I can’t remember how I discovered the Millennial Gospel on Tumblr, but now that I have, I don’t know what my life would be like without it. As someone who studied theology and is a feminist active in social justice, it is sometimes difficult for me to find people who feel the way I do when it comes to God. It’s difficult for me to find people who believe Christ would be marching on the streets in Ferguson, telling someone off for slut-shaming, or chastising churches for their hostile attitudes toward the queer community. So imagine my surprise when I found the blogs of two lovely ladies who were embarking on a project to show what the radical nature of God’s love would, or should, look like today. This is exactly what the Millennial Gospel is.
The Millennial Gospel was created by Sarah and Alice after the two began discussing what it would be like if Christ and the other Biblical figures surrounding him existed today as twenty-something millennials. Alice is twenty-three and describes herself as culturally Catholic and spiritually ambiguous. Sarah is a nineteen-year-old Neo-Pentecostal and a writer, and is the one who is penning the Millennial Gospel, hoping to turn the idea into a novel. On their site the two women explain:
Millennial Gospel is a joyous, electric, true-to-source rebellion against the church-dictated images of the Bible that saturate the 21st century. The project follows in the Abrahamic tradition of questioning, evolving, and shaking up the status quo in order to update scripture for a secular audience, offering it up as a volatile mix of narrative, social commentary, spirituality, and punk rock. The aim here is to preserve the original stories and the personalities who inhabit them while asking the big questions, like “What if Jesus was a punk social activist and John the Baptist was an Appalachian revival preacher?” Here, Mary Magdalene is a badass hijabi and the angel Gabriel works deep cover as a pierced and tattooed waiter. Judas Iscariot gets arrested for disorderly anarchy, Saint Peter is an overzealous Marxist, and John pens Revelation while trying to work through his fifth year of a bachelors in literature. The Living Word moves and breathes, and our photosets and fanmixes are complimented with articles about people living out the Millennial Gospel tenants of radical love, generosity, selflessness, and impassivity in the real world.
While Sarah is the writer for the novel, both women work together to come up with ideas of how to translate the story of Christ into modern times. They also create photosets, fanmixes, and other things in attempt to describe and tell the story of what the Millennial Gospel is.
One of the things I like best about the Millennial Gospel is how clear it is that the authors care about inclusion and representation. Mary Magdalene is a Muslim and a feminist. We have discussed before on this site how rare it is to have characters who are both religious and feminists, so having a Biblical figure be devout in her faith and a feminist makes a huge statement. Simon the Zealot is portrayed as being Jewish. He is the son of a rabbi and a Talmudic scholar himself. Both Sarah and Alice have also made it clear that it’s not their intent to show these characters shifting from their original faiths to converts of Christianity throughout the course of the story. Rather they are attempting to show these characters simply as faithful followers of their religious traditions, not as converts from a “wrong” faith. Furthermore, the Apostles and all the religious figures surrounding Jesus are portrayed as being ethnically diverse. Christ himself is not white which alone is enough for me to sing the praises of the Millennial Gospel, especially after all the whitewashing in other Biblical movies. Both creators have also stated that there will be LGBTQ+ characters in the novel, but to my knowledge they have not said which characters yet.
On their website, the creators post snippets of the novel that are theologically sound, entertaining, and beautifully written. Here is one excerpt:
Jesus pecked Judas on the cheek. “Chill, man. If God is for us, no one can be against us.”
“Amen,” Gabriel said, slapping Jesus on the back and handing him a Mountain Dew. “I always told your mom you’d turn out halfway decent. How is she by the way? Still smokin hot?”
“You’re a bad angel,” Jesus laughed, greeting his friends with high fives and kisses and reassuring squeezing of shoulders. Peter drifted to the head of the table, standing by his usual seat at the right of the head.
“Watch your modesty, sister,” He said, reaching out to tug the hem of Mary’s matte black hijab over a stray wisp of dark hair. She smacked his hand away.
“I can never tell if you do that out of brotherly affection or institutionalized patriarchal ideals of chivalry upheld in order to demonize my sexuality and police my religion.”
“And I can never tell if you say that out of educated feminism or the burning desire to undermine me at every turn.”
“Behave, both of you,” Jesus said mildly. He graciously helped Mary up from her chair and kissed her hand before taking his seat at the head of the table.
“God, get a room,” Peter muttered, a little injured that he and Mary’s verbal sparring had been cut short.
“Just as soon as you get a life,” Jesus responded. His sarcasm was as scathing and effortless as usual.
Mary settled into her seat on Jesus’s left, and he squeezed both their hand with calloused carpenters fingers, a gesture that seemed to infiltrate their very souls with peace and strength.
“Alright,” The Son of Man said, smiling at the glorious spread of humanity arranged around his table. “Who’s ready to disrupt the social order?”
If this small part alone is enough to get you hooked, then definitely check out their website for other excerpts and headcanons about the characters. Not only can you find stuff about the Millennial Gospel on their site, you will also find inspiring religious artwork, profound discussions of religion, and even news about the good things various religious people and leaders are doing to make their religion more inclusive. If you are religious, this site will give you hope that your faith can be progressive, radical, and good. If you are not religious you might just enjoy knowing not all faithful people aren’t necessarily all like the politicians you see on TV. While all Abrahamic faiths are represented on the site, it is more heavily Christian. Other religions are still occasionally represented on the site, but if you are not part of a Abrahamic religion you won’t find as much representation, so you may not enjoy it as much. Overall though, I would highly recommend that everyone looking for a place to experience religion in a new way check out the Millennial Gospel. And keep a lookout for when the creators manage to get this story published. It seems like it’s going to be worth a read.