History

Was Jesus Christ gay?

We all know that Jesus Christ, the son of God, hung out with multitudes of men, spent nearly all his time with “sinners” and had an affinity for rainbows. But was Jesus Christ a member of the LGBTQIA+ community?

According to several theologians, the answer is a resounding yes.

Dr. Reverend Bob Shore-Goss, openly gay pastor and author of Queering Christ, argues that Jesus’ rejection of gender codes alone is proof of his queerness. He claims that since there was no term for homosexuality in ancient times, the fact that Jesus did not ascribe to the rules of his culture implies a subversion of heteronormativity.

In addition, Shore-Goss believes that Jesus had a homoerotic relationship with the disciple he called “beloved.” [While this disciple is never named, it’s widely believed to be John.] In an interview with Vice, Shore-Goss elaborates on his theory by describing a particularly personal exchange between the two men just before Jesus’ death.

“The beloved disciple is lying on the chest of Jesus at the last supper and is supposedly in his inner tunic,” says Shore-Gross. “[This] is what we would call underwear today. It’s a very intimate gesture, and it’s a special gesture of affection between the two.”

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Photo Credit

(Jesus laying half naked with another man at dinner seems pretty gay to me, but what do others think?) 

Theologian Theodore Jennings, author of The Man Jesus Loved, also agrees that Jesus indisputably had relations with men as evidenced by the intimate biblical descriptions of the John. Aside from Lazarus, John is the only one ever referred to as “beloved” by Jesus. (Not too many platonic friends call each other beloved).

Gerard Loughlin, a queer theologian and religious scholar, takes Jesus and John’s relationship even one step further in his book Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body. He argues that Jesus and John were married and the famous parable, the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-11), is actually about their gay wedding. (Now wouldn’t that be quite the twist for the religious conservatives? They’d all have to end their marriages, repent and become gay themselves!) 

Shockingly, this theory was actually quite common during ancient times. Its popularity was perpetuated by the apocryphal Acts of John, which claim that John broke off his engagement to a woman in order “bind himself” to Jesus. 

In fact, the wide spread belief of Jesus and John’s queerness is well documented in surviving art from that time period.

In The Calling of St. John (12th century), the artist depicts two scenes: Christ coaxing John away from his female bride and John resting his head upon Jesus’ chest. Jesus, in turn, cups the chin of his “beloved” which, in artistic convention, is used to indicate romantic intimacy.  The Latin reads: “Get up, leave the breast of your bride, and rest on the breast of the Lord Jesus.”

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John the Apostle resting on the bosom of Christ,” Swabia/Lake Constance, early 14th century. Photo by Andreas Praefcke

But that’s not the only artistic display of Jesus and John’s affection for each other.

Continue reading “Was Jesus Christ gay?”

History

This ancient gay love story was once as popular as our Romeo and Juliet    

We’ve all heard the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet but did you know that a queer love story was just as popular in archaic Greece?

I’m talking about the love affair between Patroclus and Achilles, whose friendship was established in Homer’s epic poem the “Iliad” but was immortalized as a homoerotic relationship by the ancient playwright, Aeschylus. Only fragments from Aeschylus’ once massively popular tragedy survive but his portrayal of Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship is indisputably romantic. In his three-part series titled, “Achilleis,” Aeschylus wrote about the life and love of Greek mythological hero, Achilles.

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Artist credit:  https://goo.gl/JXFbN5

For those of you unfamiliar with Homer’s “Iliad”, Achilles was prophesized to either die a hero in battle or live a long, uneventful life. Ultimately, Achilles decides to become a soldier and fights in the Trojan War with his best friend, Patroclus. Sadly, Patroclus is slain by Trojan Prince, Hector, and Achilles goes wild with grief. He beats his chest, smudges ashes on his head and acts like a recent widow. Motivated by sadness and, despite being warned that pursuing vengeance will result in his own death, Achilles murders Hector.

In “Myrmindons”, the first installment of Aeschylus’ trilogy, Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship differs from the “Iliad” because it’s made to be explicitly sexual.

An example of this blatant eroticism can be seen after Achilles finds Patroclus’ body stripped naked on the battlefield by the Trojans. Achilles laments his dead lover by saying, “Had you no reverence for the unsullied holiness of your thighs/ Ungrateful for the many kisses I gave you?” (Can’t get much gayer than that).

It’s important to understand that these plays of Aeschylus were so popular that the content was considered common knowledge even a hundred years later. To put that in context, the Great Gatsby was published just under a hundred years ago and most people  in modern society are aware of the book’s plot. In fact, Aeschylus’ rendition and interpretation of Homer’s epic poem was nearly universally accepted or recognized in ancient Greece.

Continue reading “This ancient gay love story was once as popular as our Romeo and Juliet    “

History

A history of same sex love: Greeks (1)

When I was 23-years-old I handed my mother a 13-page coming out letter. This letter read like a dissertation and I’m honestly shocked I didn’t include citations or a bibliography. It was structured linearly and I proceeded to argue my case for being a lesbian. I’m talking biblical references, well-developed ethical arguments (with counter-points and rebuttals), appeals to ethos, pathos and logos AND academic quotes. [Is it obvious I had just completed my first argument course?]

Needless to say, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (diagnosed) and an insatiable desire to learn.

Prior to coming out, this led me on a quest to consume as much information about homosexuality as humanly possible. I would like to share this information in case another could benefit from my extensive research when coming out to his/her/ their family.

I found a historical understanding of homosexuality to be especially important when conversing with people who claim it is “unnatural” or the byproduct of a liberal agenda.

Here are some facts about homosexual activity (the Greeks did not have a word for homosexuality as we understand it today) in parts of ancient Greece.

  • Pederasty was an important part of Greek culture where an older man (erastes) would teach a younger, most likely teenaged, man (the eromenos) all about politics, war, sex and essentials to becoming an ideal citizen
  • Homosexual activity is extremely common among the Olympian male gods
    • In fact, all primary male gods on Olympus had homosexual relationships attributed to them with the exception of Ares (the god of war)
      • Zeus kidnapped the beautiful Ganymede to be his lover and cup-bearer on Mount Olympus, Poseidon took Pelops, the king of Pisa, as his lover, Apollo is linked to several men but most notably the Macedonian Prince Hyakinthos, who was killed after catching a discus and Apollo turned him into the hyacinth flower.
        • Hercules, Dionysus, Hermes and Pan also enjoyed the company of men
      • Poets constantly wrote about same-sex love, attraction and affection. These included
      • Greek political leaders had consequential instances of homoerotic passions
        • Athens: Solon, Peisistratus, Hippias, Hipparchus, Themistocles, Aristides, Critias, Demosthenes, and Aeschines
        • Sparta: Pausanias, Lysander, and Agesilaus
        • Samos: Polycrates
        • Syracuse: Hieron and Agathocles
        • Thebes: Epaminondas and Pelopidas
        • Macedon: Archelaus, Philip II, and Alexander
      • Socrates, Plato and Xenophon spoke or wrote about the power of love between men (albeit denying physical expression of this love)
      • Stoics, or people who ascribe to self-control as a means of overcoming emotions, such as Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus lauded boy love
      • Phidias’s love for Pantarces was memorialized in marble.
      • In Plato’s Symposium, the character Phaedrus praises the “male eros.”
        • “For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning life than a virtuous lover, or to a lover than a beloved youth. For the principle that ought to be the guide of men who would nobly live—that principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honor, nor wealth, nor any other motive is able to implant so well as love.”

Many biographers and historians believe that, in Greek culture, “not to have had a male lover seems to have bespoken a lack of character or a deficiency in sensibility”. However, as time progressed the “sin” of the ancient Greeks was widely condemned. In fact, homosexuality became “the sin not even to be mentioned among Christians.” If it had to be mentioned it was limited to legal treaties or discussions of moral theology.

Why was there such a distinct and sharp change? I don’t have an answer yet but we’re on a mission to keep learning and discovering.

Ps the majority of this information comes from this book. I highly recommend purchasing it.