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MCC Event Touts "Erotic" ChristMikhail BellMay 23, 2011
The predominantly LGBT Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) featured an Asian, Episcopal theologian who touted an "Erotic Christ" at its seventh annual People of African Descent Conference in Washington, D.C., held in late May.
Founded over 40 years ago to provide religious services for LGBT community, the mostly white MCC is striving for a larger black membership, realizing that historic black churches are traditionally conservative on homosexuality. The MCC claims members in 40 countries.
Patrick Cheng of the Episcopal Divinity School outside Boston led one afternoon session called “The ‘S’ Word- Liberating Sin and Sex” that challenged traditional understandings of Jesus and scripture to embrace a self-crafted deity unfamiliar to most Christians. The jocular professor, who writes for the Huffington Post and has authored a new book, Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology, cited the Bible even as he appeared to deny its authority.
His most recent Huffington Post piece commented on the lessons we can learn from pop phenomenon and “queer icon” Lady Gaga’s latest hit “Judas.” For orthodox Christians, the title is likely the least offensive aspect of the song whose refrain is “I’m in love with Judas” and features the artist riding with leather-clad bikers standing in for the 12 disciples.
“I think sin is bondage and not in a good way,” Cheng quipped. However, this was the closest he came to denouncing sin. Instead he minced definitions about violating Scripture's commandments. He eventually settled on the non-committal Hebrew that paints sin as “missing the target.”
Original Sin was a slippery topic for the professor. Cheng seemed uncomfortable affirming the biblical narrative of Adam and Eve willingly disobeying God’s commandment to avoid forbidden fruit. Yet, he asserted that the doctrine paralleled less scriptural beliefs saying, “I think Original Sin is consistent with Darwinism.”
Cheng cited Jesus as the central figure of salvation and guidance. But he proposed five different archetypes of Christ and encouraged his audience to consider them instead of the traditional Gospel as a guide. The "Erotic Christ," the "Out Christ," the "Transgressive Christ," the "Liberator Christ," and the "Hybrid Christ" were part of Cheng's “not exhaustive” list. A few audience members suggested additional Christ types for the list. Of course, each possible Christ archetype had characteristics appealing to sexually liberated church goers.
“Pride is actually a good thing,” Cheng said when describing the seven deadly sins. Echoing the MCC's central message, Cheng insisted that sexual preference is paramount to human identity. He did not clarify why sexual attraction is privileged above other group identities. Cheng provided several critiques of the traditional biblical teachings on sin and offered a smorgasbord of alternatives without committing to one particular stance.
“I think there is a grace in deviance,” Cheng proclaimed when referring to the "Transgressive Christ", represented as the transgendered host of the Last Supper.
Cheng, who is an openly-gay Asian male, closed by emphasizing the need for new paradigms of sin, grace and Jesus, “but in queer terms.”
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