagreed with church teachings on homosexuality. He also helped found Yale’s Lesbian and Gay Studies Center in the late 1980s.

A linguistic genius, he used his knowledge of more than 15 languages to argue that the Roman Catholic Church did not condemn homosexuality until at least the 12th century in his book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the 14th Century. A 35th-anniversary edition was published in 2015 with a foreword by queer religion scholar Mark Jordan.

Using some of his last strength as he battled AIDS, Boswell translated many rites of adelphopoiesis (Greek for making brothers) in his book Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, presenting evidence that they were same-sex unions similar to marriage.

A 25th-anniversary collection analyzing Boswell’s work was published as “The Boswell Thesis: Essays on Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality,” edited by Mathew Kuefler. Scholars take many different approaches, looking at Boswell’s career and influence, a Roman emperor's love letters to another man; suspected sodomy among medieval monks; and genderbending visions of mystics and saints.

A scholar challenges Boswell’s interpretations in the 2016 book “Brother-Making in Late Antiquity and Byzantium: Monks, Laymen, and Christian Ritual” by Claudia Rapp. She offers evidence that the brother-making rite bears no resemblance to marriage. The author is professor of Byzantine studies at the University of Vienna in Austria.

Boswell died an untimely death at age 47 from AIDS-related illness on Christmas Eve 1994. He remains an unofficial saint to the many LGBT Christians who find life-giving spiritual value in his historical research that affirms the value of queer people in Christian history.

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Boswell’s books include:

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the 14th Century

Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe
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Related links:

John Boswell Page at Fordham University

John Boswell profile at LGBT Religious Archives Network

John Boswell tribute at Yale AIDS Memorial Project (yamp.org)

John Boswell profile at Elisa Reviews and Ramblings
____
This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kuan Yin: A queer Buddhist Christ figure

“Avalokitishvara” by Tony O’Connell

“Kwan Yin is Coming” by Stephen Mead

Kuan Yin (also known as Avalokitesvara), the androgynous spirit of compassion in Buddhism, is sometimes thought of as a queer Christ figure or LGBT role model. Buddhists celebrate the birth of Kuan Yin today (March 19 this year).

Writers and scholars who have explored the queer side of Kuan Yin / Avalokitesvara include Patrick S. Cheng, theology professor at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge; Hsiao-Lan Hu, religious studies professor at the University of Detroit Mercy; and Toby Johnson, a former Catholic monk turned author and comparative religion scholar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O’Connell is a gay artist based in Liverpool. Raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, he has been a practicing Buddhist since 1995. He creates an artwork celebrating Avalokitishvara / Kuan Yin every year on his/her birthday

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

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

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




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Related links:

Korean Christ” icon by Robert Lentz

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

Art by He Qi

Kuan Yin: Espejo del Cristo queer asiático by Patrick Cheng

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This post is part of the LGBT 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.



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gay centurion: Jesus heals a soldier’s boyfriend in the Bible

“Traces of His Presence” by Eric Martin

Jesus praised a gay soldier as a model of faith and healed his male lover in the gospels, according to many Bible experts. The soldier, a centurion in the Roman army, is highlighted here today (March 15) for the feast day of Longinus, a centurion at the crucifixion of Jesus.


For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Gay centurion: Jesus heals a soldier’s boyfriend in the Bible

“Centurion”
by Luc Viatour
www.Lucnix.be
Both Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 tell how a centurion asked Jesus to heal the young man referred to in Greek as his “pais.” The word was commonly used for the younger partner in a same-sex relationship. It is usually translated as boy, servant or slave. In recent years progressive Bible scholars have concluded that the centurion was in a homosexual relationship with the “slave who was dear to him” in the gospel story.

Jesus was willing to go into the centurion’s house to heal his lover, but the centurion stopped him, saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Jesus marveled and told the crowd around him, “Not even in Israel have I found such faith!” To the centurion he said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And his boyfriend was healed at that moment.

Scholars believe that “boy” was the centurion’s sex partner not only due to the word “pais,” but also because it is unlikely that a soldier would care so much about an ordinary slave. It was common in Greco-Roman culture for mature men to pair up with a young man as his lover in “erastes-eromenes” pederastic sexual relationship.

This interpretation is promoted by LGBT-friendly church groups such as WouldJesusDiscriminate.org on billboards stating “Jesus affirmed a gay couple.” For more info, see my previous post, Billboards show gay-friendly Jesus.



The centurion’s story has gotten surprisingly little attention throughout history considering that Jesus himself was impressed by his faith. But the Roman soldier has always been an unlikely role model. Jesus’ contemporaries were probably shocked that the great healer would praise a military man who enforced Roman occupation of their land. Today people may find the centurion unappealing because he may have been queer, or a slave owner, or both. It was just like Jesus to take someone disreputable and praise them as holy.

Detail from “Healing the Centurion’s Servant” in Mother Stories From the New Testament by Anonymous, 1906

While the faithful centurion himself is rarely mentioned, his words do live on in a prayer used in many Catholic and Protestant eucharistic liturgies. For example, the prayer immediately before communion at Catholic mass paraphrases his words: “Lord I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Saint Longinus, whose feast day is today (March 15) is the centurion who pierced Christ’s side at the crucifixion and declared, “Truly this man was the son of God.” It’s possible that he is the same faithful gay centurion whose beloved boyfriend was healed by Jesus.

“Crucifixion” by Christopher Olwage (oil on canvas)

Gay New Zealand artist Christopher Olwage pictures the centurion and his “pais” with Jesus at the cross in his 2015 crucifixion painting. The scene is framed by a male couple: the Centurion on the left and the man “who was dear to him” on the right. The nude painting includes two other men who may have had male-male sexual relationships with Christ: John, who is most often identified as the Beloved Disciple and Lazarus. For more info, see the previous post Gay Jesus painting shown in New Zealand.

Jesus’ healing interaction with the same-sex couple has fascinated artist Eric Martin so much that he created two works based on their story. Martin is a gay poet, artist, and church organist in Burlington, North Carolina. He has a Master of Divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.

“Traces of His Presence” at the top of this post uses fluid lines and bold red to reveal the face of Christ in the holy space between the centurion and his beloved.

“The Visit” by Eric Martin

Martin takes a more realistic approach in “The Visit.” A rainbow arches behind Jesus as he gazes at the centurion and his pais. Their varied expressions draw the viewer deeper into the drama.

Books that explore the homosexuality of the centurion include:

Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times by Tom Horner

Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else by John McNeill

The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships by Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley

What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality by Daniel Helminiak

The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament by Theodore Jennings

“Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant” by Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) (Wikimedia Commons)
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Related links:

A gay centurion comes out to Jesus (Gay Christian 101)

Jesus and the centurion (Wild Reed)

Gay centurion (My Queer Scripture)

The centurion of great faith (Homosexuality and Scripture by Pharsea)

Jesus, the centurion, and his lover (Jack Clark Robinson at Gay and Lesbian Review)

When Jesus Healed a Same-Sex Partner by Jay Michaelson (Huffington Post)

The Gay Gospel? (The L Stop)

El centurión gay: Jesús cura al novio de un soldado romano en la Biblia (Santos Queer)

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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.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Art museums explore queer Christian themes in new exhibits

“The Resurrection” by Eny Roland (Courtesy of ArtCenter/South Florida)

Queer new visions of Jesus and the saints are explored by Latino artists in two major art exhibits at museums on both coasts in March:

* “In His Own Likeness” illuminates divinity and its relationship with gender, including sexuality “expressed beyond the hetero norm.” It runs through March 16 at ArtCenter/South Florida in Miami Beach. Tonight (Wed., March 12) a conversation with the curator and special guests will be presented there. The exhibit features four artists from Guatemala, Mexico and Cuba.

* “Sinful Saints and Saintly Sinners at the Margins of the Americas” examines sacred figures who walk the fine line between sinfulness and sanctity, including Catholic saints reworked from a lesbian Chicana perspective. It will be on display at the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from March 30 to July 20. The show features work by more than 20 artists from Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Argentina, and the United States.

Details about each exhibit are presented below, along with an exclusive interview with the curator of the Florida show.

In His Own Likeness
“In His Own Likeness” aims to reaffirm all existence as equally divine through its diversity. The exhibit uses the concept of a male God to take a fresh look at men’s power, explore male sexuality and eroticize men as objects of desire for both men and women in the sacred union of the body and spirit.

The exhibit draws its name from the creation story in Genesis 1:27: “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  The scripture itself contains complexities about gender and sexuality..

"The photographs, video, painting and sculpture work together -- and individually -- to show how male sexuality can be expressed beyond the hetero norm that has traditionally defined the 'rules' of gender roles," says curator Marivi Véliz, a contemporary art lecturer specializing in Central and Latin American Art who moved to Miami last year. This is her first exhibition in the United States. Véliz is originally from Cuba with experience curating and lecturing throughout Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, El Salvador and Honduras. In recent years, her focus has been gender studies.

In an interview with Jesus in Love, the curator identified the most frankly homoerotic works in the show as “The Resurrection” and the “Sweet Mortification” series by Guatemalan photographer Eny Roland and “Very, Very Light… and Very Dark: A Police Officer with Alzheimer’s” by Cuban painter Rocio Garcia.

“Bleeding Heart (Sangrado Corazon)” by Eny Roland (Courtesy of ArtCenter/South Florida)

In his 2013 “Sweet Mortifications” series, Roland redefines the standard “Sacred Heart” iconography in which Jesus reveals his physical heart burning in his chest. The artist photographs a Christ figure in a business suit, opening his shirt almost seductively to unveil a heart tattooed on his supple skin. The title “Sangrado Corazon” (Bleeding Heart) is a play on the Spanish phrase Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart).

Roland eroticizes Christian imagery in line with the exhibit’s stated purpose of revealing the divinity within the sensual side of human nature. He also critiques Catholicism for imposing a culture of death by celebrating Christ’s Passion and suffering instead of his resurrection, thereby inflicting a sense of sinful guilt that serves as spiritual and social control.

The Christ figure in Roland’s “The Resurrection” is embodied, attractive and alive on every level, uniting sexuality and spirituality. The photo comes from his 2013 “Fabrica de Santos” (Factory of Saints) series.

Eny Roland is a self-taught artist who began his career in Guatemala City as a photojournalist and progressively found himself working with portraiture and urban photography. His photos combine kitsch, pop, religion, and eroticism.

“Very, Very Light… and Very Dark: A Police Officer with Alzheimer’s” by Rocio Garcia. (Courtesy of ArtCenter/South Florida)

Rocio Garcia shows male nudes in a style that echoes ancient Greek pottery in “Very, Very Light… and Very Dark: A Police Officer with Alzheimer’s.” García was born in Santa Clara, Cuba. She received a Master in Fine Arts degree at the Repin Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia. Internationally acclaimed, Garcia began working with erotic themes in the early 1990s and mostly paints men in sexual tensions.

As curator Véliz drew together a variety of art to examine divinity, gender and power. She discusses the exhibit in an exclusive interview for the Jesus in Love Blog with Kittredge Cherry, art historian and author of “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.”

Kittredge Cherry: You say that you wanted the exhibit "to show how male sexuality can be expressed beyond the hetero norm." Please explain more. The focus of the Jesus in Love Blog is LGBTQ spirituality and art, so my readers will want to know: How does this exhibit express the homoerotic?

Marivi Véliz: In many ways, especially the work “Very, Very Light… and Very Dark: A Police Officer with Alzheimer’s” by Rocio Garcia, and the photos in the series “Sweet Mortification” and “The Resurrection” by Eny Roland. In Rocio’s case, it’s very clear because there are no women represented, only men in sexual situations. For Roland, the men (chosen as models in the photos) almost always follow Greco-Roman standards of beauty, and seek to puncture the delicate line between sexual ecstasy and religious ecstasy.

KC: How does the exhibit change the traditional image of Jesus Christ to affirm the whole spectrum of human sexuality?

MV: The exhibition uses the concept of God as man (masculine-macho) to discuss the power that has been bestowed upon males in society, the power from which has been constructed a history of what is beautiful and what is erotic. I wanted to steal this primary power and take hold of it, identifying it, and then proceeding to eroticize the males in the imagery as objects of desire not only for women, but also for men, without instilling any sexual labels, but instead in communion between the erotic and the Divine.

KC: Do any of the artists identify as gay or queer?

MV: Yes, some of them are.

KC: What special insights do Latin American artists bring to the theme of sexuality and spirituality, especially the Christian tradition?

MV: A deep Catholic tradition exists at the very foundation of Latin American culture in general, especially as part of the primary education system in the early years of life and as a tool of repression of the body and sexuality in general. This might help explain the various reinterpretations of martyrdom, resurrection, etc., that are most notable in Roland’s artwork.

Sinful Saints and Saintly Sinners at the Margins of the Americas
“Sinful Saints and Saintly Sinners at the Margins of the Americas” examines a series of crucial and often counter-cultural spirits at the border between sin and sanctity. In worship and artistic representation alike, these entities both reflect and affect the lives of people who regularly struggle with harsh and frequently dangerous economic, political, legal, geographic, gender, and racial realities.

The exhibit includes three paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Alma López from her ongoing series Queer Santas (Queer Saints): Santa Liberata, Saint Wilgefortis and Santa Lucia. All three of these "virgin saints" resorted to extreme methods to avoid heterosexual marriage.

Santa Wilgefortis” from “Queer Santas” series by Alma Lopez

Power and womanhood are addressed in the exhibit by works such as López’s Queer Santas and Judithe Hernandez’s Luchadores (Mexican female masked wrestlers). They will discuss their artistic practices, their interest in these figures, and feminism at an “Outspoken Conversation” lecture April 5 at the Fowler Museum.

Lopez is married to author Alicia Gaspar de Alba, who contributed an essay to exhibition catalog. The book will be distributed by the University of Washington Press this spring. Gaspar de Alba’s essay focuses on the work of Lopez, Hernandez, Liliana Wilson and Delilah Montoya.
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To read this post in Spanish / en español, go to Santos Queer:
Los museos de arte exploran temas cristianos queer en nuevas exposiciones
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Special thanks to Terence Weldon of Queering the Church for the news tip about “In His Own Likeness.”

This post is part of the Artists series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series profiles artists who use lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer spiritual and religious imagery.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Friday, March 07, 2014

Perpetua and Felicity: Patron saints of same-sex couples

“Perpetua and Felicity” by Angela Yarber

Saints Perpetua and Felicity were brave North African woman friends who were executed for their Christian faith in the third century. Some consider them lesbian saints or patrons of same-sex couples. Their feast day is March 7.


For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Perpetua and Felicity: Patron saints of same-sex couples

Perpetua and Felicity were arrested for being Christian, imprisoned together, and held onto each other in the last moments before they died together on March 7, 203.

Perpetua and Felicity are still revered both inside and outside the church. For example, they are named together in the Roman Catholic Canon of the Mass. They are often included in lists of LGBTQ saints because they demonstrate the power of love between two women.

The details of their imprisonment are known because Perpetua kept a journal, the first known written document by a woman in Christian history. In fact, her "Passion of St. Perpetua, St. Felicitas, and their Companions” was so revered in North Africa that St. Augustine warned people not to treat it like the Bible. People loved the story of the two women comforting each other in jail and giving each other the kiss of peace as they met their end in the amphitheater at Carthage, where they were mauled by wild animals before being beheaded.

Perpetua was a 22-year-old noblewoman and a nursing mother. Felicity, her slave, gave birth to a daughter while they were in prison. Although she was married, Perpetua's husband is conspicuously absent from her diary.

Yale history professor John Boswell names Perpetua and Felicity as one of the three primary pairs of same-sex lovers in the early church. (The others are Polyeuct and Nearchus and Sergius and Bacchus.) The love story of Felicity and Perpetua is told with historical detail in two books, “Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe” by Boswell and “Passionate Holiness” by Dennis O’Neill. He is founder of the Living Circle, the interfaith LGBT spirituality center that commissioned the following icon of the loving same-sex pair. It was painted by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his progressive icons.

Saints Perpetua and Felicity
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM, www.trinitystores.com

The Lentz icon of Perpetua and Felicity is one of 10 Lentz icons that sparked a major controversy in 2005. Critics accused Lentz of glorifying sin and creating propaganda for a progressive sociopolitical agenda, and he temporarily gave away the copyright for the controversial images to his distributor, Trinity Stores. It is rare to see an icon about the love between women, especially two dark-skinned African women. The rich reds and heart-shaped double-halo make it look like a holy Valentine. “Perpetua and Felicity” is one of 40 icons featured in “Christ in the Margins,” an illustrated book by Robert Lentz and Edwina Gateley.

“I first learned of Perpetua and Felicity on Kittredge Cherry’s blog, Jesus in Love. Now they join my other Holy Women Icons with a folk feminist twist,” writes artist Angela Yarber at the Feminism and Religion blog. She is a painter, scholar, dancer, minister and LGBT-rights activist based in North Carolina. Nearly 50 color images of her folk feminist icons included in her book "Holy Women Icons." Yarber depicts the pair of women saints with golden warmth and an African vibe. Her icon at the top of this post shows Perpetua and Felicity hugging as their hearts unite into a single large heart. It is inscribed with the words:

Comfort, love, and a holy kiss
Bound their hearts in
The moment of death,
Embracing so that all
May embrace
“Felicity and Perpetua: Patrons of Same-Sex Couples” by Maria Cristina

A banner saying “patrons of same sex couples” hangs above Felicity and Perpetua in the colorful icon painted by Maria Cristina, an artist based in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She paints the two women holding hands in an elegant gesture. The skull of a long-horn cow, similar to paintings of famous New Mexico artist Georgia O’Keefe, adds a welcome bit of Southwestern flavor to the image.

Felicity and Perpetua by Jim Ru
Artist Jim Ru was inspired to paint Felicity and Perpetua as a kissing couple. His version was displayed in his show “Transcendent Faith: Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Saints” in Bisbee Arizona in the 1990s.

Irish artist St. George Hare, painted an erotic, romanticized vision of Perpetua and Felicity around 1890. His painting “The Victory of Faith” shows the women as an inter-racial couple sleeping together nude on a prison floor.


Their lives are the subject of several recent historical novels, including “Perpetua: A Bride, A Martyr, A Passion” by Amy Peterson and “The Bronze Ladder” by Malcolm Lyon.

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Related links:

"Eternal Bliss" - SS Felicity and Perpetua, March 7th (Queer Saints and Martyrs - and Others)

Suspect 3rd Century Women Put to Death in Arena: Ancient Hate Crime? (Unfinished Lives: Remembering LGBT hate crime victims)

Perpetua y Felicitas: santas patronas de parejas del mismo sexo (Santos Queer)

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.

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Icons of Perpetua and Felicity and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores



Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ash Wednesday: Queer martyrs rise from the ashes


For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Ash Wednesday: Queer martyrs executed for homosexuality rise from the ashes

Dutch massacre of sodomites,
detail (Wikimedia Commons)
Today on Ash Wednesday queer martyrs rise from the ashes as we recall the thousands who were executed for homosexuality throughout history.

This is not just a historical issue. The death penalty for homosexuality continues today in 10 countries (Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and United Arab Emirates).

Christians traditionally put ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance on Ash Wednesday. It is an appropriate time to reflect on the sins of the church and state against queer people, including the burning of “sodomites” and thousands of executions for homosexuality over the past 800 years.

Some of the executions for sodomy were recorded by artists, either long ago or in recent times. This post features images, both new and historical, to remember and honor those whose lives were desecrated and cut short.

The whole sad history of church- or state-sanctioned executions of queer people stretches from the 13th century almost to the present. For the first 1,000 years of church history, Christianity was relatively tolerant of homoerotic relationships.

Then came campaigns of terror that started to use the terms “heresy” and “sodomy” interchangeably.  Eventually hostility began to be directed at same-sex erotic behavior in particular. Terence Weldon of Queering the Church discusses the fateful period when the atrocities began in a well researched overview titled “Lest We Forget: The Ashes of Our Martyrs”:

In 1120, the Church Council of Nablus specified burning at the stake for homosexual acts. Although this penalty may not immediately have been applied, other harsh condemnations followed rapidly. In 1212, the death penalty for sodomy was specified in in France. Before long the execution of supposed “sodomites”, often by burning at the stake, but also by other harsh means, had become regular practice in many areas.

The church contributed to the deaths of thousands for homosexuality over the next 700 years. Witch burning occurred in the same period and claimed the lives of countless lesbian women whose non-conformity was condemned as witchcraft. (Current events in Uganda and elsewhere prove that some are STILL using Christianity to justify the death penalty for homosexuality up to the present day.) As Weldon concludes:

Obviously, the Catholic Church cannot be held directly responsible for the judicial sentences handed down by secular authorities in Protestant countries. It can, however, be held responsible for its part in fanning the flames of bigotry and hatred in the early part of the persecution, using the cloak of religion to provide cover for what was in reality based not on Scripture or the teaching of the early Church, but on simple intolerance and greed.

It is important as gay men, lesbians and transgendered that we remember the examples of the many who have in earlier times been honoured by the Church as saints or martyrs for the faith. It is also important that we remember the example of the many thousands who have been martyred by the churches – Catholic and other.

Sodomy is often considered a male issue, but the facts of history make clear that queer women were persecuted under sodomy laws too. The meaning of sodomy has changed a lot over the centuries. The “sin of Sodom” in the Bible was described as arrogance and failure to care for travelers and the poor.

“Catharina Margaretha Linck, executed for sodomy in Halberstadt in 1721” by Elke R. Steiner. Steiner’s work is based on Angela Steidele’s book "In Männerkleidern. Das verwegene Leben der Catharina Margaretha Linck alias Anastasius Lagrantinus Rosenstengel, hingerichtet 1721." Biographie und Dokumentation. Cologne: Böhlau, 2004. ("In Men's Clothes: The Daring Life of Catharina Margaretha Linck alias Anastasius Rosenstengel, Executed 1721.")

German artist Elke R. Steiner illustrates the last known execution for lesbianism in Europe. Born in 1694, Catharina Margaretha Linck lived most of her life as a man under the name Anastasius. She was beheaded for sodomy on Nov. 8, 1721 in Halberstadt in present-day Germany. Linck worked at various times as a soldier, textile worker and a wandering prophet with the Pietists. She married a woman in 1717. Her mother-in-law reported her to authorities, who convicted her of sodomy with a "lifeless instrument," wearing men's clothes and multiple baptisms. The subject is grim, but Steiner adds an empowering statement: “But even were I to be done away with, those who are like me would remain.”

“Catharina aka Anastasius Linck” by Ria Brodell

Genderqueer Boston artist Ria Brodell portrays Linck and several other historical women who were killed for sodomy in her “Butch Heroes” series. They include Katherina Hetzeldorfer of Germany, drowned in 1477 for female sodomy, and Lisbetha Olsdotter aka Mats Ersson of Sweden, who was decapitated in 1679 for cross-dressing and other crimes.

“The Shameful End of Bishop Atherton and his Proctor John Childe,” hanged for sodomy in 1641 in Dublin (Wikimedia Commons)

John Atherton, Anglican bishop of Waterford and Lismore, and his lover John Childe were hanged for “buggery” in 1640 in Dublin, Ireland. The bishop was executed under a law that he helped to institute! The picture comes from an anonymous 1641 booklet titled “The Shameful End of Bishop Atherton and his Proctor John Childe.” The title tries to shame and blame the victims, but the shame belongs to the church and society who killed them for who and how they loved.

Balboa executing two-spirit Native Americans for homosexuality in 1513 in Panama -- engraving by Théodore De Bry, 1594 (Wikimedia Commons).  

The Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa found homosexual activity among the Native American chiefs at Quarqua in Panama. He ordered 40 of these two-spirited people thrown to his war dogs to be torn apart and eaten alive to stop the “stinking abomination.” Executions for homosexuality continued during the “Mexican Inquisition,” an extension of the Spanish Inquisition into the New World. In one of the most notorious examples, 14 men were executed by public burning on Nov. 6, 1658 in Mexico City.

The knight of Hohenberg and his servant, accused of sodomy, were executed by burning in Zürich in 1482. (Wikimedia Commons)

The knight of Hohenberg and his servant, accused sodomites, were executed by burning before the walls of Zurich, Switzerland in 1482. Source: Diebold Schilling, Chronik der Burgunderkriege, Schweizer Bilderchronik, Band 3, um 1483 (Zürich, Zentralbibliothek)


Execution of sodomites in Ghent in 1578 -- drawing by Franz Hogenberg (Wikimedia Commons)

Five Catholic monks were burned to death for homosexuality on June 28, 1578, in Ghent, Belguim.


"Timely Punishment..." shows Dutch massacre of sodomites in Amsterdam in 1730-31 (Wikimedia Commons)

A total of 96 gay men were executed for sodomy in the Netherlands years 1730-31.

More recent examples include the Holocaust or "homocaust" of persecution by the Nazis, who sent an estimated 5,000 to 60,000 to concentration camps for homosexuality. Executions on homosexuality charges in Iran continued to make news multiple times since 2011.

Many more die in attacks fueled by religion-based hate, including those killed in the arson fire at the UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans.

Milder forms of anti-LGBT persecution continue in the church. Now it is common to freeze LGBT people out of church leadership positions. Gay pastor and author Chris Glaser writes about the exclusion from clergy roles as a “fast imposed by others” in the following prayer based on the practice of fasting during Lent, the season of individual and collective repentance and reflection between Ash Wednesday and Easter.

One: Jesus,
     our fast has been imposed by others,
     our wilderness sojourn their choice more than ours.
Many: Our fast from the sacraments,
     our fast from ordination:
     our only choice was honesty.
One: With the scapegoats of the ancient Hebrews,
     sexual sins of generations
     have been heaped upon our backs,
     and we have been sent away,
     excommunicated, into the wilderness to die.
Many: Yet we choose life,
     even in our deprivation
One: Jesus, lead us to discern our call
     parallel to your own:
     rebelling against the boundaries,
     questioning the self-righteous authorities,
     breaking the Sabbath law
     to bring healing.


This prayer comes from “Rite for Lent” by Chris Glaser, published in Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations. Glaser spent 30 years struggling with the Presbyterian Church for the right to ordination as an openly gay man before he was ordained to the ministry in Metropolitan Community Churches in 2005. He writes progressive Christian reflections at chrisglaser.blogspot.com.

Faggots We May Be,” a 2015 poem by Georgia poet S. Alan Fann, makes connections between gay men burned to death, global warming and the Rainbow Christ.

It is horrifying to remember the "burning times," especially for those LGBT people who consider themselves part of the Christian tradition. Let us rise from the ashes with these verses from the Bible:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
[Psalm 51: 10, 17]

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a you to humble yourself?
Is it to bow down your head like a rush,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under you?
Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to God?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily.
[Isaiah 58:5-8]

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Related links:

“Burned for sodomy” (Queering the Church)

Lest We Forget: The Ashes of Our Martyrs (Queering the Church)

The blood-soaked thread (Wild Reed)

List of people executed for homosexuality (Wikipedia)

LGBT Victims (Gay History Wiki)

List of unlawfully killed transgender people (Wikipedia)

Victims of anti-LGBT hate crimes (Wikipedia)

Victims of Hate” gallery on Facebook

Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death (Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2014)

Significant acts of violence against LGBT people (Wikipedia)

BURN BABY BURN: A Knight, a Squire, a Bishop, a Steward, Five RC Monks and Millions of murders initiated by bigots at Church! (Eruptions at the Foot of the Volcano Blog)

The Gay Holocaust (Matt and Andrej Koymasky)

Catharina Margaretha Linck, Executed for Sodomy (Queering the Church)

A History of Homophobia, 3 The Later Roman Empire & The Early Middle Ages (Rictor Norton)

A History of Homophobia, 4 Gay Heretics and Witches" (Rictor Norton)

Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook (Rictor Norton, editor)

“Pilloried” - a poem by Andrew Craig Williams

Queering All Saints and All Souls, Celebrating the Queer Body of Christ by Adam Ackley (Huff Post) (litany also suitable for Ash Wednesday)

Blessing the Dust: A Blessing for Ash Wednesday by Jan Richardson

Iran's New Gay Executions (Daily Beast, 8/12/2014)
"Two men, Abdullah Ghavami Chahzanjiru and Salman Ghanbari Chahzanjiri, were hanged in southern Iran on August 6, possibly for consensual sodomy..."

Four Iranian men due to be hanged for sodomy (Pink News, 5/12/2012)
"Iran court sentenced four men… to death by hanging for sodomy… named ‘Saadat Arefi’, ‘Vahid Akbari’, ‘Javid Akbari’ and ‘Houshmand Akbari.’"

Iran executes three men on homosexuality charges (guardian.com 9/7/2011)

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: We all wear the triangle (Jesus in Love)

Ex-gay movement as genocide (Jesus in Love)

Book: Homosexuality and Civilization by Louis Crompton
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This post is part of the LGBT Holidays series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series celebrates religious and spiritual holidays, holy days, feast days, festivals, anniversaries, liturgical seasons and other occasions of special interest to LGBT and queer people of faith and our allies.