Miami-based writer Miguel Santana asks in The Marién Revelation, “What if Jesus had been gay?”
Nineteenth-century German philosophers theorized Jesus might have been a schizophrenic. Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code suggests Christ had a wife and child. In Santana’s book the “one that Jesus loved,” Judas, is cast as Christ’s lover. Even the bible has a strange verse or two about Christ spending time with a naked young man.
Santana—born in Juarez, Mexico and raised in El Paso, TX—sat down to speak with me about this, his second book. It follows the story of Marién as she turns 40 and deals with a complex pregnancy.
Marién is in an abusive, masochistic relationship that seems unlikely for a prim, theological student who left the Mormon colony in Mexico where she was raised for a life of research in Spain. That the man who urinates in her mouth, and strangles her during sex is a Roman Catholic priest is in itself a paradox and form of masochism.
She is a character for whom Santana has much affinity. “As a gay writer it is easy to relate to a female subject,” he said. Santana says there is a lot of him in Marien and vice-versa. He recalled being attracted to the local deacons of the Mormon Church as a young Roman Catholic boy.
While the book is very much set in the present day—highlighting church scandals, closeted politicians, and abortion—it also flashes back to Judea during the reign of Herod, where we meet Mary, the mother of Christ.
Santana is able to capture the taste of figs, the bustle of ancient Alexandria, and desert journeys not only through his lyrical writing but through ancient texts. We are treated to passages from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and other sources that flavor the pages like the perfumes and spices of ancient bazaars.
Santana was influenced not only by theories about Jesus and Judas but by theories about Isis and her son Horus. Indeed, many art historians cite images of Mary enthroned with the Christ child on her lap as being borrowed from the Egyptian goddess.
We see in Marién an abused woman, yet one that puts herself into these positions, implying the masochism is something she wants. “I think she is strong,” says Santana, because you could read her character as being weak, manipulated by her seminarian then priest in Spain. “Whatever she allowed herself to do sexually it brought her great pleasure.”
Santana started out as a marketing student. Writing came about purely by accident when he took a bilingual writing class in college at El Paso. The first short story he wrote as an assignment he handed in to his professor not realizing he was the editor of the University of Juarez literary journal. The assignment was published and Santana switched from marketing to literature, in which he would ultimately receive his PhD.
He wrote “The Marién Revelation” simultaneously in both Spanish and in English. While this may seem an arduous task Santana finds it to be a stimulating process.
“The story is the same, but the images are different,” he added.
The book—when still in manuscript form —already garnered the attention of literary critics and alternate theorists of the Jesus story. Kevin Cassell in his blog Transgender Jesus does not mean by this title that Jesus was a crossdresser, or transvestite. He means to say that Jesus frequently disengaged from normal, masculine roles during his lifetime.
Sir Elton John also recently told Parade that he thinks “Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.”
The debate continues and the book, so Santana hopes, will challenge the Christological norms we have all been raised with or are at least familiar.
The book will launch April 1st at The [email protected] in Saint Petersburg. On April 11 there will be a presentation and discussion of the book at Books & Books in Coral Gables. The book hits stores on April 2. For more information please visit Miguelsantana.com.