Spiritual Hero: Oscar Wilde, (1854—1900)

Oscar Wilde is a 19th-century Anglo-Irish writer whose reputation as a gay martyr and LGBTQ role model often overshadows his spiritual journey as a follower of Christ and Anglican convert to Catholicism.

Although he is better known as a forerunner of modern LGBTQ activism, the flamboyant and witty Wilde was also a spiritual seeker.  He loved church rituals and took Christ seriously, especially during and after prison. He identified with Jesus as a persecuted rebel artist with an individual vision, writing, “Christ’s place indeed is with the poets.” Wilde is best known for his ever-popular works “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Importance of Being Earnest” — and his notorious imprisonment for homosexuality.

His lifelong flirtation with Catholicism ended with a flourish in a deathbed conversion. Wilde’s imprisonment for “gross indecency” stemmed from his relationship with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, the poet who famously wrote about their same-sex desire as “the love that dare not speak its name.”

But while in prison, Wilde wrote that Christ “took the entire world of the inarticulate, the voiceless world of pain, as his kingdom, and made of himself its external mouthpiece.” During his prison stay, Wilde wrote a book-length letter to Douglas revealing an understanding of Christ that is as radical, unorthodox, creative and profound as the writings of today’s queer theologians.

Excerpted with permission from an article by Rev. Kittredge Cherry, Qspirit.net. She is an author and retired MCC clergy who served as National Ecumenical Officer for MCC. (Image credit: Oscar Wilde, 1882. Photo by Napoleon Sarony.)