I went to dinner recently with some friends. It sounds like the start of a joke: An atheist, a gay pastor, a polytheist, an agnostic and a liberal Christian walked into a bar…
This wonderful collection of people so uncommon in many places is pretty common for me in San Francisco. I relish these times. In a world consumed by modern holy wars and the violence so often associated with it, these peaceful gatherings maintain my faith in humanity.
At the start of dinner, my gay, evangelical pastor friend Paul tried to ignite a storm of controversy when he said plainly, “Jesus was gay.”
In fairness, I tried to ignite a little controversy first, when I introduced Paul to our other dinner companion, a writer friend of mine who is an atheist and deeply committed to the 12-step recovery movement (which is built on spirituality and the need for a higher power). I love these types of apparent controversies, and I played them up when I made the introductions. Neither took the bait. Both were respectful of each other. Listening. Sharing ideas. It was an enjoyable time.
We asked Paul if he honestly thought Jesus was gay.
“Of course he was gay,” he said. “The Bible describes John as the discipline he loved, in terms used for more than friendship. It says at The Last Supper John lay his head on Jesus’s breast. Scot, can I lay my head on your breast?”
He leaned toward me. I shoved his head away.
“Don’t think so,” I said.
“See, that’s my point. We’ve been friends for decades, and I’ve never laid my head on your breast. But John did, and it’s in the Scriptures. Then on the cross, Jesus tells John that Mary is your mother and tells Mary that John is you son. Like you might say to your lover left who is left behind.”
We batted the idea around a bit. The atheist was not offended to talk about Jesus. My friend was not offended to talk to an atheist. He never once tried to convert him.
Paul asked him if he believed the man Jesus existed. He said he did. We talked about the historicity of the scriptures. We talked about a great many spiritual themes. Nobody grabbed stones or Bible tracts or hurled angry, hurtful words.
Toward the end of the meal, Paul admitted, “I didn’t get quite the response with this crowd that I normally get when I say Jesus is gay.”
“It’s an interesting idea,” my atheist friend said.
Paul explained that most people are repulsed when he raises the question.
“But take a hard look at it,” Paul said. “If the idea of Jesus being gay is revolting, then gays are revolting. It kind of gets to the heart of the matter, don’t you think?”
In a way it does. In my many years of spirituality I had seen people balk at praying to God in Spanish, as if he only speak English. I had seen the notion of a black Jesus reviled as if God didn’t create all races in Her image. And yes, I had no trouble envisioning the revulsion many would have over the notion of Jesus doing the nasty with John.
Yet, it’s not the strangest thought, nor is Paul the first to suggest it. A Vice article that came out shortly after the court’s legalized gay marriage highlighted the very notion.
The Jewish writer in Vice wrote, “It’s Jesus himself who lights up my gaydar like a Christmas tree. He’s a skinny young otter-like guy, flocked by a mess of dudes, telling everyone to love and care about each other, who later gets the shit beaten out of him by a bunch of closed-minded conservatives who are terrified of change.”
In an era of appalling religious intolerance, I relish that I can go out to dinner with the group I did and talk about a Gay Jesus and not offend anyone. I prize others with the humility to think in this great, big crazy universe we might not have all the answers.
Nothing so characterizes the spirit of Effin Artist as this, a community of people first, who respectfully listen, support, engage and love others despite differences of beliefs. We are not bound by what we believe, but who we are and what we are trying to become. Everyone around that table valued the transformation of the human spirit. We had different ways to find it.
From what I see on the news, a dinner like we shared is a pretty rare thing.
It shouldn’t be.