Table of Contents
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
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"
You're Not A Wave
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
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
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
How could I possibly ever reconcile [my attraction to other boys] with some grand, altruistic life purpose?
So writes Donald Boisvert in his marvelous book Sanctity and Male Desire: A Gay Reading of Saints (The Pilgrim Press, 224 pages, pb, $22.00)
I added the italics and underlining to emphasize the operative words in this passage.
Christian de la Huerta, author of Coming Out Spiritually: The Next Step, identifies ten spiritual functions of gay and lesbian people.
Here's the review of Boisvert's book I wrote for White Crane Journal #64
Upon first look, Donald Boisvert's new book Sanctity and Male Desire: A Gay Reading of Saints seems of interest primarily to Roman Catholics. The Introduction is about the place of the saints in Catholic religious education, and the chapters that follow are about various saints that influenced Boisvert's own psychological and religious development. Certainly others raised Catholic will resonate with this book (I certainly did). But the discussion in the book goes far beyond parochial Catholicism, and so the main thrust of this review must be to recommend this book to non-Catholics (and ex-Catholics who'd resist anything even vaguely related positively to the religion they left behind).
Boisvert is a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal. He was in the seminary as a young man with the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, then went on to earn a doctorate in religious studies as a layman. His previous book was Out on Holy Ground: Meditations on Gay Men's Spirituality (The Pilgrim Press, 2000, reviewed in WCJ #48). He was a participant in last year's Gay Spirituality Summit.
The reverence of the saints in Catholic devotion is, to non-Catholics, one of the strangest things about the religion. In many ways, it's been one of the most regressive aspects, focusing on superstitions, contrived (and often unbelievable) histories, and bizarre manifestations of zeal (including all manner of martyrdoms--some self-brought-on--and outrageous forms of human torture). Understood in the light of comparative religions, on the other hand, the reverence of the saints demonstrates the true universality –indeed, the polytheism--of Catholicity, for many of the saints represent the importing of local deities, heroes, tribal legends and myths into Christianity as the religion spread beyond being simply a sect of Judaism. In this sense, the veneration of the saints shows Catholicism as a much broader and more inclusive religion than the Bible-based versions of Christianity that have resisted change since the text was canonized at Nicaea by the Emperor Constantine. In many ways, Catholicism is more like Hinduism than it is like Christian Protestantism. While the saints, of course, aren't incorporated into the Bible, their stories get at least as much importance in popular Catholic devotion as the words of sacred writ.
The stories of the saints are teaching mechanisms by which particular virtues, talents, life-situations, and manifestations of zeal are personalized. The various traits and powers of God as healer, miracle-worker, and wish-granter are personified in the stories of flesh and blood human beings. Especially for children learning Christian doctrine, the saints are symbols and demonstrations of theological propositions and religious concepts much easier to understand and identify with than the abstractions they represent. They are role models of the good Christian life.
Donald Boisvert describes with reverence, but also with poignancy and appropriate humor, how as a boy he created an altar and shrine to his favorites, lighting candles before their statues as part of childhood play. The themes in these saints' lives went on then to shape his religious and personal maturation--just as they were supposed to.
The book devotes chapters to some of these favorites: Michael the Archangel, Sebastian and Tarcisius, John the Baptist, Joseph, Paul and Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Dominic Savio, and more. Except for Michael the Archangel (the Christianization of Mars, the Roman god of war), Bosivert's saints were actual people. In each presentation, he explains not only the history or mythos of the characters, but also the spiritual and religious meaning and the life model presented. But then he goes way beyond what orthodox Catholicism would understand--and this is the exciting richness of this book--and gives what he calls the "gay reading" of the stories.
Central to all manifestations of so-called gay spirituality is honesty and frankness about the sexual and erotic dimensions of life. And that's exactly what Boisvert gives us with his "gay readings": a personal–and sometimes surprisingly "frank"--analysis of this secret layer of the stories of his favorite saints.
In the way that the saints represent a history of Christianity beyond the foundations in the time of Jesus, Boisvert's analyses present the sexual layers of the religion that are generally never acknowledged. The prime example is his discussion of the various ways Jesus--and Jesus's body--has been depicted in art. God Incarnate is shown as a beautiful man with, sometimes, a "hot body," even (or especially) when naked under torture. The “honesty and frankness" are remarkable. This discussion of Christianity gives gay men a reason to reconsider the richness of the religion that seems so often inimical to our concerns.
But the most important argument of the book is Boisvert's recognition that the drive to "sanctity" is an essential part of “male desire" (hence their linking in the subtitle) and of the social activism of the gay political and cultural movement. Over and over again, gay politics is about "saving the world," not just getting one's own--and one's family's--needs met by government. Gay lives are so frequently focused on beauty, creativity, and service. Boisvert beautifully captures the gay compulsion to be the best little boy, the best social contributor, the most successful lover, and especially the most honest person one can be. It is the drive for sanctity and integrity that impels us to come out and be openly and idealistically gay.
I recommend this book to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. I want to especially recommend it to those of you who are annoyed with or estranged from Catholic upbringing. I promise you, you'll be surprised and pleased and even possibly inspired and spiritually justified by Donald Boisvert's blending of religion and eroticism. He tells truths about our human psyches that most religionists don't acknowledge. For that reason alone, this book adds a new dimension to gay spirituality.
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
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated
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
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