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

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Sex and Relationships.

In several recent posts where I discussed pairs of lovers who might be thought of as gay or lesbian saints, (Ruth & Naomi, David & Jonathan, Jesus and John, the Beloved Disciple), I have had to face the question of whether these really were “gay”, were these clearly erotic relationships, was there physical expression?  In each case, I suggested that the question was largely irrelevant.  Colleen (and others) in the comments thread pointed out the importance of the quality of the relationships instead.

This point is made very neatly in an observation I came across in “Living it Out”, a useful little book which describes itself as “a survival guide for lesbian gay and bisexual Christians, and their friends, families, and churches.”  Straight away, the title is instructive. There many books, websites and other resources which aim to offer help or guidance to queer Christians and there families. This is the first one I have come across to suggest that the churches also, need help. (The suggestion of course is sound – but I’m not following that up today.)

It is indeed a survival guide, and one of the features that makes ti useful is that it makes no attempt at complex theological argument or exegesis of Scripture, nor is it in any way preachy. What it does instead, is to draw on the thoughts and experiences of  a wide range of contributors, including lesbian gay and bisexual people, as well as family members, friends, pastors and simple straight allies. (Note also the word “bisexual” in that last sentence. We routinely parrot “LGBT”, but seldom specifically include the “B” or the “T”. This book does not profess to include “T”, but does have some useful observations on “B”.)  The material is not organized by contributor, but by theme, with the editors weaving together ideas from a selection of people for each section, fleshing it out with their own ideas, including frequent presentation of “top tips”, and action points and a prayer at the end of each chapter.

One reflection from a contributor “Bill” discussed the well-known story of the woman caught in adultery: (John 8 :3-11) Read the rest of this entry »