Tags: genderless God, queer, theology
“I sing the Body electric;
The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;
They will not let me off till I go with them…”
Thanks to the Anarchist Reverend for prompting this reflection for the 2012 Queer Theology Synchroblog
For a cisgendered straight female, writing about Queer theology presents a puzzle. As a creative nonfiction writer and journalist, I believe in the power of narrative. But my faith life and the faith lives of the Queer community have constantly been in intersection to the point that they are now inseparable. Do I begin with the narrative of my progressive Catholic childhood in the Bay Area and the many LGBTQ people who’ve been part of my life since it began? Do I begin with the narrative of my Queer Catholic friends, laypeople and priests and sisters alike, and share some of the spiritual gifts they’ve brought into my life? I could do those things, but as a writer, God is always most alive to me in language, so I want to begin instead with hearing a homily.
________ * is a Catholic church in San Francisco’s ______ neighborhood that reached out to and embraced the growing gay male community in the 80s. To this day, _________’s congregation, loving, accepting, and tolerant in a manner that’s made it a home to thousands of formerly marginalized Catholics for decades, remains predominantly full of the LGBTQ community.
A few years back, in an ____ pew during Lent, I listened as the priest broke open the Gospel of the woman at the well, a story I’d heard and read enough times that I’ve also heard plenty of crappy homilies about it. But that day was different. The priest briefly explicated the text, talked about the way Christ reaches out, over and over again, to the most marginalized people in his society, and then he pushed aside his notes. “You know what’s really going on here?” he said to us. “This is radical inclusion. This is the story of this congregation, in this neighborhood, and this city.”
And it was true. And it’s also true in the church I regularly attend, where an out lesbian woman greets everyone coming through the door, where our intentions regularly include prayers for legalized gay marriage, where the LGBT group has been meeting almost longer than I’ve been alive, and where the priests welcome and embrace every person who walks through the door, regardless of gender or sexual identity.
My faith life was not a thunderous conversion; instead, it’s been a process of evolution. First came the understanding that at the higher levels of the institutional Catholic church, LGBTQ people were judged, scorned, and above all else, misunderstood. In my late teens, my growing and deepening friendships in the LGBTQ community meant that as I understood it, leaving the church would be an act of protest. So, for that and many other reasons, I left. And for fifteen years, a gaping hole ran underneath my daily life. Not only had I turned my back on Catholicism, I’d turned my back on Christ, and on God. But as I matured, two things gradually became clear. One, that Catholicism runs so deeply in my cultural identity, and in my soul, that no matter what happened, I would always be Catholic. And two, that as an ally, and a feminist, and a writer, I could potentially play a role in helping to shape a more inclusive version of Catholicism. Simply by showing up for Mass and finding like-minded individuals, and perhaps eventually writing about them, I might somehow reach out to other like minded individuals and let them know they are not alone. Going back to the Catholic church remains to this day the most irrational, risky, terrifying thing I’ve ever done. But when I did find my fellow Catholic outliers, it was among them that I found my spiritual home.
For the Queer Catholics and allies I know, our images of God and Christ are evolving along with our culture and society. Ilia Delio writes of the evolutionary Christ that “Christ is in evolution because we […] are in evolution.” I find it breathtaking how far we’ve come as a society, within my lifetime, at accepting the gamut of sexual and gender identity as a natural, fluid thing. And I find it heartbreaking how often the institutional church fails to acknowledge that evolution. And yet, the God who created me, and my Queer family, remains the God of radical inclusion: the God who loves and knows us as we are, in secret and in the open. That God is genderless (Julian of Norwich calls God her “father mother”), and his son, who comes among us personifying the Old Testament figure of Wisdom – a female figure – reaches out to each of us not as some sort of heteronormative ideal, but as the person we really are. Christ comes to know us as our authentic self, and here is the real miracle: that Christ does not care about your gender, or your sexuality, or about your race, or about how much money you do or don’t make. Christ brings the love of radical inclusion, a love that shatters boundaries and enables us to come together as who we really are.
And yet, we remain on the margins of the Catholic church, seeking one another out, those of us who believe in this God who transcends gender, sexuality, class, race. God has been hijacked for too long by those who would use God as a divider. Lately, even the Eucharist is being used as a weapon to split us father apart. What can I say other than this: now is the time to cleave to one another, to cleave to the God who knows our inmost selves. Now is the time for solidarity, here on the margins, which are not really margins at all, but rather the place where we find another, and home.
The puzzle of Queer theology, for the straight person, turns out to be a puzzle solved only by love.
the Anarchist Reverend shares his thoughts on the Queer Christ over on the Camp Osiris blog.
Peterson Toscano shares “The Lost Gospel of Thaddeus.”
Shirley-Anne McMillan writes about Mother Christ.
Adam Rao shares why he is not participating in today’s synchroblog.
Brian Gerald Murphy talks about A God Bigger Than Boxes.
Clattering Bones writes about The Queer God.
Daniel Storrs-Kostakis writes writes about An Icon of God.
Jack Springald writes about Avalokitesvara and queering gender.
Amaryah Shaye Armstrong writes about Inclusion and the Rhetoric of Seduction.
Jamie-Sue Ferrell shares Love, Us.
Unchained Faith writes about The Breastfeeding Father.
B Cubbage writes about The Love of the Queer God.
*Sadly, I had to go back and edit out the name of this church, which I love, because a troll decided to attack it. I refuse to answer that. “The greatest of these is love”.