Tuesday, July 17, 2007



There’s little more vital for religion than the images we have of it and of God. Although it’s scarcely a Biblical image many people are half paralyzed in their spiritual development by the picture of God as an old man in the clouds with a beard which is really something to do with the Senex, Old Man archetype spontaneously generated by the unconscious rather than the Bible as such. In Judaism, which is nevertheless the pretext for this limiting and limited God imago, (the title, “The Ancient of Days”, in the book of Daniel is the nearest approximation to the idea)depiction of God is inappropriate and forbidden, God being Spirit and incomprehensible to (normal) mind.

In Christianity after a brief iconoclastic phase the portrait would be allowed because the divine was believed to have entered the material realm so as to be seen and hence legitimately copied. However the copies, or rather later imaginings, of Jesus have often been contradictory ones that have not always added to mystical and devotional perception. At the same time a not too remarkable piece of art like Holman Hunt’s rather Victorian Light of the World may have more impact upon people than more sophisticated offerings from greater artists due to some spiritual impression, some light or aura that gets conveyed. It’s hard to predict reactions to religious art because its depictions so often engage personal beliefs and feelings beyond the aesthetic. We nonetheless know that for especially people at the various social and sexual margins typical Jesus imagery has often been only further alienating, something that keys him into the establishment. Today when artists are no longer as in medieval and Renaissance times portraying a society Messiah worshipped by kings and rich donors, some artists are finally trying to realize a Jesus truly for everyone, a Jesus outside conventional imaging.


Kittredge Cherry is showing us the results of this new trend. Her controversial Jesus novel that I reviewed in May has been followed up with publication by Androgyne Press of Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More. This in its way complements and continues Cherry’s post modern pilgrimage and employs her talents as art critic – one of her three degrees is in art history. Her book concentrates on alternative yet inclusive artistic renderings of Jesus, either as a woman, the Christa, or the more biblical, mysterious figure of the divine Wisdom (Sophia) or as a gay male figure. Whether it will delight or infuriate you Cherry’s is a well written guide that is timely, an important resource that nicely represents main trends in this field also presented at a major exhibition in Taos, Arizona, in May that accompanied the book’s launch.

The eleven artists examined are Christian, agnostic and in one case a Buddhist who finds Christian images more challenging than the “too peaceful” Buddhist ones. They also span a wide range of styles: fantastic/mythic, modern poster and expressionist, iconic traditionalist etc. Two of the artists provide sculptures, one of the artists is a photographer, the Swedish Elizabeth Ohlson-Wallin who has produced some very striking work which it seems truly did dare since it provoked death threats against her in even liberal Sweden. Cherry’s book includes Ohlson’s Sermon on the Mount with Jesus surrounded by leathermen, a picture which despite everything appealed to someone I know of fundamentalist persuasion when I showed it to them.

Since similarly to Kittredge Cherry’s Jesus fiction so many issues are raised by Art That Dares I am only going to touch on a few main points that strike me as crucial to the whole field she is exploring. I shall also touch on the question of the future of Christian art which one can hardly avoid as one absorbs this work one of whose functions beyond any aesthetic pleasure will be quite simply to make the reader think.


Since perceiving Jesus as the Bible’s Wisdom figure, was a challenge always present if never taken up by whoever knew their theology, we should not have to have waited so long for what the artists in this book have attempted. And even if their work is daring we ought to be able to perceive it as a natural development for Christian art and ask if they have succeeded in this development. On this however the jury is still out and some of us are likely to remain undecided for some time.

Despite my strong belief in the need for Wisdom images of Jesus the given examples proved some of the hardest pictures in this book for me to relate to. I cannot warm to Janet McKenzie’s much praised (and criticized) Jesus of the People portrait of Jesus in the form of an androgynous, thick lipped black female, a picture which adorns the book’s cover. Initially aware of little more than that I was opening a book that would include some images influenced by modern queer theory and theology in my ignorance I imagined the cover must be showing me an unusual gay Jesus image especially as this person’s garb looked like a form of monk’s habit. Clearly I hadn’t got the message! Likewise, though it has mystery, I had problems with the Franciscan Robert Lentz’s icon of the divine Wisdom who, with the features and attire of an Indian woman, holds an ancient Venus figurine in her hand as though that was her true and original form. I feel the expansion of the Jesus image in this case has also dissolved a needed particularity through which the symbolism should shine.

It’s easy to criticize but what would I put in its place, how would I treat this most demanding of themes? Two things occur – but they didn’t occur at once! First I would try to anchor Wisdom in such themes and symbols as we are given for her because the Bible supplies us some and the Apocrypha quite a bit more. Sophia prepares a banquet, she serves her bread and wine. She is a workwoman who constructs her mysterious house of seven pillars. She gives increase, and kings rule through her. There are other things about her but this would do for a start. If she were the subject of Buddhist iconography she would be surrounded by, or simply be substituted by, a collection of specific symbols or the teaching themes connected with her. Neither are present in the mentioned pictures. Nor could they be said to be idealizing or beautiful in any conventional way and arguably that should be a consideration here. After all, not only is Wisdom like a divine consort, a companion of the Creator from the first, but the Song of Songs, though not strictly about Wisdom, features a Shulammite woman who is often identified with the Wisdom and this person famously declares: “I am black but I am beautiful”.

Another route to take would be a semi or wholly abstract one. The artist would suggest Wisdom through a symbol, like a Yantra in Tantric art or notably feminine signs but surrounded by colours and brilliance in line with notions of Jesus as the Light and Truth or enthroned surrounded by the rainbow as in Revelation. Thus the abstract would become visionary and suggest both the idea and person of Wisdom in one.


The gay Jesus theme which is more represented in Art that Dares than the Wisdom/Sophia one presents problems of a rather different order. Whether or not you believe Jesus was an alternative figure in this way or would, for protest reasons, wish to be so portrayed, is something that presumably would always count in your assessment of the art. As opposed to the feminine/Sophia Jesus with its affinities for feminist theology (but with issues for traditional theology more generally) the gay themed Jesus is more obviously linked to current trends in gay/queer revisionist theologies and the rights movement. Nevertheless something of this theme was perhaps always implicit as a possibility if one gave enough thought to what Wisdom as an image for Jesus the man might signify. Could a female soul in a male body - an idea culled from Jewish kabbalistic mysticism by the earliest modern European Uranian theorists - apply?

In Art that Dares there is however very little connection between the art of the Jesus as Wisdom and the alternative Jesus. With the exception of Lentz’s interesting icon, Christ the Bridegroom, which shows Jesus with John (it was commissioned by the gay priest, Henri Nouwen for his meditations) the gay Jesus art tends to run along the rather political, protest type lines of modern gay theology which is predominantly rationalist in feeling, not notably mystical or visionary. Thus the Episcopalian, F. Douglas Blanchard’s Passion cycle (of 24 painting in total) is represented by several interesting and rather haunting pictures of Jesus attacked, on trial, resurrecting and ascending. I imagine the complete cycle could be quite impressive in its way. But each picture is a set protest piece in contemporary settings. A David Bowie-like Christ confronts hostile military or establishment or “God hates fags” people. When Jesus returns to God, it is more like two angels (or just two gays) greeting though in some mysterious turnaround it is God who now has the Bowie like features Jesus had had and the Father also has wings. No matter what one sees in all this it is not a meeting of father with son or divinity with divinity. An archetypal Senex/Puer theme that dominates in John’s gospel is not appropriated as it could well be for any specifically gay understandings.

Becki Jayne Harrelson who was raised Pentecostal and came out lesbian to the horror of her family is one of the most purely visionary/mystical in feeling of the artists but her Jesus is nonetheless gay for protest purposes not from any conviction that the historical Jesus was somehow gay/alternative. This permits her to present a crucifixion in which the headpiece on the cross is “Faggot” rather than “King of the Jews” because she believes that Jesus is re-crucified when queers are bashed or murdered. She also presents a vivid but peculiar Kiss of Judas picture meaning whatever about those involved and which occurs not as historically recorded in Gethsemane but a dark visionary somewhere that is also vaguely to be seen as a gay cruising ground according to Cherry. Here symbol well and truly floats free. In the art of a former AIDS hospice worker, Fr William Hart McNichols, his picture, St Francis Beneath the Bitter Tree goes if anything further into a postmodern blending of themes. A fairly traditional medieval image of crucifixion has the titulus above the cross carrying the titles "Aids leper, drug user, homosexual".


Although it's listed in the bibliography of Art that Dares I don’t want to push a barrow here for my own work which, as in Signs for a Messiah, considers the historical and spiritual case for an alternative Jesus. Still, I do feel that artists of religious themes, who anyway surely always need to practice a bit of the icon painter’s meditation to be well attuned, need to decide if their Jesus was in fact of gay orientation or not. Their decision must and will affect their approach and some form of queer spiritual belief in this area could inspire certain mystical realizations in the way I have described.

The alternative to a more theological based and meditated art is too often and easily a sensationalist one where Jesus is simply a generalized symbol or name upon which various ideas are imposed to the point we are in danger of losing sight of him. I feel this danger most strongly in the case of Lentz’s otherwise potentially very meaningful, Lord of the Dance. A Jesus of and in nature is an image, and one this picture invokes, which is much needed. Its idea is already potently present in Celtic and African Christianity in which latter Jesus is often referred to as “Lord of the Deep Forests”. Also we know from Justin Martyr that due to an version of the Psalms our Masoretic OT Hebrew texts have subsequently edited out early Christians saw Jesus prophetically as the Lord who reigns from the Tree. Lentz’s Lord of the Dance is horned and clearly linked to the Celtic god of the forests, flocks and the hunt, Cernunnos. But this Jesus of Nature has been transposed upon a male god image that just doesn’t look Jesus-like at all. Even if it did it would have made him more like a god of the hunt he wouldn’t be than a Green Man, a Lord of the trees, that would be more in line with biblical understanding and some medieval depictions - yes, some cathedrals do display Jesus as the Green man.

In effect this problem of imposition has been a feature of western Christian art for a long time and even when less controversial issues are at stake than those Ms. Cherry’s book engages. Western art inclines to the extraverted rather than the introverted and this makes vision harder to capture and process. Western art by and large does not, like Chinese art, seek the core energy, the “chi” of its subject and strive to absorb and identify with it. It is only the icon painter, (who in my view was always overly restricted), is encouraged to work from the inside out instead of vice-versa. And this I believe is why comparatively little western art has the visionary stamp of an El Greco, himself so influenced by the iconic tradition. I believe that Christian art has always needed to be more theological and meditative so that where the collection of this book hits limits, it is I believe only hitting limits already inherent in much western religious art.


I recall that the late Catholic seeress, Jeane Dixon, wrote somewhere that she had seen future art and that it would combine styles of East and West, that it would become more symbolic/abstract and spiritual. I rather hope she was right.

The direction in which I strongly believe a specifically Christian art needs to go is towards the Tibetan. It needs something of its luminosity, its symbolism, its otherworlds but also its details, its schemata. Indeed if there were ever to be a church in Tibet beyond the isolated groups at present in existence it would anyway surely need its theology to be realized in mandala and fresco forms, and especially the Old Testament schematized in the way the lamas set out the Dharma and scriptures. The churches should be experimenting with this. There is a religious/mystical quality to much Far Eastern art but also, as in Zen, a nearly secular feeling too that I feel the Tibetan avoids for a more purely visionary, theological, and dramatic worldview. It also goes beyond the “peaceful” themes of conventional Buddhism (and Asian art generally) to include some “wrathful” and demonic ones which again any Christian art in Asia would need to do.

I have always been very interested in issues of the cultural indigenization of Christianity in especially Asia having spent a lot of my life in Asia and my first book of any note that was commercially published (The Expansion of God) dealt with that. So I remain keen to see a translation of Christian themes into Tibetan styles. But I also believe the trends struggling to be born in Art that Dares could also use some reflection upon the Tibetan example as that tradition is inclusive beyond other Asian forms, able to cope with the kind of complexities such as the Wisdom theme presents while it has even had room of sorts for the alternative. (The cult of Manjusri, who in Japan became Monju, god of gay Kabuki actors, was to some extent a gay one. While this is a whole subject in itself and one that Christians would obviously not be seeking to duplicate its mere existence is a reminder of the breadth and flexibility of the Tibetan tradition and its value as model).

Anyone interested to look into questions of a Christian Tibetan art is welcome to contact me at my yahoo address. Anyone who wants to examine or debate further the issues raised by Kittredge Cherry’s groundbreaking study can order her book or contact her through her Jesus in Love
address. A few images from Art that Dares are included there.

Friday, July 6, 2007



The story of journalist, Michael Glatze, sounds a bit confused and those listening to him, especially Christians now promoting him as proof of something "ex gay" and a long awaited "born-again" narrative of cure could extend the confusion.

Just about everything and everyone religious from the conservative World Net Daily to The Elijah List, a charismatic prophecy site, is in on the Glatze news though without mentioning - as I gather elsewhere on the Net is the case - that he has become a Mormon. It’s the gay male version of the lesbian story of a few months back when another editor and activist, Charlene Cothran, of Venus magazine declared herself converted and (messianically it seemed) ready to deliver a whole generation from the gay lies people are caught in. No one read the small print like the curious fact Charlene denied that she’d ever once thought of herself as born gay - it was a choice she’d always felt guilty about and now discounted.

Glatze's story, however sincere in itself, is likewise inadequate and its public hearing inadequate too. Which isn’t to deny Glatze may have found God as reported. There’s nothing to object to if he has and may he be at peace in a way he wasn’t before. However, finding through belief the true centre, identity and strength of character he needed (he calls himself “weak”) is still separate from the crucial question of whether he’s no longer gay and if it signifies anything if he isn’t. It’s taken him over a year to admit to change/conversion and he offers no evidence he’s anything more than out of a lifestyle that included drugs and editing Gay Young America i.e. We don’t hear he’s found the girl of his dreams or is even looking for her. But like Cothran Glatze wants to tell “the Truth” about homosexuality; by doing so he also wants to “atone” for being associated with it. David Kupelian’s The Marketing of Evil has much influenced him and I gather that book includes about certain deceits in the promotion of rights that have more to do with certain attitudes and beliefs of the secular leadership than any mainstream gay opinions.

There are people born gay who were meant to be so and will remain so. Whether or not Jesus referred to such persons, as some scholars believe, as those “born eunuchs from their mothers’ wombs” it’s high time Christians stopped kidding themselves and confusing people about this subject. In fact even fairly conservative Christians (like Evangelicals Concerned that Glatze doesn’t cite) would agree. Consider these points getting overlooked about Glatze and his story.

• He first had gay feelings at 14 and came out at 20. How odd! Any gay person with a memory reports their main interest, friendship and emotional drives were for the same sex when they were as young as five or six while most people living post liberation wouldn’t then take till 20 to be out and fully defined as gay. Actually the feelings emerged after Glatze's mother died when he was 13 and his out gay identity after his father died. Conversion occurred following stomach illnesses connected to the lifestyle of “sin and corruption” he considers gayness to represent.

• Glatze frankly describes himself as “weak” i.e. easily subject to influence. Clearly he was influenced. One may imagine as per the noted analyses of Prof. C.W.Tripp in The Homosexual Matrix, he was more sexual exporter than importer. He functioned in ways that would please people almost more than himself so if gay was there and wanted, that’s the way he went.

• Glatze wasn’t simply gay. Like many ex gays he reports being involved in “substance abuse’ and "other things", such as presumably the pornography he now describes the magazine he edited as being a mild form of. If one is too heavily involved in drugs one can finish up being and doing almost anything gay or straight. If one is confused drugs supply a missing identity. Pornography too can become obsessive and addictive.

• Glatze controversially maintains homosexuality is all “lust-based” and “neurotic”. Since lust is always a matter of degree this is absurd. Of course there are sex addicted gays who live for lust and perhaps a little more blatantly than straights because the opposite sex is not placing restraints. But lust exists. If you disapprove of it you arrive at the position of Ss Augustine and Jerome who (borrowing from pagans like Seneca) maintained sexual desire even within marriage is no better than adultery. Unless like Stoics and Buddhists you believe in eradication of all desire, you must learn to live with “lust” which is another word for desire. But such denial is not biblical though some Jews and Christians didn’t want the Song of Songs in the Bible because it seemed indecent. I return presently to the “neurotic” charge which is simply insulting to many gays.

• Glatze has an aunt who he says has greatly influenced him and whom he now compliments on having been not judgmental but firmly against his lifestyle. Perhaps the life style wasn’t too good but this aunt may paradoxically have been half the problem. Her attitudes may have fed internalized homophobia that left him incapable of ever adjusting to being gay - if he ever genuinely was, which can be questioned. (He now says he finds the thought of sex with men repulsive).


Since society is traditionally against homosexuality without positive support and self image there will always seem to be reasons for the gay person, especially in conformist societies like America’s, to doubt their orientation and seek change. When this is truly justified is a major question. In the case of seriously confused, undecided or addictive personalities (which appears to be Glatze’s self confessed profile) there can be some value. Also where people are already heavily committed (like the man with a wife and three kids who suddenly decides he’s gay) the case for therapy or change seems compelling. Why stagger through life used by others in roles not truly reflecting one’s core or be victim to various addictions or break up families one has somehow managed to begin because whatever one’s orientation one didn’t find straight sex so difficult in the first place?

I once met a married man with all of four children whom he had left having found a gay soul mate he believed God had blessed him with. I doubt personal or religious self deception could go much further and perhaps even some ex gay type therapy could help such a person whom I don’t feel religious organizations should so readily welcome as one had done in the interests of “toleration”. One's acquired attachments or one's vows are surely meant to mean something.

It’s also possible that especially in America the marketing of gay life (such as Glatze was involved in and which his reading on marketing caused him to question) has made homosexuality seem so exciting that suggestible personalities of the consumer society are dabbling in homo or bi/sexuality as a pleasure option rather than a matter of orientation. This is problematic especially religiously –“leaving their nature” or recreational bisexuality is what St Paul condemns in Romans according to the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Even Prof Tripp’s study admitted that homosexuality could be a space that men with extreme desires (such as in S&M) might gravitate to because women are less likely to play to their needs. So, a trendy homosexuality of convenience can exist but could use cure or renunciation.

This said it’s unwise, even ungodly, to tamper in the matter of alternative orientation which is not against nature – homosexuality is found throughout nature contrary to the beliefs of Aristotle that early Christians appropriated. The ex gay record that such as Ex Gay Watch has monitored is alarming in terms of failure, everything to “hypocritical” reversions to nervous breakdowns and the feeling of having to live a lie.


The Truth about homosexuality that Glatze doesn’t know and partly because the marketing and marketed gay world he served ignores deeper spiritual and psychological perspectives is the reason that the condition is not “curable”. Far from being a "neurosis" it’s a total spirituality and mind-set. It has its own archetypes, its own individuation processes. It’s a psychology before it’s a form of sexual activity. In a way some have found helpful I define a complete gay psychology in the first chapter of my A Special Illumination. Since there is a spiritual dimension I also believe, but am almost forbidden by various academic or religious or scientific prejudices to mention it, that the condition can be identified more esoterically: that there is a gay aura, colour, vibe, certain identifying patterns in astrology that almost no one wants to look at. It could nonetheless be very helpful if people were more aware of this as it would give better idea of who is genuinely gay and who is just floating confused or even just playing queer theory games.

Regardless, if you know several languages you don’t go back to speaking one. Due to factors like the element of androgyny present in many expressions of homosexuality, gay perspectives are often larger than for the average straight person. While I don’t want to bring out the old gay equals genius formula of justification, it’s a fact that from Michelangelo to the mathematician, Alan Turing, there is a gay imaginative, intellectual and sympathetic range which is quite special. Religion is far more owing to it than the religions care to admit but it is high time it learned more humility in relation to this fact but in many cases there’s a long way to go and there’s not even a real dialogue.


This whole subject, serious enough in itself, also neatly connects back to my last article (The Bad Manners of Good Christians) because two messages of May 7th and May 27th despite their extreme relevance to the gay issue and the views of a popular charismatic media Pastor, Patricia King, at Extreme Prophetic have never been answered by so much as one line of acknowledgment.

Patricia King is a trendy, pin up Christian media mother and grandmother with what from interviews sounds like a bit of a hippie past. She is pleasant enough as a person and even in some respects for her background innovatory and enlightened. In terms of the Bible about which she is basically fundamentalist – selectively as most fundamentalists are! – she arguably qualifies as all of an abomination St Paul would throw out of any church. She prays with her head uncovered and she frequently teaches and preaches, (instead of keeping womanly silent!) in tight trousers (which makes her an abomination according to Deut. 22.5) while her coiffure is mannish short in a way to irritate St Paul but perhaps delight any lesbian. However she knows what true abomination is and it's not about any modern Christian variations on outdated themes but “homosexuality” which she refers to as though the Bible used the word (it doesn’t). Departing from the prophecies her programmes and site normally deal in she devotes 4 whole video sessions to talks on “Homosexuality: Good or Evil?” and based purely on her own ideas and biblical citations, the latter not even slightly informed by modern scholarship or psychology on the subject. Some of her views are either non PC or just plain silly like the view homosexuality was the fall of the Roman empire. (Breakdown of the slavery system and excessive imperial wars were the problem).

Since she is supposed to be a charismatic dealing in what the Holy Spirit reveals and gay charismatics do exist and claim revelations that are getting ignored in all this by herself and other high profile charismatics, I proposed that PK might not be listening to “what the Spirit says to the churches”. Speaking to her in her own language I further suggested that the situation she deplores in which gay rights are gaining ground to the point of compromising free speech and personal rights (which arguably sometimes is the case ) I proposed that paradoxically God might be permitting this and despite all the prayers against it. And the reason could be because the historical treatment of gays had never been the subject of collective repentance that church groups had directed upon Blacks, First Nation people and others as a matter of course in recent times. I pointed out that the very idea of proposing we “love” homosexuals but hate their sin is an idea only heard since Gay Liberation as a pretext to continue respectably to oppose homosexuals.

This has to be the case since across history scarcely one Christian apart from the Irish politician, Edmund Burke, who was never forgiven for it, questioned the execution and ill treatment of homosexuals. All manner of public punishments and tortures including of adolescents went on with the blessing of Christians. Against such a legacy I suggested Patricia’s angry insistence she had the right to speak against homosexuality which fashion and law were taking away from her but that she would gladly go to prison to defend, is inappropriate. Without suggesting all modern gays were victims, martyrs or even good people I suggested this situation was still anachronistic and an offence to God.

I received no answer but as I had sent to the general address for Extreme Prophetic perhaps it hadn’t been passed on. On the 27th May I wrote unmissably to Patricia’s personal address at EP and jointly to another soi-disant prophet, Cindy Jacobs, another of these self declared lovers of gays – really – whose views I felt should be challenged. This time I put to them the facts that it has been discovered that 42% of America’s homeless are believed to be gays many of them adolescents ejected from “good” Christian families because they have been taught their children are abominations they don’t have to tolerate. I said no matter precisely how one interprets Bible this is a situation offensive to God and itself needing repentance and it MUST stop.

Of course, I have never had a reply. However, since some groups have been fasting towards today, 7-7-7, and for world change and global revival the latest videoed broadcast from Patricia talks about fasting – from emails and correspondence in her case! Recently she wanted some hours alone with the Lord but instead got caught in a mass of emails that took her 15 hours of her day. And she was wrong because it distracted her from practicing the presence. God is the only one we really need to talk to, she says. Indeed!


Well, in fairness perhaps my message was lost or accidentally deleted, but I doubt it and I want to gag at this kind of holy talk even though I don't doubt it's ultimately more important to talk to God than myself and useful if it is an experience of the divine graciousness and so makes a person more considerate in their dealings. In writing to PK I took care and time and as a published author citing sources and I wrote from outside America to offer different perspectives. This should have been noted and respected. In all the hours devoted to PK’s email replies on that day and surely other days since May 7th I, and more importantly my sensitive subject matter, deserved at least an acknowledgement though I dare say that in even speaking the gay word I am thrown again to outer darkness not worth her or Cindy Jacob’s reply.

But beyond my own concerns the offence to God of such views and behaviour is I believe not so excusable. There are thousands of gays homeless (and an above average suicide rate among young gays) in part because of the attitudes conservative believers refuse to moderate, reconsider or confess, their understanding of homosexuality not extending, nor trying to extend. beyond some of the wildest Gay Pride images.

On this day 7-7-7 devoted to calls for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a new Pentecost upon the world, in line with St Paul's condemnation of religious leadership as “a white washed wall”, I invoke the Holy Spirit against the spirit of unconcern, of rudeness, of both loud bigotry and silent dismissal that prevails in so many Christian circles. And let not media prophets hide from such invocation conveniently dismissing criticism (as Patricia King has absurdly just recently done of any criticism of herself and associates by Christians) as "witchcraft". What is involved is a matter of simple truth and righteousness, things required of those priveleged in terms of influence upon societies' attitudes. The measure we give is the measure we shall get say the gospels. May they be confounded by this same Holy Spirit all those who would try to compromise whatever movement of the Spirit may manifest through the invocations of 7-7-7, making such only a further excuse to speak, campaign or legislate in ways that can only harm the marginalized in their personal and religious lives.

Sunday, July 1, 2007



Last month I wrote about trendy atheism and mentioned concerning the abuse some believers can throw at unbelievers. Actually one doesn’t need to be an atheist to experience what the unbelievers complain about. Even my (essentially Christian) Lennon articles (April and May archives)not apparently seen as religious enough prompted an incredible tirade I didn’t publish in Comments but which included such lurid observations as: "Where will you go after that carcass of yours hits the ground and you are buried in a grave 6ft under. You don’t really care now eh? One day you will care and like those others screaming in hell for mercy, your time will come and when it does come, don’t say you haven’t been warned...you just didn’t want to believe your place, sir, is in the Lake of Fire with all unbelievers and heathen…...” The correspondent, at a guess from the American South, unlike some more truly religious individual didn’t say he would pray for my supposed blindness but merely “pitied” my madness and delivered his warnings - with doubtless some of the Schadenfreude atheist Dawkins noted of such persons.

While most Christian bad manners I’m familiar with are a bit more subtle they’re still ghastly enough to be memorable. But before giving examples let’s be absolutely clear why the matter should receive serious attention and isn't mere gossip.

In the best of all possible worlds Christians, especially in any representative, influential positions, should function as some kind of example or “witness” trying to practice the presence of God and/or attempting to perceive Christ in others. If they can’t do that, and obviously we can’t all be saints, they can at least express the generosity and concern implied by good manners. Courtesy should be (as in Buddhism) regarded as an aspect of spirituality itself. Failure to display good manners (which is a failure in sensitivity hence to “do as you would be done by” or to be “meek”) is openly criticized, not just born in silence by Jesus - vide his dealings with Simon the Pharisee who omitted to offer customary greeting dignities (Lk. 7:45). Moreover to the extent you hurt, offend and let others down you're requiring them to be half saints in the constant forgiving process you impose on them if they are not to become embittered.

In the last two centuries the notion of good manners as basically Christian owes something to Cardinal Newman and his Christian Gentleman ideal. Today, simple courtesy is less and less in evidence among Christians and I’m not referring to obvious cases like Bishops inexcusably turning away at their convenience from the distress of those who have suffered clergy sexual abuse and the like. It’s a whole wrong (unregenerate?) mindset one encounters again and again.


Recently I’ve been in touch with a post grad student leaving China for studies in Australia who needed connections for his arrival in the new country. It chanced too he’d been developing an interest in Christianity, a reason he’d been keen to re-establish contact with an old school friend who converted to the faith after arriving in Australia a decade before. This lady appeared happy to help the student/immigrant settle in offering to let him spend the first few days at her home.

A week before he was due to leave she decided this was inconvenient unless for one night. Emphasizing the point she made no effort personally or through friends to collect her friend at the airport thus costing the not wealthy student hugely in taxi fares to reach her home. When she took him out for his first meal in a foreign land (he’d only ever left China briefly once and not to Australia) her way of treating him was to make him pay for both of them. Her alternative to the promised free home stay was to book him some inconveniently expensive accommodation the student was too weary and jet lagged to resist. This woman’s bullying of work subordinates of the Melbourne university with which she’s associated (and whom she might have used to help the student) was noted. She didn’t assist the visitor to find accommodation – she could at least have directed him to some Chinese community papers and centres in Melbourne – but when he did track down what some of us felt was a bargain she could only sneer he’d found somewhere too dear. As though she herself had not been the main cause of his expenses since arrival. And of course this woman didn’t offer to take her guest to any church.

Such a person shouldn’t be dealing with any student’s welfare and shouldn’t hold membership in any church when their conduct would fit a good Samaritan in reverse. I imagine this woman originally adopted Christianity because she saw it could serve some personal advantage as an immigrant. The tale doesn’t end here:

I spent hours on the Net and phone trying to sort out the mess the lady’s unreliability occasioned and found other Christians no more helpful. Before the student left China I thought I’d discovered a good church associated hostel in an ideal area and rang for details. No one was available so I recorded a message. Still receiving nothing after several hours I sent an email and recorded another message to draw attention to the email. Three days later I received a crazy response inquiring did I still want the requested details because as I hadn’t rung back again that was doubted. I emailed saying of course I still wanted answer to my original queries as there was someone who needed cheap accommodation and could use somewhere church associated. I’ve never received a reply. What efficiency and concern (or intelligence?) does that represent? (Let’s not even speak of evangelical concern. That would be beyond the pale but if the religion wants to increase numbers it doesn’t have people running it to help the aim).


Several years ago when I met the late Robert Funk of The Jesus Seminar with the almost psychic reactions I sometimes have I recoiled from what felt like a vibe of unacceptable coldness and arrogance. I considered this exceptional but it’s my experience theologians are too often either pompously imposing on those around them or unnaturally defensive as though people are a threat to them or the church. One American Methodist theologian I haven’t personally met but who’s obviously ultra-defensive has a busy blog where at one time he actually posted his own Ten Commandments for those presuming to write to him! Not surprisingly quite a few of his Blog communications are reverent thanks and praise items.

You can’t communicate with this person unless publicly in message to his Blog as he supplies no contact I’ve found even through his college in the normal way. But I did discover a hotmail address established for contact regarding a debate he would be having this April with a church leader on gay issues. I wrote there a month in advance. I recommended looking at my article What’s Missing from the Church Gay Debate (March archive) and mentioned my A Special Illumination book (relevant for study of gay theories and theologies) though also honestly mentioning that this wasn’t the sole or even most important issue I wished to be in contact about.

I assume that using this hotmail address when I wouldn’t be attending the debate contravened one of this person’s 10 Commandments - or even a new eleventh. Anyway, I've never received one line of acknowledgement. OK...one can’t respond to every message (would I care to myself?) and it’s possible the message was a victim to spam deletes. However....this was a temporary address with a specific theme I wrote into. And this ultra busy blogger, long text author of everything would be the last person to be too inhibited by work loads to supply a sentence. Plus the relevance of my message as an expert in gay issues in religion would place more obligation than for some messages. What looks like an insult probably was. If so it’s no exception in theological circles and I’m even used to it whether for myself or others.

For example, there’s an American divinity college that teaches in my specialized line that neither I nor and another Australian theologian have managed to receive a response from, though they could well organize their courses around our books. That in itself is possibly a reason to ignore us, though numbers of people suggest it’s more likely that not being Americans in America is enough to be dismissive of us, so that we’re victim of a kind of “can any good thing come out of Galilee?” attitude which especially Christians should avoid. Whatever the cause omissions of this kind throughout America to acknowledge or assist have contributed to my and the other theologian’s problems with publishing, media, our studies, our work and just about everything. Whatever precisely is involved indifference, resentment, sometimes the plain lies of Christians (as mentioned in Part Two) makes an incredible picture.

However as regards indifference one will find the same from Christian writers including such as a leading one on spiritual issues otherwise full of sympathy for those “disappointed with God” and suffering various problems. His writing sounds great and is widely praised but one wouldn’t need to be disappointed with the author himself. I wrote him some insightful comments on his themes and also described some of my own problems which common politeness or concern might have answered however briefly. In this instance I couldn’t write to him directly.

The contact link from his website provides no (direct and personal) address - but shouldn’t a writer of helpful books wish to give help as part of his vocation? He is published by (the Murdoch owned) Zondervan Press who in their controlling way don’t want the hoi polloi to contact authors unless positively. With artificiality and arguably total disregard for religious and spiritual integrity in these matters, Zondervan Press, to whom their author links you, censors out difficulty by telling people to write to their authors saying how they inspired you. (American positive thought!) Hopefully you’d do that if you were inspired; but what sort of Christian organization is this so sold on the publicity set up? (Indeed what sort of Bible selling Christian organization is so remote from movements of the Spirit that in its worldly, commercialized way it can’t be approached except through agents and in line with the whole scheme of dismissive American competitive values?). And what sort of Christian author even if he disliked my message - it was hardly unflattering and unsupportive - would not bother for one line of acknowledgement or encouragement to another writer?

Perhaps the fact I deal with a whole variety of difficult subjects including gay theology is a grounds to throw me to outer darkness without normal attention to manners (though if I really do profile as “the enemy” that should be an opportunity to love one’s enemies!). On the other hand honesty requires me unchauvinistically to admit that those of the alternative world aren’t notably better. While I’ve had the support of some within it, on the whole I couldn’t associate many among such as gay Christians with any better behaviour - if anything they’ve repeatedly let me down. One of England’s leading gay Christian groups several times promised to review material of mine and again that of the gay theologian already mentioned but never after several reminders and 18 months delivered on the explicit promises and never promoted our groundbreaking material so much as to put our books in their lists on the Net. One of America’s leading Catholic gay writers himself flatteringly written about in my A Special Illumination was so unsupportive he had no more to say to me than to suggest I order his latest book from Amazon, a rudeness almost breathtaking.

All I can say is it’s as well I’m not a person to judge philosophies by their practitioners or I would have no faith at all. I certainly haven’t been “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”. It’s doubtful most Christians I’ve met would even grasp what being any witness might mean…...

(In Part Two I’ll look at the strange manners of Christian Journalists, Publishers and others and draw conclusions)