Jesus Comes Out for Christmas

Rev. Glynn Cardy has guts, I’ll give him that.

Cardy is pastor of St. Matthew in the City in Auckland, New Zealand. You may remember this church for their controversial billboards. In 2009, they put up a billboard depicting Mary and Joseph in bed with Joseph wondering how he could ever measure up to God. Last year’s Christmas billboard showed Mary holding a holding a pregnancy test.

Both of those billboards were vandalized—torn down by sensitive religious types who don’t like their biblical heroes lampooned or questioned in any way.

This year, Cardy is defending their latest ad depicting the baby Jesus in a manger, sporting a rainbow halo. “It’s Christmas,” the billboard reads. “It’s time for Jesus to come out.” Cardy said he’s simply trying to highlight the humanity of Jesus.

“The fact is we don’t know what his sexual orientation was.”

Cardy is also trying to make the point that perhaps some modern-day Christians might not follow Jesus if they knew he had been gay.

“Would it make a difference if he was gay? Would that change the picture for you? Would it mean what we revere about him changes?”

Gay theologian Bob Shore-Gross told the Houston Chronicle that the billboard, while offensive to some, reveals just how deep Jesus’ humanity goes. Jesus has been depicted over the centuries as African American, Native American, and even female. So, “it was inevitable that Christ is portrayed as queer.”

I fully expect that this billboard will meet the same fate as St. Matthew’s in the City’s other risqué portrayals of Christianity. Someone will take out their religious insecurity on this particular baby Jesus, just as they do violence to any other form of Jesus that does not meet their particular standard.

Perhaps, this may be the place for First Baptist Church Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress to jet off to for Christmas to make his stand against the “wimpy” Jesus he accuses liberal Christians of portraying. Y’know, that Jesus who was “this little, wimpy guy who walked around plucking daisies and eating birdseed and saying nice things, but never doing anything controversial. The fact is, Jesus did confront his culture with truth—and he ended up being crucified because of it.”

Actually, Jeffress is mostly right. If you don’t want a wimpy Jesus, then this rainbow-haloed baby Jesus is the one you want. A butch Jesus. You see, once this baby grew up, he did the one thing that every gay and lesbian person knows requires all the courage in the world—he came out. If you read the gospels you see Jesus constantly coming out—baring his real identity as both human and divine to anyone who would listen, and especially to those who would not.

Like the gays and lesbians of today, Jesus made enemies when he came out. Jesus angered his family, he angered his friends, and most of all he angered those in power when he came out against the greed, the neglect of the poor, the inequality, and the injustice all around him. Like many of the gays and lesbians of today, that coming out cost him his life. Coming out is not for wimps—it really does take a lot of guts.

Jesus did not carry the banner for any church, for any religion, or for any government. Instead, he came out, loudly and proudly, and stirred controversy by standing both Hebrew and Roman law on their heads. He forcefully came out for the outcast, the underdog, the forgotten and the marginalized—and it got him killed.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)