Saturday, April 17, 2010

Is Jesus gay?

“I was suicidal again last night.” At least I was last January back when I was bearing fardels. The last year has seen a steady diminishment of suicide-worthy fardels, but I realize now that an abrupt year-long silence following an ominous contemplation of the bare bodkin leaves a rather different impression. I regret that and ask your forgiveness.

Enthusiasm writes the first chapter; boredom murders the book. Thus the unhappy fate of Mr. Irving’s enthusiastic meditations. I begin afresh, but with no promise of an epilogue.

After more than a year outside the closet I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably never see Mr. Tumnus again; nor do I wish to. I no longer ask myself why I am gay because I asked another question that settled the first: Is Jesus gay?

Conservative (and even moderate) Christians are doubtless enraged at the question’s very genesis to say nothing of its contemplation—and its answer. Academics disregard it with annoyance and contempt. Some, acidly scornful of the entirety of Christianity, may greet it with delight—but that’s just homophobia. Only the wacky fringe actually takes it seriously—and dares to believe that it might be true. I am the fringe.

Now I wish to be clear that I do not speak with the authority of my academic training in the New Testament. Indeed, I say nothing here of the Historical Jesus. (I’ve never even met him.) I did not ask whether Jesus was gay, but whether he is gay. My subject then is not so much the Evangelists’ Jesus Christ as it is Paul’s Christ Jesus. I speak of the living Jesus and the consummated Christ. And I say, unabashedly, that Jesus Christ is gay. He’s also Mormon, or at least used to be.

Nobody saw his crucifixion, because he was in the closet the whole time.

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

His parents taught him where to find God. Their faith became his faith; their church, his church; their example, his misunderstanding. He wore a white shirt and a tie every Sunday. He got pretty good at tying ties. They taught him to pray and to read from the Book. He got pretty good at praying and reading too. But sometimes he prayed too hard and read too much. He was taught not to sin, but he never got very good at that.

My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.

He did try, but sometimes he forgot to pray; sometimes he lied; sometimes he was mean to others; sometimes he used foul language; once he even stole something. By the age of ten he was making lists and scheduling all the things he needed to do to be perfect, to fulfill the commandments of God. But he never managed to cross everything off of the list. Guilt crept in.

Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.

And then puberty hit and things got real weird. Instinctively he knew that lust and fantasy and…well…we don’t need to go into details—anyway, they were sins of unimaginable consequences. They were added to the list. Sometimes he managed to follow the List, but not for very long. Childhood guilt became adolescent paranoia.

Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Then he discovered something that gave him hope: Miraculously he was free of the carnal inclinations—fierce and ubiquitous in his male friends—toward the female sex. But there was something puzzling in that fortuitous restraint, because the lust and the fantasy and the…umm…well, they didn’t go away. Then he thought more and more about those male friends… Disconcerting confusion was followed by sickening realization: Jesus was gay. Prayer would not cure it; tears would not kill it. And there didn’t seem much point adding it to the List.

Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.

Yet perhaps in this there was opportunity; perhaps in this the List could be done away with. To give himself fully to God, to live in self-effacing agony, to be crucified in the flesh—there at last was expiation!

It is finished.

And then he walked out of the Closet and it was empty. That is the life of Jesus Christ.

But that is not my Jesus, for that is my life and I am not Jesus. We humans, it seems, are so flattered to have been created in God’s image that we have returned the favor by creating God in ours—an act of supreme, self-congratulatory idolatry. And so I must reiterate that I do not worship that Jesus, for he is not my God. But he is your Jesus.

As for my Jesus, he is not necessarily gay; he is not necessarily he. My Jesus is a mother and grandmother, aged 62. She has four children; the youngest is gay. She has never ceased praying for him, weeping for him, and loving him more than self.

Christ is, individually, none of us, and none of us is Christ. But we are all in Christ and Christ is in us. Rather, Christ is in the Other. Certainly, Jesus is that angst-filled gay boy. But is not in him that I find Christ; it is in the Other, in my mother and my father, in my brothers and my sister, in my friends and my enemies. There is Christ. You are my Christ and I am yours. I am content, knowing Jesus is gay, knowing that Jesus knows, knowing that Jesus’ life is the totality of my own, but I look outward to the Christ in others, to the other lives of Jesus. They too are filled with angst and fear and suffering, and they—above my own—command my love.

I return, then, to the question that is, itself, the answer to all others. Is Jesus gay? Is he Mormon, or did he used to be? The answer, of course, is yes, but for me, that answer is irrelevant. That answer is only important for you. For me, it is the question: Is Jesus the Other?

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.