A gay vision of Christ’s Passion starts this Sunday here on the Jesus in Love Blog at Q Spirit. New posts will run daily from Palm Sunday through Easter (April 9-16).
The paintings present Jesus as a contemporary gay man in a modern city as he lives out the dramatic events of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. The art and reflections are also available as a book.
The Holy Week posts are timed so that Christ dies on Good Friday and rises again on Easter itself. Blanchard’s images show Jesus being jeered by fundamentalists, tortured by Marine look-alikes and rising again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God and friends. He stands up to priests, businessmen, lawyers, and soldiers—all of whom look eerily similar to the people holding those jobs today. His surprisingly diverse friends join him on a journey from suffering to freedom.
Click the titles below to view individual paintings and text in the series. Links will be added as the series is posted.
1. Son of Man (Human One) with Job and Isaiah
2. Jesus Enters the City
3. Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers
4. Jesus Preaches in the Temple
5. The Last Supper
6. Jesus Prays Alone
7. Jesus Is Arrested
8. Jesus Before the Priests
9. Jesus Before the Magistrate
10. Jesus Before the People
11. Jesus Before the Soldiers
12. Jesus Is Beaten
13. Jesus Goes to His Execution
14. Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross
15. Jesus Dies
16. Jesus Is Buried
17. Jesus Among the Dead
18. Jesus Rises
19. Jesus Appears to Mary
20. Jesus Appears at Emmaus
21. Jesus Appears to His Friends
22. Jesus Returns to God
23. The Holy Spirit Arrives
24. The Trinity
Give now to the Easter offering to support this series
The format is similar to the traditional Stations of the Cross, but it includes many different scenes and resurrections appearances.
Blanchard, a gay painter based in New York, and Cherry, a lesbian author and art historian in Los Angeles, have turned this series into a book. “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” with Blanchard’s paintings and Cherry’s text.
Why a gay Passion of Christ is needed
“We are sharing the gay Passion series to make Christ more accessible to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people and our allies,” said Cherry, founder of Q Spirit and Jesus in Love. The projects promote artistic and religious freedom by supporting LGBTQ spirituality and the arts. “Christ’s story is for everyone, but queer people often feel left out because conservatives use Christian rhetoric to justify hate and discrimination,” she said. A video combines the paintings with her talking about why they are important.
The gay Jesus himself appears surprisingly approachable in Blanchard’s art. “Christ is one of us in my pictures,” Blanchard in the book’s introduction. “In His sufferings, I want to show Him as someone who experiences and understands fully what it is like to be an unwelcome outsider.”
Gay Passion of Christ sparks controversy
The gay vision of Christ’s Passion often sparks controversy and criticism. Right-wing Christians condemned their book as an “abomination,” “disgusting” and “an outrage to mock Christ in this manner.” Hate mail threatened the artist and author with hellfire and occasionally even physical violence. A typical negative comment on the Passion book’s Facebook page charged, “You are blasphemers to even suggest or hypothesize about Jesus being gay.”
Facebook repeatedly canceled ads for the book because it was too “shocking” and “scary” as well as “adult material” and “pornography.” When the LGBTQ community protested, the social media company reversed its decision and “resurrected” the ad.
Four times the rejected ads were approved on appeal, generating international headlines such as Facebook u-turns to allow gay Jesus crucifixion ad (Gay Star News). A round-up of news articles in English and nine other languages is posted on the Passion book website.
“The paintings and the book that I wrote about them have been attacked as blasphemy by conservative Christians,” Cherry says. “But we refuse to concede Jesus to those who act like they own the copyright on Christ, then use him as a weapon to dominate others. The gay Passion of Christ is intended to broaden, not limit how Jesus is perceived.”
For more on the controversy, see Rejection of LGBT Christian Ads Shows Limits of Social Media at Huff Post.
Readers call it “accessible but profound”
The gay Passion of Christ series is popular with readers, who call it “accessible but profound.” Here are other typical comments:
“I just wish I had experienced this kind of queer-positive Christianity when I was a teen struggling with both my sexuality and my religion as a whole.”
— Matt Leary, Dover, PA
“I can’t go through Holy Week without recalling many of these images. They depict the Holy Week that is in my heart.”
— Elisa Lucozzi, associate pastor, Saint Johnsbury, VT
“As a heretic Christian turned Buddhist, I was moved to tears by your artistic vision.”
–John Gish, retired teacher, Key West, FL
“I love these paintings not just for how ‘radical’ they are, but for how much I see them as being absolutely in line with traditional Christian understandings of Christ and of Easter.”
— CJ Barker, activist, Marin County, CA
The book is “transformative in the most profound sense of the word,” says Michael Bronski, Harvard professor of gender and sexuality. “Whether you are religious or not, it is impossible to read ‘The Passion of Christ’ without having your basic beliefs shaken and expanded.”
LGBTQ religious leaders also praise the book. “I was deeply moved by this retelling of the Easter story,” says Rev. Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Churches. Soulforce founder Rev. Mel White calls it “an amazing read,” Rev. Patrick Cheng welcomes it as “a beautiful work of contextual theology,” and Rev. Chris Glaser describes it as “a great contribution.” Mary Hunt of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual declares, “The divine leaps from these pages into open hearts.”
About the author and artist
Cherry was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served as its National Ecumenical Officer, advocating for LGBTQ rights at the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches. In 2005 she created Jesus in Love to support LGBTQ spirituality and the arts and show God’s love for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It has grown to include a popular blog and e-newsletter. She earned degrees in journalism and art history from the University of Iowa, and a master of divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion.
The New York Times Book Review praised Cherry’s “very graceful, erudite” writing style. She has written seven books, including “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations” and “Jesus in Love: A Novel.” The Passion book was published in 2014 by Apocryphile Press.
Selections from Blanchard’s Passion also appear in “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” by Kittredge Cherry. A Lambda Literary Award finalist, the book is filled with color images by 11 contemporary artists from the U.S. and Europe.
The book was launched in May 2007 with an exhibit at JHS Gallery in Taos, New Mexico. The completed Passion series was displayed together there for the first and only time in a group exhibit titled “Who Do You Say That I Am? Visions of Christ, Gender, and Justice.” Blanchard’s series became the show’s superstar, with almost half of the 24 panels in his series getting snapped up by collectors. Now they are scattered all across the world.
Blanchard teaches art and art history at the Bronx Community College of the City University of New York. He was confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1982 and remains an active Episcopalian and self-described “very agnostic believer.” He earned a BFA in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute, an MA in art history from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA cum laude from the New York Academy of Art.
He spent four years painting the gay Passion. He started in summer 2001, but it took on new meaning on Sept. 11 when hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center near his studio on New York’s Lower East Side. He used the series to grapple with his own faith struggles as a New Yorker who witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Reproductions of the Passion paintings are available as greeting cards and prints in a variety of sizes and formats online at Fine Art America.
Each of the Passion pictures is oil on wood panel, measuring 18 inches by 14 inches. Some originals are available for purchase.
Blanchard is painting a second gay Passion of Christ series
After the success of his first gay Passion of Christ paintings, artist Doug Blanchard recently began a second series on the same subject.
“It has been 11 years since I finished the Passion series. After more than a decade of thought and conversation about the Passion series, I’ve decided to do another one, this time a little larger, and on canvas,” Blanchard said.
His goal is to finish the new series by Easter 2020 for exhibition at the bicentennial celebration of his Episcopal parish in New York City. He has already finished five paintings.
The new series features a darker, racially indeterminate Jesus who lives in a monochrome world. “I’m making the contrast between pre- and post-Resurrection even more stark this time,” Blanchard explained. Scenes will be painted in full color after Jesus rises from the dead.
One aspect that won’t change is the gay perspective. “I do plan to put more homoeroticism in this second series, especially in some of the more transcendent scenes following the resurrection,” Blanchard confirmed. More info
Links related to the gay Passion of Christ
*Advocate.com: “Artist Doug Blanchard’s haunting contemporary paintings of the Passion of Christ are an emotional reminder of the courage it takes to resist the powers that be.”
*Facebook u-turns to allow gay Jesus crucifixion ad (Gay Star News)
Other LGBTQ versions of the Passion of Christ:
“Stations of the Cross: The Struggle for LGBT Equality” by Mary Button with commentary by Kittredge Cherry
This post is part of the Queer Christ series series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series gathers together visions of the queer Christ as presented by artists, writers, theologians and others.
Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
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