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Photo of Mark Thompson
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with Mark and life partner Malcolm Boyd
Mark's book describing his
"coming home" with fellow travelers.
About author and
activist Mark Thompson
Brief summaries of each of the books by Mark Thompson

image of painting of Mark and Malcolm by Bachardy
Mark and Malcolm, 2006. Painting by Don Bachardy

Between that and Mark's trilogy you've practically written a canon of gay spirituality. This issue is devoted to a contemplation of Our Bodies, Ourselves: the State of the Gay Body...how would the two of you characterize "the state of the gay community" now vs when your books first came out?

Malcolm Boyd: Are You Running with Me, Jesus? came out in l965. I didn't realize it at the time but I'd come out, too, with the prayer "This is a homosexual bar, Jesus." Time magazine didn't review the book but simply published that prayer. It spoke for itself. The prayer concluded with these lines: "Quite a few of the

men here belong to the Church as well as to this bar. If they knew how, a number of them would ask you to be with them in both places. Some of them wouldn't, but won't you be with them, too, Jesus?"

In the months that followed the book seemed to provoke a major quake in a spiritual and cultural sense. Bishop John A .T. Robinson of England wrote: "This is prayer in the raw, with the last varnish gone—human life, in all its warmth and lovelessness laid bare before God." The New York Times said the book's "eloquence" came from the personal struggle contained in the prayers: "a struggle to believe, to keep going, a spiritual contest that is agonized, courageous and not always won."

I was still "officially" closeted, so the media uproar and huge controversy surrounding the book provoked an extraordinary spiritual crisis in my life. I felt a lot of anger. Hadn't organized religion long persecuted gay people, refusing to offer unconditional love? Indeed, was it possible for me to pray through my pain and rage? Trying to be quite realistic, could I offer unconditional love to the church? My self-esteem as a person (a gift from God in creation) had been battered cruelly by the church's seeming rejection. Could I find a lifeline in prayer to discover healing in Jesus' love?

"The state of the gay community" in l965 was so totally different from that of today! Even calling the bar "homosexual" instead of "gay" somewhat describes that situation. There were a handful of gay books then; now there seem enough to fill libraries. "Homosexuality" was virtually unmentionable in polite society except to describe a seeming form of leprosy; now gay news is on the front page, the evening news, the Internet, and gay themes surface in big movies and plays and top TV shows.

 

GAY EMINENCES, page two