"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, April 8, 2024

When Bathhouses Meet Pews - A Gay Jesus Comes To Washington

The Westover United Methodist Church, a tall, steepled building on a promontory overlooking the Potomac River, like most churches has a teaser board out front. 'Sanctity, Slavery, And The Black Man', was last Sunday's offering. 'Gall, Presumption, And God's Anger' was another; but it was 'Was Jesus Gay?' that caused a stir. 


The church under the guidance of Reverend Barkley Stuart (Harvard DD, Yale AB) had for years under his stewardship been a leader in 'spiritual progressivism', a movement to blend liberal secular thought with divine inspiration. Jesus' words meant nothing, he said, unless they were taken to heart, used and applied to make a difference in the world.  His messages of compassion, inclusion, and charity were at the core of the church's ethos. 

'What would Jesus do?' was the question, a rhetorical one since he and the congregation both knew the answer - work mightily to promote a progressive, all-encompassing, verdant, and peaceful society. 

The sermons from the Westover pulpit had, during the Trump years and now especially in the runup to the 2024 election become distinctly partisan.  Having erred the first time around, God would never tolerate the likes of Donald Trump again.  Here Pastor Stuart thundered, 

God has infinite patience, but even he, in his divine wisdom, knows when enough is enough.  He warned Man of his iniquities, his disobedience, his venality; but when he saw that only his mighty sword would do, he destroyed the very world he created in The Great Flood. 

And he warned the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to right their ways, to return to him, and leave worldly things behind; and when they refused, he destroyed them, incinerated them, burned them beyond recognition.  His will be done. 

And so it was with Donald Trump, a man of iniquity, shamefully wicked aspirations, and evil intent.  He let him fulfill the will of the people, but now seeing the depths of his perfidy and devilishly insidious intent, he must destroy him as completely as the millions who died gasping and drowning in The Flood, human flotsam and jetsam engorged bodies, bloated with rot and decay, stinking to high heaven. 


This was heady stuff, especially for an anointed minister, veering as it did into secular partisan politics, but the Reverend Stuart was not one to shirk.  Jesus' message was clear, and he meant to shout it to the rooftops.  Donald Trump, the Anti-Christ, should never again sit in the Oval Office. 

He, a man of well-honed political instincts, knew that the thundering Old Testament Sturm und Drang had to be balanced with hopefulness.  It wasn't enough to throw the Demon back into the pits of Hell, but to show the new, welcoming, and glorious world that the faithful would restore - a world of diverse races, ethnicities, and sexual identities.

This last item was of particular interest to the Reverend Stuart, a gay man who despite the fervor for coming out, making a breast of it, reveling in his beautiful new sexual dimension, reined in his more exaggerated impulses (he had once gone to New Orleans in mufti, shed his clothes except for a marvelously flowered and fruited headdress a la Carmen Miranda which he wore on the gayest float of the gayest Escuela da Samba in the parade) and talked only in temperate terms about the sexual reconfiguration of America. 


He was fooling no one of course, for as the Nathan Lane character in The Birdcage, a flaming gay man trying to act straight for his partner's son's wedding, says about his business suit and pink socks, 'One does want a bit of color', the Reverend Stuart could not hide or disguise his gayness. His reading of the Epistles, for example, had all the wrong cadences and intonations, for he simply couldn't help himself giving an ironical twist and smile when reading about Paul's marital diffidence. 

So it should not have been a surprise to the congregants of the Westover United Methodist Church to see the teaser board on the front lawn asking about Jesus's sexuality.  They knew that something like this was coming since Stuart had winked about the relationships between Jesus and his disciples ('What do you think went on in the vestry?', he said), and made it clear that despite the Lord's generous welcome of women, the Christian club was an all-male one, and you know what that meant. 

The  teaser was a bit provocative, he had to admit, but his job was to fill seats for Jesus, no matter how he did it.  These liberal gay wannabe congregants were going to get an earful, by God. So on Sunday, the 11th of June he let it all hang out, suggested the unthinkable as a final challenge to his congregants progressivism. 

Unless and until they accepted the possibility that Jesus, God, in all his power and glory was gay and probably the hermaphrodite of Greek myth, and a robustly sexual one to boot, they could never fully be 'inclusive'. 


He preached to a packed house that day, finally and quite happily fully out as a gay man.  This was the day he had always dreamed about, his sexual and divine epiphany, a moment of revelation and renewed commitment to the Lord and his flock. 

As he went on about Jesus and his disciples 'bathing together' in the Sea of Galilee, having a silly time at supper, and hijinks in the Garden of Gethsemane, the congregation grew restless and started whispering and fidgeting.  One old lady got up, walked down the aisle and out the front door.  A man whistled, and a young girl stood up and shouted.  

The Reverend Pastor Stuart had gone too far.  He had misjudged the level of socio-political commitment of his congregants.  He had assumed, wrongly, that they would take liberal assumptions to their logical conclusions without hesitation.  If God could be a woman, then Jesus could have been gay.  But no, even the most progressive liberal has his limits, and on that Sunday the boundary had been crossed. 

As much as the people of Westover United Methodist Church espoused the most liberal of socio-cultural values, a swishy, heretical outrageously apostatic (here, the most outraged congregants used the f-g word) would not be tolerated.  Enough was enough, back to basics, Jesus was white, straight, and divine, period. 

It took some time after the Reverend Stuart's resignation for the dust to settle, and for the spurt of conservatism to be regretted and forgotten, but soon everything was back in order, progressivism the menu du jour and the sermons returned to their politically censorious best.  'God's in His Heaven, and All's Right With the World' said the teaser board proudly. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.