Review: Queering Christ: Beyond Jesus ACTED UP

by Robert E. Goss

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Also on this website:

Toby Johnson's books:

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story


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Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series

  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"

"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

You're Not A Wave

Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

How many lifetimes in an ego?

Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

The Two Loves

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles

The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash

Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen

War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar

The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal

Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion
by Jeffrey J. Kripal

The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre

Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak

A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey

Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes

The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes

Keys to Spiritual Being by Adrian Ravarour

In Walt We Trust by John Marsh

Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary

A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary

Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott

Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou

Internal Landscapes by John Ollom

Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks

Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler

Sanctity & Male Desire by Donald Boisvert

Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal

Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson

Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette

The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson

The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire

"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught

Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology

The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons

Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert

The Revolutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker

Out There by Perry Brass

The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh

The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan

It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja

ReCREATIONS, edited by Catherine Lake

Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard

Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson

Dating the Greek Gods by Brad Gooch

Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan

The Substance of God by Perry Brass

The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols

10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort

Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe

The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann

Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall

Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

    Interview with Ron Long

Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy Conner

Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard

Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak

Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan

Rising Up by Joe Perez

That Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco

Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman

Wisdom for the Soul by Larry Chang

Soulfully Gay by Joe Perez

MM4M a DVD by Bruce Grether

Double Cross by David Ranan

The Transcended Christian by Daniel Helminiak

Jesus in Love by Kittredge Cherry

In the Eye of the Storm by Gene Robinson

The Starry Dynamo by Sven Davisson

Life in Paradox by Fr Paul Murray

Spirituality for our Global Community by Daniel Helminiak

Gay and Healthy in a Sick-Society by Robert A. Minor

Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson

 Rethinking Religion

Queering Christ
Queering Christ: Beyond Jesus ACTED UP

by Robert E. Goss

originally published by Pilgrim Press, 2002,

released in paperback by Wipf & Stock Pub January 2007

284 pages, paperback, $30.00


Available from new and used

Queering Christ: Beyond JESUS ACTED UP

5 stars
This review appeared in White Crane Journal #56, Spring 2003

Despite its provocative and militant title, Queering Christ is a discursus on the nature of theology as an academic discipline within the field of Queer Theory and not a call to despoil the Christian religion or a revelation of new clues to the sex life of Jesus. Though, in fact, it does contain elements of both—including some interesting hints into the practice of nude baptism.

Robert Goss is a former Jesuit priest. Accounts of his experience in Catholic religious life weave in and out of his presentation. He’s left the Order, but he remains clearly a professional religionist. He is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Webster University in St. Louis and practices his priestly ministry now through M.C.C. not the Roman Catholic Church. With a doctorate in Theology from Harvard, he is clearly a well-trained academic. This turns out to be both a strength and a weakness of the book: Goss speaks authoritatively and brilliantly about
his subject, but the scholarly nomenclature of postmodern Queer Theory demands close attention by the reader—and, sometimes, the ability to decipher the in-house jargon of the academy—in order to understand what it means.

Starting with an autobiographical chapter, Goss argues that a sexual theology necessarily involves the personal experience of the theologian. This is surely one of his strongest points. It’s a new thing that theology would consider personal experience. Traditionally, Christian theology has looked to the bible or the teachings of the Church to find truth, not the personal experience of actual human beings. That’s why it could be so totally off-base about sexuality and, especially, homosexuality.

Goss makes a good case for how off-base the Church has been by recounting his own religious life formation. From the practice of custody of the eyes (which, in the name of preventing “cruising,”turned out to mean looking at the other seminarians‘ crotches instead of their eyes) to that of self-flagellation (which Goss speculates was a form of masturbation) to meditation on the near naked body of Jesus, priestly training seemed designed to confuse and “pervert” natural sexual and emotional feelings.

At the same time, Jesuit life offered possibilities for real sexual experience. Goss quotes his friend and fellow ex-Jesuit Joseph Kramer (creator of the Body Electric Training) that religious life was “homosexual heaven.” His training matured him positively, in spite of the confusing messages. It gave him opportunity, for instance, to work in a leper colony and in Mother Theresa’s House of the Dying Destitute in Calcutta. It also introduced him to his first long-term lover and to personal experience of the layers of complication that HIV has added to
contemporary gay life. The account of his lover’s dying, his own grieving, and then learning to love again provide a human, feeling oriented foundation for the more abstract discussions that follow.

Goss’s goal is to “queer” theology. Queering, he says, is a method. “To queer” means to spoil or interfere with. And the way Queer Theology “queers“ traditional religion is to spoil an already spoiled system to make it more inclusive of folks disenfranchised from Christianity. Since religion is dominated by white, middle-class, heterosexist values, queering it would mean opening it to the experience of the whole range of minorities who don’t fit those values, especially queers, including gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, transgenderals, etc. The “etc.” is important because the point is that sexual experience and sexual identity are multiple and fluid.

Traditionally, religion has not taken that kind of purview of human nature. A queered theology is necessarily a theology of liberation, written and practiced in the struggle not only against misogny, homophobia, heterosexism and AIDS-phobia, but also racism, classism, militarism, and ecological domination.

Queering Christ, as the subtitle indicates, is composed of articles written over the nearly ten years since Goss’s important gay genre book Jesus ACTED UP: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto appeared. (There’s a forgivable flaw in the stylistic differences between chapters that results from such origin and the occasional repetition.) In that first book, Goss argued that Christianity was not the enemy of the gay community; rather the churches are the enemy. Gay/lesbian theology has to be dissident, political, proud, erotic, defiant, activist, and, because of its origins in the teachings of Christ, centered on justice-love. This challenges Church authority precisely like Jesus’s ministry 2000 years ago challenged the authority of the Temple and the Law.

The various discussions in the book include the (fe)masculinizing of priests (making them battered wives in cycles of ecclesial abuse), barebacking, anal sex, queer families and procreative privilege, the physicality of Christ, homodevotion to Jesus, theBi/Christ and the Trans/ and Transvestite/Christ, the biblical “texts of terror” that have been used against homosexuals, and the development of queer approaches to theology in contemporary queer theory and academic theological training and discourse. Lots of material with some very interesting points and tid-bits!

Such an interesting tid-bit, seemingly hinted at in the book’s title, is a discussion of the finding of a textual fragment from one of the Fathers of the Church by gay biblical scholar Morton Smith that arguably indicates that Jesus taught the mystery of the kingdom of God (to Lazarus, the evangelist Mark, and others) through an erotic ritual of naked baptism, and that the early Church may have practiced a nighttime mystery rite of possession by Jesus’s spirit with homoerotic dimensions.

This reviewer didn’t think Goss queered religion quite enough. Despite his declared intention of recognizing the multiplicity of voices and perspectives, he never rose above Christianity to look at it as but one religious tradition among many. That perspective—what is loosely called “spirituality”—allows for a much simpler response to the history of Church and bible-based oppression: It’s all myth anyway, take what’s meaningful to you and leave the rest behind. The point of the mythological traditions is to raise people’s vision above just everyday and selfish concerns and to inspire compassion. The proper goal of religion isn’t to be right, but to be loving and kind.

If the bible says homosexuals should be stoned, it’s evidence the bible’s outdated and inadequate for addressing issues of contemporary life. You don’t need to explain the “texts of terror,” you can just tear those pages out of the book. (Actually you might find it would be simpler to just save the one page with Jesus’s GoldenRule on it and throwaway all the rest. That’s probably what Jesus himself would have done.) The message to be learned from observing the anti-gay attitudes and behavior of the Christian churches is that it’s time to move on. Let’s throw the baby out with the bathwater because the reason the water is fouled is that the baby has died and the body’s putrefying and deserves a respectful burial.

It’s not enough to queer Christianity. You’ve got to queer religion itself. Robert Goss is obviously moving in the right direction; he may be queering religion more than he realizes. You don’t come to the end of this book to discover how right and wonderful and infallible Christian doctrine is or that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. So there’s another step to take: understanding Christianity as but one voice in the conversation about spiritual meaning—and it’s got a very old-timey accent. All of us, gay and straight, need a new spiritual paradigm that makes sense in the modern world and speaks with a modern, enlightened voice.

For queer theologians this book is clearly a must-read. It’s an excellent statement of just what it means to do a queer theology. For a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans person seeking to find spiritual meaning or inspiration, to cope with neurosis-producing childhood religious indoctrination, or to learn to answer parents’ bible-based harangues, the book won’t be very useful. What it is very useful for, for those of us interested and fascinated by religious and spiritual questions, is learning what’s going on within the institutional and academic circles of theological discourse. If you’ve just heard Jerry Falwell on TV, for instance, it’s refreshing and consoling to learn that inside the ivory towers the theologians are talking about Christ in a much different way.

Things are changing.

For all that Goss sometimes falls into incomprehensible (if very precise) jargon, the autobiographical thread that runs through the book makes queer theory and queer theology surprisingly accessible and personally meaningful. You can see how he’s struggling to discover and articulate that needed modern—pro-sex, pro-gay—spiritual meaning in the familiar language of Christian myth. This isn’t an easy read, but you might find expending the effort worthwhile

Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of Gay Spirituality: Gay Identity and the Transformation of Human Consciousness, The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell and other novels and books


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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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