David Hayward (aka the Naked Pastor) recently published a new book: The Art of Coming Out: Cartoons for the LGBTQ Community. As an artist who is often featured on Believe Out Loud, we asked him a few questions about his cartoons and advocacy for LGBTQ equality.
1. Why did you write a book for the LGBTQ community?
First of all, thanks for this interview! You’re doing important work, and I’m glad to be a part of it. I’d started cartooning about LGBTQ in 2008. Its motivation is rooted in the earliest church’s acceptance of the Gentiles, those formerly not God’s people. In fact, not even people! So, for me, it has become an increasingly important issue because it symbolizes the church’s acceptance of those who are marginalized or alienated. Who’s in and who’s out?! Recently I realized that I had well over 100 LGBTQ cartoons, and that’s enough to make a small book. So I put it together.
2. Which LGBTQ heroes inspire your art?
I don’t think any certain, nameable, LGBTQ heroes inspired my art. For me, my art has been inspired by the courage anyone takes to expose to others who they are. It’s the risk and bravery required to be vulnerable yet strong enough to reveal your identity. Those who come out about their sexual orientation or gender identity are among those kinds of people. They are the ones who lay everything on the line to have personal integrity. Just the other day Apple CEO Tim Cook came out, and proudly. This, in my opinion, was a great risk that took immense courage because it could have a detrimental effect on different aspects of his life. He and people like him who are themselves nevertheless… they are my heroes. They do inspire me.
3. How long have you been an ally to the LGBTQ community, and do you remember the first time you took a stand for LGBTQ equality?
When I was pastoring a local church, this was one of the dynamics I had to deal with. I have gay and lesbian friends who wanted to come to our church. I said yes. This was around 2008. But there were just so many awkward moments for many members of the congregation. Most of the members took the stance to love the sinner hate the sin. But when you live with someone, share community with them, eat and drink with them, and you are hating something essential about them, then it divides the community. I began cartooning about LGBTQ themes and it became more apparent to others where I stood. For me, it was just telling stories about my friends’ experience of discrimination, struggle, and moments of affirmation. I believe this is one of the reasons why I and my church agreed that we were no longer compatible.
4. Your cartoons often challenge viewers—what’s been your most controversial cartoon about the LGBTQ community?
I think the one that got the most kickback and feedback was the one where Jesus is walking hand-in-hand with a man. The man says, “Sorry Jesus, but I think I’m gay.” Jesus says, “Dude, relax! I knew that long before you did!” It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. So for people to actually see a picture of Jesus affirming a gay man, loving him and holding his hand, and even fore-knowing it (does that mean he predestined it?) was an offense. I drew a heresy. I polluted Christ. For others, they looked at the image and said to themselves, “Wow! Jesus really DOES love me!” All because of a picture.
5. In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge ahead for LGBTQ Christians and allies?
I think the biggest challenge is sex. I mean the sex act. For some, it is the so-called “ick” factor. For many though it is the bible. Some claim it calls this an abomination. So for some Christians, getting past their own sensitivities as well as their own hermeneutical approach to the bible I suspect is going to be the biggest challenge. In my experience, whenever I post something affirming to the LGBTQ community, it always comes back to the bible. We are in an era of paradigmatic change in terms of what hermeneutic we use to understand what the bible is and says. It’s a difficult transition that some of us will find more difficult than others.
Interview by Alison Amyx