Seattle’s virtual New Year’s at the Needle show welcomes 2021

KING 5 KING 5 Evening rang in 2021 in Seattle with “New Year’s at the Needle.” The show featured a first-ever virtual display from the Space Needle. The virtual display, which a Seattle-based entrepreneur helped develop, used sky-mapping technology and video footage to create a digital artistic presentation. Due to the pandemic, there were not any in-person events at the Space Needle this year, so viewers watched the display safely from their own homes. Read more:…

Narcissistic Abuse Documentary

Aletta Meijer ‘Surviving Narcissists and Psychopaths,’ documentary about Narcissistic Abuse, 2019 This documentary focusses on the survivors of narcissists and psychopaths, and what it is like to be in a relationship with them. It discusses confusion, gaslighting, health issues because of the trauma, and why it is so difficult to pull away from these type of relationships. Experts on the subject who are featured in this documentary are: Sam Vaknin, Jan Storms and Mjon van Oers. Sam Vaknin and Mjon van Oers (in dutch) have written books about narcissists. Jan Storms, as a specialist on psychopathy, has written a book about (destructive) relationships with a psychopath, which is soon to be released in english as well. Produced by Aletta Meijer, with the help of Femi Olasehinde.

Countering the Achievement Society

Education must rediscover the role of leisure.

countering the achievement society iaitv2

28th August 2018 (

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone 

| Associate Professor of Philosophy at University of North Dakota3,200 wordsRead time: approx. 16 mins

It has almost become a cliché to characterize the time in which we live as the Age of Burnout. An increasing number of books, articles, and opinion editorials are being written on the subject of “the epidemic of vital exhaustion” (see for example, The Guardian’s recent piece, “How Burnout Became a Sinister and Insidious Epidemic”). My own interest and research into fatigue stems in large part from my work and observations in a university setting, where a common complaint (or perhaps boast?) of faculty, staff, administrators, and students is how exhausted we are. But fatigue is often linked to a host of other problems, including depression and anxiety, physical ailments, addiction issues, and in general, joylessness and a sense of alienation from one’s family, friends, community, and from oneself as a whole person. 

Students are frequently the focus of a university’s efforts to (re)invigorate energies, prove the institution’s vitality, and increase the measurable outcomes for “success,” against the persistent threats of depletion of motivation, withdrawal, and perceived (or real) failure. Many of the attempts to enhance “student success” are technical or technological, like new software programs to track students’ grades, to analyze other “predictors” of their “outcomes,” and to send them automatic notifications indicating their grade-slippage in classes (as if regularly alerting them to their deficiencies will somehow generate greater motivation to achieve).

I would propose a more radical solution for cultivating successful students in our Burnout Age. Recalling that ‘radical’ stems from the Latin radicalis, ‘of or having roots’, my proposal is one that returns to fundamental roots of our humanity and of learning. It is also radical in the sense that it sounds quite simple, minimalist, and non-technological: I want to attend to leisure and its central place in the humane university.

In this reflection, I will first briefly describe some of the context contributing to fatigue and burnout in today’s students. Second, I will explain what I mean by “leisure,” and why I think it should be a central component in what might be called the “humane university” that genuinely nourishes student flourishing. And finally, I will describe a few of my own modest attempts to incorporate leisure in my classes, along with a cautionary note. 

The Achievement Society and Fatigue

Consider these words from the 20th century French philosopher-social activist-mystic, Simone Weil, whom I have spent much of my academic career thinking and writing about. In an essay on school studies, she wrote:

”The intelligence can only be led by desire. For there to be desire, there must be pleasure and joy in the work. The intelligence only grows and bears fruit in joy. The joy of learning is as indispensable in study as breathing is in running. Where it is lacking there are no real students, but only poor caricatures of apprentices who, at the end of their apprenticeship, will not even have a trade.”


“I have concluded that many university students today do not experience much desire, pleasure, or joy in relation to their studies. Rather, they report being consumed with stress, economic and social anxiety, and fatigue in the face of countless and growing demands.”


Unfortunately, from the many conversations I’ve had with students over the past 15 years, inside and outside of class, in addition to the many Chronicle of Higher Education articles devoted to the subject, I have concluded that many university students today do not experience much desire, pleasure, or joy in relation to their studies. Rather, they report being consumed with stress, economic and social anxiety, and fatigue in the face of countless and growing demands. 

There are material worries, like: How will I pay rent (or pay back these student loans)? And there are existential crises that arise from the sense of never doing or being enough in the face of an unrelenting “achievement society”: How can I possibly manage to complete these four research papers, and fulfill the obligations of my internship, and keep up with emails, and attend to my friend who is suffering from a breakup, and participate in this important protest march, and get a few hours of sleep this week? While we need to address the rising costs of tuition and the economic hardships students face through greater fiscal transparency and responsibility, I want to focus on the second set of concerns, which affects nearly all students, regardless of university costs or setting.

I see this situation of fatigue as being typical for many of us (perhaps especially for university students) in this century, and the effects of being overwrought are already being documented and analysed. Philosopher and cultural studies theorist Byung-Chul Han depicts the signature pathologies marking our 21st century landscape as being “neurological illnesses such as depression, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and burnout syndrome”. He goes on to say that what is characteristic of these maladies is that “they indicate an excess of positivity, that is, not negation so much as the inability to say no”. Such subjects are not suffering from restriction or prohibition, but a “being-able-to-do-everything.” But of course, the reality is that one cannot do everything; and the aspiration toward and the sense of limitless possibilities for accomplishment are not experienced as freedom but as impending failure and paralysis. As Han presciently notes, “The complaint of the depressive individual, ‘Nothing is possible,’ can only occur in a society which thinks, ‘Nothing is impossible’”. In this context, possibility (to ever-increase productivity, to achieve more) becomes an imperative—a “can” becomes a “must.”  

Not surprisingly, the (inevitable) inability to accomplish everything (and at the highest quality and the quickest pace) in a university setting leads to despondency, “self-reproach and auto-aggression”, joylessness, and a thoroughly exhausted and eventually dehumanised student whose resulting struggles in her classes only compounds her anxiety. As theorists of work have pointed out, there is a paradox inhabiting the body of one who is overworked: s/he becomes unable to rest after being consumed by excessive activity for so long. Exhaustion is frequently characterised by sleeping disorders, and students who are deeply fatigued can not only lose the ability to rest, but also to focus, to enjoy life, and to foster and maintain connections with others.

At best, as Theodor Adorno argued, ‘free time’ becomes an escapist and superficial sort of ‘winding down,’ already structured by the forces from which we’re trying to escape (e.g., consumerist, or scheduled, or staring at screens). And this ‘free time’ is merely recuperating us for the recommencement of work. As a result, our bodies are colonised and shaped to the point where we become incapable of “true leisure” which, for Adorno “represents that sweet ‘oasis of unmediated life’ in which people detach from economic demands and become genuinely free for the world and its culture”.

There is no better illustration of this phenomenon than Charlie Chaplin’s character in the classic film Modern Times. As a factory worker employed to screw bolts onto parts on a conveyor belt, which was continually being sped up, Chaplin was ultimately wound through the gears of the factory, and he acquired a twitching, mechanised body that performed the same repetitive motions, even outside his work. Students, too, can forget their humanity and become alienated from their bodies, especially when their universities become more corporatised and factory-like. 

Leisure and the Humane University

If one of the major obstacles for students is the ‘never-say-no’ ideology that is conducive to paralysing anxiety, burnout, and depression, then the university could play some role in being not only a refuge from those conditions, but also in being a proactive force for countering the instrumental way in which students and their educations are increasingly treated. If there is any value to being exhausted or broken, it is that we start seeing what has been too much. We often notice things for the first time when they break. And as more and more students are breaking under pressure, it is imperative to start attending to them and to the meaning of education. In fact, I contend that a serious look at the roots of schooling will mean a reclamation of our students’ humanity; I am interested in helping to create a humane university.

The origin of the word school is quite instructive: we get our word from the Greek scholē, which meant “leisure” or “spare time” or “learned conversation,” and eventually came to mean “a place for such leisurely discussion.” What could we discover from thinking of school as leisure? I would like to suggest four major components of scholē that might also be core values of a humane university.

First, there is a temporal and spatial dimension to scholē. Leisure means ‘spare time,’ and a ‘place for learned discussion’ that is not colonised by the utilitarian or by the world of business. In fact, the ancient Greeks saw business as a-scholia or ‘un-leisure.’ We might recall Adorno’s characterisation of leisure as the “oasis of unmediated life.” Scholē, then,requires that we embrace the slow, the artisanal… that we linger, savour, and take our time. In a recent article on ‘slow scholarship’, a feminist geography collective argue:

“The relentless acceleration of work will continue until we say ‘no’ to wildly outsized expectations of productivity. Those of us in more senior positions have the responsibility to share these strategies with and support the slowness of our students and earlier career colleagues. We seek slowness not only for ourselves, but as an attempt to change the academic cultures of our discipline and work places”.

Along similar lines, they argue we must make time for processes of thinking and writing ‘differently’, via strategies like unplugging and creating quiet spaces that allow minds to wander and creativity to flourish. How could we consciously cultivate slowed tempos and physical spaces of contemplation on our campuses? Could it begin with pausing one more minute after asking our students a difficult question? What about a two-hour lunch break once a week? What about a digital-free room, with soft lighting, art supplies, books, and no clocks on the wall?

Second, scholē is intimately connected to freedom and the liberal arts. According to A. Bartlett Giamatti (who was a professor of English Renaissance literature, President of Yale University, and the 7th Commissioner of Major League Baseball), historically, “artes liberalis were to be pursued because in their pursuit the muscle that is the mind was disciplined and toughened and thereby made more free to pursue new knowledge”. But he adds that the pursuit of the liberal arts was also meant to perpetuate “a condition of leisure,” wherein the mind fulfils itself through an exercise of choices whose goal is to extend the freedom to exercise the mind. While the ‘humanities’ have been subsumed as one aspect of the ‘liberal arts,’ it is more appropriate to say that artes liberalis are humanising. The humane university will foreground the study of liberal arts, not as a means to the end of better employment, but for their own sake.


“We fail to see that we strip schooling of its potency as an adventure with an undetermined end, an artistic exploration demanding experimentation and play, a joyful journey of discovery.”

This brings us to the third component of scholē: it is an autotelic activity, that is, one in which the goal is the full exercise of itself, for its own sake, and one that is inherently joyful and playful. In autotelic activities, conditions are achieved that are active (not passive), beautiful (not merely useful), and “perfecting of our humanity, not merely exploitative of it”, as Giamatti said. This means that scholē is about happiness. When students approach school instrumentally, it is often because they are being treated instrumentally—numbers in a classroom needed to justify this expansion of X program, or workers-in-training to contribute to the local economy. We have become so accustomed to ‘making a case’ for the economic usefulness of liberal arts that we fail to see that we strip schooling of its potency as an adventure with an undetermined end, an artistic exploration demanding experimentation and play, a joyful journey of discovery…and in the process of failing to remember all this, we also prepare students to be self-exploiting animal laborans who will chase ever-elusive performance benchmarks into their unfreedom. This is a cruel pedagogy.

Finally, scholē is communal. Giamatti describes: “Leisure as an ideal was a state of unforced harmony with others; it was, ideally, to live fully amidst activity, which activity has the characteristic of free time” . While Giamatti depicts American games that bring people together in leisure, like baseball, we can easily think of the activities of the university as necessitating community, with the common pleasures of being taken out of oneself through engagement with diverse perspectives. Harmony in scholē does not mean homogeneity, though; a harmony consists of different notes that can come together. Whereas in the context of sport, we might witness what seems to be a superhuman feat by a star athlete, in schooling-as-leisure, we might jointly encounter an idea, an image, a sound, or a passage that has a similar transcendent quality and effect. It is a moment in which “we are all free of all constraints of all kinds,” enriched by both the rituals of our shared community and by the ideals that are ennobling.

Why Schools Must Give Up the Myth of SuccessRead moreI think a humane university that is truly centred on student success (understood holistically) embodies all of these qualities, at the very least: It will make time and spaces for careful contemplation, play, and artistic endeavour; it will foreground the liberal arts as a praxis of freedom; it will frame and treat learning as processes that are beautiful and joyful in their own right, and students as whole persons with intrinsic value; and it will enhance social harmony, not through management or meaningless slogans, but through actively seeking and valuing diverse perspectives so that the messy work of transforming a crowd into a community can be democratic and self-directed.

Some Modest Examples and a Cautionary Note

I have attempted, in my own teaching, to foster student success through implementing what could be considered practices of scholē. To begin, I recall from my own days of being a student that the antidote to leisure in learning is busywork: work that is assigned, seemingly to generate more “points” or to take up more time. In some cases busywork manifests as a set of arbitrarily constructed obstacles through which a trained and docile student must pass (like a show horse) to get to the finish line.

That is, many hurdles have been historically created for students and assumed to be continuing assurances of quality; but too often, those tests suffer from inattention and lack of updating—they become (or always were) meaningless, irrelevant “hoops” to jump through. Wherever I can identify those hoops, I try to eliminate them, as they frequently cause a sense of drudgery for students, as well as for faculty and staff.  

But meaningful challenges are a different thing altogether, and I think they can be a primary source of joy for students (and faculty). In various classes of mine, I have sought to bring the ideas of the philosophers/theorists to life by asking students to engage in experiments with me. In my Phenomenology classes, for example, after we read about how to shift visual perception to see phenomena in radically new ways, we visit our art museum on campus. There, we take in the latest exhibit, but we avoid looking at the title and description plates, so that what we perceive won’t be skewed. We all write down our initial impressions, and then I ask my students to alter their perception by standing very close or very far away from the work, for example.

The point is to recognise how, given more time and by deliberately taking up different stances, a phenomenon can be read in multiple ways, challenging our initial knee-jerk interpretations. This exercise takes practice and is a disciplined, though play-full, mode of perception that can be translated to how we encounter the world at large. We talk about how this openness can be helpful in listening to others, or in holding back pre-judgments, or in simply having more fulfilling aesthetic experiences. 

I have also learned to slow down my classes, sometimes by teaching fewer books in a course and having fewer assignments, so that more time can be spent dwelling on and wrestling with core questions that arise. Also, in some classes, rather than quizzing or testing students, their assignment is to bring me a number of questions from the reading assignments over the semester. We talk about what good questions are, and we use their questions to structure class conversations. I learn not only more about what they comprehend in this way, but I also love the greater sense of collaboration and mutual investment in problems with the students. I believe these practices contribute to ‘student success’ by actively inculcating a kind of leisurely, though serious, attention to problems that matter, which is a nourishing, rather than depleting process. 

So what if a university were to reclaim scholē as a way of becoming more humane to its students? It would require administrators, faculty, and staff to model a way of being and relating that is admittedly a break from the status quo of the instrumentally-driven ‘achievement society.’ Detractors might then worry that students won’t be ready for what meets them in the broader world, but the approach I’ve described wouldn’t mean lack of preparation for what exists, but instead, preparation to critically and creatively investigate, so as to transform, what exists.


“We teachers owe it to our students to enable them to be visionaries for the future, not just processors of the present.”


To borrow a metaphor from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s description (in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”) of how the church should lead in relation to racial justice, the university should not be a ‘thermometer’ merely reflecting the patterns of broader society, but should be a ‘thermostat’ which sets the temperature and standards for a better environment. We teachers owe it to our students to enable them to be visionaries for the future, not just processors of the present.

I will conclude with a word of caution: If we, individually or institutionally, pursue scholē as a praxis of liberation, we must be careful to ensure that our cultivated leisure, openness, joy, and play do not come at the expense of another’s humanity or well-being. A humane university must be centered on an inclusive politics that is attentive to the situations of those who are less protected, more vulnerable, and liable to exploitation. Feminist philosopher Sara Ahmed writes, “If the freeing up of time and energy depends on other people’s labor, we are simply passing our exhaustion on to others”.

If leisure in my life and in my classes means that my part-time, adjunct colleagues must take on more work, then I must seek a different instantiation of scholē that does not displace burdens, exacerbate disparities, or ask others to be more “resilient.” We should also be wary of the exhaustion of the privileged, and be able to recognise when upset is due to the needed dismantling of unchecked and insensitive power. We need to educate ourselves and our students for this discernment between privilege as an energy-saving device (not having to think about certain things that affect others), and scholē as a reorientation of energy that generates a caring community founded on open, learned and critical dialogue.

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone
28th August 2018

John the Evangelist: Beloved Disciple of Jesus — and maybe his lover

by Kittredge Cherry | Dec 27, 2020 (

Jesus and Beloved Disciple in detail from study for The Last Supper by Becki Jayne Harrelson

John the Evangelist is commonly considered to be Jesus’ “Beloved Disciple” — and possibly his lover. His feast day is Dec. 27.

The love between Jesus and John has been celebrated by artists since medieval times. And the idea that they were same-sex lovers has been inspiring queer people and causing controversy for centuries.

John was an apostle of Jesus and is the presumed author of the Gospel of John, the Book of Revelation and the Epistles of John. The Bible describes their warm relationship on multiple occasions. John and his brother James left their lives as a fishermen in Galilee to follow Jesus.  He nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder,” perhaps referring to their fiery temperaments or powerful voices. John participated in many of the main events in Christ’s ministry. He was one of the three who witnessed the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the transfiguration and Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane.

The unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved” is referenced five times in the gospel of John (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:22, 21:7, 20). Church tradition identifies him as John himself. Other identities proposed for the Beloved Disciple include Lazarus, Thomas, Mary Magdalene and even Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus.  Because the Beloved Disciple is left unnamed, each believer is free to imagine or be that beloved disciple in their own way.

No other male disciples were present at the crucifixion. From the cross, Jesus entrusted the Beloved Disciple and his mother Mary into each other’s care. Legends say that John took her with him to the Turkish city of Ephesus, where the major temple to the goddess Artemis was rededicated to Mary.

The gospel of John, the most mystical gospel, is attributed to John. This gospel is also noted for its gender inclusivity in portraying the important role of women such as Mary and Martha of Bethany, the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene. In John’s gospel, the Beloved Disciple was the first to reach the empty tomb of Jesus, the first to believe in his resurrection and the first to recognize the risen Christ at the miraculous catch of fish.

After Jesus was crucified, John went on to build a close, loving relationship with his younger disciple and scribe, Prochorus, bishop of Nicomedia. Tradition says that John was the only one of Christ’s original 12 apostles to live to old age, and the only one not killed for his faith. He died in Ephesus around 100 AD.

Did Jesus and John share an erotic relationship?

Whoever he or she was, the Beloved Disciple reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper, resting his head on Jesus’ chest. There is even a medieval European tradition that John and Jesus were the bridal couple at the Cana wedding feast. Jesus performed his first miracle at Cana by turning water into wine. The Bible tells the story in John 2:1-11 without ever naming who was getting married.  But the apocryphal Acts of John state that John broke off his engagement to a woman to “bind himself” to Jesus. The idea that Jesus wed John at Cana is discussed by Gerard Loughlin in the introduction to “Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body.”

One of the earliest images of John and Jesus together is a little-known 12th-century miniature, “The Calling of St. John.” It depicts two scenes: Christ coaxing the disciple John to leave his female bride and follow him, and John resting his head on Jesus’ chest. Jesus cups the chin of his beloved, an artistic convention used to indicate romantic intimacy. The Latin text means, “Get up, leave the breast of your bride, and rest on the breast of the Lord Jesus.”The Calling of Saint John

“The Calling of Saint. John,” a 12th-century miniature

An entire chapter is dedicated to John as the bride of Christ in the 2013 book “Saintly Brides and Bridegrooms: The Mystic Marriage in Renaissance Art” by Carolyn D. Muir, art professor at the University of Hong Kong.

“John the Apostle resting on the bosom of Christ,” Swabia/Lake Constance, early 14th century. Photo by Andreas Praefcke. (Wikimedia Commons)

The idea that Jesus and his Beloved Disciple had a sexual relationship was publicly discussed in early 16th century, when English playwright Christopher Marlowe was tried for blasphemy on the charge of claiming that “St. John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom, that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma.” In 1550 Francesco Calcagno, a citizen of Venice, was investigated by the Inquisition for making the heretical claim that “St. John was Christ’s catamite,” which means a boy or young man in a pederastic sexual relationship with an older man.

Many modern scholars have expressed belief that Jesus and his Beloved Disciple shared a an erotic physical relationship. They include Hugh Montefiore, Robert Williams, Sjef van Tilborg, John McNeill, Rollan McCleary, Robert E. Goss and James Neill. A thorough analysis is included in “The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament” by the late Theodore Jennings, who served as Biblical theology professor at Chicago Theological Seminary. He finds the evidence “inconclusive” as to whether the beloved disciple was John, but it leaves no doubt that Jesus had a male lover.

“A close reading of the texts in which the beloved disciple appears supports the hypothesis that the relationship between him and Jesus may be understood as that of lovers. As it happens, both Jesus and the beloved are male, meaning that their relationship may be said to be, in modern terms, a ‘homosexual’ relationship,” Jennings writes (p. 34).

The homoeroticism of the relationship is also explored in the chapter on the Beloved Disciple in
The Double: Male Eros, Friendships, and Mentoring–from Gilgamesh to Kerouac” by Edward Sellner.Jesus and John from Sellner collection

This statue of Jesus and the Beloved Disciple comes from the collection of author Edward Sellner. He commissioned it from a wood carver in Brittany, France.

While the earliest depictions emphasize the closeness between Jesus and the Beloved Disciple, modern translations keep putting more distance between them. Gay Christian author Chris Glaser writes on his blog,

In ‘As My Own Soul: The Blessing of Same-Gender Marriage,’ I pointed out how recent translations have distanced the Beloved Disciple, believed to be John, from Jesus. In the King James Version “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is “leaning on Jesus’ bosom.” The Revised Standard Version describes him as “lying close to the breast of Jesus.” But the New Revised Standard Version and the New Jerusalem Bible have the Beloved Disciple simply “reclining next” to Jesus. As the Beloved disciple moves farther away from Jesus with newer versions, I imagine in the next translation he will be in another room!

The queer history of their relationship is presented in the video “Before Stonewall, Episode 5: The Myth of the Beloved Disciple” by historian Chad Denton.

Jesus embraces the Beloved Disciple in historical art

A newly discovered painting of Jesus and his Beloved Disciple was recently unveiled to the public for the first time in 450 years.  They appear in the Last Supper by Italian nun Plautilla Nelli.John and Jesus by Plautilla Nelli

John and Jesus in Last Supper by Plautilla Nelli, 1658 (Wikipedia)

It is the world’s first known depiction of the Last Supper by a woman. Nelli was a Dominican nun and the first woman painter of Renaissance Florence. Her life-size Last Supper is about 23 feet long, almost as big as Da Vinci’s famous version. The Dominican nun was a self-taught artist with many patrons, including women.

Now-iconic images of the loving embrace between John and Christ apparently originated during the early 1300s in German convents in the Rhineland and Swabia. These were devotional images intended to help viewers deepen their connection to Christ. Prolific artists created many versions. Today one of them is housed in the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio.John and Jesus 1320

“Christus Johannes Gruppe” (Christ John Group) by the unknown Master of Oberschwaben, oak sculpture, 1320.

The subject is known as “Christus Johannes Gruppe” (Christ John Group) or Johannesminne (love of John), with minne being a Middle High German word for erotic-emotional love. Many of these images were actually created for women, not men, to contemplate. Most if not all of the Johannesminne statues were altarpieces for Dominican convents and nunneries.

For example, “Christus Johannes Gruppe” (Christ John Group) by the unknown Master of Oberschwaben spent many centuries in an Augustinian convent in Inzigkofen, a town in the region of Sigmaringen in southwestern Germany. A museum in Berlin acquired in it the early 20th century, and it is now housed in the Bode Museum of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.John and Jesus Bourges cathedral stained glass

Jesus embraces the Beloved Disciple at the Last Supper in a 13th-century stained-glass window from Cathedral of Saint Etienne in Bourges, France. (Wikipedia)

The history, eroticism, appeal and impact of these devotional images is explored in “The Late Medieval Andachtsbild,” an unpublished essay by Daniel G. Conklin, a retired Anglican priest in Berlin. He writes,

“One common characteristic of the Johannesminne is that the figure of John seems a bit gender-ambiguous, i.e. it looks like he might be a “she.” Considering the place where these images arose and were beheld, it takes no great stretch of the imagination to envision the effect of the Johannesminne on a cloistered young woman who was well versed in the Cistercian “bridal” mysticism of St. Bernard of Clairvaux…. The Johannesminne is an image of profound tenderness embued with a kind of gentle eroticism. As an altarpiece it must have been a constant reminder of the connection between the Lord’s Last Supper and the celebration of the Mass and it surely reinforced the pious conviction that in the Eucharistic bread and wine the risen Christ “dwells in us and we in him” in a profound and intimate way.”

Conklin goes on to identify homoeroticism as one source of the image’s enduring power:

“The popularity of the Johannesminne – then and now – may also stem from the fact that this is an image involving love and tenderness between two adult males. The fact that this Andachtsbild arose in monasteries, communities of same-sex individuals, probably comes as no surprise. Its power to awaken faith and delight in close communion with Christ is perhaps not its only appeal. The Johannesminne has become perhaps even more appealing in our day in which people of the same gender in committed relationships seek some form(s) of faith confirmation of who they are and whose they are. The Johannesminne may very well serve as a mirror as well as a model for many, not only same-sex oriented persons.”

1967 German Stamp with “Christ-John Group” (Wikimedia Commons)

In Germany the Johannesminne image remains so important that it has even been made into a postage stamp. Its influence may also live on in today’s popular “Sacred Heart of Jesus” icons, which show the physical heart of Jesus in his chest. Conklin explains:

The Johannesminne as an altarpiece not only visualized the intimate communion of the Eucharist, but also seems to have been one of the essential sources for the unfolding of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” mysticism which developed later, but had its beginnings in this Andachtsbild. The beholder could imagine John, i.e. the beholder him/herself, hearing the heartbeat of Jesus while leaning on his chest. The communion is that “close.”

Another early sculpture in this style is “St. John Resting on Jesus’ Chest,” circa 1320, which is housed at the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp. It can be seen online at the Web Gallery of Art. The sculpture was created by Master Heinrich of Constance for the the Dominican convent of St. Catherine’s valley in Switzerland. Wikimedia Commons displays a set of 10 statues of Johannesminne in Germany at this link.

“Johannesminne of Heiligkreuztal” by Tobias HallerIn contemporary times “Johannesminne” was sketched by Tobias Haller, an iconographer, author, composer, and retired vicar of Saint James Episcopal Church in the Bronx, still assisting at a parish in Baltimore, Maryland. His sketch is based on the Johannesminne sculpture in the convent at Heiligkreuztal in Altheim, Germany. Haller is the author of “Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality.” Haller enjoys expanding the diversity of icons available by creating icons of LGBTQ people and other progressive holy figures as well as traditional saints. He and his spouse were united in a church wedding more than 30 years ago and a civil ceremony after same-sex marriage became legal in New York.John’s intimacy with Jesus at the Last Supper continued to fascinate artists as the centuries passed. Examples from the 1500s include an Albrecht Durer print and a sculpture at the Italian basilica known as Sacro Monte di Varallo (Sacred Mountain of Varallo).

Detail from “The Last Supper” by from the Small Passion by Albrecht Durer, 1511

Detail from “The Last Supper” by an unknown master, ca. 1500-05 at Sacro Monte di Varallo in Piedmont, Italty (Photo by Stefano Bistolfi, Wikimedia Commons)In the 1600s French painter Valentin de Boulogne presented a more humanistic view of Jesus and John. His painting uses dark shadows to heighten the emotional impact.

“St. John and Jesus at the Last Supper” by Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632) (Wikimedia Commons)In the 1800s the intimate bond between the two men is emphasized in “One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved” by the French painter Ary Scheffer (1795-1858).

“One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved” by Ary SchefferJesus and his beloved John appear in an 1890 stained-glass window at the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Eglise du Sacre-Coeur) in Lille, France. It is based on drawings by French painter Charles Alexandre Crauk.Jesus and Apostle John in stained-glass window

Jesus and Apostle John in stained-glass window at Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Eglise du Sacre-Coeur) in Lille, France, 1890 (Wikipedia)

Jesus tenderly kisses John’s forehead before giving him communion bread in a vintage French religious medal from the 1930s. It is available at the Fred’s Prayer shop on Etsy.

Jesus kisses John on an antique silver medal from the Fred’s Prayer shop on Etsy.

Contemporary icons show the Beloved Disciple

Artists continue to make new icons of Jesus and John in traditional style.  One of the newest is a contemporary Byzantine icon available at the Angelicon Etsy shop.  It was painted in egg tempera by the mother-daughter team of Eka and Ari in their small workshop in Crete, Greece.

Contemporary Byzantine icon of the Beloved Disciple. The original is available from the Angelicon Etsy shopAnother contemporary icon is “Christ the Bridegroom” by Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar known for his innovative icons. Author-priest Henri Nouwen, famous but struggling with a secret gay identity, commissioned it in 1983. He asked for an icon that symbolized the act of offering his own sexuality and affection to Christ. Research and reflection led Lentz to paint Christ being embraced by his beloved disciple John, based on an icon from medieval Crete.

Christ the Bridegroom, Br. Robert Lentz, OFM, © or“Henri used it to come to grips with his own homosexuality,” Lentz said in an interview for my book “Art That Dares,” which includes this icon and the story behind it. “I was told he carried it with him everywhere and it was one of the most precious things in his life.” Nouwen’s goal was celibacy and he did not come out publicly as gay before his death in 1996. The icon takes the Biblical theme of Christ as bridegroom and joins it to the medieval motif of Christ with John. The resulting image expresses their intimate friendship with exquisite subtlety. Prints are available at or

John the Beloved Disciple in contemporary art

Over the centuries many artworks have illustrated the deep love between Jesus and his Beloved Disciple. A variety of contemporary artists have done new interpretations of John and Jesus together. Many of the historic images appear to show John as much younger than Jesus, but their age difference is de-emphasized and they both look like grown men in most of the newer images. Perhaps the reason for the change is growing awareness of the church’s complicity with pedophile priests, combined with the with the need for modern gay couples for find religious affirmation.

One of the newer images is “Beloved Disciple” by James Day, a student working towards a Masters of Arts in Theological Studies at Episcopal Divinity School in Boston. His focus is queer theology and liturgical arts. Day’s painting of the “Beloved Disciple” hung in the EDS Chapel in fall 2016.Beloved Disciple by James Day

“Beloved Disciple” by James Day

The wedding between Jesus and his beloved disciple is one of the LGBT Christian themes explored in monumental nude paintings by gay New Zealand artist Christopher Olwage. He gives a sacred gay interpretation to the wedding feast at Cana. Olwage is an LGBTQ activist and gender-bending ballet dancer who reigned as Mr. Gay World in 2013.

“The Wedding of Jesus and John ‘the Beloved Disciple’ at Cana” by Christopher Olwage

John in a detail from “Crucifixion” by Christopher Olwage

John also appears in a gay-affirming crucifixion painted in 2015 by Olwage. As Beloved Disciple, John kneels and throws his head back as he gazes up at Jesus on the cross. This “Crucifixion” shows a group of men reacting in various ways to the execution of their beloved Jesus. All are figures that Bible scholars believe may have had male-male sexual relationships. Next to John is Lazarus, who bows his head in sorrowful prayer beneath a rainbow hood. The Centurion and the servant “who was dear to him” stare out at the viewer from both edges of the frame. For more about Olwage’s art, see the previous posts Gay Wedding of Jesus and John at Cana and Gay Jesus painting shown in New Zealand: Christopher Olwage paints LGBT Christian scenes.

“Jesus and the Beloved Disciple” by Laurie Gudim

Another recent work is the 2012 icon “Jesus and the Beloved Disciple” by Laurie Gudim. Based in Colorado, Gudim is an artist, Jungian psychotherapist and progressive Episcopalian. Her work uses a motif dating back at least to the 13th century.The long artistic tradition depicts John as the Beloved Disciple resting his head on the breast of Jesus.

This sculpture spent many centuries in an Augustinian convent in Inzigkofen, a town in the region of Sigmaringen in southwestern Germany. A museum in Berlin acquired in it the early 20th century, and it is now housed in the Bode Museum of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.Atlanta artist Becki Jayne Harrelson painted another especially loving version of Jesus and the Beloved at the center of her “Last Supper.” Unlike the classic icons of Jesus and the Beloved Disciple, her painting shows the two obviously adult men gazing at each other and holding hands. She is a contemporary lesbian artist who uses LGBT people as models in her religious art. Raised in a fundamentalist Christian family, she uses art to express her passion for justice. Her story is also told in “Art That Dares.”Detail from Study for The Last Supper
by Becki Jayne HarrelsonAnother icon celebrating the love between Jesus and the beloved disciple was painted by Jim Ru (below). It was displayed in his show “Transcendent Faith: Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Saints” in Bisbee Arizona in the 1990s.

“Jesus and the Beloved Disciple” by Jim RuIn recent years some artists have adapted the classic iconography to other racial and ethnic groups. For example, John Giuliani’s “Jesus and the Beloved Disciple” shows the figures in the native dress of the Aymara Indians, descendants of the Incas who still live in the Andean regions of Chile, Peru and Bolivia. Giuliani is an Italian-American artist and Catholic priest who is known for making Christian icons with Native American symbols. He studied icon painting under a master in the Russian Orthodox style, but chose to expand the concept of holiness to include Native Americans, the original inhabitants of the Americas.

“Jesus and the Beloved Disciple” by John Giuliani, 1996One more picture of Jesus and his beloved must be mentioned, even though permission was not granted to display it here on the Jesus in Love Blog (yet) at Q Spirit. It is well worthwhile to click the title to see this stunningly beautiful photo of Jesus and his Beloved Disciple as black Africans:“Every Moment Counts” (from “Ecstatic Antibodies”) by Rotimi Fani-KayodeFani-Kayode (1955-1989) was a Nigerian photographer who explored themes of sexual and cultural difference, homoerotic desire, spirituality and the black male body, often in collaboration with his late partner Alex Hirst. Their last joint work was “Every Moment Counts” from 1989. In it a beloved disciple leans against black Christ figure who wears pearls over his dreadlocks as he gazes toward heaven. “The hero points the way forward for the lost boys of the world – the young street-dreads, the nightclub-chickens, the junkies and the doomed,” Hirst explains on their website.

Beloved Disciple in poetry and music

Various poets have written about the love between Jesus and John from a gay or queer viewpoint. A gay man prays, wondering if Jesus felt sexual attraction to John, in a poem by longtime LGBTQ church activist and poet Louie Clay (né Louie Crew).

What did you feel when your beloved John
lay across your lap casually?

He wrote these lines raising the possibility of a queer Christ in his 1980 poem “Lutibelle Prays: William Werc’s Prayer.” In 1974 Clay founded Integrity USA, the national Episcopal LGBTQ organization.  The whole poem is posted at this link.

Another poem that addresses the homoerotic love between Jesus and John as is “The Third Dance of Christmas: A Fiddle Dance for St. John’s Day” by a poet who wants to be known only as Joe. It begins:Sweet John was a danceron the shore of old Capernauma lovely boy not fit for fishingor carpentry, or marrying.They tell he left his empty boatfor the sake of the bold young fellowwho looked at him that April mornand said, my love, come follow.The whole poem is posted at this link.

Queer poet Jim Wise references John in “Seminarians,” an unpublished poem from his “Queer Psalter” collection:

After a long day of
watching him preach
his gospel, which was
nothing more than
begging people to
actually give a damn
about one another,
we wanted to be his
Beloved John, his Lazarus,
his place to lay his head.

For more poetry by Wise, click here.

Contemporary America singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens merges homoerotic desire and spiritual longing in the song “John My Beloved.” Many listeners hear references in the song to the love between Jesus and his disciple John as well as to modern gay sexual encounters. The song is available on a YouTube video and the album from his album “Carrie and Lowell.”

Beloved Disciple excerpt from Jesus in Love: A Novel

I also wrote about John as the beloved disciple in my novels “Jesus in Love” and “At the Cross.” In honor of John’s feast day, I post this scene from “Jesus in Love: A Novel.” Jesus, the narrator, remembers the day he met John:

I became distracted by the not unwelcome presence of somebody standing close behind me, closer than necessary in the loosely packed crowd. I sensed that it was John, and spun around to see him planted there like a tall cedar tree. He leaned against me, eyes flashing. “I can’t wait for the Messiah to come. I’ve seen him in visions.”

“Really? Tell me what you remember.” It was exciting to find someone who was aware of God’s efforts to communicate.

“The Messiah is like a gentle lamb who sits on a throne with a rainbow around it. And yet his eyes flame with fire, and a sharp sword comes out of his mouth to strike down evildoers.”

“The truth is large,” I said.

“Are you saying my vision isn’t true?” he challenged.

“No, I’m not saying that. I expect that you will see more.”

When John smiled, his faced crinkled into a fascinating landscape of wrinkles. His eyes felt black and mysterious like the midnight sky as they roamed over me. “Do you want a prayer partner tonight?” he asked.

If anyone else had asked, I would have said no, but I looked again at John’s handsome, bejeweled soul and his long, sinewy body.

“Sure,” I agreed impulsively.

Only then did I notice that the Baptist had finished preaching. John steered me toward the caves where the Baptist and his inner circle of disciples lived. Lower-ranking disciples were ready with water vessels and towels to assist everyone with ritual purification before we ate a spartan meal of locusts and wild honey. One of them approached me.

“Wash up, and we’ll get together after supper,” John said as we parted.

Beloved Disciple prayers

Q Spirit’s Litany of Queer Saints includes these lines:

Saint John, Beloved Disciple, apostle and evangelist, pray for us.

Links related to the Beloved Disciple

Disciple whom Jesus loved (Wikipedia)St John the Evangelist and Prochorus” (Queer Saints and Martyrs)Book: “St. John the Divine: The Deified Evangelist in Medieval Art and Theology” by Jeffrey F. Hamburger“Brother, Bride and alter Christus: The Virginal Body of John the Evangelist in Medieval Art, Theology and Literature” by Jeffrey F. HamburgerTo read this article in Spanish, go to:San Juan el Evangelista: Discípulo Amado de Jesús (Santos Queer)

Top image credit: Detail from Study for The Last Supper by Becki Jayne Harrelson

This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

This article was originally published on Q Spirit in December 2016 and was updated for accuracy and expanded with new material on Dec. 27, 2020.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Kittredge Cherry

Kittredge Cherry is a lesbian Christian author who writes regularly about LGBTQ spirituality. She holds degrees in religion, journalism and art history. She was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served as its national ecumenical officer, advocating for LGBTQ rights at the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches.

Marianne Williamson – Forgiving and Releasing 2020

Marianne Williamson If ever there was a year to put to bed, it’s 2020. The stress and anxiety caused by so many factors – from Covid-19 to a contentious presidential election – have left many of us exhausted, even traumatized. But it’s not enough to say good-bye to 2020. We owe it to ourselves to set our intentions high for 2021. Join Marianne Williamson for a year-end 2020 wrap-up. Let’s not carry the anxiety of this year with us… Let’s forgive and release this year, and receive the miracle of new possibilities… Let’s leave it at the door and make way for new beginnings… This year was tough, but let’s decide right now that next year will be miraculous. Join Marianne in preparing the way for miracles, and enjoying the thought that we can navigate the times in which we live with the power and strength that love provides.