October 27, 2015

“Drag Jesus” Church: God is a Diva

A United Church of Christ (UCC) congregation in Massachusetts is generating both wanted and unwanted attention after it promoted an annual “Drag Gospel Festival” with a 12th century icon of Jesus Christ “digitally enhanced” with makeup and earrings.

First Church Somerville UCC in Somerville, MA touts the festival as its third highest-attended Sunday each year, after Christmas and Easter services. The event features a talent show, Gospel worship, drag show and brunch all raising money for a group assisting those that seek political asylum in the U.S. based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This year’s poster for the Festival ruffled some feathers,” acknowledged Lead Pastor Molly Baskette.

Baskette has praised the event as “a grand occasion” but fretted about the safety of this year’s event after a young man interrupted the Sunday worship service and “began to condemn us with ancient words from the Hebrew scriptures.”

“We all froze,” Baskette wrote, citing her fear of the recent shooting deaths at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. “We felt the happy liberal Massachusetts bubble we thought we were in suddenly burst, showering us with fear that this would end tragically.”

The man departed the service without further incident after speaking with the lipstick-wearing male associate pastor.

First Church embraces a “theologically ultra-progressive” identity, participating each June in Boston’s LGBT Pride Parade complete with a marching band and costumes. The congregation describes itself as “about 40% LGBTQ” and “mostly, but we’re working on it, Anglo.”

“Are these church people weirdos, nerds, hypocrites and heretics?” the congregation’s web site asks, answering its own question with “Short answer: yup!”

First Church has hosted Drag Gospel Festival since 2011, when the congregation’s “Drag-Queen-in-Residence” Serenity Jones launched it as “a fun romp and a testimony of our solidarity with the queer community.”

“There are kids running around in feather boas, straight men in skirts, people who never thought they’d be in a church basement hollering Hallelujahs!” the church’s web site proclaims. “It is a guaranteed good time.”

“God is GOOD all the time! That means God is a DIVA… and girl… Jesus is FIERCE!” the congregation states on its web site. “For one weekend in October, First Church Somerville becomes FIERCE Church Somerville for two joyful days of Spirit in worship and praise, using our GOD-GIVEN musical and artistic talent, creativity and FASHION WITHOUT BORDERS, welcoming all God’s children to her FIERCE DIVA queen-dom.”

First Church Somerville is part of the United Church of Christ, an oldline Protestant denomination formed from the 1957 merger of Congregationalist and Reformed churches. The denomination traces its roots back to Puritan colonists and counts 943,521 members as of 2014, a decline of more than half since 1962.


16 Responses to “Drag Jesus” Church: God is a Diva

  1. Straight Shooter says:

    United Church of Christ, eh?

    Such a surprise.

  2. Bob Johnson says:

    Jeff,

    You may want to update those UCC membership numbers. The reported current membership numbers at the end 2014 is 943,521. -35,718 or a loss of 3.65% from 2013. 5062 congregations -54

    http://uccfiles.com/pdf/ConferenceMembershipReport.pdf

    And if I may add, with the addition of Dr. Dorhauer (Professor of White Privilege Studies) as President, I am sure things are going to be on the uptick any time now.

    Denominational suicide!

    A Former Elder

    • Jeff Walton says:

      Thanks, Bob — I will make the update. A 3.65 percent loss in a single year is very significant (although the Episcopalians experienced a 3.7 percent loss, so a denomination can always go even more downhill!)

      • Bob Johnson says:

        The Presbyterians bested them in percentage and The ELCA beat them all in sheer numbers. When will this race to the bottom end?

        2013-2014

        Lutheran elca +/-100,000 = 2.53%

        Presbyterian usa -92,433 = 5.54%

        Episcopalian -49,794 =
        2.7%

        UCC -35,718 =
        3.65%

        • Jeff Walton says:

          Oldline Protestant officials believe that once conservatives depart, their decline will level off. Unfortunately for them, most conservatives departed the UCC long ago, and they are still sinking. But no matter: they will never take ownership for the consequences of their decisions.

  3. Steven Odom says:

    Words fail…

  4. Fyodor D says:

    Before we all start searching the ground for tossable stones, know that this is on the church’s website under the heading Core Values: “We believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God, that his resurrection was a real event, that it mystically ‘put Death to death’…”

    Then there’s that tricky Jesus saying that we should just step back and let ’em work their magic. (Mark 9:39/Luke 9:50)

  5. Mike Ward says:

    So someone disagrees with them and quotes the OT and their reaction is to fear for their lives?!

    • Jeff Walton says:

      When we caricature our opponents as violent and beyond reason, we come to believe that the caricature is true. In the mind of this UCC pastor, every biblical traditionalist or cultural conservative is a potential ticking time bomb.

  6. mikeg says:

    So the disgusting poster “ruffled some feathers”?

    Well, that’s the whole idea, isn’t it? Would the religious left get any press at all without being silly or outrageous? Accepting homosexuals is old stuff, marrying homosexuals got old quickly, so now it’s all about accepting trannies and drag queens.

    The irony is, beyond their own little circle, the world pretty much ignores them. Drag Jesus isn’t the big story in the UCC, it’s that story they keep trying to spin: The Big Shrink.

    • Mike Ward says:

      This looks like a church whose leadership only craves attention. If dressing Jesus up in drag stops getting attention, they’ll do something more outrageous. I no longer believe there is any limit to what some people will do to be seen.

  7. Knowlton says:

    I feel filthy just reading about it.

  8. MarcoPolo says:

    Great outreach!

    Thanks for posting such an inventive, and creative project for sharing the Love of God for ALL people!

    I’m certain that there are some folks who find the image lacking in respect. But I think it relates to the needs of inclusiveness in a world of polarized angst.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. Joe Sherrill says:

    I think these claiming to be who they are not is perfectly described by Jesus in John 8:44, “you are of your father, the devil”

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