Note: The following is the introduction that I gave to my short play “Forty Days and Forty Nights” that I gave this morning at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration in Philadelphia where I presented the skit with actors Janice Roland Radway and Allen Radway and Barrington Walker as the narrator. To see the piece on YouTube — after the introduction — click here.
Several years ago I took the UU class offered here at Restoration and was inspired to read the Bible for the first time. At the same time I was reviewing several books on transgender issues and was deeply influenced by a neighbor’s child who had transitioned at the age of five. I was also reading a book I had borrowed from Reverend Ellis about the Gnostic Gospels, something I had been long interested in — mainly through the music of my friend Julia Haines, a harpist and composer who has performed at this church.
In one of the books that I read on transgender issues, the author wondered what it would be like for a transgendered person to have the experience of learning about a transgender person as a character in the Bible.
I wondered too. What would happen if a person who is usually condemned by religion, is celebrated instead? As Unitarian Universalists, we have that opportunity as expressed in the first UU principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
As a result of this confluence of ideas — perhaps spurred by my becoming a new Unitarian Universalist — I wrote a novel with a working title of She And He. The ideas in the novel may be ahead of their time — but I’ve always believed that there’s no time like the present. Three excerpts were published and one was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I also presented a different excerpt (titled “The Descent of Ishtar”) at Restoration last year with our own Janice Rowland Radway starring in the role of Tamar — a character from the Hebrew Bible.
In this version, Tamar is reborn as the twin sister of Yeshua, the Hebrew name for Jesus, played by Allen Radway. When I heard that this month’s theme was “Christology” — I thought it was a perfect fit — even — or especially — because it is an alternative view. I wanted to bring it to you because I imagined it might encourage you to take your own journey.
You can also read an excerpt, written as standalone short fiction, in the online literary journal BlazeVOX15
Other excerpt is in the current issue of Sinister Wisdom — the fortieth anniversary issue
In aaduna literary magazine.
Another excerpt (also starring Janice Roland Radway as Tamar) “The Descent of Ishtar” can be seen on YouTube.