Thursday, 29 December 2011

David the Prophet & Jonathan, His Lover

The story of David and Jonathan is one of those most frequently quoted in any discussion of biblical same sex relationships. As with the stories of Ruth & Naomi, or of Jesus and John (the "beloved disciple"), it is similarly bedeviled by discussion over the degree of physical intimacy involved (was there or wasn't there?), and the impossibility of knowing for certain.
Personally, I see these questions as something of a distraction, just as I do with the other cases. Gay men are frequently accused of being "obsessed" with genital sex. If we only accept as "gay" those men for whom we know there was this genital activity, we are simply reinforcing the stereotype. I prefer simply to recognize that there was clearly a deeply intimate emotional relationship here, and to ignore the degree of physical expression. (Chris Glaser has pointed out that whatever the nature of the relationships, the stories of David & Jonathan, and of Ruth and Naomi, are the two longest love stories told in the Bible - longer than any obviously heterosexual love stories. Marriage in Biblical times was not about love. See "Coming Out as Sacrament")

However, for those who are determined to dig deeper, there is a reference by John McNeill (in Sex as God Intended) which is worth thinking about.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

St John the Evangelist and Prochorus

St John the Evangelist is often identified as the "Beloved Disciple" mentioned in his own Gospel, and it has been suggested that there may well have been an intimate relationship between him and Jesus. (In medieval Northern Europe, there was even a long-standing tradition that he and Christ were the bridal couple at the Cana Wedding Feast).

After Jesus had left the earth, John had a further notable and intimate (at least emotionally so) relationship with  another male disciple, this time younger than he - his disciple and scribe, Prochorus, bishop of Nicomedia. (Prochorus in turn, later formed a fresh relationship of his own with a younger man, Irenaeus,)

Dec 27th: John, the (Queer) Evangelist.

The Gospel of John is of particular interest to queer people of faith for its repeated references to the "beloved disciple", or to "the disciple that Jesus loved". These references make clear that whoever he was, this disciple had a relationship with Jesus of particular intimacy. There's the well-known scene from the Last Supper where he rests his head on Jesus' breast (or lap), and at the crucifixion, he is the only man standing among the women at the foot of the cross. He is the one to whom Christ entrusts the care of his mother - rather as a surviving spouse in marriage would assume some responsibility for the care of a mother-in-law. The existence of this special relationship  provides much of the argument for the proposition that Jesus' sexual orientation may have been what we call "gay".

St John the Evangelist, the "Beloved Disciple": December 27th

In the catalogue of "gay saints", or pairs of supposedly "gay lovers" in Scripture, the coupling of John the Evangelist (the "beloved disciple")  and Jesus himself is surely the most controversial. Many people, including some of my friends from the LGBT Soho Masses, find the whole idea that this may have been a "gay", sexually active relationship, highly offensive. Others argue the opposite case.

In an explosive book, "the man jesus loved,  the reputable biblical scholar Theodore Jennings mounts an extended argument that Jesus himself was actually gay and that the beloved disciple of John's Gospel was Jesus' lover.  To support this provocative conclusion, Jennings examines not only the texts that relate to the beloved disciple but also the story of the centurion's servant boy and the texts that show Jesus' rather negative attitude toward the traditional family: not mother and brothers, but those who do the will of God, are family to Jesus.  Jennings suggests that Jesus relatives and disciples knew he was gay, and that, despite the efforts of the early Church to downplay this "dangerous memory" about Jesus, a lot of clues remains in the Gospels.  Piecing the clues together, Jennings suggests not only that Jesus was very open to homosexuality, but that he himself was probably in an intimate, and probably sexual, relationship with the beloved disciple.
-Daniel Helminiak, Sex and the Sacred

Saturday, 24 December 2011

John Boswell

b. March 20, 1947
d. December 24, 1994

John Boswell was an esteemed historian who argued that homosexuality has always existed, that it has at times enjoyed wide social acceptance, and that the Church historically allowed same-sex unions.

"It is possible to change ecclesiastical attitudes toward gay people and their sexuality because the objections to homosexuality are not biblical, they are not consistent, they are not part of Jesus' teaching; and they are not even fundamentally Christian."

John Boswell was a gifted medieval philologist who read more than fifteen ancient and modern languages. After receiving his PhD from Harvard in 1975, he joined the history faculty at Yale University. Boswell was an authority on the history of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in medieval Spain. He helped to found the Lesbian and Gay Studies Center at Yale in 1987. In 1990 he was named the A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History.

In 1980 Boswell published the book for which he is best known: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. In this groundbreaking study, Boswell argued against "the common idea that religious belief-Christian or other-has been the cause of intolerance in regard to gay people." The book was named one of the New York Times ten best books of 1980 and received both the American Book Award and the Stonewall Book Award in 1981.

Boswell's second book on homosexuality in history was The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, published in 1994. In it he argues that the Christian ritual of adelphopoiia ("brother-making") is evidence that prior to the Middle Ages, the Church recognized same-sex relationships. Boswell's thesis has been embraced by proponents of same-sex unions, although it remains controversial among scholars.

John Boswell converted to Roman Catholicism as an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary, and remained a devout Catholic for the rest of his life. He was an effective teacher and popular lecturer on several topics, including his life journey as an openly gay Christian man.

Boswell died of AIDS-related illness on Christmas Eve in 1994 at age 47.

Selected works by John Boswell:
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Eugenia /Eugenios of Alexandria, 24th December

24th December is the day the Eastern Orthodox Church remembers St Eugenia / Eugenios of Alexandria, another of the group of female saints in the early church who dressed as men to be admitted to all-male monasteries.

Holy Virgin and Martyr Eugenia and her companions (~190)

"This Martyr was the daughter of most distinguished and noble parents named Philip and Claudia. Philip, a Prefect of Rome, moved to Alexandria with his family. In Alexandria, Eugenia had the occasion to learn the Christian Faith, in particular when she encountered the Epistles of Saint Paul, the reading of which filled her with compunction and showed her clearly the vanity of the world. Secretly taking two of her servants, Protas and Hyacinth, she departed from Alexandria by night. Disguised as a man, she called herself Eugene [Eugenios -ed.] while pretending to be a eunuch, and departed with her servants and took up the monastic life in a monastery of men. Her parents mourned for her, but could not find her. After Saint Eugenia had laboured for some time in the monastic life, a certain woman named Melanthia, thinking Eugene to be a monk, conceived lust and constrained Eugenia to comply with her desire; when Eugenia refused, Melanthia slandered Eugenia to the Prefect as having done insult to her honour. Eugenia was brought before the Prefect, her own father Philip, and revealed to him both that she was innocent of the accusations, and that she was his own daughter. Through this, Philip became a Christian; he was afterwards beheaded at Alexandria. Eugenia was taken back to Rome with Protas and Hyacinth. All three of them ended their life in martyrdom in the years of Commodus, who reigned from 180 to 192." (Great Horologion)

(For some general observation on the full group, have a look at "Transvestite Saints?"

See also:

Anson, J., "The Female Transvestite in Early Monasticism: the Origin and Development of a Motif", Viator 5 (1974), 1-32

Bennasser, Khalifa Abubakr: Gender and Sanctity in Early Byzantine Monasticism: A Study of the Phenomenon of Female Ascetics in Male Monastic Habit with a Translation of the Life of St. Matrona, [Rutgers Ph.D Dissertation 1984; UMI 8424085]

Delcourt, Marie: "Le complexe de Diane dans l'hagiographie chretienne", Revue de l'Histoire des Religions 153 (January-March 1958), 1-33

Patlagean, Evelyne: "L'histoire de la femme déguise en moine et l'evolution de la sainteté feminine à Byzance", Studi Medievali ser. 3 17 (1976), 597-625, repr. in Structure sociale, famille, chretienté à Byzance IVe-XIe siècle, (London: Variorum, 1981), XI

Marina Warner, St. Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism, (London: 1981, pb. Penguin, 1985), esp 149-63

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Protus & Hyacinth, 24th December

Protus and Hyacinthus were the eunuch slaves who were the companions of St. Eugenia of Alexandria. They served as her two teachers who accompanied her on a somewhat romantic journey, and at the end were martyred with her.

Select bibliography

Dukakis, Megas Synaxaristes, translated in various volumes by Holy Apostles Convent, (Buena Vista, Colorado,
various dates ), sub. Eugenia
Szarmach, Paul E., "Aelfric's Women Saints: Eugenia", in Helen Damico and Alexandria Hennessey Olsen, eds., New
Readings on Women in Old English Literature, (Bloomington IN: Indiana UP, 1990), 146-157

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Ruth & Naomi, 20th December

The story of Ruth and Naomi is widely quoted by queer writers as an example from Scripture of possible lesbian love: but how relevant is it? Superficially at least, it is just a simple story of exceptionally strong family affection and loyalty, between mother- and daughter- in-law. Whether in any way “lesbian” or not, the story is relevant, but not perhaps in the way usually told. To unravel the lessons it may hold for us, let’s begin with the simple story.
Naomi was an Israelite widow, living for a while (on account of famine) in Moab, where she married her two sons to Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. The sons later died, leaving Naomi “all alone, without husband or sons” ,
She did have two daughters-in-law, and when she heard that conditions back in Israel had improved, she returned, initially taking her two daughters-in-law with her. She then had a change of heart, and encourages the two women to return to their own home in Moab. After some persuasion, Orpah did so, but Ruth refused. 

Do not press me to leave you
Or turn back from following you!
Where you go I will go,
Where you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people will be my people, and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die –
There will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you
(Ruth 1: 16-17)
After their arrival in Bethlehem, Naomi arranged a second husband for Ruth, to Boaz. She then bore a grandson for Naomi, a grandson who would support them both in old age, and who would in time be part of the lineage linking Naomi to David, and hence to Jesus. (Ruth becomes King David’s great-grandmother: Ruth is the mother of Obed, who is father of Jesse and grandfather of David.)

It is obvious from the above that Naomi was mother-in-law to Ruth –twice over. It is equally obviously a story of great affection and loyalty between two women. Is it more?

John Boswell doesn’t think so:
“There is little in the Book of Ruth to suggest that anything other than loyalty bound Ruth to Naomi (who had, in fact, suggested that Ruth depart, along with her other daughters-in-law; but Ruth refused to do so.)”
He also points out that the obvious devotion of Ruth to Naomi is instrumental in securing the attention of Boaz. What would be the point of remembering a lesbian relationship that serves to attract a husband for one of the women?

Paul Halsall asks, but does not answer, the question,
Is this a story about Lesbianism, which was not forbidden at all in the Law? Whatever the answer, it is a story of love and loyalty between two women.
However, he does point to another aspect of the story which is less commonly remarked on, that it is a story of the outsider, and how outsiders can become insiders. As a Moabite woman, Ruth is very much an outsider in Israeli society. Yet she accepts this in her loyalty to Naomi, and is ultimately rewarded by becoming the mother of Obed, the grandmother of King David, and ultimately an ancestor of Jesus himself.
This is a book of the inclusivity of God's call, and another Biblical illustration of the limits of the Law
Paul Glaser also sees this as a story of devotion, but reads it as a “coming out” story:
All of us who grow to accept and affirm our sexuality have in some sense heard this call to come out. In grief and regret, some of us may feel forced to leave a family, a congregation, or a community (much as Ruth did) to make our commitments. Following Ruth and Naomi’s strategy, we may use whatever is available to us in the church and society to survive. Yet, alongside Ruth and Naomi, we use our commitment to lovers, our fresh understandings of God, and our new communities of faith – maybe a support group, a network, an organization, a congregation - to survive.
A comment placed on this site by a Baptist pastor ( “ hinbww ”) responding to an earlier article on the Bible (Is the Bible Anti-gay?"), stated unequivocally:
Ruth & Naomi were married.
He later elaborated:

Ruth 1:14, referring to the relationship between Ruth and Naomi, mentions that “Ruth clave onto her.” (KJV) The Hebrew word translated here as “clave” is identical to that used in the description of a heterosexual marriage in Genesis 2:24: ” Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (KJV)

This book was probably included in the Hebrew Scriptures because King David was one of the descendents of Ruth. Although this same-sex friendship appears to have been very close, there is no proof that it was a sexually active relationship.
How valid this interpretation is, I have no idea. I have no knowledge of Hebrew, but if the word used in Ruth 1:14 is the same as that in Genesis 2:24, as stated, then the suggestion is an important one which needs to be taken seriously. It is also worth pointing out though, that Naomi’s arrangement of a marriage to Boaz does not eliminate the possibility of a lesbian relationship between the two women; and that a lesbian relationship does not necessarily imply a sexual relationship. (We recognise a number of gay clergy as saints who clearly demonstrate a homosexual orientation, and who had deeply intimate emotional relationships with men, who are nevertheless accepted as having remained celibate).

What do I think?
I don’t see the need for just a single, "correct" interpretation. I think the reading of “cleave” suggested above is worth taking seriously and one which I will try to explore further. I also think it is worthwhile to use the passage as a reflection on female loyalty, or on inclusion and outsiders, or on coming out. But I also see this passage in another light, which is instructive but not inspirational.

When I read Ruth as a gay man, I am struck by another theme entirely how totally dependent women of that time were on men, for their very survival. When Naomi’s sons died, she is described as being left all alone. She was not – she had two daughters in law, but they didn’t count. Much later, during the negations leading up to the marriage of Ruth to Boaz, there is a complicated bit about the sale of a piece of land. The critical point is that the purchaser of the property is obliged to take the woman with it – women are sold as property along with the land, The joyful climax of the story is the birth of a son, who can take care of both women in their old age,

This reminder of the total dependence of women on men goes to the heart of the problems of the church on matters of gender and sexuality. Women continue to be seen as inferior to men, and are treated accordingly. The inferior status is also why the Leviticus prohibition is on men who lie with men “as with women”, and why so many societies, then and now, see it as shameful for a man to take the “female” part in male intercourse, but to take the “masculine”, active, role, is not regarded as gay at all. These attitudes , coupled with some bizarre ides about animal behaviour, were behind the condemnation of same sex relationships by some (not all) early church fathers.

The social attitudes of Jewish society revealed by the story of Ruth and Naomi are at the heart of the modern oppression by the church of women and gay men. Ruth and Naomi found a way to survive and flourish working within the system. For us today, in a world where the attitudes outside the church (informed by science and reason) are very different, should not have to work within an unjust system to flourish ourselves. Instead, we should work to subvert and destroy those elements that are unloving and unjust.
Kittredge Cherry has also written on these two: see Jesus in Love blog

John Boswell, Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, (Harper-Collins)
Chris Glaser, Coming out as Sacrament (Westminster John Knox Press)
Paul Halsall, Calendar of LGBT Saints (on-line)

Sunday, 18 December 2011

James Stoll, US. (1936 – 1994) Minister of Religion.

b.  January 18, 1936
d.  December 8, 1994

Rev. James Lewis Stoll, M.Div. was a Unitarian Universalist minister who became the first ordained minister of any religion in the United States or Canada to come out as gay. He did so at the annual Continental Conference of Student Religious Liberals on September 5, 1969 in La Foret, Colorado. Later, he led the effort that convinced the Unitarian Universalist Association to pass the first-ever gay rights resolution in 1970. 

After training at Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley, followed by ordination, he served as pastor at a church in Kennewick, Wash., from 1962 until 1969. For reasons that are not clear, he was asked to resign, and then moved to San Francisco, where he shared an apartment with three others.  

In September of 1969, he attended a convention of college-age Unitarians in Colorado Springs. One evening after dinner, he stood up and came out publicly as a gay man. He declared his orientation, stated that it was not a choice, that he was no longer ashamed of it, and that from then on, he would refuse to live a lie.

“On the second or third night of the conference,” according to Mr. Bond-Upson, “after dinner, Jim got up to speak. He told us that he’d been doing a lot of hard thinking that summer. Jim told us he could no longer live a lie. He’d been hiding his nature — his true self — from everyone except his closest friends. ‘If the revolution we’re in means anything,’ he said, ‘it means we have the right to be ourselves, without shame or fear.'
“Then he told us he was gay, and had always been gay, and it wasn’t a choice, and he wasn’t ashamed anymore and that he wasn’t going to hide it anymore, and from now on he was going to be himself in public. After he concluded, there was a dead silence, then a couple of the young women went up and hugged him, followed by general congratulations. The few who did not approve kept their peace.” ’
After the convention, Stoll wrote articles on gay rights, and preached sermons on the subject at several churches. The following year, the full annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution condemning discrimination against homosexual persons, beginning a gradual but irresistible move towards full LGBT inclusion.  

No action was ever taken by the church against Stoll, and so he remained a minister in good standing, but he was never again called to serve a congregation. It is not clear whether this had anything to do with lingering prejudice against his orientation. It could also be on the grounds of some suspicions of drug abuse, or of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Later, he founded the first counseling center for gays and lesbians in San Francisco. In the 1970s he established the first hospice on Maui. He was president of the San Francisco chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1990s. He died at the age of 58 from complications of heart and lung disease, exacerbated by obesity and a life-long smoking habit

Stoll's name is not well known today, but for this brave and honest public witness, he deserves to be better remembered.In declaring himself, he was not the first ordained clergyman to come out, but he was the first to do so voluntarily, and the first in an established denomination. His action undoubtedly made it easier for the others who followed him, and to the formal acceptance by the Unitarians of openly gay men and lesbians in the church, and to the now well-established process to full LGBT inclusion in so many denominations. 

Haunted Man of the Cloth, Pioneer of Gay Rights (NY Times)
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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Three Young Men in the Burning Fiery Furnace: Dec 17th

Today, the church celebrates the feast of three young men, Shadrack, Mesach and Abednego, the companions of Daniel the prophet. I missed the opportunity to comment on the due date, which was unfortunate: they are important for highlighting a much neglected group in the church - the transgendered.

We are probably all familiar with the stories of Daniel in the lion's den, and of his three companions in the burning fiery furnace. What they don't tell us in Sunday School, is that as slaves captured and taken to service in the king's court in Babylon they were almost certainly eunuchs - castrated males. This was the standard fate of slaves in the royal court, as Kathryn Ringrose has shown, and as anticipated by Isaiah:
And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
-Isaiah 39:7

Lazarus, The Man Jesus Loved.

"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.
Some scholars believe 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.” "

Read more (at Jesus in Love)

'via Blog this'

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Vida Dutton Scudder, American Lesbian Saint for Our Times

Vida Dutton Scudder is a rare example of a modern lesbian who is a recognized Christian saint (recognized by the US Episcopal Church, not the Roman Catholics). Her work and message are particularly relevant to the twentieth century, as we grapple with an economic crisis triggered in effect by corporate and consumer greed.

Born in 1861, over a long life Scudder was an educator, writer, and welfare activist in the social gospel movement. Much of her thinking has particular relevance to us today, as we grapple with a financial and economic crisis precipitated in effect by a corporate and consumer culture marked by unrestrained greed. Throughout her life Scudder’s primary relationships and support network were women. From 1919 until her death, Scudder was in a relationship with Florence Converse, with whom she lived.

After earning a BA degree from Smith College in 1894, in 1895 she became one of the first two American women admitted to graduate study at Oxford university. After returning to Boston, Scudder taught English literature at Wellesley College, where she becoming an associate professor in 1892 and full professor from 1910.

While studying in England, she had come under the influence of people like John Ruskin,Leo Tolstoi, George Bernard Shaw, and Fabian Socialism. Back in Boston, she became actively involved in promoting her socialist ideas, especially Christian socialism. In 1988, two years after her return from Oxford, she joined both the Companions of the Holy Cross, a women's group dedicated to intercessionary prayer and social reconciliation, and the Society of Christian Socialists . In 1890 she was a co-founder of the Boston "settlement house" Dennison House, part of a movement which had the goal of getting the rich and poor in society to live more closely together in an interdependent community, in which volunteer middle-class "settlement workers" would live, hoping to share knowledge and culture with, and alleviate the poverty of their low-income neighbors. From 1893 she was active in the trade union movement, and in 1911 she co-founded the Episcopal Church Socialist League and joined the Socialist Party, attempting to reconcile the conflicting doctrines of Marxism and Christianity. After the First World War, she also embraced capitalism, and in 1923 she joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation, giving a series of lectures before the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in Prague.

After her retirement from Wellesley in 1928 until her death in 1954 at the age of 92, as Theresa Corcoran notes:
She continued to be in the storm center of advanced thought in the church and in society, supporting by her name and by her writing such groups as Reinhold Niebuhr's Fellowship of Socialist Christians and Rufus Jones's Wider Quaker Fellowship. She worked closely with the Christendom group in England, encouraged Mother Pattie Ellis in her desire to establish the Community of the Way of the Cross, a women's religious order combining active social work with monastic life, and followed closely the Reverend Frederick Hastings Smyth's Society of the Catholic Commonwealth.
Her socialism was not simply a political impulse, but sprang from her deep religious conviction and Gospel values, seeking to implement God's kingdom on earth. She valued her red Socialist membership card, but placed it in her personal oratory at home beside her crucifix. In the early years after the Russian Revolution she wrote that she "took delight in the Russian experiment", but later recognized that it too, could not guarantee justice, writing in her autobiography,
  "I'm afraid that Lenin would have scoffed at my treatment of the red flag given me at this time, which I placed beside the crucifix -- where it still hangs -- in my private oratory . . . I was doing my best to align a catastrophic and dialectical conception of history with my Christian thinking; and in communist revolution I discerned a Divine Judgment which was the sign of approaching redemption . . . But as coercion and cruelty were continuously impounded as means to reach justice and brotherhood, uncritical enthusiasm waned. Helped . . . by Franciscan studies, I became increasingly convinced that no revolution could bring ultimate salvation unless it proceeded from a Christian conception of man."
As we now recognize the failings of the unrelenting pursuit of profit that have brought us to our present crisis, we would do well to reflect deeply on these words. It is not neither the capitalist "system" that has created the problem, but the failure of our values. As Scudder writes, we need to return to a Christian conception of what it is to be human, remembering all the many warnings of Jesus Christ on the dangers of riches and the pursuit of wealth.

She is recognized as a saint by the Episcopal Church (USA), with a feast day on October 10.


Most gracious God, you sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in your church witnesses who, after the example of your servant Vida Dutton Scudder, stand firm in proclaiming the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. 
(from a collection of lectionary resources for the Episcopal Church)

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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

St John of the Cross,14th Dec (NRC), 24th Nov (ORC),

St John of the Cross (1542-1591) is usually remembered on December 14th (in the new Roman calendar, and also in the CoE calendar), but the old Roman calendar had him on November 24th.

St. John, like other mystics such as St. Theresa of Avila, used the language of courtly love to describe his relationship with Christ. He also discussed, with rare candor, the sexual stimulation of prayer, the fact that mystics experience sexual arousal during prayer. With the male Christ of course, this amounts to a homoeroticism of prayer.

An extract from the Dark Night quite clearly draws on homoerotic imagery, and has a valuable place in spiritual practice for gay men:
“Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined
Beloved with lover,

Lover transformed in the Beloved!
Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping,

and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.
The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;

With his gentle hand
He caressed my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.
I remained, lost in oblivion;

My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.”

Select bibliography

Catholic Encyclopedia - entry on John of the Cross (available online)
St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul, trans. E. Allison Peers, 3rd ed. (Garden City NY: Image/Doubleday, 1959)
Rougement, Denis de, Love in the Western World, trans. Montgomery Belgion, rev. ed. (New York: Pantheon, 1956; pb New York: Harper, 1956), 159-64
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St Venantius Fortunatus, Italian Bishop and Homoerotic Poet


Venantius Fortunatus was a poet, born c. 530 in Treviso, near Ravenna in Italy. He spent his time as court poet to the Merovingians. After visiting the tomb of St. Martin of Tours at St. Hilary at Poitiers, he decided to enter a monastery. He continued to write poetry, some of which have a permanent place in Catholic hymnody, for instance the Easter season hymns "Vexilla Regis" and the "Pange Lingua" (Sing, O my tongue, of the battle). Three or four years before he died he was made bishop of Poitiers. Although never canonized, he was venerated as a saint in the medieval church, and his feast day is still recognized on 14th December each year.

(Calendar of LGBT Saints)

Like Paulinus of Nola, St Veantius’s poetry also includes some decidedly secular verse of the romantic sort. That this celebrates male love is clear from its inclusion in the Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse.
"Written on an Island off the Breton Coast"
You at God's altar stand, His minister
And Paris lies about you and the Seine:
Around this Breton isle the Ocean swells,
Deep water and one love between us twain.
Wild is the wind, but still thy name is spoken;
Rough is the sea: it sweeps not o'er they face.
Still runs my lover for shelter to its dwelling,
Hither, O heart, to thine abiding place.
Swift as the waves beneath an east wind breaking
Dark as beneath a winter sky the sea,
So to my heart crowd memories awaking,
So dark, O love, my spirit without thee.

[trans. Helen Waddell, in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse]

Coote, Stephen, ed., The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse
Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality.

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Friday, 14 October 2011

Who are the "Queer Saints and Martyrs"?

I have been rather neglecting this site for a while, partly by circumstance, and partly for some reflection and reconsideration of its essential nature. When I first started learning about the "gay saints" of the Church, the matter of definition seemed fairly clear.As time has moved on, and I have learned and thought a little more, I have realised that this view is simplistic. One comment at the site, referring specifically to trans saints, is also more broadly relevant to the entire project.
No MTF saints can be found among those who actually got canonized -- but we all know, you don't have to actually be canonized to be a saint. Surely there's got to be some MTF saints who *aren't* canonized! Problem is -- not only such saints aren't canonized - but a MTF saint would probably have so little written about her, that it would be unlikely that we'd even know about her at all! So, maybe it's time that we start *investigating* the possibility? Coz let's face it -- the Vatican aint going to do this investigation for us. Information may be scant - but at least we can start looking! 
So - it's time to start looking. Here is my current thinking, and the revised concept for the site.

Byzantine icon of "All Saints"

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Father Mychal Judge

b. May 11, 1933
d. September 11, 2001
Father Mychal Judge was a Franciscan priest and Fire Department of New York chaplain who died heroically on September 11, 2001. He has been called a "Saint of 9/11."
"The first thing I do each day is get down on my knees and pray, 'Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what to say, and keep me out of your way.' "

Shortly before entering the World Trade Center on 9/11, Father Judge rejected an offer to join Mayor Giuliani, choosing instead to step into harm's way to be with the FDNY and victims of the terrorist attack. A Reuters photograph of Father Judge's body being carried from Ground Zero by rescue workers made him an international icon of heroism.
Father Judge was a hero to many long before his death. He was beloved by Fire Department of New York personnel and their families and a champion of New York's homeless, AIDS patients, gay and lesbian Catholics, alcoholics, immigrants, and disaster victims.
Born in Brooklyn to Irish immigrant parents, he was only six when his father died after a long illness. As a boy, Judge was inspired to enter the priesthood by the Franciscan friars at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi near Penn Station in Manhattan.
In the early years of his ministry, Father Judge served two parishes in New Jersey, where he gained a reputation as "the listening priest." During his service as Assistant to the President of Siena College, Father Judge confronted his alcoholism and achieved sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous.
In the 1980's, Father Judge was among the first clergy to minister to AIDS patients, who at that time were considered untouchable. Through the organization Dignity, he ministered to gay and lesbian Catholics even after the Church excluded the organization from holding masses in New York churches.
In 1996 Father Judge led a memorial service on the beach at Smith Point, Long Island for the families of the victims who lost their lives in the nation's second worst air disaster, the explosion of TWA Flight 800. More than 2,000 people attended.
Father Judge received numerous posthumous honors, including France's highest recognition, the Legion of Honor. His FDNY fire helmet was blessed by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

9/11 Victim 0001: Father Mychal’s Message

"The body bag marked “Victim 0001” on Sept. 11, 2001, contained the corpse of Father Mychal Judge, a Catholic chaplain with the Fire Department of New York. When he heard about the disaster at the World Trade Center, he donned his Catholic collar and firefighter garb and raced downtown. He saw people jump to their deaths to avoid the inferno more than 1,000 feet above. At 9:59 a.m., the South Tower collapsed, and the force and debris from that mass of steel, concrete, glass and humanity as it hit the ground is likely what killed Father Mychal. His was the first recorded death from the attacks that morning. His life’s work should be central to the 10th anniversary commemorations of the Sept. 11 attacks: peace, tolerance and reconciliation.
-read the full reflection at Amy Goodman: Truthdig:

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Victim 0001, the Saint of 9/11: Father Mychal Judge

The body of Mychal Judge was tagged with the designation “Victim 0001” -- the first official casualty of 9/11. In the famous Shannon Stapleton/Reuters photo, he is being carried out of the lobby of the North Tower, where he had been killed by debris from the collapsing South Tower. He was a Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, assigned to the monastery at the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street in Manhattan. He was also a chaplain with the New York Fire Department (NYFD) and one of the first responders to the attack on the twin towers. He was a recovered alcoholic... and he was gay."

Friday, 26 August 2011

Gay Catholic Icon Rev. Mychal Judge

"When All Saints Church sought to signal its hospitality to gays and lesbians, the Catholic parish in Syracuse, N.Y., turned to a well-known image from the 9/11 attacks: five firefighters carrying a body from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

The body belonged to the Rev. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan fire chaplain who rushed to the burning buildings and was killed by falling debris. Later, a half-hidden secret emerged about the gallant priest: he was gay."

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Troy Perry's Modern Martyrdom and Resurrection

Founder of Metropolitan Community Churches 
b. July 27, 1940

"God did not create gays and lesbians so He could have something to hate."

Troy Perry is the founder of the United Fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), a Protestant denomination ministering to the gay community. UFMCC reflects Perry’s commitment to provide a safe space for gays and lesbians to celebrate their faith.

Perry was born in Tallahassee, Florida. He was drawn to the church at an early age and delivered his first sermon when he was 13. At the age of 15, he was licensed as a Baptist minister. In 1959, Perry married a woman and had two sons. The couple separated in 1964 and later divorced.

Perry overcame hardships on his journey to becoming the founder of the UFMCC. He was stripped of a religious position because of his homosexuality, became estranged from his two sons and attempted suicide. He lost hope that he could reconcile his homosexuality with his faith. The seemingly homophobic arrest of a friend convinced Perry to start a church providing spiritual support to the gay community.

In October 1968, Perry launched UFMCC with a service for 12 people in his living room. UFMCC has grown to include more than 40,000 members with churches around the world. In 1969, he performed the first same-sex wedding. In the next year, he filed the first lawsuit seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Perry and his partner, Philip Ray DeBlieck, have been together since 1985. In 2003, they married at a UFMCC church in Toronto, Canada. The newlyweds sued the state of California for legal recognition of their marriage. They were among the plaintiffs in the May 2008 California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

Perry has been awarded honorary doctorates from Episcopal Divinity School, Samaritan College and Sierra University. He received Humanitarian Awards from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Gay Press Association.

Rapp, Linda.  “Perry, Troy.” GLBTQ: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Culture. August 17, 2005

Rev. Troy Perry.” The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Religious Archives Network. March 1, 2004

“Rev. Troy D. Perry Biography.” June 9, 2008


The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay: The Autobiography of the Reverend Troy D. Perry

Don't Be Afraid Anymore: The Story of Reverend Troy Perry and the Metropolitan Community Churches

Profiles in Gay and Lesbian Courage (Stonewall Inn Editions)

10 Spiritual Truths for Gays and Lesbians* (*and everyone else!) (2003)

Other Resources

Call Me Troy (2007)

Metropolitan Community Churches


Official Rev. Elder Troy D. Perry Website

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Pope Benedict, on the Queer Lessons in the Church's Martyrdom of St Joan.

At Enhanced Masculinity, I came across a post which reported on an address by Pope Benedict about the martyrdom and later canonization of St Joan of Arc. I was pleased to see this, as I have written before of the importance of Joan as a queer saint who was first martyred by the church, and later rehabilitated and honoured. Much the same will surely occur in time to those modern queer heroes who have been professionally martyred, by the Church which has deliberately destroyed their careers, for the great sin of attempting to speak the truth on sexual ethics or LGBT inclusion.

So, in addition to the significance of this address to my own arguments about the relevance of the queer saints and martyrs, it also relates to the current theological ferment on sexual ethics and widespread criticism of the institutional church. When I then crossed to the Vatican website and read the address in full, I found even more in Pope Benedict's words that can guide and inspire gay in lesbian Catholics in our struggles to withstand the hostility of the traditional, disordered teaching on homoerotic relationships.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

David Kato: A New Ugandan Martyr

In June each year, the Church remembers a group of Ugandan martyrs, in the feast of Charles Lwangwa and companions. This week, we as queer Christians have new Ugandan martyr to remember, in David Kanto, an openly gay church worker who was brutally murdered in a clearly homophobic attack. While we mourn his death, we should at the same time pause to reflect on both sets of deaths, and on the role of the Christian churches in fomenting African homophobia, in colonial times and in the modern world.
Charles Lwangwa and companions were a group of young pages to the king of Buganda who converted to Christianity. Encouraged by the local missionaries, they resisted the sexual advances of their royal master. For this act of treason (in the eyes of the king and the Buganda court), they were executed. For this courageous martyrdom (as the missionaries saw it), they were later canonized as saints.
This week, David Kanto was murdered.

David Kato, Martyr
David was brutally beaten to death in his home today, 26 January 2011, around 2pm.  Across the entire country, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Ugandans mourn the loss of David, a dear friend, colleague, teacher, family member, and human rights defender.
David has been receiving death threats since his face was put on the front page of Rolling Stone Magazine, which called for his death and the death of all homosexuals.  David's death comes directly after the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that people must stop inciting violence against homosexuals and must respect the right to privacy and human dignity.
-extract from public statement by Sexual Minorities Uganda

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Joseph and His Fabulous Queer Technicolour Dreamcoat.

Sometimes, stories and images are so familiar to us, that we completely fail to see their significance. The story of Joseph and his coat is familiar to us all from childhood Bible stories - and even more familiar as Lloyd-Webber's Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Ignore the main story for now, and just focus on that coat of many colours.

In the modern world, colour is everywhere, so much so that we hardy notice it unless it is used particularly well, or until it is unexpectedly absent. It was not always so. In the Biblical world, clothing was mostly drab: dyes of all kinds were costly , brightly coloured cloth of any kind was an expensive luxury. It is not surprising that Joseph's brothers would have been jealous of the special favour shown by their father, and wished to sell him into slavery.

Joseph sold into slavery, Edward Knippers
But there could be more to the story than first appears: this was not just a coloured coat, but a very specific type - a coat of many colours, in stripes. Just such a coat was typically worn by a specific group of people - a distinctly queer group.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Queer Gods, Demigods and Their Priests: The Middle East

(For a proper understanding of the place of homeroticism in Jewish and Christian history, it is instructive to contrast it with its place in other religions. I have described previously how many religions not only accept a recognized and important place for same sex love, but even identifyspecific patrons of homosexual love. I now propose to consider the many other gods and goddesses who either took same sex lovers themselves, or were served by sexually or gender non-conforming priests  and priestesses. I begin, as any account of the development of civilization must do, in the Middle East.)
Same sex love is a common theme in world religion and its literature, and is even present at the very beginning of literary history. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the world's oldest work of literature - and includes a central theme of love between two men. The hero Giligamesh was the king of Uruk, described as two thirds god and one third man, and a giant in size and strength, with a prodigious sexual appetite. He routinely used his strength and royal power to take advantage of both young men, taking them from their fathers, and young women, taking them from their husbands. To protect their sons and wives from the kings lust, the people turn to their gods, and in particular the creator goddess Aruru, pleading with her to send Gilgamesh a companion on whom he can expend his energies. Aruru responds, and sends to Gilgamesh a man, Enkidu, who is massive in size, inspiring in physique, hairy like an animal, and with luxuriant tresses of hair "like a woman".

Gilgamesh's Grief at Enkidu's Death

The subsequent relationship between the two, their adventures together,  Gilgamesh's grief after Enkidu's death and their subsequent reunion in the afterworld with Enkidu's ghost form the meat of the epic. The content is not explicitly homoerotic, but there are clear erotic undertones. Enkidu was created to divert the king's sexual appetite from his subjects, and there is no indication that such a prodigious sexual energy suddenly evaporated. At one point, Gilgamesh even declines a direct sexual invitation from the goddess Ishtar - preferring his male companion Enkidu. Recalling the words of  the biblical prophet David about Jonathan, it is said that Gilgamesh loved Enkidu "like a wife".
Discussing the erotic element in their relationship, the biblical scholar Marti Nissinen ("Homoeroticism in the Biblical World") makes an interesting point, one that will be familiar to many gay men in the modern West, and should give pause to those who insist that sex between men may be permitted in a committed, permanent relationship, but not before:
At first, the Epic of Gilgamesh can be described as a characterization of love between two men, with a homoerotic aspect that expresses their deep friendship......At the beginning, there is plenty of sex in the lives of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, but this lifestyle is presented as primitive and reckless. ....As the story proceeds, the relationship deepens and, simultaneously, the sexual passions seem to subside to the point that one can speak of a "spiritual" friendship between the two men. The erotic tension between Gilgamesh and Enkidu is not lost, but is transformed in the way that the same - sex interaction of the two men finally is characterized by love, with little if any sexual activity. Eroticism is important first and foremost as the impetus to the transformation which leads first from savage sexual behaviour to mutual love, and finally away from physical sex.
This process will be familiar to many modern gay men. In place of the romantic stereotype of a slowly blossoming chaste courtship, followed by a grand wedding and only then by sexual consummation, the pattern is more usually reversed.  Possibly influenced by the absence in practice of opportunities for more conventional courtships between men to develop, possibly by the more frankly sexual interests in relationships of men compared with women, the majority of gay male relationships begin with sexual encounters on or soon after a first date. Some of these develop into lasting friendships, and then some into lasting, committed unions.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, it is not the gods who were queer, but their priests and priestesses. There is a wealth of material on this, but two extracts from de la Huerta make the point in summary:
In ancient Mesopotamia, the Goddess Innana (also known as Ishtar) was considered the patron of the sinnisat zikrum, a class of gender-variant and possibly lesbian princesses. Likewise, she was also honoured and served by the kulbu, gender-variant male priests, which included the assinu and the kurgarru. Both male and female functionaries wore androgynous attire combined with sacd vestments and were considered to hold special powers. It was believed, for example, that the simple act of touching an assinu’s head would lead to victory in battle, while the mere sighting of a kurgarru was thought to bring good luck.
The Canaanite Goddess Ashtar was also served by a class of gender-variant priests, called qedeshim (the "holy ones") who were responsible for the upkeep of the temple grounds and the creation of ritual objects. They were said to engage in sacred temple prostitution and may have used sexual practices as a way to induce enhanced states of consciousness.
-De la Huerta, p 32 (after Conner, Blossom of Bone)
In Egyptian mythology, there is an important reminder that sex (whether between men or between a man and woman) was not always an expression of love, but was frequently an expression of power and aggression. Seth, the murderer of his brother Osiris, summons Osiris' nephew Horus, ostensibly to achieve some reconciliation. Instead, he attempts to rape him while Horus is asleep, thus putting him into a sexually subordinate position, which would leave him unfit for kingship. Instead, the younger man turns the tables by getting some of Seth's sperm in his hand, which he later mixes with his (Seth's) food. By taking male sperm, into his body, it is Seth who becomes unfit for kingship.

Recommended Books
Connor, Randy P, and Sparks, David: Cassell's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit 
De la Huerta, Christian: Coming Out Spiritually: The Next Step

Related Posts:
Some Gods of Homosexual Love (Queer Saints and Martyrs) 
Chin, Mayan Gay God (It's a Queer World)
The Chinese Rabbit God (It's a Queer World)