Was Jesus Gay? Corpus Christi Provokes Outrage
“Corpus Christi”, a play that depicts Jesus as gay, is set to open in Australia at Sydney’s annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival in early February. There has been predictable outrage expressed in the media. The Anglican Bishop of Sydney, Robert Forsyth, described the play as “deliberately offensive” and “historical nonsense”.
The play portrays Jesus and the disciples as gay men.
Terence McNally, who wrote the acclaimed play, created a gay Jesus partly as a way of exploring the feelings of rejection and persecution he experienced as a gay youth growing up in Texas. When the play opened in the UK in 1999 in addition to taking harsh criticism from conservative Christians, McNally became the target of a fatwa issued by an Islamic group.
Assuming an historical Jesus existed, why is it considered outrageous by some to speculate that he may not have been heterosexual in orientation? In the Bible mention of homosexuality is rare, in part because it was considered taboo in the context of Jewish customs. Being homosexual in a patriarchal and homophobic culture of that time would tend to push you to the fringes. Jesus was certainly far out on the fringes. He was an outsider – in his own words “despised and rejected”.
Nor was Jesus even remotely respectable. The Pharisees accused him of being a drunkard and partying with “sinners”. So clearly there was an aspect of his behavior that flew in the face of conventional conduct.
There is no record of Jesus engaging in any sexual relations with women. He remained unmarried. However we do know that he spent most of his time in the company of men. There are passages in the New Testament that indicate he had a special love for one particular disciple.
While it is true that the culture of his day tended to be much more demonstrative in terms of gestures of physical affection between males, than exists for example in contemporary American culture – nonetheless the following verse from John 21:20 suggests an unusually intimate connection between the two men :
“Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?”
The Greek term used to describe the love Jesus had for this disciple is “agape”.