It should be clear that since the Easter season began, I have not been following my own blogging schedule.
I will return to the schedule at some point in the undisclosed future, however, I think it’s becoming clear that I need a place to do some writing that I will describe as “Theology for the Public Good” or “
Theoblogy.” [ Turns out that’s a thing, so until I come up with something else clever, I’ll just call it “Queering the Christian Table”]
In my own vocational discernment process I am wondering about my future in writing, theology, and the church. And, like all good eschatological future horizons, this one seems to be breaking in on my present.
I need–my family (of origin, of choice, and LGBTIQ) needs–my church and society needs–ways of talking about how to follow God and be formed as people who identify as followers of Jesus in our present world. This task is no different than the theological task in any other culture or age, yet we must do it here and now.
As a gay, cis-gendered, white, able-bodied, educated, English-speaking, USAmerican citizen, Christian, man, I hold in my body and in my relationships the tensions of colonialism, gender oppression, racism, capitalism, Christendom, internalized homophobia, ableism, unequal and privileged access to wealth, education, public representation, and healthcare.
There are many other things that I am aware of that seem critically important for how we engage theologically today–questions of appropriate use of technology, stewardship of nature, conceptualization of the common good/future as more important than the Roth IRA vision of individual good we are sold in order to perpetuate an exploitative market system that damages people and ecological resources that are the very foundation of our material future.
Yet in all this, the place I am pierced daily–and the place the church seems intent on focusing it’s energy of tearing itself apart–is on the question of how we understand goodness in expressions of human sexuality.
Now, it’s not usually framed in those words. Usually it’s described as a “debate about homosexuality”, or “homosexuality and the Bible.” But that’s just a trite mis-categorization that looks good in 36 point font.
The unfortunate part about this misnomer is the “ality” suffix. It’s a modification that lifts the issues of desire and human sexual-spiritual formation out of the context of human bodies and human lives and turns it into an ideological battle to be debated. The real issue that needs to be addressed is how the sexual desires and relational expressions of Queer people reveal the importance of sexuality in our understanding of human personhood for all persons.
Queer sex makes a lot of straight Christians uncomfortable. This may be one of the greatest gifts that has ever been given to the church–an awakening to the importance of human sexuality in our formation as persons and serious consideration of how the formation of sexual desire is a crucial part of Christian formation. It is a gift that invites us to step away from the reiterations of the ancient gnostic heresies that tempt us both theologically and technologically in the 21st century.
My experience of sexual desire for persons of the same gender–and more, my bearing witness to this in the context of the church–creates tension because it invites others to consider their own desires, their own glory, pleasure, shame, needs, fears, and delight. It invites us to celebrate being human–that is, being precisely the creatures that we believe God has created us to be.
But the reality is that such self-exploration, especially in the context of a relational Christian community is a terrifyingly vulnerable place. For this reason, to talk about the bogeyman of “homosexuality” is a convenient way of distancing oneself from the difficult, precious, and holy task of asking every person in the Christian community to step into a lifelong process of cultivating their own sexual desire in a way that increases their love of God and neighbor. This task busts apart the comfortable normativity of heterosexual desire by taking apart the myth that there is “normal” (the unquestioned particular sexuality of a given individual) and “abnormal” (anything that looks different than my own experience and desires).
For people who experience heterosexual desire, society is structured in a way that allows them to largely avoid questioning how their personal sexual desire and its expression plays a part in Christian spiritual formation. Queer Christians do not have that privilege. Perhaps it is less that our desires are Queer, and instead, the Queer thing is that we are considering how our sexuality plays into spiritual formation at all.
Examining sexual desire in this way is a task of humility in which particular embodied experience is brought into relationship with the faith community, and all persons are expected to engage their sexual desire in a way that honors the humanity of all people, shaping us into people whose actions and relationships reflect the growing presence of God in our lives.
Ironically, the “issue of gay marriage” might be the best thing to ever happen to “straight” marriages, if it causes people to consider, for even a moment, the way in which they are bringing their bodily desires into relationship in a way that might bring both persons more fully into their own humanity and in so doing bring them into participation in the kin-dom of God. I do not mean to say that, as a whole, straight Christians do not critically engage their sexual desire as a category of Spiritual formation–only that I believe Queer people are able to push this conversation further by the wrestling we have been forced to do in the face of heteronormativity in the church and society. I am deeply grateful for the incredibly thoughtful straight Christians in my life who have helped me step more purposefully into this conversation of desire and I believe that together, we can lead each other into even deeper places of flourishing and following Jesus into resurrected/baptized life.
To Read Part 1 of the series, click here.