Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Terence Weldon on the "Disciple Jesus Loved" as a Role Model for LGBT Christians

This past Tuesday, December 27, was the feast day of St. John the Evangelist, the “beloved disciple.”

In marking this day Terence Weldon has posted a thoughtful
reflection on his blog, Queering the Church. Following is an excerpt.


[In his book The Man Jesus Loved, biblical scholar Theodore] Jennings makes it clear that he believes [Jesus’] relationship with the “Beloved Disciple” was at the very least emotionally intimate, and probably erotic – but he is not convinced that [the disciple] John and the Beloved were the same person. This does not change the importance of St John the Evangelist and of the “Beloved Disciple” for queer Christians today, simply on the basis that the beloved disciple exists – and that beloved, in fact, is each of us. For gay men in particular, combining this thought in our prayer with a recognition of Jesus’ full bodily humanity can be a powerful entry into building that important personal relationship with him in our spiritual lives.

Personally, I agree that Jesus was certainly “queer”, in the sense that he was plainly a sexual non-conformist who did not conform to the social expectations of the time. It must be true that, as “fully human”, he must have experienced sexual feelings. Even in Jewish society, if he had indeed given expression to these with another man, this would not have been exceptional: as long as he did not contravene that Leviticus prohibition on lying with a man “as with a woman” – i.e. with anal penetration. I also take it is true that he was clearly gay – friendly, as is clear from the story of the centurion, his words abut Eunuchs, and (possibly) his friendship with Martha Mary and Lazarus. So, to say Jesus and John were possibly sexually intimate lovers is to me not shocking, indeed possible – but also irrelevant.

The significance for us of John as “the disciple Jesus loved,” goes way beyond the possibility of genital activity. Love is primarily an emotional relationship, not a physical one. The English language does us a disservice in using “lovemaking” as a euphemism for the physical act, even without any deep emotional significance. “Loving”, in its full sense is more important than mere “lovemaking” as a physical act. In this sense, we know without any possible doubt that the words “whom Jesus loved” are true. How do we know it? Because they are true for all the disciples, as they are for each of us, and for all others.

One of the reasons I believe it is helpful to reflect on the saints is to see them as role models, that is, to try to imagine ourselves in their place, to try to follow their example. If we do this, actively imagining ourselves in the place of John, the beloved disciple, we may more easily see ourselves as we really are – beloved ourselves.

This is important for all followers of Christ, but is even more important for us as lesbigaytrans Catholics and other Christians, who so often find ourselves under attack by those in the churches who really should know better. When we find ourselves under attack, on the receiving end of hate it is important to remember that this comes from human institutions, not from Christ himself – for whom we are all “the disciple(s) whom he loved.”

– Terence Weldon
St. John the Evangelist, the “Beloved Disciple”: December 27
Queering the Church
December 27, 2010

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
The Sexuality of Jesus
Why Jesus is My Man
Jesus Was a Sissy
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 1)
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 2)
Jesus and Homosexuality
“More Lovely Than the Dawn”: God as Divine Lover
Lover Of Us All
Christ and Krishna
The Archangel Michael as Gay Icon
The Allure of St. Sebastian
"From Byzantine Daddy to Baroque Twink" – Charles Darwent on the Journey of St. Sebastian
Song of Songs: The Bible's Gay Love Poem

Image 1: LifeWay Church Resources.
Image 2: Artist unknown.
Image 3: Valentin de Boulogne.
Image 4: Lester Yocum.
Image 5:


Anonymous said...

Entirely eisegetical - and uninformed by ancient Jewish social relations. A simpler explanation is that Jesus and John - or the Beloved Disciple, whether different people or the same person - were "fictive kin." The closest friendships were those between siblings, not between spouses (as they come from different families) and certainly not between parents and children, even adult parents and their adult children.

Fictive kinship established the closest possible friendship-in- family. Sexualizing that relationship would have been considered incestuous and violation of Jewish Law and social mores.

Terence Weldon said...

Thanks for your shout out, Michael -- and for your ever-useful set of links to related posts.

brian gerard said...

Thanks for this post Michael. And, an introduction to Terence's site.