Tuesday, February 09, 2016

RIP Ibrahim Farajajé: Queer theologian, AIDS activist, interfaith scholar, spiritual leader




In memory of
Ibrahim Farajajé

queer theologian, HIV/AIDS activist, professor, artist, activist and spiritual leader

Died Feb. 8, 2016


white candle Pictures, Images and Photos




I light a memorial candle for Dr. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé (formerly Elias Farajajé-Jones), queer theologian, HIV/AIDS activist, professor, artist, activist and spiritual leader.

He died last night (Feb. 8) surrounded by family and friends at Alta Bates Medical Center in Oakland. He had been hospitalized since mid-January after a massive heart attack. He was 63.

He spent 21 years as professor of cultural studies at the Starr King School for the Ministry, a Unitarian Universalist/Multireligious member school of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. He was planning to retire at the end of the 2016-17 academic year.

I knew him as Elias, and I remember him as a great thinker who embodied fluidity of sexuality, race, religion, language and much more.

His eclectic and seemingly endless scholarly interests included heteronormativity, multireligiosity, transphobia, ‘earthodoxy’-religion and care for the Earth, immigration policies, hasidic/sufi overlaps, death penalty abolition, colonisation, gynephobia, and Buddhist/Muslim intersections. He knew 16 languages. He considered himself to be a “scholartivist” -- scholar, artist, activist and spiritual leader.

Elias made a big impression on me personally when I first heard him speak at a Metropolitan Community Church conference in the 1990s.

I took the initiative and invited him to submit a liturgy for “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations.” As co-editor of the book, I worked to ensure that his unique voice was included in the book.

In his bio for the book, he described himself as “a queer-identified bisexual / two-spirit person” of African and Cherokee ancestry.

As I remember it, Elias was the last of about 30 contributors to submit his manuscript. I was thrilled when it came by fax in a large typeface, using up the entire roll of fax paper!

It was titled “Invocation of Remembrance, Healing and Empowerment in a Time of AIDS.” His opening words then are strikingly appropriate as we celebrate the life of the theologian who wrote them:

To the living and the dead, we bear witness. We gather in an act of remembrance of all of our ancestors and in a particular way of all those LGBT people of color who have died in the struggle with AIDS, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer, but also of those who were denied adequate health care and were target of racism, sexism, poverty, violence, homohatred, and other evils. Ours is a remembrance rooted in a spirit of solidarity and a spirit of resistance -- a resistance that strengthens and empowers us to live and act boldly….

His voice lives on in a video interview and in the hearts of those who knew him.


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Related links:

News brief: Starr King announces death of provost Ibrahim Farajajé (Unitarian Universalist World)

Oral history of Ibrahim Farajajé (LGBT Religious Archives Network)

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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, humanitarians, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Facebook rejects gay Passion of Christ book ad as pornography (news release)

News release sent today:
LOS ANGELES, CA -- Feb. 9, 2016 -- Facebook rejected an ad for an LGBT book about the Passion of Christ, calling it an “adult product” and pointing out their ban on pornography.

Authors Kittredge Cherry and Doug Blanchard are going to appeal the decision.

“Our book is not porn!” Cherry says. “It is a religious art book that presents the story of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection from an LGBT viewpoint. Does Facebook believe that everything LGBT is automatically obscene?!”

They had planned to get the Passion book advertisement running tomorrow for Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Paintings in the book depict Jesus as a gay man of today in a modern city. Nudity is similar to standard Christian crucifixion scenes. The only image in the book that might be considered sexually suggestive (but not porn) is when Jesus kisses God during his Ascension to heaven.

The rejected ad shows a shirtless Jesus on the cross with this text: “LGBT Passion of Christ: Meet a modern Jesus in ‘The Passion of Christ.’ Recommended book for Lent and Holy Week.” It links to the book’s website: passionofchristbook.com.

Some ad formats also include this extra text: “Powerful paintings show a gay vision of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Diverse friends go with him from suffering to freedom. Includes 24 paintings and meditations. ‘Accessible but profound.’”

“This rejection is an important reminder that LGBT interpretations of Jesus are still radical and very much needed,” Cherry says.

Douglas Blanchard is a gay artist who teaches art and art history at the Bronx Community College of the City University of New York. Kittredge Cherry is a lesbian author and art historian who founded JesusInLove.org, an online resource for LGBT spirituality and the arts. She was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches. “The Passion of Christ” (ISBN 194067140X) was published by Apocryphile Press.

For more info, visit the Jesus in Love Blog (www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com) or the book website (passionofchristbook.com).

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* Book website: www.passionofchristbook.com

Monday, February 08, 2016

Facebook rejects gay Passion of Christ book ad as pornography



Facebook rejected a new ad for our gay Passion of Christ book this week, calling it an “adult product” and referencing their ban on pornography.

“Ads may not promote pornography of any kind, whether artistic or commercial,” states the Facebook guideline referenced in the rejection notice.

Our book is not porn! It is a religious art book that presents the story of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection from an LGBT viewpoint.

Facebook won’t let us pay to advertise “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” by myself (Kittredge Cherry) and artist Doug Blanchard. So please send your friend to the book’s website (passionofchristbook.com) and invite them to like its Facebook page.

Paintings in the book depict Jesus as a gay man of today in a modern city. Nudity is similar to standard Christian crucifixion scenes. The only image in the book that might be considered sexually suggestive (but not porn) is when Jesus kisses God during his Ascension to heaven.

The rejected ad shows a shirtless Jesus on the cross with this text: “LGBT Passion of Christ: Meet a modern Jesus in ‘The Passion of Christ.’ Recommended book for Lent and Holy Week.” It links to the book’s website: passionofchristbook.com.

Some ad formats also include this extra text: “Powerful paintings show a gay vision of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Diverse friends go with him from suffering to freedom. Includes 24 paintings and meditations. ‘Accessible but profound.’”

The ad itself doesn’t seem remotely pornographic or sexually suggestive -- unless the censors at Facebook misunderstood the word “Passion.” Do they think it only means sexual desire? “Passion” also means the suffering and death of Jesus.

Do they believe that everything “LGBT” is automatically sexual and pornographic?!

Maybe gay visions of Jesus just scare them.

Strangely Facebook stated that saying “Practice safe sex with our brand of condoms” is OK, while “LGBT Passion of Christ” is obscene.

The LGBT Passion of Christ is apparently more dangerous than safe sex to the censors at Facebook!

Since the ad’s image and text are pretty tame, it seems that Facebook is not just rejecting this particular ad, but ANY ad for the book because they imagine it must be an “adult product.”

This rejection is an important reminder that the gay Passion book is still needed. I forget how radical is to show a queer Christ. I honestly thought this Facebook controversy was behind us.

When the book was first published in 2014, Facebook rejected a different ad for the same book by using a different excuse. They said it was too “shocking” because it showed a wounded Jesus carrying his cross. They claimed it violated their guideline against images that “may shock or evoke a negative response from viewers.” Specifically they stated that it violated their prohibition on images of “dead or dismembered bodies, ghosts, zombies, ghouls and vampires.”

Doug appealed their decision while I contacted the Lambda Legal Defense Fund and the LGBT news media. Facebook backed down and approved the ad after Gay Star News contacted the social networking site for comment. For the whole story, see the previous post “Victory! Facebook approves gay Passion of Christ ad.”

Here is the entire text of this year’s rejection message:

Your ad content violates Facebook Ad Guidelines. Ads are not allowed to promote the sale or use of adult products or services, including toys, videos, publications, live shows or sexual enhancement products. Ads for family planning and contraception are allowed if they follow our targeting requirements.
Before resubmitting your ad, please visit the Help Center [link] to learn more and see examples of ads that meet our guidelines.
If you’ve read the guidelines in the Help Center and think your ad follows the rules and should have been approved, please let us know.

Clicking the “Help Center” link leads to this text:

Adult Products
Ads may not promote pornography of any kind, whether artistic or commercial. Ads may not feature nudity, adult toys, adult products, or images of people participating in activities that are excessively suggestive or sexual in nature.Ads promoting sexual health products or services, such as contraceptives, lubricants, gels, or sexual health resources may be allowed and must be targeted to people over the age of consent for sexual activity in the target jurisdiction or, if applicable, of age to avail of sexual health services and products in that jurisdiction.
Acceptable: "Free condoms at your local student health center." "Practice safe sex with our brand of condoms."
Unacceptable: "Condoms to enhance your pleasure."
To read more, visit the Facebook Advertising Policies.

I planned to get the Passion book ad running before Ash Wednesday (Feb. 10), which begins the Lenten season of prayer and reflection on the Passion of Christ.

Instead I am writing to Facebook appealing their decision. It’s time to contact Lambda Legal and the LGBT news media again too.

You can show support by telling your friends about the website that Facebook won't let us pay to advertise.

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News release Feb. 9, 2016: Facebook rejects gay Passion of Christ book ad as pornography




Thursday, February 04, 2016

Saint Walatta Petros: African nun shared a lifetime bond with a female partner in 17th-century Ethiopia


Saint Walatta Petros is a 17th-century Ethiopian nun who had an intense lifelong friendship with another nun amd led a successful movement to drive out foreign missionaries.

Controversial evidence of same-sex love in her history is revealed in her biography, which was recently published in English for the first time: “The Life  and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A 17th-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman” by Galawdewos.  It is translated and edited by Wendy Belcher, associate professor of African literature at Princeton University, and Michael Kleiner.

Walatta Petros is recognized as a saint by the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, which honors her for preserving early African Christian beliefs by expelling Jesuit missionaries from Portugal. Her feast day is Nov. 23.

Her biography, written by her disciples just 30 years after her death, is the earliest known book-length biography of an African woman. Written in 1672, it includes the earliest known depiction of same-sex desire among women in sub-Saharan Africa. That section was censored until last year, when the first English translation was published.

Portrait of Walatta Petros (Wikimedia Commons)

Walatta Petros (1592 - 1642) was a noblewoman who married at a young age. Her name is a compound meaning “Daughter of (Saint) Peter” and cannot be shortened. She gave birth to three children who all died in infancy. Then she then left her husband, shaved her head and became a nun.

Walatta Petros’ hair is shaved to prepare her for becoming a nun (Credit: SLUB Mscr.Dresd.Eb.415.e,2)

The biography vividly describes the day she met Eheta Kristos (1601-1649), another noblewoman who had given up married life to become a nun. Her name means “Sister of Christ.” The moment they met sounds like love at first sight:

“As soon as our holy mother Walatta Petros and Eheta Kristos saw each other from afar, love was infused into both their hearts, love for one another, and... they were like people who had known each other beforehand because the Holy Spirit united them.”

Before long they moved in together. The text uses language that evokes a marriage bond, saying that they “lived together in mutual love, like soul and body. From that day onward the two did not separate, neither in times of tribulation and persecution, nor in those of tranquility, but only in death.”

Belcher’s introduction points out that it would be “anachronistic” to identify Walatta Petros as a lesbian because it is a 20th-century Anglo-American term. Instead she says in the introduction that the two nuns were “involved in a lifelong partnership of deep romantic friendship,” noting that and they were committed to celibacy and asceticism.

Indeed the chapter newly translated as “Our Mother Sees Nuns Lusting After Each Other” describes how Walatta Petros objected to such behavior. The saint herself tells the story in the text:

“It was evening and I was sitting in the house, facing the gate, when I saw some young nuns pressing against each other and being lustful with each other, each with a female companion. Therefore my heart caught fire and I began to argue with God, saying to him, ‘Did you put me here to show me this?’”

The footnote in the book explains that the phrase “my heart caught fire” might have a double meaning: “On the surface, it expresses her anger against God for showing her this scene, but the words chosen also suggest that she is angry because she felt desire upon looking at the scene.”

Some Ethiopians reject this interpretation, and Belcher’s website includes a page devoted to the “Controversy over Sexuality in the Gadla Walatta Petros.”

The church that Walatta Petros served was one of the earliest forms of Christianity, the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church. It was established officially in the fourth century but may trace its roots back to the Ethiopian eunuch who was baptized by Philip in the New Testament. There were only a few such pre-colonial Christian churches in the world.

During Walatta Petros’ lifetime, Jesuit missionaries came from Portugal and tried to convert the Ethiopians to Roman Catholicism. The Ethiopians found heresy in some Catholic doctrines, such as Original Sin. Instead the Ethiopians believed in transformation of human beings by grace. Walatta Petros led a successful nonviolent movement that expelled out the Jesuits in 1632 and preserved Ethiopia's ancient form of Christianity.

In addition her biography describes how she founded seven religious communities -- the first in Sudan and the rest around Ethiopia’s large Lake Ṭana.

The account also humanizes the saint with lively dialogue and colorful details from daily life. Some chapter titles reveal that conflicts similar to those encountered by women church leaders today. such as “Male Leaders Work Against Our Mother” and “Envious Monks Attack Our Mother’s Authority.”

Christ gives Walatta Petros souls in the likeness of crystal vessels (Credit: SLUB Mscr.Dresd.Eb.415.e,2)

There are also charming scenes of Walatta Petros’ spiritual life.  Most dramatic is her debate with Christ when he asks her to care for souls that appear in the form of doves and shining crystal vessels.

After more than two decades as a nun, Walatta Petros fell ill and appointed her long-time companion Eheta Kristos as her successor to head the religious community. Walatta Petros died on Nov. 24, 1642 after a three-month illness. She was 50 years old and had spent 26 years as a nun. Belcher points out in her introduction that their loving bond lasted until death:

“Upon her deathbed, Walatta Petros’ last thoughts and words were about her friend, worrying about how Eheta Kristos would fare without her, saying three times, ‘She will be disconsolate; she has no other hope than me!’”

Ehelta Kristos went on to lead the community for almost seven years until her own death on April 2, 1649.

There are no known images of Eheta Kristos, but she is undoubtedly one of the mourners in the image of the whole community mourning when Walatta Petros died.

The community grieved for Walatta Petros (from Gadla Walatta Petros MS F, image 64)

Death does not end Walatta Petros’ biography, since it also serves as a hagiography. The book continues with 27 miracles that she performed after she departed to eternal life. They include dramatic healings as well as more down-home assistance such as repairing a broken jar of ale and recovering a stolen book of poems.

Belcher, who spent much of her childhood in Ethiopia and Ghana, learned the Gəˁəz language in order to translate the biography known as Gädlä Wälättä P̣eṭros. She and Kleiner also worked on the translation with other experts, including an Ethiopian priest. She is one of the few Westerners who have studied the 340-year-old parchment manuscript, which is housed in a monastery near Lake Tana. Belcher visited local nuns and monks while searching for copies of the manuscript at Ethiopia’s remote monasteries.

She discusses Walatta Petros and Eheta Kristos in depth in her lecture on “Same-Sex Intimacies in an Early Modern African Text about an Ethiopian Female Saint,” which is available as a YouTube video. She also has an article coming out on the topic “Same-Sex Intimacies in the Early African Text Gädlä Wälättä P̣eṭros (1672) about an Ethiopian Female Saint” in Research in African Literatures, June 2016.



The new book on Walatta Petros is lavishly illustrated with images from illuminated manuscripts, some of which are posted here today. This 500-page book is much more than a translation, featuring thousands of footnotes and hundreds of pages of contextual and scholarly information based on comparing twelve different manuscripts.

Some manuscripts and the new book conclude with two praise poems about Walatta Petros. One celebrates the saint from head to toe, including her breasts and womb. The other is a hymn that begins:

Hail to you, Walatta Petros, a garden! Wrapped in heavenly scent,
you are shade for the doves, from the heat of misery
that fills our world.

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Top image: Walatta Petros receives souls in the form of doves as a gift from Christ (Credit: SLUB Mscr.Dresd.Eb.415.e,2)

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This post is part of the LGBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, humanitarians, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

New LGBTQ Christian books: “Brother-Making in Late Antiquity" and “Two Pews from Crazy”


New LGBTQ Christian books this month range from ancient brother-making rites to the challenges faced by a lesbian pastor today.

They are “Brother-Making in Late Antiquity and Byzantium: Monks, Laymen, and Christian Ritual” by Claudia Rapp and “Two Pews from Crazy” by Cyd Andrews-Looper.

History


Brother-Making in Late Antiquity and Byzantium: Monks, Laymen, and Christian Ritual” by Claudia Rapp

A scholarly book examines a medieval ritual that has been seen as an ancient same-sex wedding. Gay historian John Boswell said that adelphopoiesis was a church rite for blessing same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe. This comprehensive study presents evidence on how the brother-making rite is different from marriage. For example, it offers more equality than heterosexual marriage. The author says the rite was “not created for the purpose of sanctioning and sanctifying homosexual relationships… although… this evaluation of the historical evidence does in no way undermine the legitimacy of seeking recognition for same-sex partnerships in current societies.” She is professor of Byzantine studies at the University of Vienna in Austria. From Oxford University Press.



Memoir and biography


Two Pews from Crazy: My Insane Journey from Christian Fundamentalism to a Faith of Love Alone--LGBTQ Minister” by Cyd Andrews-Looper.

A lesbian pastor raised Baptist and ordained by the United Church of Christ tells the ups and downs of her journey, including adopting a child, losing three different partners, the pain of church politics and the power of God in her life. Short, easy-to-read chapters show her sense of humor. Endorsed by Soulforce founder Mel White. Published by Get Success Inc. (print) and Ronin Robot Press (Kindle).



Up for discussion


An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures” by Ann Cvetkovich.

American Academy of Religion groups on Queer Studies in Religion and Sacred Text, Theory and Theological Construction invite papers that find theological or biblical applications for the ideas in Ann Cvetkovich’s two books “An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures” and “Depression: A Public Feeling.” Click to read the Call for Papers.

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Related links:

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2015 named (Jesus in Love)

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2014 named (Jesus in Love)

Top 20 Gay Jesus books (from Jesus in Love)

Queer Theology book list (from Patrick Cheng)

Jesus in Love Bookstore (includes LGBT Christian classics)

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.

http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts