Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ruth and Naomi: Biblical women who loved each other

“Ruth’s Wise Choice,” 1907 Bible card by the Providence Lithograph Company (Wikimedia Commons)

Love between women is honored in the lives of Biblical figures Ruth and Naomi. Some churches observe their feast day today (Dec. 20).

Ruth’s famous vows to Naomi are often used in weddings -- heterosexual as well as same-sex marriages. Few people realize that these beautiful promises were originally spoken by one woman to another:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
(Ruth 1:16-17)

The old-fashioned King James translation, still beloved by many, begins, “Whither thou goest, I will go…”

Contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Marsha Stevens of Florida used their vow as the basis for the song she wrote for her legal wedding to Cindy Pino: “Wherever You Go.” She sings about how Cindy grew up feeling alone as “a guest at every wedding, an extra place at meals,” with nobody recognizing her lesbian relationships as family. But the mood shifts after a chorus with Ruth’s vow to Naomi :

Now we stand on sacred ground, our families near,
Law allows these holy vows, your home is here.

“Wherever You Go” is available for listening and download at BALM (Born Again Lesbian Music) Ministries: http://balmministries.net/track/323379/wherever-you-go

The openly lesbian interpretation dates back at least to 1937, when the novel “Pity for Women” by Helen Anderson was published. The two main characters, Ann and Judith, recite Ruth's famous vow to show their commitment as a lesbian couple.

In the Bible Ruth was born to a pagan family and married the Jewish man Boaz. In Judaism she is honored as a convert. Ruth is an ancestor of Jesus Christ, listed in his genealogy in the gospel of Matthew. It reports mostly a male lineage, and Ruth is one of only four women who are included.

Naomi was the mother-in-law of Ruth and Orpah. After their husbands died, Naomi urged both of them to remarry. But Ruth refused, declaring her love in words that have extra meaning for LGBT people because they were spoken between women.

Enjoy a selection of Bible illustrations that celebrate the love between these two women of spirit. If you look closely, it sometimes seems that they are about to kiss.

Ruth and Naomi from ChristianImageSource.com



The previous two images are details from larger scenes that show Orpah leaving while Ruth stays with Naomi.

Ruth clings to Naomi (ChristianImageSource.com)

“Naomi and Her Daughters-in-Law” from Doré's English Bible, 1866 (Wikimedia Commons)

Ruth and Naomi’s love has been illustrated by many artists, including the great English Romantic painter William Blake.

“Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab” by William Blake, 1795 (Wikimedia Commons)

The hardships experienced by Ruth and Naomi are often overshadowed by their famous vow of love and their association with the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people. Ruth is revered as a Jewish convert and an ancestor of Jesus. But Ruth and her Israelite mother-in-law were so poor that Ruth had to survive by picking up leftover grains of barley in the fields after harvest. Gay Israeli artist Adi Nes brings home the reality of their poverty by showing the pair scavenging onions from a contemporary street littered with trash after an open-air market. They are posed like the peasants in Millet’s “The Gleaners,” a painting well known for showing the dignity of society’s poorest members.

“Untitled (Ruth and Naomi)” by Adi Nes

The careworn faces of Ruth and her beloved Naomi become visible in a second portrait by Nes. Ruth’s vow to Naomi, which begins “Whither thou goest, I will go,” is often used in weddings. Nes shows that their love for each other is all they have as they sit together among discarded crates. For more about Adi Nes, see my previous post "Adi Nes: Gay Israeli artist humanizes Bible stories."

“Untitled (Ruth and Naomi)” by Adi Nes

The painting below, “Whither Thou Goest” by Trudie Barreras, was commissioned in 2004 by Rev. Paul Graetz, pastor of First Metropolitan Community Church of Atlanta, for a sermon series that he was doing on the Book of Ruth.

“Whither Thou Goest” by Trudie Barreras, 2004
Acrylic, 18” x 14.” Collection of First Metropolitan Community Church of Atlanta, GA.

A billboard featuring Ruth and Naomi is part of the Would Jesus Discriminate project sponsored by Metropolitan Community Churches. It states boldly, “Ruth loved Naomi as Adam loved Eve. Genesis 2:24. Ruth 1:14.” The website WouldJesusDiscriminte.org gives a detailed explanation.


Ruth and Naomi billboard from from WouldJesusDiscriminte.com and WouldJesusDiscriminte.org

For more info on the billboards, see our previous post, “Billboards show gay-friendly Jesus.”

Were Ruth and Naomi lesbians? The same Hebrew word (dabaq) is used to describe Adam’s feelings for Eve and Ruth’s feelings for Naomi. In Genesis 2:24 it says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The way that Adam “cleaved” to Eve is the way that Ruth “clung” to Naomi. Countless couples have validated this interpretation by using their vows as a model for how spouses should love each other.

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For more on Ruth and Naomi, visit the following links:

Queering the Church: Ruth and Naomi

Pharsea’s World: Homosexuality and Tradition: Ruth and Naomi

Stroppy Rabbit Blog: Naomi and Ruth in art

Conjubilant with Song Blog: “Song of Ruth” hymn by Fanny Crosby, 1875

Rut y Noemí: El amor entre mujeres en la Biblia (Santos Queer)

___
Special thanks to CJ Barker for the news tip.
___
This post is part of the GLBT Saints 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.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lazarus: Jesus’ beloved disciple?

“Raising of Lazarus,” 1905 (Wikimedia Commons)

Some believe that Lazarus of Bethany was the “beloved disciple” of Jesus -- and maybe even his gay lover. His feast day is today (Dec. 17).

Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus in a dramatic miracle told in John: 11. The Bible identifies him as a man living in the village of Bethany with his sisters Mary and Martha. Lazarus falls ill, and the sisters send a message to Jesus that “the one you love is sick.” By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been dead in his tomb for four days. Jesus weeps at the tomb, then calls, “Lazarus, come out!” To the amazement of all, Lazarus is restored to life.

Scholars theorize that Lazarus was also the unnamed “one whom Jesus loved,” also known as “the beloved disciple,” referenced at least five times in the Gospel of John. The term implies that Jesus was in love with him, and perhaps they shared the kind of intimacy that today would be called “gay.” Bible experts suggest that Lazarus was the unnamed naked man who ran away when Jesus was arrested in Mark 14:51-52. He may also have been the nameless “rich young ruler” who asks Jesus how to find eternal life in all three synoptic gospels.

Detail from “Stripped of Linen, Stripped of Lord” by Eric Martin, 2012

Gay artist Eric Martin devoted himself to learning about and depicting the nameless nude who ran away when Jesus was arrested in “Stripped of Linen, Stripped of Lord” and other paintings. For more info, see my previous post “Seeking the ‘naked young man’ of Mark’s gospel.”

The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament by Theodore Jennings is a comprehensive book that explores the possibility of Lazarus as Jesus’ lover -- and all the other major queer theories about the beloved disciple.

Detail from
Betrayal of Christ
by Giuseppe Cesari, 1597
More queer ideas about Lazarus come from the controversial Secret Gospel of Mark, a recently discovered gospel that goes into homoerotic detail about Jesus’ relations with the “naked youth” who is often identified as Lazarus. The lost gospel was discovered in 1958 by Morton Smith, professor of ancient history at Columbia University, and described his his book The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark. Recently Secret Mark has been discredited as a possible hoax in books such as The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark by Stephen C. Carlson.

Maybe Lazarus’ unusual family also included lesbians. Rev. Nancy Wilson, moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches, raises this possibility in her brochure “Our Story Too:Reading the Bible with New Eyes,” which says:

“Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha. What drew Jesus to this very non-traditional family group of a bachelor brother living with two spinster sisters? Two barren women and a eunuch are Jesus’ adult family of choice. Are we to assume they were all celibate heterosexuals? What if Mary and Martha were not sisters but called each other ‘sister’ as did most lesbian couples throughout recorded history?”

Wilson explores this concept more fully in her book "Outing the Bible: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Christian Scriptures."

Lazarus coming out of the tomb has been seen as a symbol for LGBT people coming out of the closet by many LGBT people of faith.

In my “Jesus in Love” novels, the beloved disciple is John, while Lazarus is a young gay friend. To honor Lazarus on his feast day, I will close with the scene from my novel “Jesus in Love: At the Cross” where Jesus describes raising Lazarus from the dead:


I had counted on getting instructions from the Holy Spirit as soon as I reached the tomb, but no word came. The finality of the tomb scared me. When people healed in my presence, it was their own faith that made them whole—but that wasn’t happening now. Lazarus had crossed the line and no matter how much faith he had, his soul seemed severed from his corpse.

I crouched on the earth in sorrow and supplication. The crowd around me began to murmur. “Look how much he loved him!”

Then came the inevitable naysayers. “Nah—if he really loved him, he would have kept him from dying.”

The tears that I had been holding back overflowed. I blocked out the sounds and sights around me and felt the grief that seemed to be tearing a hole in my divine heart. The impact of my tears on the earth set up a tiny vibration. I tuned into it and recognized the husky whisper of the Holy Spirit. I was surprised that I couldn’t distinguish Her words, but then I realized that She wasn’t talking to me.

Lazarus’ soul was listening intently. I was able to decipher part of the Holy Spirit’s message to him: “Arise, my darling, my beauty, and come away.”

I sighed as I let my friend go. “Okay, take him wherever You will,” I prayed.

Suddenly part of Lazarus’ soul reconnected with the physical world, like a boat dropping anchor. I knew what it meant.

I dashed to the tomb and tried to roll the stone away, but it was too heavy for me. “Let him out!” I shouted, pounding on the stone. I directed my fury against death itself, which took my beloved cousin, but wasn’t going to get away with Lazarus, too.

Martha came up behind me, speaking gently. “Rabbi, there’s already a stench. He died four days ago.”

“Love is as strong as death,” I replied, gritting my teeth as I strained hard against the stone. “Stronger!”

Then John stepped up and positioned himself to push along with me. He placed his long, gnarled fingers next to my younger ones on the stony surface. I turned to look in his eyes. We were reconciled in a single glance. Moving as one, we heaved the stone aside and unsealed the tomb.

The cave gaped open, revealing a darkness as opaque as soot. There was indeed a stink—and a rustling sound, too.

“Lazarus, come out!” I called.

Everyone gasped as a slim figure wrapped in grave clothes hobbled out of the tomb. Strips of linen cloth prevented him from moving his arms and legs much, and his face was covered by a linen scarf. It puffed in and out slightly with each breath. The wind blew the stench away, leaving the air fresh.

I touched Lazarus’ shoulder gently. “It’s me, Jesus,” I said as I began to unfasten his headscarf.

___
Related links:


"Lazarus Come Out" painting and essay by Richard Stott (I Ask For Wonder) (warning: nudity)

The Raising of Lazarus and the Gay Experience of Coming Out (Wild Reed)

Unbinding (Bible in Drag)


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This post is part of the GLBT Saints 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.

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


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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

See videos about gay Passion of Christ book



Watch two short videos about “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” -- the official book trailer and the unauthorized video from someone who calls himself “Adam and Eve, Not Steve.”

The official three-minute video (above) includes an interview with author Kittredge Cherry, a sacred-music soundtrack, and close-ups of Doug Blanchard’s paintings showing Jesus as a gay man of today.

The unauthorized video (below) is done in a fairly objective news-report style, even if the narrator’s voice does sound like a robot.





There’s still time to get the book before Christmas. Order by Friday, Dec. 19 for free shipping to most places.

Buy now from Amazon.com (USA)

Buy now from Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)


Thanks to Andrew Craig Williams and Audrey Lockwood for putting together the splendid official book trailer.

For more info on the book, visit:
* Book website: passionofchristbook.com

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2014 named



Dozens of books with LGBTQ Christian themes were published in 2014. Here is a list of the top 25 – starting with the fun stuff.

The list goes on to include the Bible, theology, art, memoir, novels and LGBT people in the church.

The year's diverse group of authors approaches the subject in all different ways: from Biblical to biographies, scholarly or simple, fiction and non-fiction, for young and old. Enjoy!

And please let me know if I missed anything. I will keep adding to the list.

Even I was surprised and inspired by the mind-boggling quantity and variety of LGBT Christian titles when I compiled this year’s book list. What was once marginal has gone mainstream. What began as a trickle has become an avalanche!

A few trends emerged. Several church leaders who used to preach against homosexuality chronicle how they changed their minds. And there are multiple titles about same-sex marriage.


Fun stuff

The Art of Coming Out: Cartoons for the LGBTQ Community” by David Hayward.
Cartoons by the artist known as “Naked Pastor” use humor to show the ups and downs of LGBT people in the church. It is divided into three chapters: the discrimination, the struggle, and the affirmation. His Jesus is always siding with rainbow people. Makes you laugh, makes you think.

Grace and Demion: A Fable for Victims of Biblical Intolerance” by Mel White.
Bestselling author Mel White writes a fable that uses a comic style for a serious purpose: It is a moving allegory for Mel's own life and his brave struggle to free himself and other LGBT people from religious oppression. Demon-in-training Demion battles guardian angel Grace for the soul of a young gay Boy Scout. White received the ACLU'S National Civil Liberties Award for his years of LGBT religious activism, including the founding of Soulforce.


Bible

The Bible's Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical's Change of Heart” by Mark Achtemeier.
An Iowa Presbyterian pastor and theologian describes how his understanding of the Bible evolved to lead him from being a conservative, evangelical opponent of LGBT rights to an outspoken activist for same-sex marriage.

God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships” by Matthew Vines.
Definitely the year’s most buzzed-about LGBT Christian book. Vines, age 24, is an evangelical gay Christian who has been featured in the New York Times and USA Today. His book expands on his YouTube video "The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality,” which went viral with more than 500,000 views. He took a leave of absence from Harvard to launch the Reformation Project, a non-profit dedicated to training LGBT Christians and  allies to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.


Theology

Peculiar Faith: Queer Theology for Christian Witness” by Jay Emerson Johnson.
A quote from this book says it all: “Queer gifts emerge in Christian communities when LGBT people no longer feel compelled to justify their presence in those communities.” The author teaches at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley while serving as clergy at an Episcopal church.

A Queering of Black Theology: James Baldwin's Blues Project and Gospel Prose” by E.L. Kornegay.
A theology professor reconciles sexuality and faith by “placing sex in the place where rage produces theological violence understood as sexism and homophobia.” He brings together queer theory with the work of celebrated African American writer James Baldwin.

Queer Christianities: Lived Religion in Transgressive Forms” edited by Michael Pettinger, Kathleen Talvacchia, and Mark Larrimore.
Queer theory, religious studies, theology and Christian faith are used to re-examine celibacy, matrimony, and what is provocatively called “promiscuity” here.


Art books

The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” by Kittredge Cherry with art by Douglas Blanchard.
Meet Jesus as a gay man of today in a contemporary city with these powerful paintings and commentary. The modern Christ figure and his diverse friends live out a 21st-century version of Jesus’ last days, including the crucifixion and resurrection. The illustrated book brings together a gifted gay artist and an established lesbian author who specializes in LGBT Christian art. Readers call it “accessible but profound.”

Holy Women Icons” by Angela Yarber.
Artist and Baptist pastor Angela Yarber presents about 50 color images of her folk feminist icons, along with their biographies. Her diverse icons range from Mary, Mother of God to Maya Angelou, plus goddesses such as Pachamama. She features a variety of lesbians, such as Sappho and Mary Daly. Voluptuous, vibrantly alive and life-giving women dance through this treasury of female icons. Most are uncanonized by the church, but Yarber's paintbrush consecrates a wide variety of women to become unconventional saints whose lives inspire people with new models of holiness. Grounded in solid scholarly study, "Holy Women Icons" is as accessible as a rainbow and just as beautiful.


Memoir and autobiography

Hiding from Myself: A Memoir” by Bryan Christopher.
A difficult passage from self-denial to self-acceptance takes the author from a childhood in Bible-Belt Texas to ringing doorbells for Jesus in the Castro of San Francisco, being a butler at the Playboy Mansion, UCLA frat-house beer parties and wholehearted immersion in ex-gay conversion therapy.

And God Save Judy Garland: A Gay Christian's Journey” by Randy Eddy-McCain.
An openly gay pastor in Arkansas tells how he reconciled his sexuality and spirituality after growing up in the Assemblies of God church there.

The Thousand-Petaled Lotus: Growing Up Gay in the Southern Baptist Church” by Michael Fields.
A humorous and thought-provoking memoir of growing up gay in the strict Southern Baptist culture of Tennessee by an author who now works in the Department of Veterans Affairs. His life unfolds like the thousand-petaled lotus of enlightenment in Hindu tradition.

Facing the Music: My Story” by Jennifer Knapp.
A big Christian music star’s career ended abruptly when she walked away and came out publicly as a lesbian. This is her story. The Australian-American singer went from a troubled childhood to stardom and now advocates for LGBT people in the church, all without losing her faith.

Going Gay: My Journey from Evangelical Christian Minister to Self-acceptance, Love, Life, and Meaning” by Tim Rymel.
Evangelical minister Tim Rymel was a major advocate for ex-gay therapy as the Outreach Director for Love in Action. Now he reveals the journey that led him to identify as gay and heal the harm done by “reparative therapies.”

Teaching the Cat to Sit: A Memoir” by Michelle Theall.
An award-winning writer weaves together two stories: growing up as a lesbian Catholic in the Texas Bible Belt and her recent public battle to baptize her adopted son in the local Catholic church. Eventually she discovers that in order to be a good mother, she may have to be a bad daughter.

Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith” by Eve Tushnet.
Billed as “the first book from an openly lesbian and celibate Catholic.” The only child of two atheist academics, the author was the unlikeliest of converts, moving from liberal atheism to faithful Catholicism. She offers a “third way” between the usual two options of rejecting one’s church or rejecting one’s sexuality.

Saved From Salvation: A Journey from Fundamentalism to a Ministry of Spiritual Humanism” by Durrell Watkins.
A readable personal account of a queer spiritual journey includes the arts, Buddhism, Goddess/Nature spirituality, and New Age spirituality as well as the more common church paths, all leading to an inclusive ministry in Metropolitan Community Churches. The final sections discuss the Bible and humanistic spirituality.


Novels

The Passion of Sergius and Bacchus: A Novel of Truth” by David Reddish.
Saints Sergius and Bacchus were third-century Roman soldiers, Christian martyrs -- and a committed same-sex couple. The close bond between the two men has been emphasized since the earliest accounts, but the novelist fills in the blanks, including a fictional account of their brother-making (adelphopoesis) ceremony.

Playing by the Book” by S. Chris Shirley.
This young-adult LGBT novel tells how a gay teenage preacher’s kid from Alabama goes to New York for a prestigious high school journalism workshop, where his beliefs about the Bible collide with his attraction to a handsome Jewish classmate named Sam. The author is a writer/director and president of Lambda Literary Foundation.


LGBT people in the church

Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach between the Conservative Church and the LGBT Christian Community” by Kathy Baldock.
Straight evangelical Christian Kathy Baldock became an advocate for LGBT inclusion in the church after meeting a Native American lesbian on a local hiking trail in 2001. Here she explains how and why church and society came to discriminate against LGBT people. Along the way she tells stories and testimonies.

Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism” by R.W. Holmen.
This well researched history book how LGBT clergy won the right to full inclusion in mainline denominations, including the United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodists, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Holmen, a lifelong Lutheran, is an attorney who volunteered for Goodsoil, an LGBTQ advocacy group.

Entering into the Mystery: Passion, Resurrection, Healing and Wholeness” by Julian Meek.
A series of meditations on the Passion of Christ are presented from an LGBT perspective by a Welsh poet and cleric who was the first openly bisexual chairman of a local council.

Unnatural: Spiritual Resiliency in Queer Christian Women” by Rachel Murr.
A Minnesota therapist interviewed 10 queer women and one transman about how they kept their faith alive despite family rejection, ex-gay therapies, homelessness, suicide attempts and other hardships. She also tells how she reconciled her own lesbian identity and Christian faith by coming out as a college student.

More Perfect Union? Understanding Same-sex Christian Marriage” by Alan Wilson.
The only bishop in the Church of England who advocates full inclusion of LGBTQI people in the church explains the scientific, theological and Biblical basis of his position.


Late Additions

Watch the Throne” by John Demetry.
The introduction to this book a film critic says, "Filtered through the Catholic lens, Demetry makes particularly indispensable contributions to gay cinema..."

Uncooperative Baptist” by Sea Lowder.
This book follows the reconciliation of an author described as “an uncooperative Baptist--decidedly agender with ‘facial hair and all,’ liberal, universalist, and ‘troll’ perhaps most surprisingly of all with a Spirit of Biblical obedience.”

It's Life Jim . . .: A Journey to Sexual and Spiritual Reconciliation via the Road of Fundamentalist Religion” by Jim Marjoram.
Gay New Zealand author describes how he struggled with “same-sex attraction” and fundamentalist Christianity. After two marriages and “the complete collapse of everything around him,” he finally finds unconditional love and self-acceptance.

In the Middle of It: A Memoir” by Rev. Bob Scott.
A gay Anglican priest in New Zealand describes his 50 years of ministry, including 14 years on the staff of the World Council of Churches. The book describes him as "Faithful. Radical. Gay Storyteller."

Defrocked: How A Father's Act of Love Shook the United Methodist Church” by
Franklyn Schaefer with Sherri Wood Emmons.
A Pennsylvania pastor tells how officiating at his son’s same-sex marriage led the Methodist church to put him on trial and strip him of his ordination.
Eros and Thanatos” by Melinda Selmys.
A leading Catholic thinker on LGBT issues writes a philosophical novel where one character’s gay sexuality is a major theme.

A Letter to My Congregation: An Evangelical Pastor’s Path to Embracing People Who Are Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender into the Company of Jesus” by Ken Wilson.
The founding pastor of Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor held traditional views until he met a transgender woman rejected by her church and began studying Biblical teachings that affirm eunuchs. Written as a letter to his congregation, his book is a contemporary epistle.

___
Related links:

Top 20 Gay Jesus books (from Jesus in Love)

Queer Theology book list (from Patrick Cheng)

Queering the Church book list

Jesus in Love Bookstore (includes LGBT Christian classics)



Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts
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John of the Cross: Dark Night of a Gay Soul

"St. John of the Cross" by Brother Robert Lentz, OFM, trinitystores.com

“The Dark Night of the Soul,” a spiritual classic with homoerotic overtones, was written by 16th-century Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross, also known as San Juan de la Cruz. His feast day is today (Dec. 14).

Like other mystics, John of the Cross (1542-1591) used the metaphor of erotic love to describe his relationship with Christ. Since Jesus was born male, his poetry inevitably celebrates same-sex love. Hear how passionately John speaks about Christ in these verses translated by A.Z. Foreman:

O night that can unite
A lover and loved one,
A lover and loved one moved in unison.


And on my flowering breast
Which I had kept for him and him alone
He slept as I caressed
And loved him for my own.

(The whole poem is reprinted in the original Spanish and in English at the end of this post). John, a Carmelite friar who worked with Theresa of Avila, wrote these beautiful verses while imprisoned in a latrine for trying to reform the church.

“The Dark Night of the Soul” is open to various interpretations, but is usually considered to be a metaphor of the soul’s journey to union with God.

Detail from “Intimacy with Christ 3” by Richard Stott (for full image click here)

Gay writers explore the queer dimensions of the poem at the following links:

Richard Stott, a Methodist minister and art therapist in England, created three large paintings based on “The Dark Night of the Soul.” The triptych is called “Intimacy with Christ.”

Toby Johnson, ex-monk, gay spirituality author and activist, connects the Dark Night of the Soul with gay consciousness at TobyJohnson.com.

Terence Weldon explains why John of the Cross is important for LGBT people of faith at the Queer Spirituality Blog.

In the icon at the top of this post, Brother Robert Lentz shows John with the living flames that he described in this poetry. The inscription by his head puts his name in Arabic to honor the Arabic heritage that John received from his mother.


The Dark Night of the Soul
By John of the Cross

From: THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD, and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, revised edition (1991). Copyright 1991 ICS Publications.

1. One dark night,
fired with love's urgent longings
- ah, the sheer grace! -
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
- ah, the sheer grace! -
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
- him I knew so well -
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.


___
Original Spanish
En una noche oscura
por San Juan de la Cruz

1. En una noche oscura,
con ansias, en amores inflamada,
¡oh dichosa ventura!,
salí sin ser notada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada;

2. a escuras y segura
por la secreta escala, disfrazada,
¡oh dichosa ventura!,
a escuras y encelada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada;

3. en la noche dichosa,
en secreto, que naide me veía
ni yo miraba cisa,
sin otra luz y guía
sino la que en el corazón ardía.

4. Aquesta me guiaba
más cierto que la luz del mediodía
adonde me esperaba
quien yo bien me sabía
en parte donde naide parecía.

5. ¡Oh noche que guiaste!
¡oh noche amable más que la alborada!;
¡oh noche que juntaste,
Amado con amada,
amada en el Amado transformada!

6. En mi pecho florido,
que entero para él solo se guardaba,
allí quedó dormido,
y yo le regalaba,
y el ventalle de cedros aire daba.

7. El aire del almena,
cuando yo sus cabellos esparcía,
con su mano serena
en mi cuello hería,
y todos mis sentidos suspendía.

8. Quedéme y olvidéme,
el rostro recliné sobre el Amado;
cesó todo y dejéme,
dejando mi cuidado
entre las azucenas olvidado.

____
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, 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.

A Spanish version is available at:
San Juan de la Cruz: Noche Oscura del Alma Gay (Santos Queer)

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

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





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