Monday, March 7, 2011

Jesus and the Beloved Disciple
According to Father Robert Lentz

“I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems. On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I dont know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East― youre as good as dead.” (Elton John)
 


The picture above is titled “Christ the Bridegroom”, which was painted by Father Robert Lentz, OFM, in 1985, to meet the request of Priest Henri Nouwen. We know that Henri Nouwen is a famous writer; but not many people do know that he in fact struggled strongly and painfully with his secret identity as gay. Nouwen chose celibacy as his way of living. His sexual orientation as a gay was not known by others until he died in 1996. Nouwen commissioned Lentz in 1983 to paint an icon that symbolized his measure to offer his homosexuality and affection to Christ.

After doing an extensive research and a deep reflection, Lentz eventually painted the Christ being embraced by his ‘beloved disciple’ (interpreted by some as the Apostle John) on the basis of an icon originating from the medieval Crete. The result was an exquisite and subtle painting which expresses an intimate and deep companionship between Christ as the bridegroom and Saint John as his lover. Nouwen always brought this painting wherever he went, and it became the most precious thing for him in the rest of his life. 

A number of biblical scholars have explored the controversial idea that Jesus and his ‘beloved disciple’ were a pair of lovers who loved each other very much. Even though the evidence is not sufficient to enable one to conclude that the ‘beloved disciple’ was the Apostle John, nevertheless some biblical scholars do not doubt that Jesus had a male companion as his lover. In the Gospel of John (13:23) we read that the ‘beloved disciple’ was “reclining next to him” on the occasion of the last supper, a position that could indicate intimacy as lovers. 

The Professor of biblical and constructive theology of Chicago Theological Seminary, in the USA, who is also a Methodist minister, Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., has written a book entitled The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2003, 2009). On page 34 of this book, Jennings writes, “A close reading of the texts in which the beloved disciple appears supports the hypothesis that the relationship between him and Jesus may be understood as that of lovers. As it happens, both Jesus and the beloved are male, meaning that their relationship may be said to be, in modern terms, a ‘homosexual’ relationship.”

Maybe Jesus Was Gay” declared a festive sign in the 2010 San Diego LGBT Pride parade July 17, carried out by a group from Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA, USA.

On the basis of the Jewish custom in those times which demanded the daughter-in-law be adopted by the surviving family upon the death of her husband as a member of this family, Prof. Jennings explains a short episode at the foot of Jesus’ cross as narrated in John 19:25-27. According to him, it is solely because of the intimate relationship between Jesus and his beloved disciple as gay lovers, that the crucified Jesus could ask his mother to adopt his lover as her own son, and bid his lover to adopt Jesus’ mother as his own. Jennings says that recognizing that Jesus and his beloved disciple were lovers is the most literal and least tortured interpretation of the scene at the foot of the cross. But Jennings cannot detail the manner of the physical sexual relationship in which both Jesus and his beloved disciple were involved. 

Kittredge Cherry in her book, Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More (Berkeley, CA: Androgyne Press, 2007), also portrays Jesus both as a gay and as a female Christ. An analytical book which explores what the Bible says and doesn’t say concerning homosexuality has been written by Jack Rogers, titled Jesus, The Bible, And Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster Knox Press, 2009). A book that long has sparked controversy regarding Jesus’ homosexuality is one that was authored by Morton Smith, entitled The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark (Middletown, CA: The Dawn Horse Press, 1973, 1982, 1984, 2005). In this book, Smith, on the basis of an obvious note in “the Secret Gospel according to Mark”, argues that Jesus conducted a homosexual intercourse ritual during his ministry in Galilee. 

Of course for devout Christians in general, viewing Jesus of Nazareth as gay, or as a married man, is an act of blasphemy. At any rate, to accept the possibility that Jesus was gay may help boost the modern spirit which treats homosexuals (the LGBT) as people possessing the same rights, equality and dignity as those which nature and society endow to heterosexuals. I do not know the way to elevate this possibility to the level of probability. But I am very certain that in order to be able to participate in the international movements to promote the various rights of the LGBT, it is absolutely not necessary for anyone to hypothesize a gay Jesus. Together with the real man Jesus of Nazareth, any Christian can take part in the movements, because Jesus the man loved all people of all sexual orientations. 

One and more words about homosexuality. I emphasize that homosexuality is not a sin, but rather a gift of rich nature, and therefore must be accepted with gratitude and thankfulness, and must not be cursed in the name of any god and any religious doctrine. Presently heteronormativity loses its validity more and more as the only norm for sexual orientation. In the USA, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1973 removed homosexuality from the Statistic and Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorder; and therefore anyone in the present should not view homosexuality or homosexual behavior as a clinical mental disorder. Hopefully this healthy progress can occur as well in Indonesia, a large country inhabited mostly by Muslims. 

As an heterosexual Indonesian, I must join in the global effort to promote and support a social and political acknowledgment of homosexuals’ rights, equality, dignity and values. Be happy. Keep smiling to disseminate peace and tranquility to all beings.

by Ioanes Rakhmat

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The-Word-Made-Flesh in Balinese and Thai Artistic Imagination


The image on the left, created by the Balinese artist I Nyoman Darsane in 1978, can be interpreted in two ways: either as portraying a Balinese woman worshiper who is praying to Jesus believed as the supernatural Light coming down from heaven and then dwelling among human beings as the true human, or as relating the supernatural cosmic event of the Word, the Logos, becoming the true human being through the womb of the devout virgin Mary. The yellow sun in the background signifies the supernatural realm from which the Word has come down.

The woman is taking the position and attitude of a humble worshiper and believer before her god, a particular position and attitude common to the Balinese people while performing a religious ritual.

The woman holds a white Lotus blossom between her fingers, a blossom understood by Eastern religions as symbolizing holiness, purity, divinity, enlightenment, unity of all creatures, compassion, self transformation, health, peace, serenity and life.


On the edges of the frame we can see images of evil spirits or demons which have been made scattered, cornered and defeated by the power of the divine light emanating from the whole body of the Word-becoming-human. The various demons on this painting represent one mythical being known by Balinese people as Banaspasti Raja, meaning King of the Forest. 


The painting of Nyoman Darsane can be compared with the almost entirely similar painting which was created in 2005 by Sawai Chinnawong, the Thai artist who employs the northern and central Thailand’s popular distinctive artistic style originally used to portray Buddhist moral principle and other religious themes, to express the artist’s combined Christian-Buddhist perspective. The ball of light held by the hands of Christ that signifies the Holy Spirit will soon enter the womb of the humble woman Mary, making her pregnant by God’s spirit in order to give birth to the true human Jesus. Unfortunately, the dog sleeping soundly in front of her does not know this supernatural cosmic event; it has absolutely nothing to do with mythology.


Feb 3, 2011
The opening day of the lunar Chinese new year 2562,
the year of the golden rabbit

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Indonesian Lady of the Sacred Heart


Above is the picture of Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Cœur, “Our Lady of the Sacred Heart”, as it is painted from the Indonesian perspective with the result that Mother Mary is depicted as wearing a batik skirt and a blue kebaya, and a batik shawl hanging from over her shoulder. Standing upright and elegantly, her right hand is holding the sacred heart of her son, Jesus, and her left hand is supporting him. Each of their two heads radiates halo, symbolizing their holiness and divinity. Both are smiling. The blue sky, the white clouds, the yellow and green leaves, and the green grass in the background signify the participation of nature in the sacredness of the lady and her son.  


The second image is a photo of the statue of Mother Mary of Ganjuran, who is taking the kid Jesus on her lap. Both wear the grand dresses of Javanese kings and queens of old. There is a script painted below the statue that reads “Dyah Maria Ibu Ganjuran Nyuwun Pangestu Dalem” which means “Mother Mary of Ganjuran, We are asking your blessing”. Ganjuran is the name of an area, 17 kilometers from Yogyakarta to the south, in which the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is located. Inside the area, you can also find the statue of Jesus Christ portrayed as the Javanese mighty king of old, which is placed within one niche of the Ganjuran temple.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Mother Mary Giving Birth to the Babe Jesus

Mother Mary giving birth to the babe Jesus, accompanied only by Joseph. No shining star. No shepherds. No animals. No stable. No manger. No King Herod. No three wise men. Almost everything is blue, as though symbolizing sadness and melancholy on the part of the modern world that needs no divine savior. Merry Christmas!



Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Laughing Jesus

The New Testament contains no report altogether about Jesus laughing or smiling during his ministry in the Jewish homeland Palestine of the first century C.E. This results in the boring Christian Scriptural depiction of Jesus as too serious a man having no time to laugh and smile.

People say that a very serious man usually will have a short lifespan. Factually, Jesus died when he was still young. His enemies hated him because he was too serious in his intention to establish the political kingdom of God in the Jewish land being occupied by the Romans.

On the picture above, the Balinese artist I Gede Sukana Kariana, of Den Pasar, Bali, Indonesia, depicts Jesus as widely smiling with children surrounding him. Sukana Kariana writes, “In the Bible there is no explicit mention about Jesus smiling. This is a mystery for me so I must find out by more carefully searching in the Bible. Laughing is a natural expression of human beings, to express their joy from the bottom of their heart. Jesus as a human being must also have emotions like other humans. He lived his life as a normal human being. Although there is no explicit record in the Bible about how Jesus smiled and laughed, but when He met many children, I am convinced that Jesus smiled and made a joke with the children.”



On the picture above, Jesus is laughing and simultaneously winking his right eye with his right hand holding a book of Charles Darwin entitled On the Origin of Species 2 and his left thumb being pointed upward. Clearly, through his body language, Jesus is suggesting you to read the book and stating that Darwinian biological evolution should seriously and happily be accepted by Christians.

Fortunately, Christians still have an extracanonical gospel named the Gospel of Judas in which Jesus is more than once depicted as laughing while being together with his disciples. This is the good news; but the bad news is that here, in this apocryphal gospel, Jesus’ laughter is depicted as being cynical.

In Christian Christological thinking Jesus is viewed almost entirely as the suffering Messiah who died ignominiously on the cross allegedly in order to save humanity from God’s punishment passed due to their own sins.

A death on the cross and sinful humanity that must be punished are a ‘dark theological language’ which is counter-productive indeed to any effort to build a happy and healthy society. To make it functional, Christian soteriology of the cross should in the first place make people view themselves to be utterly powerless in developing their own moral virtues; we say, it demoralizes people. In reality, every human being has the cognitive capacities to live a life morally and greatly.  

Christians, therefore, are in serious need of a religious figure like the Budai, the Laughing Buddha (Chinese: 笑佛), also popularly known in English speaking countries as the Fat Buddha. 


Believed as one incarnation of the eschatological Maitreya Buddha, Budai is often depicted as having the appearance of an amply proportioned bald man wearing a robe and wearing or otherwise carrying prayer beads. He carries his few possessions in a cloth sack, being poor but content. Budai in folklore is admired for his happiness, cheerfulness, laughter, plenitude, and wisdom of contentment.


One belief popular in folklore maintains that rubbing Budai’s belly brings wealth, good luck, and prosperity. Buddhists are very lucky to have Budai, the laughing holy man who can make them laugh and delighted. Despite the fact that Jesus possibly never laughed in his lifetime, you Christians should laugh cheerfully in order to make Christianity a peaceful rather than a frightening religion due to its dark theological language.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Jesus Dancing together with His Disciples


On the picture above, Jesus is dancing together with Mary and Martha and other women, painted by a Balinese painter I Nyoman Darsane who lives in Den Pasar. According to Darsane, the white divine light is gloriously radiating from Jesus precisely at the moment Jesus is dancing, making a movement with his body. Jesus’ body is moving powerfully and wonderfully in his dance, spreading his divine energy, power and light to the world around him which is dominated by darkness, as well as to his female friends. In the beginning was the divine movement!


Not only Darsane, a number of artists around the world do also imagine Jesus dancing, making a gorgeous movement with his body. The second picture above has been created by the American painter Mark Dukes, depicting Jesus wearing a golden white robe as dancing, with his left foot being lifted up and his right hand holding a long iron stick whose tip forms a cross, and a halo encircling his head. On the picture, the whole body of Jesus is encircled by a mandorla, something like a halo.


The third picture portrays the resurrected Jesus as bopping, with his right hand uplifted and his left hand holding a stick which has a cross-shaped head. His two insteps still marked by the wounds are treading on a globe, and a colorful long shawl coiling around his hip and buttocks, naked body and his two hands. Apparently he is celebrating his victory over death by dancing and waving his stole.



On the fourth painting above, created by Lindena Robb, Sydney, Australia, a naked-to-the-waist Jesus is joyfully and happily dancing, and a number of smiling women behold him possibly with sexual desire in their hearts. The blue sky adds a feeling of excitement upon all those present.

Is the dancing Jesus not a Christian Jesus? Oh course not! That Jesus is dancing, is a legitimate Christian imagination. There is a second-century holy Christian document, titled The Acts of John, that relates Jesus dancing together with his disciples. This is a Christian roman which has been influenced by the theology of the Johannine community. This Christian apocryphal document contains largely a Valentinian Gnostic theology which is elaborated most obviously in chapters 94-102.

In chapters 94-96 of this document we read that at the Last Supper before the crucifixion Jesus says to his disciples, “Before they hand me over to them, let us sing a hymn to the Father, and then we together should face what will happen before us.” Jesus then asks his disciples to stand up in a circle and hold each other’s hands, himself standing at the center of the circle. Soon Jesus and his disciples dance powerfully. When Jesus has sung one part of the hymn, his disciples while dancing respond with the word “Amen!” Their dance and the hymn they sing together are called the Round Dance of the Cross. The hymn that Jesus sings and the antiphonal response of his disciples, all the way down the line, are the following.


Glory to you, Father.

Amen.

Glory to you, Word.

Glory to you, Grace.

Amen.


Glory to you, Spirit.

Glory to you, Holy One.

Glory to your glory.

Amen.


We praise you, Father.

We thank you, Light,
in whom no darkness lives.
Amen.


I declare why we offer thanks:

I will be saved and I will save.

Amen.

I will be released and I will release.

Amen.

I will be wounded and I will wound.

Amen.

I will be born and I will bear.

Amen.
I will eat and I will be eaten.

Amen.

I will hear and I will be heard.

Amen.

I will be in mind, I, pure mind.

Amen.

I will be washed and I will wash.

Amen.


Grace dances.

I will play the flute.

Dance, everyone.

Amen.
I will weep.

Lament, everyone.

Amen.

A realm of eight sings with us.

Amen.
The twelfth number dances above.

Amen.

The whole universe joins in dancing.

Amen.

If you do not dance
you do not know what is.

Amen.

I will run away and I will remain.

Amen.

I will adorn and I will be adorned.

Amen.

I will be united and I will unite.

Amen.

I am homeless and I have homes.

Amen.

I have no place and I have places.

Amen.
I have no temple and I have temples.

Amen.

I am a lamp to you who see me.

Amen.

I am a mirror to you who recognize me.

Amen.

I am a door to you who knock on me.

Amen.

I am a way to you, passerby.

Amen.


If you follow my dance,

see yourself in me when I speak.

If you have seen what I do,

keep quiet about my mysteries.

You who dance, consider what I do.

Yours is the human passion I am to suffer.

You could never understand what you suffer

unless I the word was sent to you by the Father.


You who have seen
what I do
have seen me suffering,
and when you saw it,

you did not stand still
but were utterly moved.

You were moved to wisdom,

and you have my help.

Rest in me.


Who I am
you will know when I go.
What I am seen to be now
I am not.
What I am
you will see when you come.

If you knew how to suffer

you would be able not to suffer.

Learn how to suffer

and you will be able not to suffer.


What you do not know
I shall teach you.
I am your God,
not the traitor’s.
I wish holy souls
to be in harmony with me.
Know the word of wisdom.


Say again with me,

Glory to you, Father.

Glory to you, Word.

Glory to you, Spirit.

Amen.


If you wish to know what I was,

I ridiculed everything with the word,

and I was not ridiculed at all.


I jumped for joy.

Understand everything,

and when you have understood, declare,

Glory to you, Father.

Amen.


Unfortunately, this apocryphal Acts of John was declared in the fifth century by pope Great Leo (in office from September 24, 440 through November 10, 461) as a misleading document. The pope stated officially that this document “contains a heated bed which makes people go astray, and therefore should not only be prohibited but also be got rid of altogether and be burnt by fire.”


However, the Acts of John testifies to the fact that Christianity has an exceptional text in which Jesus and his disciples are depicted as dancing and singing. Their dance and the responsorial hymn they sang unite them with the cosmos, unite Jesus and his disciples so that he is in them and they in him. And through their mystical union established by the great and powerful (and perhaps ecstatic) dance, Jesus’ disciples are sanctified and receive the strength and power they need to bear their own suffering and to know the way to conquer their anguish and plight.


Actually, in many traditional religions all over the world, past and present, the holy figures of these religions, not only Jesus, are portrayed as employing dances as the media to radiate and disseminate the divine power, wave and energy to believers and the whole world alike; and their dances symbolize the energetic divine movement which becomes the foundation of all creation. A very old religion of the world, Hinduism, which is far older than Christianity, knows such intellectual tradition and artistic expressions.





Shiva nataraj, the dancing king

The fifth and sixth images above portray the Hindu God Shiva as dancing in the special position in which he is known as the Nataraj, meaning the Dancing King. This dancing pose together with all arty accessories which he holds and exists together with him is replete with symbolic cosmic meanings. In short, the Nataraj dance symbolizes the cycle of the cosmic creation and annihilation as well as the rhythmic cycle of birth, death and rebirth as human and non-human phenomenal daily experiences which flow out from the God Shiva. Clearly, the Nataraj dance is an artistic allegory which refers to the five principles of the eternal cosmic energy in the whole universe which operates in all matter, from sub-atomic particles to the limitless and huge cosmos: creation, destruction, preservation, salvation and illusion.



 Shiva and Parvati dancing together erotically

The seventh picture above depicts the God Shiva as dancing together with the Hindu Goddess Parvati, the second wife of the former. Parvati is the highest Mother Goddess in Hindu religion from whom all Hindu goddesses were born and fill the universe. In an intimate and harmonious erotic and mystical dance, Shiva and Parvati are united to make the whole universe balanced and alive.

Perhaps Christians are tempted to imagine Jesus Christ as dancing with his female partner in the same manner as Shiva and Parvati
’s dancing. Who is the woman with whom Jesus can dance intimately and harmoniously to radiate and to flow his creative energy for his church and the world? Is it possible that the dancing partner of Jesus is Mary Magdalene, the woman he loves very much? The answer is of course dependent on your creative and artistic imagination. Imagination is virtue; the sky is the limit. So, let us imagine, and celebrate the faith in Jesus through dance. Dance and follow and catch and absorb the powerful energy of the dancing man Jesus!


by Ioanes Rakhmat




Friday, June 4, 2010

Jesus Saving A Prostitute

The following three pictures below are the modern artistic expressions of the biblical passage of John 8:1-11. Read this passage carefully. It is told that early in the morning when Jesus was teaching the people in a certain area of the Temple in Jerusalem, the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. And making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. Now what do you say?” When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

In view of the fact that for all the Jewish people in the time of Jesus the law of Moses should have been enforced without compromise, we cannot ascertain whether this incident is historical. The gospel common theme that Jesus is superior to the law of Moses (Mark 2:27-28) appears in this passage.

Look at the first picture above. Two cops are going to search through and capture a prostitute wandering about in a modern city (perhaps New York) at night. I do not know why these two cops want to investigate the woman; perhaps she is suspected of bringing with herself narcotic. Suddenly Jesus appears with glorious radiance enveloping him, standing in the middle to role as a mediator between the woman and the cops. These two cops are shocked by the sudden appearance of Jesus. But the night remains still. In your imagination, what are the sayings Jesus utters at this critical moment?

Next look to the second picture above. Twelve gentlemen are urging Jesus to do something with the prostitute who is standing beside Jesus, begging for his defense, protection and love. This incident happens in a certain area of the Temple. Why twelve men? Does the number 12 symbolize the twelve disciples of Jesus themselves, so they and Jesus are involved in a quarrel about a whore: is she to be condemned, or to be forgiven and protected? According to you, do men have authority over the very body of women?

Finally, look at the third picture above. Six people are quarreling over the fate of a pretty woman who has been caught in the very act of committing adultery. Aha, one of these six people is a Superman! Jesus, wearing a green T-shirt and a blue jean, is trying to save the woman by stretching his two hands to her. This woman is gazing at Jesus, expecting his love, defense and protection.

After viewing these three pictures, with the Johannine passage above being in the background, do you opine that a male should take the role of the protector of a female? Or, is it closer to the truth that a woman should and could protect and defend herself instead of begging the love and strength of a man?