Thursday, December 13, 2012

On the Path to a Sex-Positive God (Mark 2:21-22 // Matthew 5:36-38; Luke 9:16-17)

Prayers and hugs to those affected by the school shooting in Connecticut. When senseless violence takes the lives of children, our grief is all the deeper.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. Otherwise, the patch pulls away from it – the new from the old – and the tear gets worse. Similarly, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If one does, the wine will burst the skins, and both wine and skins will be lost. No, new wine is poured into new wieskins.”            
                Mark 2:21-22 (Matthew 5:36-38; Luke 9:16-17)
Jesus and Lord Rama by Alex Donis
for an insightful article on this art work see
Queer spirituality suffers much under a sexual monolithic orthodoxy (which only existed in theory but rarely in practice). We have and still continue to fight hard against this idea of sexual conformity. This notion binds us to an impoverished understanding of human sexuality, which in turn is tied to a rigid obedience to even dustier notions of the Sacred. As sexual minorities, one of our greatest spiritual tasks centers around freeing ourselves from injurious beliefs which keep us chained to Victorian prudence and its accompanying hierarchy of male over female, European over indigenous cultures, and straight over queer.

Our efforts to break the chains of a sex-negative God has itself been raised as a sign of our undisciplined and heretical thinking. According to our detractors we delude ourselves when we break the bindings of sexual conformity. Our attempts at liberation are but delusional ways to participate in sexual perversity. For me this is akin to the southern white slave owner who, following the U. S. Civil War,  warns his former slaves that freedom will be the death of them. All the while the former slave owner turns a convenient blind eye to the unmarked graves on the back of the property.

The thrust of these twin parables actively encourage us to overthrow the bondage and slavery of tyrannical religion. The context of Mark’s gospel has Jesus uttering these sayings in defense of his lack of attention to the tradition of fasting. Like the Jesus movement from which this gospel arose, queer spirituality and allegiance to a sex-positive God is a fresh path into the Sacred demanding appropriate new forms of expression and honor. Donis' image reminds us that the One who created all things sexual is not shamed by sensual expression.

I think it is important that we note the foolish backward nature of the actions in these parables. We do not ruin a bolt of new cloth by cutting a piece off in order to patch a worn out cloak. Rather, we would make a new cloak from the bolt and save the old to cut pieces off as patches. Similarly we would not put fermenting wine into dried, cracked animal skins.

Yet in some ways this is what religious people seek to do. Instead of celebrating and joining in the new reality God is working to bring about, we piecemeal it onto the old reality. We have come to believe that worn out and dried up is to be prized while the new and supple are to be feared. Letting go of the harmful that keeps us bound can be a difficult step. What if we offend the Sacred? What if we get it wrong? What if Donis' art is more blasphemous than it is a window on the Divine?

The new has the propensity to come in the guise of the mysterious and giddy, looking more profane than sublime as is evident in the work of Donis. These parables warn us not to compromise the new and unfamiliar for the old and customary.

To push the parables a little further we must acknowledge that the newer does have continuity with the older. The new cloth is spun of wool sheared from sheep which contributed wool to earlier cloaks. The vineyard from which the new wine flows produced an earlier batch of wine that first filled the now cracked wineskins.

This same continuity is found within us as well. The lesbian biblical scholar Mona West reminds us that our past, our hurts and joys, our failures and accomplishments, our experience on life’s journey “is a source of revelation and can be trusted to point us to the Divine.” Queer spirituality, congruent with our experience, leads us to play at the feet of the sex-positive God. 


  1. You are certainly right that the sex-negative attitudes persist. The post that you linked to on my blog (Jesus in Love) with this image gets more hate mail than any other -- mostly from Hindus. Thanks for being a beacon of positive, sacred sexuality.

    1. Kittredge - I cannot say I'm surprised to hear the post on your blog is controversial. I am surprised to hear it is from the Hindu faith. Krishna is very sexual in their sacred stories whereas, as you well know, Christians have long divested Jesus from any sensual desires. Either way the image is provocative. I appreciate your dedication to collecting such works and bringing them to light at both your wonderful blog - Jesus In Love - and in your book "Art That Dares"