Your Faith Was Always Queer
It was early Sunday morning and it was raining, which seemed appropriate. As a Jungian Archetype, a universal symbol, rain carries triametric meaning: life; death; and the combination of the first two, rebirth. I was sitting in the church parking lot as the rain washed over the car, debating whether or not I should go in.
Church, the story of Christianity, offers the same three symbolic meanings: life, death, rebirth. Unlike rain, however, church is not a universal symbol. Here I am not refering to how some believe in Christianity and some don’t; rather, I am refering to the policing of faith by the church. The church authorities consider themselves the final say on who does and does not get to participate in the symbolic power of life, death, and rebirth.
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16: 18, 19).
That policing has impacted minoritised groups throughout history. What started as a community of outsiders embracing widows and orphans, adhering to the law of hospitality, and boldly proclaiming “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) became judgemental and fearful tribe that murdered and force-converted, that upheld slavery, that encouraged segregation, and became inhospitable to anyone perceived as different and, therefore, defective.
I am one of the minoritised, one of the stigmatised, that is being policed out of the church. I am a queer, trans woman and the United Methodist Church holds that I am “incompatible” with Christian faith. Like the rain which is simultaneously life and death, I am both condemed and redeemed. Like the paradox of rebirth, I am both queer and Christian. That scares straight, cisgender Christians because it means they are confronted by the idea that their faith is queer.
A saviour who came not with a sword and rebellion against the Romans, as expected, but with fish and bread and words of loving your enemy. That sounds rather queer to me, as I am sure it did to those who first heard it.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). That is a queer, paradoxical statement.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, spoke a blessing and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is My body.’ . . . This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26: 26, 28). For a culture steeped in purity laws that included strictures against being near dead bodies and ingesting blood, this is extremely queer.
Am I, and other queer folks, a reminder of the queerness inherent in the Bible, in the Gospel, and in Christianity that modern Christians are afraid to confront? Has Christianity become so mainstreamed and comfortable that anything that makes you itch in that unsettling way, that makes you question where you sit, becomes anathema?
So, I sat outside the church and wonder if I should go in. If I can go in. If I have a responsibility to go in. When I enter the United Methodist Church, or most any church, I am asked to amputate my queerness and leave it outside. Sit quietly, don’t speak of anything controversial, and do your best to be a good girl. Blend in, look normal, and for our sake do not rock the boat.
But by my presence, I rock the boat. The very act of my entering and my visibility becomes a storm that rocks the boat. A storm like that which Elihu describes in Job, a storm that washes away weak and broken notions of God. My presence is the storm that threatens the boat in Jonah, until the disobient servent is cast into the sea and swallowed until he repents of his own disobedience, the disobedience of denying God’s word and forgiveness to those he determines unworthy of it.
The rain stopped and, like every Sunday, I had to decide if I would go into the church. Into a church that is at once mine and not mine. The rain had stopped and I had to decide if I would be the storm.