This month on the Jesus in Love Blog, a resource for queer spirituality and the arts, Kittredge Cherry interviews Hunter Flournoy, a psychotherapist and shamanic healer who teaches “Erotic Body of Christ” workshops to help gay and bisexual men make a mystic, sensual connection with the divine. Here’s an excerpt. I was struck by the commonalities with Buddhism: the idea that the root of suffering is separation not only from God but from one another, and that we can attain transcendence by embracing the suffering of the world, not as self-punishment but as compassionate participation.
KC: Many LGBT people have been wounded by the false teaching that homosexuality is a sin. What message does the erotic Christ have for them?
HF: Our sexual energy is the most powerful tool we have to shatter the illusion of separation, which is what the original Christians meant by “sin.” The essential question we must ask ourselves is, am I using sex to bring myself alive, to overcome separation and incarnate the divine, or am I using it to medicate or avoid my own experience of being alive? This was the original understanding of chastity: it calls us to the highest possible relationship with our own sexual energy. All sexual experience can break down the boundaries and defenses we use to separate ourselves from each other and from God – we become one body, one being. Sex can also teach us how to give ourselves totally (kenosis) to each other, how to receive each other completely (plerosis), and how to surrender to the transfiguring power of our own erotic experience. As LGBT people, we also have an innate understanding that our erotic experience, our pleasure, desire, ecstasy, and union, can serve a purpose other than reproduction. Our erotic joy is a source of profound creativity, deep empathy, and a wild ecstasy that can take us out of who we are into a far greater sense of being.
KC: As you say, the idea of “suffering as Christ suffered” has been abused in legalistic religious systems. But gay bashing and other forms of “crucifixion” continue. How can the erotic Christ help in situations of real human suffering?
HF: There is nothing inherently spiritual or useful in suffering; it is useless to suffer as Jesus suffered. Nor did Jesus advocate cooperating with abuse and injustice. What he advocated and demonstrated – what really matters – is loving as he loved, embracing everything and everyone, including suffering, as Jesus embraced it. Instead of rejecting our suffering, trying to medicate, numb, get rid of it or distract ourselves from it, we learn how to embrace it, without indulging it or running from it. We let our suffering shatter our sense of self, our sense of control, and our need to make sense of the world. This is what the Christian mystics called katharsis. Second, our embrace transforms suffering into a searingly powerful erotic experience . . . it is like a fire that fills our whole being, a great trembling ache that breaks into the profound peace the mystics called theoria. Finally, we discover through this embrace that we are welcoming not only our own suffering, but the world’s suffering . . . we begin to experience ourselves as the world, as Christ’s body, and ultimately as God, in the mystery of theosis.