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Jesus and St. Paul were asexual, and everybody in heaven is nonbinary

Mosaic Saint Mark Basilica Venice Italy depicting Ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven angels saints

Have you ever wondered about the sexual identities of Jesus and St. Paul? Or how gender and sexuality might influence our understanding of heaven?

While the United Methodist Church this week in North Carolina in a historic 692-51 vote repealed their ban on LGBTQ clergy and on UMC pastors officiating at same-sex weddings, most opposition to LGBTQ+ rights in the United States still emanates from Christian pulpits. From sea to sea, many pastors and priests – including, one supposes, the pastors of the nearly 8,000 Methodist churches in the United States that split from the denomination over the past five years as the denomination itself grew more LGBTQ-friendly – still preach harsh words against those who are not heterosexual and not cisgender. These preachers often employ the Bible as a hammer and, without a hint of reservation or shadow of doubt, declare that “the God of the Bible” has issued an eternal edict against sexual and gender diversity. Homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, and gender non-conformity are condemned. So, too, are non-binary and transgender human beings.

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These pastors are correct that some biblical passages are not friendly to homosexuals (“if a man lies with a man…”), not pleasant to asexuals (“be fruitful and multiply”), and not kind to gender-non-conformists (“if a man wears that which pertains to a woman…”). Of course, the holy writ can be awfully rough on a lot of people: women generally (“women are not permitted to speak in the church”); boys who make fun of prophets (just ask the 42 boys who made fun of the receding hairline atop the prophet Elisha’s head); non-virgin brides (“she shall be stoned to death at the door of her father’s house”); those who commit adultery (“they shall be put to death”); the enslaved (“slaves, obey your masters”); and the indigenous inhabitants of the Promised Land when Moses and Joshua brought their people from Egypt to Canaan (“they killed everyone, young and old, women and children”).

Conversely, the Bible also advises kindness and encourages readers to practice peace and harmony while loving one another, even in defiance of exclusionary practices embedded in social status, class, ethnicity, or gender and sexual identities. St. Paul, for example, wrote that “in Christ we are neither male nor female.” The central character of the New Testament, Jesus, always welcomed the outcasts into his circle of friendship – and there are plenty of these sidelined individuals among the circa 2,000 characters named in the Bible.

Jesus himself, for example, was an asexual person. While he allowed a woman to wash his feet, had many female friends, and was cared for by women in death, there’s no reference in the four gospels of any relationships in his thirty-three years. He never courted, was infatuated, kissed, or married a woman. While the portrait of Jesus that emerges from the gospels is one of a revolutionary devoted to radical diversity - see the Parable of the Good Samaritan - radical equity (“whosoever will, come to me”) and radical inclusion (“prostitutes will enter the kingdom of heaven”), many conservative white-American Christians reject these inclusive tendencies and vocally oppose what they derogatorily call “wokeness.” Even so, the Jesus of the gospels, by the standards of his day for sure, was quite “woke.” Liberal, even. He was also an Ace (asexual).

St. Paul, too, emerges as an asexual being in Acts of the Apostles and in his epistolary writings to the communities of Christ around the Greco-Roman world. He encouraged Christians to “remain single, as I am.” He conceded some could not abstain from imbibing the power of their sexual energy and they should, therefore, marry. Still, an unmarried, asexual life was St. Paul’s, and he preached such an ideal for others.

Many St. Paul aficionados today – those who quote “women are not permitted to speak” to bolster their argument against women pastors and repeat “homosexuals will not enter the kingdom of heaven” to justify their anti-LGBTQ+ sermons and legislation – are loathe to admit that their St. Paul was asexual and that his asexuality is not the only example of sexual diversity in the Bible or in this life.

Sexual diversity also exists in the afterlife, according to Jesus. In the world to come, he said, “There is neither male nor female.” Everyone will be “like the angels in heaven.” The angels, Jesus taught, are asexual, nonbinary beings who do not have romantic or sexual partnerships: they “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Heaven, according to Jesus, is a nonbinary paradise. Gone are male and female. Gone are heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. Jesus’ vision for this life is one of welcoming arms that invite all persons to the table, and his vision for the afterlife is something more rainbow-friendly than his conservative followers will admit.

If Jesus, the man around whom the Christian religion was constructed, was asexual, and if St. Paul, the founder of the Christian religion and the original expositor of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, was also asexual (latently homosexual, some say, but it’s impossible to know), the church today must learn a lesson and offer the world an inclusive big-tent Christianity. If, in Christ, as Paul wrote, maleness and femaleness eventually melt away. If, as Jesus taught, the angels are asexual and nonbinary, it’s time for those who believe in angels, heaven, and Jesus to reimagine their approach to those who don’t think, act, live, or dress like they do. Looking at this way, the Christian story can be an encouragement for all of us to love our neighbors without regard to sexuality, gender dictates, or which bathroom people relieve themselves in.

Refocused, the Christian story can be far more than the narrow, rigid, condemnatory version that resounds from too many pulpits and too many ballot boxes.

There is still plenty of room for Jesus in modern life – the Jesus who believed in diversity, equity, and inclusion; the Jesus who was just fine with “sinners”; the Jesus who condemned wealth hoarding, not the poor; the Jesus who was asexual and taught that heaven is nonbinary. Suppose only conservative Christians in the United States would begin preaching this Jesus instead of the divisively retributory one. In that case, they weaponize to defend their own suffocatingly restrictive social and political agendas. If only.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Rodney Wilson holds graduate degrees in history and religion, teaches both at a community college in Missouri, and founded LGBTQ+ History Month USA in 1994. He is the subject of the 2019 doc-short Taboo Teaching.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.
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