Paul Oestreicher: “Was Jesus gay? Probably”

Paul Oestreicher is not the first person to suggest that Jesus was probably gay, nor will he be the last. What I found particularly interesting in this reflection was the timing, based on a Good Friday sermon which explicitly linked Christ’s suffering and death with the suffering and persecution of the LGBT community in the name of religion. In the Catholic Church, the orthodox view of homosexuality is that while it is natural and so not sinful in itself, it is intrinsically disordered, and should be seen as a cross to be borne with fortitude. My own view is closer to Oestreicher’s – the cross that we bear is not our God-given orientation, but disordered teaching, and religious abuse masquerading as pastoral care.

I and other queer Christians who have raised the question of Christ’s sexuality are dismissed by our critics as gay apologists justifying our own lives. Rev Oestreicher’s view cannot be brushed aside as easily. He is an Anglican priest, chaplain to the University of Sussex, now “living in Brighton with his wife”. It is not his own orientation that has led him to make this connection between Christ’s suffering and the queer persecution in Church, but his strong identification with political persecution in all it’s forms. As a young child, he and his family were forced to leave Germany as refugees, a result of his Jewish ancestry.  As chairman of the British section of Amnesty International, he worked for political prisoners in Eastern Europe during the Cold War and South Africa under apartheid.

Preaching on Good Friday on the last words of Jesus as he was being executed makes great spiritual demands on the preacher. The Jesuits began this tradition. Many Anglican churches adopted it. Faced with this privilege in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, my second home, I was painfully aware of the context, a church deeply divided worldwide over issues of gender and sexuality. Suffering was my theme. I felt I could not escape the suffering of gay and lesbian people at the hands of the church, over many centuries.

Was that divisive issue a subject for Good Friday? For the first time in my ministry I felt it had to be. Those last words of Jesus would not let me escape. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman behold your son!’ Then he said to the disciple. ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

That disciple was John whom Jesus, the gospels affirm, loved in a special way. All the other disciples had fled in fear. Three women but only one man had the courage to go with Jesus to his execution. That man clearly had a unique place in the affection of Jesus. In all classic depictions of the Last Supper, a favourite subject of Christian art, John is next to Jesus, very often his head resting on Jesus’s breast. Dying, Jesus asks John to look after his mother and asks his mother to accept John as her son. John takes Mary home. John becomes unmistakably part of Jesus’s family.

Guardian.co.uk.

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2 comments for “Paul Oestreicher: “Was Jesus gay? Probably”

  1. Advocatus Diaboli
    April 24, 2012 at 12:46 am

    great article, we have been having a big discussion about jesus’ sexuality in one of my courses. Today it was quite in depth, and I referred a few people to this site as an example of such interpretations. hopefully readership will expand :-)

  2. Chris Morley
    April 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    For my confirmation name I chose this John, precisely because he was the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’. It was in the late 1950s and I was 8. I already understood somehow that it was not safe to tell the Priest instructing us for confirmation or any other adults this, because I’d have to explain why, so I pretended I’d chosen John the Baptist (the only other St John I knew about).
    My heart’s choice of John the Beloved was my first realisation of being ‘different’, because their close physicality and affection for each other powerfully drew me. Around five years later when I started to recognise I was gay, I saw my confirmation Saint choice as my gay spirit awakening.

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