Queering the Christian Table Series: Part 1

If you haven’t read the intro post, you might want to start here.

Part 1: Starting places for conversation

I was once invited by a professor, who I know holds tightly to the way of Jesus, to enter conversations with people, not by seeking to bring them to our side but by listening in such a way that we are open to being converted. In this posture, there is a deep confidence in the faithfulness of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to be present and lead us into truth.

What if all of our conversations began with confession—humble attempts to name realities that we have allowed to go unnamed between us? What if we begin by seeking to allow the Spirit of God to convert us in the midst of our dialogue? And what if every time we read the Biblical text, we began by listening for where we are being called to repent by what the Spirit is saying to the church?

Such a path is marked by genuine curiosity and space for authenticity, and it requires that we each listen to one another and also listen to our own bodies’ responses of fear and defensiveness. This kind of conversation requires courage, because it invites us to name and honor our anxiety, and find ways to self-regulate in order to continue to engage with compassion and conviction.

In order to open ourselves up to love well, I suggest that we root ourselves in the hospitable table practices of Jesus. The most radical image of trans-formation that I know of is when we take food and it is digested and metabolized by our bodies into our very own flesh and blood. Through eating food, we declare that our bodies matter—enough to take the matter of this world and transform it into our physical bodies, sustaining our presence in the world.

By eating with strangers, with those who are different than (strange to) us, we share food with those who have different bodies than our own. We share the precious, limited resources of the earth with other people, and in so doing, we affirm not only their right to exist alongside us, but we affirm our desire for their own continued presence in the world.

This is why eating together matters. Long before we get to the place of cognitively acknowledging the importance of other people, we practice the physical affirmation of this truth. We are moved affectively, morally, and spiritually to care for and sustain the body of someone who is hungry long before we would put together cognitively our own deep need for diverse persons in our lives.

As united as we are in our mammal fight-or-flight biomechanics of fear that drive us to fight one another, we are also deeply united in our compassion and impulse to share that which delights our senses and sustains our bodies.

I believe that eating together is not just a helpful step for dialogue, it is a necessary step that biologically affirms the personhood of the people with whom we disagree. It is an act of humility (connecting our humanity and creatureliness with the earth) and confession—that act of naming an unnamed truth that exists between us, telling the truth that we are, both of us, equal parties in need of one another’s continued presence in the world and at our tables.

Before beginning to delve into the conversation of how we read the Biblical text in order to better understand how sexual desire is an essential embodied part of Christian formation, we begin with that other essential need and desire that is necessary for thriving life: food.

And this reveals the crack through which I fall in this medium. The screen on which you read is not a table. I cannot offer you a cup of steaming tea or coffee, an iced glass of lemonade, a plate of brownies, or a bowl of pumpkin soup. But consider this an invitation; the letter in the mail—from me or someone living much closer to you—to eat a meal with someone you’ve met, but you really can’t understand how they talk about life in their body. They may not be a stranger, but the way they experience the world in their own body is strange to you.

It’s a spiritual practice modeled by Jesus that can lead us into deeper, wiser, kinder conversations in which we are all converted by God’s Spirit who is at work in the world.

Read part 2 here.

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2 thoughts on “Queering the Christian Table Series: Part 1

  1. Tonight I am going through and catching up on your “Queering the Christian Table” series. As a person who identifies himself as neither Christian nor gay, I must admit that part of me finds the idea of the biblical justification of or blessing on (depending upon which side of the table you’re speaking from, so to speak) the LGBT community something I have yet to take a position on, at least since I gave up my fundamentalist ways.

    Right now in my life, the reconciliation of the Christian Scriptures and my thoughts and actions does not concern me in the least. Is a “live and let live” attitude enough for nonbeliever like myself? I don’t know, and I’m not sure if I’ll arrive anytime soon at a point where I genuinely care about the issue. In all fairness, however, this seems to be the attitude I take regarding most of the hot topics floating around in the media.

    Things like the Bible or Jesus or a loving God no longer serve as motivation for me to “take a stand.” But I have to recognize that, regardless of my current non-theist leanings, I am still, and most likely will always, seeing the world from a Christian worldview. My mind still regularly draws comparisons and analogies between the life I live in the stories in the Bible.

    One of the stories that came to mind as I read this post, And this should come as no surprise, as I’m sure it was at least partially your intent, was that of the Last Supper. Though I have not been able to do this with the majority of the Bible, not yet anyway, I have latched on to the deep metaphor and symbolism found not so much in the words that Jesus speaks, but more so in the actions he performs. I see him in this story moving into and between all the roles presented: that of the host, that of the guest, and that of the feast.

    I remember as a child hearing stories about the legendary, post-apocalyptic Marriage Supper of the Lamb, a feast of seven years, or seven millennia, depending on who you asked, held specifically for the purposes of celebrating the eternal spiritual union between Christ and his bride, the church. It was always presented by the preachers I knew as the end all meal, where every imaginable dish, and all those you could not imagine, would be served in heaping quantities to as many as would partake. Nothing would ever run out, and everyone could eat their fill over and over and over.

    Although it sounds like a scene from the court of King Henry VIII, I was intrigued as a child to be presented with a God that would, in the age to come, so freely indulge the physical cravings and appetites of those who had spent a lifetime trying not to give in to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” I don’t know if this story is anymore biblically justifiable than being queer, in fact, I’d bet my last dime that it’s a lot more pagan than it is Christian, but there’s no denying it’s a great story. It’s the type of eschatological tail that gives hope, not despair. It’s the type of metaphorical example, much like the Last Supper, that points towards the path of love instead of the path of fear.

    I think that anyone, whether straight, gay, or indifferent, who can not only point me toward the path of love, but can walk beside me and help me learn that path, that person should feel free to call themselves Christian, if they choose to. That person has become the host, the guest, and the feast.

  2. Thank you Jason. I love your play with the text and the feasting narratives that you grew up on. I appreciate your generosity even as you’ve differentiated yourself from the faith that you no longer claim as yours.

    Good to have your words.

    Peace,
    Daniel

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