Latino book review: If Jesus were Gay and Other Poems

by Charlie Vázquez

If Jesus were Gay and Other Poems (Rebel Satori, 2010)

Now, before some of you have a coronary over the title of this terrific collection, consider this: It is only hypothetical, which means that the word “if” asks us to consider a different outcome from what we’ve been taught all along—that’s it. Art does that. And one of the things the breakthrough poet and editor Emanuel Xavier does best is address hypocrisy. Consider this excerpt from his poem “Passage.”

At the age of three, I already experienced
the damage men would do to establish manhood…
My spirit had already been destined to be destroyed
at the brutal hands of my own brothers.

Telling of his own experience as a victim of sexual abuse, Xavier bares his soul from the outset of his latest poetry collection. Life on the streets of Bushwick and the Chelsea Piers during the height of the tumultuous “ballroom scene” gave him fangs to attack back with—that is, as someone who puts fingers to keys to strike back at the careless swords that threatened his innocence first.

The title piece implores us to consider a different course of history, using the image of the benevolent Christian messiah to highlight the multitudes of social injustices that are rife in our world; pinning the image of a gentle man who consorted with prostitutes and the downtrodden as the polar opposite of what many of his most evangelical “followers” have come to be.

If Jesus were gay,
and still loved by God and Mary
because he was their child after all
hailed by all angels and feared by demons,
would you still long to be healed by him?
take him into your home and comfort him?
heal his wounds and break bread with him?
Would wars be waged over religion?
Would world leaders invoke his name for votes?
Would churches everywhere rejoice
and celebrate his life?
Would rappers still thank him?

It’s crucial to remember that every coin has two sides. Religion, like fire, can nurture and destroy. The history of Christianity is a long and complex one—and may we not forget that throughout its history, Christians were subject to persecution just as others are still subject to today. One of the goals of an effective artist is to change the way we know things, via artistic impressions, even if for mere moments.

Emanuel Xavier exhibits a natural and fearless execution of craft, not worrying if the status quo agrees with his ideas or not. He is a trailblazer, period. He writes his poems from his heart—whether they’re about love and affection, such as in “Papi Chulo,” or about the devastation of his heart and soul, such as in “Abandonment.” May we all learn to heal our wounds, or at least try to, before passing our pain on to others!

Amen.

To learn more about Charlie, visit Fire King Press.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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25 Responses to “Latino book review: If Jesus were Gay and Other Poems”

  1. Charlie, first of all, you can write book reviews as good as anyone I know. This book is intriguing and powerful, and yes, I come from the school that a higher force created us, but organized religion is man-made, and with that comes both the good and bad of humanity. Great piece!

  2. Charlie, I respect you as a human being. Not to rain on your Christian bashing parade, but plenty of good has also been done in the name of organized religion.
    I know, I know, your article is a book that takes artistic license to make a point.
    Now let’s see how some other works sound “If Muhammad were Gay and Other Poems,” “If the Dali Lama were Gay and Other Poems,” “If Your Father was Gay or other Poems.” Imagine if they also included a picture by a jerk if said individual touching his nipple.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all advocating the writing of these works. I am just saying people like you probably wouldn’t be gleefully writing writing about their artistic value if they were written and would be complaining about their hostility.
    What’s wrong with a little respect Charlie?

    • Where do you see the Jesus on the cover touching his nipple? Also, none of the titles you mentioned were particularly offensive. What if?

    • I see no respect whatsoever in this comment…. just a thought

    • @ Eric he has no respect and he accuses other people for bashing. What the sad part is no one seems to see what you and I see. I was told I’m disrespectful b/c I found it offensive. The sad part is they find this to be “art” and yet they claim to be intelligent people who respect other people’s views to me a lot of the bloggers on here are full of s**** and many of them post things for shock factor and considering tomorrow is Ash Wednesday what a coincidence.

  3. Wow I knew there were some blogs on here that I’ve disagreed with due to their content being ignorant and perpetuating negative stereotypes about latinos but this takes it to a whole new level. This is very disrespectful and I’m not saying that the catholic church or any church is perfect but lifestyle is a choice and not everyone is going to approve of it bottom line if this writer were secure with their decision you wouldn’t give a s* what anyone thought but to take something like the bible and make statements like that about Jesus show that you’re the one who misguided and it shows by calling this “art”. This is not “art” this is blashphemous and disrespectful and it’s just another person who’s using excerpts from the bible and the testament for their own ridiculous purposes and then you post right around the holiest time of the year where’s YOUR respect? That’s the problem with this society today no one has any respect for anything or anyone everything goes.

  4. Interesting. The author seems to be asking how things would be different in the world today ‘if’ Jesus were gay . He doesn’t say Jesus was gay. Perhaps people should actually read the entire poem instead of jumping to conclusions based on a title. Besides, I don’t know anyone around today who ever personally met Jesus. What ‘if’ he were married?

  5. Jesus Was Gay…….why in the world would anybody think otherwise? ……..The Obvious proof of it speaks for itself…..

  6. Offensive and disrespectful is the hate that is openly allowed to be preached from pulpits in the name of Jesus. A book titled after a poem that asks us to consider the what if’s of someone we only know through a book should not create such outrage. What if he weren’t the blue-eyed white man most people worship and celebrate thanks to, um- art?

  7. I don’t normally comment here, but I must say…in what way was any of what Charlie wrote disrespectful or Christian bashing? That it offends you on a personal level because of your beliefs is one thing because it is not what you believe. You are allowed to disagree, and that’s something that we as individuals must deal with each day..people who don’t believe as we do and therefore disagree with us. But to say that he was bashing Christianity or being offensive is truly offensive in itself and displays a lack of acceptance for people and ideas that aren’t like you.

  8. Please quote a single instance of “church-bashing” in my review, please.

  9. And tell me why I ought to respect an institution that used to advocate burning people like me at the stake, that has long refused to champion the use of condoms in Africa, and did little or nothing to stave off the plight of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis. Do some homework. Do you send your children to Catholic schools? Do you trust priests with your kids?

    • @ Charlie

      Get off your soapbox. No one said the catholic church was perfect and you may have a right to your opinion but you don’t have a right to disrespect the catholic faith and it’s teachings. I don’t agree with any of those things that happened or that the pope doesn’t advocate using condoms but there are people who would find this article questionable it’s obvious to me I as well as Eric are in the minority here on this blog but considering that holy week is close I don’t think it was an appropriate time for this posting.

      • HOW was the post disrespectful? That it was posted close to holy week doesn’t make it disrespectful or “bashing”.

        And I don’t consider you to be disrespectful because you disagree with the article, but because of how you chose to adress the author of the article. I really don’t understand what is so upsetting with a poem that asks what the world would be like IF Jesus was gay. It never said that he was (although I don’t understand why that would be offensive either). It is art, and it is supposed to start a discussion, to question things we take for granted,

        I think instead of accusing the author of being disrespectful you could explain WHAT about this article was bashing or disrespectful? And I really don’t think there was some anti-holy week agenda behind this being posted before Ash Wednesday….

    • You’re a good man Charlie and your argument makes sense, but let’s remind people that its an institution that has done a lot of good too. The Catholic Church didn’t invent murdering gays. Plenty of Catholics were also killed by Hitler. 12 million people died in the Holocaust, 6 million of them were Jews. Catholic Charities is known for its transparency and for being getting the job done. Oh… and you seem to forget about opposing the Iraq War, helping topple the Iron curtain, and pumping tons of aid into Haiti even before the earthquake.
      For the record, I wouldn’t send my kids to any private school, Catholic or otherwise, too expensive. 🙂

  10. Looking at some of these reviews that are outraged at this article and book just goes to show you EXACTLY what is troublesome about our society today, you take a headline and stop at the end of it. People don’t read or investigate anymore before making a decision on news. Charlie, we’re so pleased you wrote about this book as we are artist and are always in search of anything that turns the world on it’s head and makes us consider things differently. There is nothing that we find offensive about any of this. Everyone deserves a voice. Especially those of us who are screamed at and condemmed by other people.

  11. Are you guys really just hearing of this poet for the first time? This book came out last year and he’s been pushing buttons for years.

    http://www.gaycitynews.com/articles/2010/05/13/gay_city_news/arts/doc4bec5898659ee273630757.txt

  12. @nycgirl

    I will get off my soapbox if you can quote, from my review, how and where I disrespected the church, or as Eric had phrased it, church-bashed. Do this and I will apologize, as quite honestly I left out my personal feelings on the church and tried to focus on the poetry. Was it here?:

    “The title piece implores us to consider a different course of history, using the image of the benevolent Christian messiah to highlight the multitudes of social injustices that are rife in our world; pinning the image of a gentle man who consorted with prostitutes and the downtrodden as the polar opposite of what many of his most evangelical “followers” have come to be.”

    Or below? Because the rest is about Emanuel’s sexual abuse and personal history. i’m not seeing the church bashing, or are you angry that this collection poses question’s about a traditionally asexual hero’s sexuality?

    “It’s crucial to remember that every coin has two sides. Religion, like fire, can nurture and destroy. The history of Christianity is a long and complex one—and may we not forget that throughout its history, Christians were subject to persecution just as others are still subject to today. One of the goals of an effective artist is to change the way we know things, via artistic impressions, even if for mere moments.”

    Please point out my “disrespectful church-bashing” and I will apologize. I’m not seeing it and perhaps I need your help to.

    Best,

    Charlie

    • @ Charlie

      Sexualizing Jesus in my opinion is very inappropriate and I don’t consider it to be “art” and you mentioned you weren’t church bashing yet in your previous comment to me you asked if I sent my kid to a catholic school and would I trust priests around my child and how they’re hypocrites yes they are to some extent but NOT every catholic church has done all of these wrongs, molest kids, etc. so it’s sort of bashing. I disagree with the discrimination and not advocating safe sex but everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs and I don’t think the sexualizing religious figures is right and that’s what this author did. I feel bad for him that he had to encounter being sexually abused but to mingle that with religion I don’t see the relevance or connection.

  13. This is absolutely one of the most offensive and disgusting titles for anything considered ‘art’ in our contemporary world. The story of Jesus is written in the Bible and no one should ever take liberty with something so sacred. What ‘if’ this poet goes to hell and takes his gay agenda with him!

  14. @nycgirl- Have you even bothered to read the actual poem? The author in no way sexualizes Jesus except to ask what the world would be like today ‘if’ he happened to be gay. It’s actually a beautiful series of provocative questions and it’s a shame that so much controversy has evolved from a simple title without the actual work being taken into consideration. Read the poem, then make your judgements. Isn’t that what Jesus would have done? I’m not quite sure of the reviewer’s ‘bashing’ or ‘non-bashing’ of the Catholic religion but the poem itself is what should be the focus here.

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