Recently, a friend posted this article on Facebook. I don’t know her intentions, but naturally the subject matter stirred the masses into hysteria. Immediately, a debate was raised over Jesus’ sexual preference. The responses ranged from (and I am summarizing), leave Jesus alone, to – I knew it all along, another hooray for gay liberation.
The article (below), Was Jesus Gay? Probably, written by Journalist Theo Hobson of the Guardian (UK), offers the details regarding a sermon delivered by Paul Oestreicher a Chaplain at the University of Sussex. Seems the media friendly Chaplain, who by the way has made a number of appearances in the media over the years for his strong opposition to the Christian conservative viewpoint, has a conviction to prove the sexual preference of Jesus Christ.
Normally, I am not one for entering a religiously sparked debate. Why? I believe in the philosophy – to each, his or her own. However, when a member of the clergy, a Chaplain, spews out rhetoric, which has the potential to infect the nations religiously motivated, it frosts my cookies. What gives me the right to debate a Chaplain? I too hold a degree from a religious university, and I, like Chaplain Paul Oestreicher, am an ordained Chaplain. That in itself does not make me any better or different, merely an equal to Chaplain Paul Oestreicher.
Not to burden you with extraneous reading and dragging out the trusty Bible, I will give a rational and logical response, based on my many years of studying the Good Book and its history. Chaplain Oestreicher’s argument begins by analyzing a single event, Jesus’ crucifixion, in particular his death and his final words. According to Oestreicher, “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,” offers proof of Jesus sexual preference.
The Chaplain further states, “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,” implying this is unquestionable evidence of a relationship between John and Jesus.
Chaplain Oestreicher’s further claims, “[the] disciple was John whom Jesus  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.” “…  Jesus may well have been homosexual. Had he been devoid of sexuality, he would not have been truly human. To believe that would be heretical.”
Now I shall respond to the good and well informed Chaplain…
In the first place, I do not know how they taught things where you went to school, however when I was being educated for the clergy I learned never to take matters of the Bible out of context. As we both know, in the ancient texts, the Greek Septuagint and ancient Hebrew texts, interpretations of what was said two-thousand years ago (in Aramaic) are subjective to interpretation.
To consider the events in context – that is, in consideration of time, place, culture, and society (demographics, religious, and industrial current trends and customs), one must ask, did a rabbi have an apprentice? The answer, yes. Would said apprentice be with his master day and night and follow his every move? Yes. Would it be considered “the norm” for an apprentice to hold his master in high esteem and even show a great deal of affection for him? Yes. He would lay down his life for him, then why did the other disciples abandon Jesus? My guess is either Jesus instructed them to leave, as was well within the scope of His character, “Go tell the masses,” or possibly John was the most courageous of all the disciples. Was it customary to adopt an apprentice as a member of one’s family in those days? Yes. Did Jesus love John? Yes. Did Jesus love Mary? Yes.
Perhaps Chaplain Oestreicher is simple reaching out to a community in his area of New Zealand that is in need of hope. They have been ostracized from the church for far too long. By creating an illusion to offer a security blanket to people in need does nothing more than offer them false hope. I will not debate the gay vs. straight issue; I have family members and friends I love very much who are gay. I will not offer them something, which is a fabrication of the truth just to appease their decision to live a gay lifestyle. And I will never commit the act of heresy or twist the truths of the Bible to fit others or myself. That goes against what the Bible stands for.
When we chose to disbelieve that which has been solid ground for thousands of years, and we decide to mold it and make it fit our personal agendas, we might as well rewrite history and begin afresh. However, I do not have much faith in humanity in the idea of making things any better the second time around.
My final concern, as a footnote, the author and the good Chaplain seem to buy into the bias attitude of the separatist ideology continually referring to “gay and lesbian community”. Pardon me gentlemen, but lesbian is gay and they have equal rights as gay men and they share equally in the plight of gay rights. Enough said!
This has been a… View From My Loft
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The article as published in the Guardian.Co.UK Friday 20 April
Was Jesus Gay? Probably
Theo Hobson: Can liberal Christians shut up about gayness?
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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.
Jesus was a Hebrew rabbi. Unusually, he was unmarried. The idea that he had a romantic relationship with Mary Magdalene is the stuff of fiction, based on no biblical evidence. The evidence, on the other hand, that he may have been what we today call gay is very strong. But even gay rights campaigners in the church have been reluctant to suggest it. A significant exception was Hugh Montefiore, bishop of Birmingham and a convert from a prominent Jewish family. He dared to suggest that possibility and was met with disdain, as though he were simply out to shock.
After much reflection and with certainly no wish to shock, I felt I was left with no option but to suggest, for the first time in half a century of my Anglican priesthood, that Jesus may well have been homosexual. Had he been devoid of sexuality, he would not have been truly human. To believe that would be heretical.
Heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual: Jesus could have been any of these. There can be no certainty which. The homosexual option simply seems the most likely. The intimate relationship with the beloved disciple points in that direction. It would be so interpreted in any person today. Although there is no rabbinic tradition of celibacy, Jesus could well have chosen to refrain from sexual activity, whether he was gay or not. Many Christians will wish to assume it, but I see no theological need to. The physical expression of faithful love is godly. To suggest otherwise is to buy into a kind of puritanism that has long tainted the churches.
All that, I felt deeply, had to be addressed on Good Friday. I saw it as an act of penitence for the suffering and persecution of homosexual people that still persists in many parts of the church. Few readers of this column are likely to be outraged any more than the liberal congregation to whom I was preaching, yet I am only too aware how hurtful these reflections will be to most theologically conservative or simply traditional Christians. The essential question for me is: what does love demand? For my critics it is more often: what does scripture say? In this case, both point in the same direction.
Whether Jesus was gay or straight in no way affects who he was and what he means for the world today. Spiritually it is immaterial. What matters in this context is that there are many gay and lesbian followers of Jesus – ordained and lay – who, despite the church, remarkably and humbly remain its faithful members. Would the Christian churches in their many guises more openly accept, embrace and love them, there would be many more disciples.