Bolivia Sistine Chapel of The Andes

A mural of “The Last Supper” is displayed in February in the church of Curahuara de Carangas, Bolivia. While the mural is a version of the original Da Vinci painting, it shows the relationship between Jesus and the apostles. Modern theologians are examining and analyzing the Bible and Christian tradition from a view that homosexuality and gender nonconformity existed in ancient times just as they do today.

Because of safety concerns, the school was essentially on lockdown.

Threatening calls and emails were pouring into Tarleton State University, a medium-sized school in central Texas.

It was 2010 and then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said in a press release what the school was doing was attacking common decency.

“No one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the vast majority of Americans. … This lewd display runs completely contrary to the standards of scholastic excellence and common decency that we demand in our publicly-funded institutions for higher learning,” Dewhurst said.

CBS News talked to a local radio host who was flooded with calls, some angry, some sad.

The state of Texas was in an uproar because of a play. At the center of the controversy was John Otte, then a 26-year-old student at Tarleton State. He was part of an advanced directing class and had to select a production to manage. Otte died in 2018 at age 34, but he spoke about his decision in choosing the play in a 2010 interview found on YouTube.

“It just resonated within me the message of the full picture. … This play was very touching for me. I cried when I read the script and it gave a more tangible Christ figure for me,” he said in the video.

The play was never performed, canceled because of safety concerns and political pressure, as reported by the Texas Tribune.

The play was “Corpus Christi,” a modern telling of the story of Jesus and the apostles set in Texas. But this was not just any play about the son of God. In the production, Jesus and the apostles are gay. And what is being imagined in the theater is getting a closer examination by modern theologians.

Understanding queer theology

Questioning Jesus’ personal life has been a point of historical and theological tension for decades. His supposed relationship with Mary Magdalene is the central plot of “The Da Vinci Code.”

Further theories have questioned whether Jesus had a homosexual relationship with the “beloved disciple” mentioned in multiple Bible verses.

These kinds of questions are part of the growing field of queer theology. The theology analyzes the Bible and Christian tradition from a view that homosexuality and gender nonconformity existed in ancient times just as they do today.

Queer theology resists the notion emphasized in Christianity that heterosexuality is salvation, said the Rev. Dr. Bob Shore-Goss, a gay theologian and author of several books on queer theology.

“The whole ideology of 20th-century, and even now 21st-century, Christianity is to be heterosexual meant you were perfect,” he said. “And what does that do to people like myself? Or people who are transgendered and who are bisexual and so on? We’re lesser human beings. And see there’s a denigration there.”

Shore-Goss said queer theology takes the definition of queer — meaning strange or odd — and applies it in understanding the characters of the Bible and how they navigated their historical society.

The Bible does not include a line about Jesus’ sexuality — gay, straight, bisexual or anywhere on the spectrum — because the terms used today did not exist 2,000 years ago. The terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual” were created in the late 1800s.

But comparing the definition of queer to how Jesus acted in ancient Palestine, Shore-Goss said, leads to an obvious conclusion: Jesus was queer.

“When you use the word ‘queer’ historically, it’s not a thing or an identity,” he said. “It is really standing outside of any sort of patriarchal normativity. … I would say Jesus is queer. But if you push me, is that something about sexuality? Possibly. Is it something about his kind of deconstructing and destabilizing masculinity in the Roman Empire, and in first-century Palestine? Yes, he’s not a normal male.”

In ancient times, a man had status and value by owning property, including not just land but a wife. Men owned women. Jesus neither held land or married, according to the Bible.

Jesus also recognized women as equals. In John 4, he goes to a town well and meets a woman who was a social outcast. Merely walking up and talking with the woman would have been viewed as heretical among the religious at the time.

The Holy Spirit, which is said to guide Christians after Jesus was crucified and resurrected, helps the apostles to spread the word of God to people around the world, as told in the book of Acts. One of the first converts in the spread of Christianity is a eunuch, another social and sexual outcast at the time, Shore-Goss said.

In his ministry, Jesus even identified with eunuchs, as told in Matthew 19:12, said Kittredge Cherry, a lesbian minister, theologian and creator of QSpirit.net, which promotes LGBTQ rights in the church. Looking over previous translations of the Bible, Jesus ministered to the sexual minorities of his time, she said.

“The word that he used for eunuch is for a sexual minority,” Cherry said. “That’s the closest thing to what we might call today LGBTQ. He reached out to people who the regular religious authorities were saying were sinners, that we’re too far gone to be part of God’s kingdom. He went ahead and said, ‘These are the people that are also welcome in God’s kingdom.’”

Cherry said one of the reasons modern Christians may struggle to accept the sexual diversity present in ancient times and acknowledged in the Bible is because modern Christians struggle to understand their own sexualities and bodies.

What does the Bible really say?

Faith leaders who condemn homosexuality and other sexualities often turn to lines in the Bible that seemingly condemn anything beyond the heterosexual worldview.

However, those verses which Cherry referred to as “clobber passages” are being re-examined and are offering a different view, she said.

“New understandings, based on contemporary Bible scholarship, have debunked a lot of the more hateful and misguided interpretations that say the Bible flatly condemns all homosexuality and gender variance as we know it today,” Cherry said.

An analysis by the Rev. Charles D. Myers of some of the most-used passages condemning homosexuality provides the nuance Cherry mentioned.

Leviticus 18:22Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. (NIV)

The denunciation of men having relations with men here is part of a list of practices Christians should not do. Centuries later, some of those practices are still viewed as socially unacceptable. For example, several lines in Leviticus say people should not practice incest or child sacrifice.

Other rules in the section include not committing adultery or cursing out one’s parents. In 2019 society, these acts are not necessarily seen as good, but they are not a reason for execution.

Then, there are rules in Leviticus that no longer have application to modern times, such as not having sex with a menstruating woman or talking to a fortune teller.

Theologians point out all the rules outlined in Leviticus are given the same weight and punishment. But, over time, society has cherry-picked which rules to keep and which to ignore.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)

The analysis by Myers states the Greek phrase about homosexuality originally used in the passage has two meanings. The first meaning is literal homosexuality. The second meaning, though, is about being sexually promiscuous, a practice the Bible repeatedly condemns in other sections. The meaning the original writers of this passage intended is unclear, Myers wrote.

What queer theology adds

Ancient traditions recognized a spectrum of sexualities, despite not always recognizing the variety as equal.

Heterosexuality was seen as “natural” not only because it was the most common but because of the Protestant Reformation, said Megan DeFranza, theologian and author of “Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God.”

Prior to Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses in 1517, celibacy was viewed as the holiest way of life, one of the reasons why nuns and priests in the Catholic tradition must be celibate. Part of Luther’s revolution in the Reformation was announcing that being married and raising a family could also be holy, DeFranza said.

“Then we have the emphasis on ‘Oh, it’s just as much a religious vocation to have a family as it is to serve God and the monastery,’” she said. “Well, what that ended up doing was making fewer places for those who didn’t fit into that binary reproductive model. With fewer monasteries, there were fewer places to go if you didn’t fit in those categories as male or female.”

DeFranza’s work offers a more complex reading of the Bible to counter what she said are often narrow interpretations. Her book re-evaluates some of the gender stereotypes in the church. Among conservative Christians, there are strict gender roles where a man has certain duties and a woman has certain duties. But also, among liberal members of the faith, the genders are seen to be all alike and there is little recognition of the various genders, especially the gender minorities, she said.

DeFranza said modern science on gender and sexuality is helping us better understand what ancient people already knew: There is a spectrum of gender and sexuality.

“Ancient Judaism had six extra categories in addition to male and female,” she said. “… Saint Augustine talks about hermaphrodites in his book ‘The City of God,’ which is a very well-known piece of his literature that lots of folks have to read. And yet, we read right past the section where he talks about hermaphrodites and androgynes being rare but saying every culture has people that they don’t know how to classify as male or female.”

The Bible is clear salvation is not withheld from sexual minorities, DeFranza said.

In Isaiah 56, eunuchs complain to God about being separated from other church followers. God reassures and blesses them, not to be changed and to fit into the binary heterosexual model but God blesses them as they are, DeFranza said.

The ongoing research and conversations around queer theology are reversing a trend in the Christian tradition that has long-marginalized members of the LGBTQ community. While some churches have opened their doors, many people who identify as LGBTQ do not feel welcome in the pews. About half of congregations allow openly gay or lesbian couples to be members, according to the Pew Research Center.

Cherry said queer theology is pushing the church to be more inclusive. A different way of reading the ancient text is allowing the marginalized to see themselves in the Bible story.

“When I read the Bible thinking that Jesus is like me, it just brings it alive and makes it much more real,” Cherry said. “And I think that’s true for other LGBTQ people. I’m not doing this to say, this is the only way to look at Jesus. … It helps to see that Jesus was like we are and to see ourselves reflected in the holy story. Now for our straight allies, I think it’s also valuable to visualize the idea that Jesus was gay because it helps them then to be able to see the holiness among the LGBTQ community and just to expand their idea of God.”

Follow Wyatt Massey on Twitter: @News4Mass.

(23) comments

public-redux

riccicc wrote “God the Father and God the Son through the holy spirit dictated the bible, men wrote it.”

How do you know that that is what happened?

riccicc

It says in Deut 23:17, " there shall be no cult prostitute of the daughters of Israel nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel." Do these people really believe that Jesus will allow one of these to sit down and dine with him at his table along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the endtime harvesting of souls at the marriage supper of the church of the family of Israel?

77Lance

The Bible is quite clear: a man who "lies with a man as with a woman" is deserving of the death penalty (Leviticus 20:13). Romans chapter 1 tells us that those who commit homosexual acts are "worthy of death." There is nothing cryptic that needs to be deciphered. If the Bible hadn't said this, that would only mean that the Bible contained errors of omission. All one needs to do to know that homosexuality should be recriminalized is to observe how the "LGBT community" is wreaking havoc upon the world.

God calls all to repent of their sins (including sexual perversion) and to believe in Jesus, so that they may stand in the Day of Judgment and be found worthy of the Kingdom of God. Those who stubbornly insist on wallowing in sin will suffer the torments of eternal damnation.

DickD

Who wrote the bible, JIm? You didn't answer, so let me tell you.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorship_of_the_BibleGospel of Mark, 68–70 CE. Mark, like all the gospels, is anonymous. It relies on several underlying sources, varying in form and in theology, which is evidence against the tradition that its author was John Mark (Mark the Evangelist), the companion of Peter, or that it was based on Peter's preaching.  Various elements within the gospel, including the importance of the authority of Peter and the broadness of the basic theology, suggest that the author wrote in Roman Syria or Palestine for a non-Jewish, Christian community. The community had earlier absorbed the influence of pre-Pauline beliefs, and then developed them further independently of Paul the Apostle. References to persecution and to war in Judea suggest that the context in which Mark was written was either Nero's persecution of the Christians in Rome or the First Jewish–Roman War (66-73 CE) Gospel of Matthew, 80–90 CE. The majority of modern scholars believe it is unlikely that this gospel was written by an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus. Internal evidence suggests that the author was an ethnic Jewish male scribe from a Hellenised city, possibly Antioch in Syria, and that he used a variety of oral traditions and written sources about Jesus, most importantly Mark and the hypothetical collection of sayings known as the Q source. The date is based on three strands of evidence: (a) the setting of Matthew reflects the final separation of Church and Synagogue, about 85 CE; (b) it reflects the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in 70 CE; (c) it uses Mark, usually dated around 70 CE, as a source.Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles, 80–90 CE, with some scholars suggesting 90–100. There is general agreement that Luke and Acts originated as a two-volume work by a single author. This author was an "amateur Hellenistic historian", who was versed in Greek rhetoric, that being the standard training for historians in the ancient world. In the preface to Luke, the author refers to having eyewitness testimony "handed down to us" and to having undertaken a "careful investigation", but does not mention his own name or explicitly claim to be an eyewitness to any of the events. The we passages in Acts are written in the first person plural — the author never refers to himself as "I" or "me" — and these are usually regarded as fragments of some earlier account which was incorporated into Acts by the later author, or simply a Greek rhetorical device which was used for describing sea voyages. If Acts uses Josephus as a source, as has been proposed, then it must have been composed after 93 CE; the social situation is one in which the faithful need "shepherds" to protect them from heretical "wolves", which again reflects a late date.There is evidence, both textual (the conflicts between Western and Alexandrian manuscript families) and from the Marcionite controversy that Luke-Acts was still being substantially revised well into the 2nd century. (Marcion of Sinope was a 2nd-century heretic, who produced his own version of Christian scripture, based on Luke's gospel and Paul's epistles. Gospel of John, 90–110 CE.  John 21:24 identifies "the beloved disciple" as the author of at least some of the gospel, and from the late 2nd century this figure, unnamed in the Gospel itself, was identified as John the Evangelist, the author of the entire gospel. Today, however, most scholars agree that John 21 is an appendix to the Gospel, which originally ended at John 20:30–31, and believe that the author made use of two major sources, a "Signs" source (a collection of seven miracle stories) and a "Discourse" source. The lower date of c.90 CE is based on internal reference to the expulsion of Christians from the synagogues, and the upper on external evidence that it was known in the early 2nd century

jsklinelga


DickD
Futile discussion. When you ask the question what difference would it make if Jesus was gay I knew we were worlds apart in belief. Wikipedia? Really? I suspect that was intentional. Dwasserba I also believe in infant baptism But I also believe in born of water and the spirit. I do not believe any sacrament covers being born of the spirit.. But this is cautious territory. I know many, many Catholics that are really true believers and many that are not.

DickD

So, what, Jim, I know a lot of Protestants that claim to be religious and are not and some don't practice there religion, so it is nothing more than a social outing. And you still believe the bible was not written by men, but refuse to say who wrote it. Come on, Jim, that is hypocrisy.

jsklinelga

DickD
Once again this is futile and slightly off track. I answered your question. It is found in the first chapter of 2Peter. God is a spirit. Before Christ men were moved by the spirit. As far as the New Testament it is eyewitness accounts. You chose not to believe this. John 15 says it well/ Anyway futile. Eyes to see and ears to hear.

DickD

Tell me who wrote the bible Jim and don't tell me it was a spirit. If our discussion is futile, it is because you live in a fantasy world.

riccicc

God the Father and God the Son through the holy spirit dictated the bible, men wrote it. It's like an executive dictating a letter to his secretary and she types it. The letter doesn't come from her and she has no authority even though she did the writing (or the typing) but it does come from the executive and his authority. Same thing here with the scriptures.

public-redux

If there is one thing all Christians might be able to agree upon, it is that the Word of God could have used a lot more clarity.

https://reknew.org/2013/11/lighten-up-jesus-is-so-lucky-to-have-us/

olefool

Quoting Donald J. rump: It's a hoax, it's a hoax, it's a hoax....

DickD

The bible was written many years after the death of Christ. Picking out parts of it and saying Jesus was not one way or the other is ridiculous. .There is no way to know now if Jesus ever got married or not. The bible was written by very religious men, with no intention to describe life in general.

But supposing Jesus was gay, would it make any religious difference.

jsklinelga

DickD
The only way to address this is with the upmost caution. One thing I have learned from your comments over the past several years is that you are not what is called a "born again Christian" I may be wrong but I don't believe Catholics have Bible Study sessions and groups at least not to the degree as Protestants. Someone said that a person could be born into a church but not believe in God. There is truth in that. Obviously by your first statement you do not believe the Bible is the Word of God. You believe it is the words of men. If You did know the Bible and even without a spiritual understanding, you could see the many fallacies in this article such as the understanding of a Eunuch and the rewards of an asexual spiritual life spoken of in Isaiah 56

DickD

You are right about the Protestants having more bible studies, but the Catholic Church has some now. Yes, I believe men wrote the bible, who do you think wrote it? And yes, I am not a bible thumper or a "born again Christian".

jsklinelga

DickD
I have known for a long time, just by your postings, that you were not truly a believer. If you wanted an answer to your question "who" you could read the end of 2Peter1. Or if you wanted to know about "born again" you could read John 3 :1-18. But I am sure you have and you just believe their words of men. .

Dwasserba

DD, three words: Catholic Study Bible. "Born again" is among the terms explained in footnotes. Jsk, Catholics practice infant baptism, later "confirmed" in another optional sacrament. For a Catholic to be "born again" as defined elsewhere would be redundant. No need to "thump"...reading is seeking information.

DickD

BS, I believe in God! You believe in Donald Trump, your hero. Actions speak louder than words, Jim. Jesus was a liberal, you aren't! True believer? BS.

public-redux

Dick, most of the bible was written hundreds of years before Jesus is said to have lived.

DickD

Old Testament, yes, tell that to Jim. Jim believes the bible wasn't written by men and he never answered my question on that. The Ten Commandments are not Christian, sorry Jim, they were rules for the Jewish people to live by and there were 613 of them. The Ten Commandments are simply the most significant rules.

public-redux

Dick, You’ve got the dumbed downed, Sunday School, Disneyfied, version of the Ten Commandments. The original script covers more than a dozen chapters in Exodus and includes three sets of commandments. We are never told what the second set is although we are told the third set is identical to the second set. The third set is different from the first set and only the third set is referred to as the Ten Commandments. You can watch a 10 minute video here:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pkCJ8rb8Grw

public-redux

I wonder if it would make any difference if “Jesus” was a pseudonym.

DickD

Not to me, Gladys, but I believe Jesus was a real person that lived 2,000 years ago. But even if it was a pseudonym, the results changed the world.

77Lance

The Bible indicates that Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing, which is why his sacrificial death satisfies the wrath of God and covers all who believe. If Jesus had ever engaged in even one homosexual act, his crucifixion would have been fully justified and his blood would not suffice for anyone's forgiveness.

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