Why I Won’t Turn My Profile Red (It’s not why you think)

As the Supreme Court is set to hear another marriage equality case that could change things for the millions of LGBT Americans living in states without same-gender legal marriage, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is summoning supporters to flood social media with profile pictures filtered with a red equal sign. This gesture is meant to show solidarity and support for the moving tide towards equal access and protection under the law–in popular parlance, it’s a way of showing you’re standing “on the right side of history.”

But our-stories are deeply complex. Truth, justice, and equality aren’t realities that get told objectively in the fiction genre we call history. I, along with many others, am deeply indebted to HRC for many of the LGBTIQ legal victories of the last few years. And, HRC doesn’t have the best reputation with all LGBTIQ people. Like many organizations and movements, there’s a tendency to domesticate and whitewash LGBTIQ lives in order to make them palatable enough to the USAmericans with political privilege and control, so that some victories can be won.

The problem with this strategy is that it inevitably ends up saying that LGBTIQ lives and marriages are good, okay, and acceptable, because they are just like “your” heteronormative lives and marriages (this of course turns the conversation into an appeal to the power of straight people, because it is now framed as being addressed to a “you” that is other and in power). But the reality is that all heterosexual marriages are different. And so are marriages between people of the same gender. All our lives are different, and that’s a good thing. “We” don’t deserve the same legal protections under the law because we are just like “you.” If “we” were just like “you,” we would already have the same legal protections under the law.

We (all persons) deserve the same rights and protections under the law, because we are all persons. Amazingly, this is the very argument many political conservatives want to make about the unborn, but not about the incarcerated or immigrants.

So, since we are all persons, I’m simply making my profile picture one of me and my boyfriend, enjoying our lives as people. Because I think that’s the real message that “we” hope “you” will all get.

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I realize, that living in a state that was one of the first (to ban and then later) to legalize same gender marriage, I have a whole lot of privilege that my dear friends and loved ones in other states do not have. I stand is solidarity with them as many of them turn their profiles red, in hopes that their lives will be shown the dignity, respect, and legal rights and privileges they deserve in a nation that is purported to treat persons equally under the law.

And, I stand in solidarity with all persons as a human being–with people who’s bodies and lives have been called illegal under the law, with people who’s skin color, or language, or economic status, or way of being queer doesn’t seem palatable enough to be made the poster children for equality. Homogenization of people to all be like those who hold power is never equality. Equality is when we are all queerly beautiful and can be treated with equity, dignity, and respect by those who are just as queerly beautiful in other ways.

I want equality under the law in USAmerica for all persons, and I want common human protections for all persons regardless of the lines of nation-states. Just as I want economic stability and provision–not just for me and mine, but for all persons–the human ones, not the global corporations built to provide for a few stock holders, while exploiting all the workers in their supply chains.

I’m not turning my profile red, because I believe that every human deserves to be seen and loved for who they are–no filters, no vying for places of power in order to write ourselves onto the “right side of history.” We don’t get there by declaring it so. We get there by living faithfully as persons who respect and love all persons.

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QCT 19: Be Careful Little Gay What You Say

This is the 19th post in my series “Queering the Christian Table.” You can start reading from the beginning by clicking here.

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I am careful with my words.

It’s an irony to me that my post that has received the most attention on this site is the one that received the least editing.

When I sat down to write the post entitled “Why my humanity isn’t beholden to SCOTUS,” I didn’t spend 4-6 hours writing it, like I have most of the other posts in this series. Ultimately, my anxiety around last year’s supreme court cases was so high, that I realized, if I was to get any sleep the night before the big announcements, I had to put some thoughts down on the page.

So, I did something that I do not regularly practice—I clicked publish on a piece that I hadn’t carefully scrutinized to make sure it said exactly what I meant to say. Without thinking through the counter-arguments or attempting to understand the intricacies of my potential audience, I participated in that rare, human act of saying a bit of what I was both feeling and thinking in the moment.

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Okay. So, what’s the big deal? I wrote a post without a lot of editing and people responded favorably. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe years of writing, revising, editing, copy-editing, and learning grammar paid off with a relatively decent bit of writing on a hot topic.

Swell. Now get back to editing, kiddo—those posts don’t write themselves, you know!

But wait a second.

Wait one, hot minute.

Wait seven months and let this REALLY sink in.

It may be that there is something more to this story than meets the eye.

Why am I so, damned, careful with words?

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Growing up gay, as the son of Pentecostal Christian ministers in the deep south, I learned early on that not just words, but looks, mannerisms, timing, and presentation all matter. What I communicated through my speech and through my body could keep me in favor or could (at best) mean a fall from grace or (at worst) leave me at risk of expulsion, physical harm, being sent off to a program to “fix” me, or worse.

I learned to be a professional reader of those around me in my religious and cultural communities. I understood what was necessary for my survival and I carefully navigated the space between what I perceived as their expectations and the reality of my desires in a dangerous social climate.

I vividly recall being called to the front of the church to be prayed for, people placing their hands on my body and head and praying loudly. I remember prayers for God’s presence to be in my life. I also remember prayers “casting out demons” and prayers for God to rid me of sin. I remember being asked, again and again, if there was anything in particular that I wanted to be prayed for in my life.

I developed a code of sorts—the safe words—the kinds of things respectable and holy people ask for: “more of God,” “to be closer to Jesus,” and “to deal with unforgiveness.”

That last one, in particular, was my golden ticket—technically, I was repenting of a sin, but it was the kind of sin that proved just how humble and good I really was.

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In reality, all of these phrases were code for: “God take away my sexual desire for guys and please don’t let anyone find out about it.”

In a tradition know for it’s “words of knowledge” when some older church member or traveling evangelist would interrupt a church service to proclaim (usually while using a microphone) that God was telling them about someone’s sin (and that someone needed to come forward and repent), I lived in terror of being found out.

It turns out that either God was not speaking to those people, or God did not care to call me out for being gay, because it never happened.

However, the possibility of such a public exposure became a seed of shame that would grow across the hillsides of my soul like the invasive thickets of kudzu that sprawl across the clear-cut hillsides lining southern highways.

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And so, I grew careful. I came to present myself as what I thought the people around me wanted and needed me to be. And, through the pervasive singularity of one privileged reading of the Bible, who I thought God wanted me to be.

Even writing this series, I wrestle this gorilla of shame that plays its narrative out in my head. Can I say the words that bring me life? Can I simply express how it is that I wrestle with my faith? Is it okay to not seem reasonable, approachable, friendly, and safe for people to ask their questions (even the ones that are painfully offensive or judgemental)?

I worry about these things. I am careful. I measure out my words.

As a blogger, I shred perfectly reasonable paragraphs into readable snippets. I over-explain vocabulary. I modify, modify, modify—to make sure that I am leaving space for dialogue, and multiple perspectives, and generous interpretations. I try to stay open to dialogue and conversation. I’m willing to publish any comment that doesn’t come across as overtly belligerent.

This is not all good or bad.

I am realizing that many of these skills developed as I used my natural gifts and personality to forge a way to survive a childhood where I did not feel safe to be me in my own home, churches, faith, and society. And while I don’t need these skills for the same level of survival, they still serve me well as I navigate a church and culture that does not always feel safe.

Sometimes it is wise to be careful.

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So, I’ve grown careful with words—taking care to not offend what I perceive as the limits of acceptability from those around me—from institutions and churches; from family and friends. But in so doing, I have allowed bits of myself—my voice, my particularity, my story—to be stuffed aside; I have swallowed so many words—so many of MY words—often out of hope that by making other Christians comfortable, I would remain safe, and they would stay in the conversation longer, instead of either walking away or asserting their privilege and kicking me out the door.

But that is no gospel. At best it is collusion. It is sabotaging my vulnerability.

There is something valuable in vulnerability—in speaking my own words as they give expression to the strength of my feelings—that is so desperately needed in this conversation about sexuality and the church.

It’s the particularity of my life—the reality of my faith and my sexual orientation and the ways in which I experience the presence of God leading me in the way of Jesus—that, I believe, needs to be told.

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And I think that vulnerability is some of what came into play with the post about the SCOTUS cases that was responsible for leading a large wave of you to first read this blog.

I desire to be human-sized. I want to be able to be seen and loved for who I am, not for my ability to live up to real or perceived expectations about how well I stack up to someone else’s interpretation of the Bible, cultural gender norms, or personal hang-ups.

But in order to contradict the shame that drives this tendency to be over-careful, I must risk.

I must risk that, yes, there are still many in the church, society, and my family, that do not want to hear what I have to say; that do not want to believe that my experience of God’s grace in my life is real; that do not want to face what is would look like for them to accept such radical goodness for themselves.

And, to be sure, there is also the real risk of danger.

There are places in my own city, state, and country where it would be unwise and unsafe for me to speak openly and honestly about being gay and what I believe about God and the Bible. There are countries in the world—places like Russia, where the world is tuning in to see the winter Olympics—where simply speaking openly about being gay can lead to imprisonment, suffering violence, and death. As driving-while-brown in most of the U.S.A. means higher risk of being stopped by police, using a public restroom-while-transgender still runs the risk of extreme violence and murder in the “Land of the Free.”

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As a white, cis-gender, gay man, I face very low risk of these dangers living in a city like Seattle. But I do run the risk of losing the privilege of my ability to speak to power in Christian institutions and the church.

And here, I cringe. It has come to this.

The carefulness, that as a child allowed me to survive real danger, now only keeps me isolated by helping me maintain privileges doled out by a system that I don’t want to support.

I am making a choice.

I am not walking away from the church.

But I am not going to diminish the story of the gospel that is playing out in my life by only using words that make privileged, religious folks feel comfortable. That’s simply not the purpose of my life.

I am not trying to burn any bridges. It’s just that what I see Jesus doing in the various gospels looks like love and truth telling. And as a human who is practicing how to follow Jesus’ way of loving God and neighbor, the best thing that I know how to do is to say what it is that I have seen and heard.

In the gospels Jesus is constantly tripping up those who maintain privilege through tight control of following restrictive interpretation of scriptures. Jesus seems to have a thing for abandoning loyalty to power through privilege by loving those who aren’t able to achieve privilege—women, the poor, the disabled, foreigners, those considered sexually immoral.

And incidentally, it’s those folks that Jesus often points to as the people who teach us what it means to love. Through his actions, Jesus seems to identify right worship of God with love, by spending time with people who were not allowed into the central temple courts to worship. In doing this, he stands in alignment with the Old Testament prophets who essentially declare that God doesn’t give a shit about maintaining religious standards of holiness if you are treating the poor and resident aliens like shit.

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When it comes to talking about the place of LGBTIQ people in Christian institutions and the church, I have perceived (and explicitly received) the message to “slow down” and allow a careful conversation to unfold. I’ve heard that the church needs more time to discern what to say about all this–as if we had no kerygmatic model to follow in applying the ethics of Jesus to contemporary situations. But the truth is that I and all the other people who make up the church (LGBTIQ and otherwise) are alive right now, in this span of time, and we are responsible for how we bear witness to the gospel right now (communion of saints not withstanding).

If the gospel has any merit whatsoever, then–as, basically, the entire history of the global church proves–no matter how badly the church royally screws things up, God is still capable of continuing to be present in the world.

And thank God for that.

So, no, I don’t think passing protections for LGBTIQ people who are objects of violence at higher rates, or allowing same-sex marriages, or ordaining LGBTIQ ministers is going to be the downfall of society or even the church. In fact, I think that those things would contribute to the unity of the church (a pretty important theme in the Bible, at least for Jesus and Paul), provide protection for a group of people who experience violence (important to the OT prophets), and bear witness to the rest of the world that–hey!–God really does love everybody.

And guess what? Even if we completely mess this one up, we’ll have found a way of destroying the church by loving people instead of by slaughtering them by the millions or destroying entire cultures, or enslaving people, or justifying our destruction of the earth–You know, when it comes to ways of destroying the church, I think we’d be raising the bar quite a bit.

And yeah, even if we’re wrong, I think God can help our great-grandkids sort it out.

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It turns out that I have one life that has been given to me. So, I am not going to buy the false promise of some semblance of privilege in the church by playing the game of keeping people comfortable. As a man with a lot of privilege, by opting out of this trap, I allow myself space to engage where my actual privileges are oppressing others in ways distinctly different but not disconnected from my own experience of oppression.

I am going to continue to do my best to enjoy the life I have been given and to glorify God with my life by following the way of Jesus and learning to grow in love and bear wit(h)ness to the truth of God’s goodness playing out in the world.

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Will I continue to edit my posts? Yes. I am still a writer. But I get to choose how to use my skill to shape words to tell my own human story, rather than the one I have been led to believe will get me a piece of the false-acceptance pie.

My goal is to allow my carefulness to be full of care for myself and for you my readers, by singing the one song I was born to sing.

That song is bold. It’s also a bit snarky.

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This doesn’t mean that I don’t want a conversation.

I want a conversation that is real–where you get to be real and where I get to be real; where we all get to be respectful and extend the lavish hospitality of the God we claim to follow.

This is the kind of conversation that is gritty and tough, not with laying down the law, but with laying down our arms and being vulnerable with each other. It’s the kind of space where we can be honest about the harm that has been done in the name of God and we can be curious about what we all have to learn about loving in a way that might, in some slight way, reflect the life and teachings of Jesus.

It means facing the eviscerating goodness of what God’s acceptance for us might look like if God is good enough to accept those that we deem in the wrong.

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It seems to me that when it comes to extending love and full communion, Jesus was lavish, rather than careful. Thus, why I’ve invoked the song the title of this post alludes to. It’s a little ditty-of-terror taught to Christian children that goes like this:

“Be careful little mouth what you say, be careful little mouth what you say, for the Father up above is looking down with love, so be careful little mouth what you say.”

It goes on like that, switching out “mouth what you say” for “ears what you hear,” “eyes what you see,” and “hands what you do.”

Now, not even addressing the horrible conflation of personal action and being acted upon in the shaming of small children, this tune gets at the core of the problem plaguing this conversation.

We have a hard time understanding a God who loves us, has boundaries, and doesn’t need to shame us for being the very things that God ostensibly created: human beings–wildly different, flawed, perfectly precious, human creatures. Quite frankly, a God who burns people in hell for believing that God is more loving than God actually is, is no God worth giving a shit about.

Such a system actually worships hell, because it sets up hell as more powerful than God’s capacity to love and forgive whatever might need to be forgiven.

It seems to me that the conversation needs to turn from whether or not it’s okay for LGBTIQ people to be at the table, to how can we stop beating each other up and love each other and love the rest of the world in the way that Jesus taught.

That the Christian church in USAmerica and in many places in the world is a less safe place for any group of people than the general society, is a testament that the church is already off its rails. Instead of panicking about how to grow the church or protect the church, I hope that we can learn to love in a way worthy of even being called a church that belongs to Jesus.

Such a church sounds pretty reckless; far from careful; yet far less of a danger to itself and others. It’s a church that identifies with Jesus–a church that stops chasing privilege by doing religion “right.”

That’s the kind of church I want to be a part of.

Queering the Christian Table Part 10: Seeing Thestrals–or Why I’m not Fighting for my Rights

To start reading from the beginning of the series, click here.

I‘ve been thinking about DOMA & Prop 8. I’ve been thinking about the Voting Rights Act and the sovereignty of First Nations. I’ve been thinking about Paula Deen, the 10 year anniversary of Lawrence vs. Texas, and the 40 year anniversary of the Upstairs Lounge Fire. I’ve been thinking about kids who grow up on Glee instead of the scene in Braveheart where the father nonchalantly throws his gay son out the window to his death. I’ve been thinking about segregated proms in 2013. 

Of course, when I say I’ve been thinking about these things, what I mean is that I have been feeling them. That tends to be the way I know things. It’s when I sit down to write that the knowledge I’ve tucked into various appendages of my body comes howling out onto the page and I begin to be able to think about what I have perceived.

Grief starts as a stab in my sacrum, then slowly spreads up my back, until tears form and I put together the pieces of how I felt uncomfortable at the Trans*Pride march and how that’s connected to my own fears of being rejected by my father, society, and the church for not fulfilling their expectations in my performance of masculine gender norms.

Oh, so that’s why I felt like shit! Thanks, body. I’m sorry I bought the lie of white, male culture that told me not to listen to you.

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Life is such a mixed bag.

Less than a year ago, I flew to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. I was pretty miserable. It was only a few months after my own divorce and subsequent coming out to my parents. This particular friend who was getting married is a person I trust to not look away from suffering. I was there out of my commitment to celebrate the goodness in others’ lives even when it brought up so much of my own aching.

During the ceremony I held another friend’s infant, who wanted nothing more than to jump incessantly on my lap the entire time. It was a much welcomed distraction. This little, bouncing person was oblivious to the couple’s joy or my dissociation. At the reception, I found myself drinking booze and avoiding the boisterous acquaintance from my table who kept urging me to go dance. I wondered silently to myself, “and just who am I supposed to go and dance with?”

I had to have been a fairly pitiful-looking guest, and as my friend expressed his gratitude that I had come all the way from Seattle, I couldn’t help but suspect he had seen me in my sorrow (he’s the kind of person who sees thestrals) and I felt exposed.

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Many folks in the LGBTIQ community have endured their share of suffering, both personal and collective. We have experiences of being rejected, oppressed, mistreated, feared, and shunned on the grounds of who we are in our own bodies–often by those who are closest to us. Moreover, we all have to combat the shame that has worked its way into our bodies and minds; we have to actively contradict a social system of privilege that tells us we are wrong. It’s not surprising that, by-and-large, we tend to see fierce realities of life when we have the courage and vulnerability to look at them. It’s also not surprising that many of us look away when we get the chance–but even so, our peripheral vision for suffering is pretty well honed.

So, when I read this gorgeous call to accountability by Mia McKenzie over at blackgirldangerous.org and then this piece by my friend Charity on her blog Bees, C’s & D’s (yes, you have to go read them now), then the feelings began to well within my body.

Finally, I was listening to a playlist this week that was created by my friend and liturgist, Hilary Ann Golden. The playlist was created for Lent 2012. The season of Lent is one in which the church practices repentance. In the midst of all I’ve been thinking about and feeling this week, these two songs came on back-to-back: Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How it Feels to be Free followed by Leonard Cohen’s Come Healing.

I think this is one of those crucial places where my Christian faith comes together radically with my experience of life in my own body as a cis-gendered male, white, able-bodied, USAmerican, gay person. I believe deeply in the good news that I’ve experienced personally, that death and resurrection are intertwined. This is the immense gift of the Christian gospel message, that God always moves towards human suffering in order to bring freedom.

Even though there are moments where celebration and suffering feel like they will eclipse one another, they are always both present. If we are bold enough to hold room in ourselves for our celebrating and our suffering, then we can move into wholeness that honors all of our stories.

If we can hold room for the suffering of others even as we celebrate, then we can ground ourselves in that place of honoring the personal and collective narratives of suffering and oppression, and continue moving toward justice with hope and determination.

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That feeling of exposure I had from being seen is like a sensitive tooth. It’s not always noticeable, but when something sweet or cold hits that nerve ending, it’s hell.

And now the metaphor breaks down. I know nothing about fixing sensitive teeth.

But I do know that when I am seen in my suffering–not seen for my suffering, but seen as a person in the midst of the experience of suffering–then I feel solidarity. The solidity of a community. Not a community that personally knows all of my experience, but a community that understands that they have a different experience than me, and yet, they see me and listen to me, and care enough for me to remain with me and work together for goodness.

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And this is why I am not fighting “for my rights.”

I believe that the rhetoric of “rights” is all too often a reward mechanism for compliant behavior within a system that is predicated on preserving privilege. Such a system is itself oppressive and I am committed to fighting to not merely end oppression, but to actively and continually grow in my understanding of the complexity of oppression and work to address it within myself and the world.

As a white, gay, middle-class, educated man, the temptation offered me by the privilege system in USAmerica is to try to pass as heterosexual. Failing that, the next best thing is to be “straight acting,” “masculine,” or “disarmingly funny gay.” If I absolutely insist on being in a relationship with another man, then there’s pressure to reflect the social and cultural norms of heterosexual relationships, which all too often are built around reinforcing white, male privilege.

The reality is, It doesn’t matter how much I contort my gayness to make the white, male-privileging culture more comfortable, I’m never going to get full access to that privilege, because the whole system is set up on a binary that privileges one group and excludes all others.

And the really heinous thing is that the ones sitting at the top of the ladder dispensing the privilege-candy are employing the folks on the next rung down to work themselves into a frenzy gorging on the toxic candy just to crap it all on the heads of the next group of folks who are fighting upwards for their “rights.” And let me tell you, the toxic candy doesn’t get any better the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th rung down.

I can spend my time clawing up the (in)human(e) privilege ladder trying to get to the top, or I can work together with the other people on the ground, to throw a fucking righteous celebration that honors our diverse goodness AND our deep pain from the harm of being stepped (and crapped) on.

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Thus, while I celebrate the “rights” that are granted, insomuch as they can be an effective way to combat the privilege of one group over others, I will not be pandered to, bought off, or accept rewards for reinforcing a system predicated on oppression.

We see this happening with marriage rights (in most ad campaigns about marriage equality, only straight couples have been featured, or very “presentable” gay or lesbian couples–usually lesbian because that’s less threatening to and more fetishized by straight, white males). We see it with churches who accept the privilege of tax exempt status in exchange for silence about oppressive government systems. We see it in the notion that we owe our loyalty to our military industrial complex (that preys on the underprivileged and subjects its members to great harm) that is responsible for atrocities on a global scale in exchange for supposed freedom (but primarily for corporate profits at the cost of USAmerican taxpayers’s money and less privileged human lives).

This dynamic closely resembles a fraternity system that hazes new members before granting them the privilege of membership and then employs these people to repeat the offence (of course this should come as no surprise since fraternities are the historic domain of white, wealthy, educated men and have functioned as social networks for maintaining insularity of power and privilege within both business and government).

This is not a condemnation of gays and lesbians celebrating the news about DOMA and Prop 8, it’s not a condemnation of churches for operating without funneling money to the state, and it’s not a condemnation of people who have served in the military or joined a frat.

It is a call to all of us to untangle ourselves from these systems of privilege which only exist through oppression of one another. And as we untangle ourselves and one another, there will be much to see, much to celebrate, and much that we must learn to grieve.

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I won’t accept cheap celebration. Resurrection only hangs out with actual death.

I have lived a life that has left me seeing thestrals and I’m committed to letting that insight lead me into solidarity with others who experience suffering through oppression–particularly when their oppression is linked to my privilege within our social system.

I’m committed to doing my work so as to avoid crapping on the people around me who, it turns out, tend to see me most clearly and love me for who I am.

This is why I went to the Trans*Pride march; why I keep working to understand, own, and dismantle my own racism and collusion with my white privilege; why I’m trying to understand and advocate around oppressive notions of what makes a “healthy” or “able” body or mind; why I’ll march with the Episcopal Church at Pride and talk to everyone I can about the commodification of the LGBTIQ community and of the Christian community by the infrastructures of privilege within our society.

This is my own act of repentance, this way of being is my life’s prayer.

Read part 11 here.

Queering the Christian Table Part 9: Why my humanity isn’t beholden to SCOTUS

To start reading at the beginning of the series, click here.

I’m posting this before I find out tomorrow in 7 hours what the SCOTUS says about DOMA or Prop 8. While most of you will not read these words until after we’ve heard the news, I felt like it was important to say this now.

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I’ve been obsessing all month over the SCOTUS opinions on the two historic cases around same-sex marriage.

Yesterday, I nearly missed my bus due to lingering too long over the SCOTUS blog‘s liveblog of the morning announcements. Today, I felt anxious enough that I bummed a cigarette off of someone. I was mentioning how obsessive I’ve become about this to a friend who replied, “Yeah, I’m keeping up with the announcements by watching your facebook updates.”

Yup.

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But I need to be clear about a couple of things.

1) Even if, by some miracle, the Supreme Court repealed DOMA and ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in California, laying groundwork for federal recognition of the marriages already recognized in a number of states, there’s not a lot of immediate practical implications for me. Which is a grumpy-cat, long-way of saying “I’m still available.”

2) What I really mean to say with number 1 up there, is that I’m not dependent on the legal system to tell me who I am or who I can or can’t share my love and life with.

That is not, in any way, to say that I don’t want legal equality. I also want national laws protecting jobs and housing for all LGBTIQ persons. I also want families to stop rejecting their queer children. I want churches to practice the radical hospitality of Jesus (even though I don’t believe accepting your own Queer members is radical hospitality, I think that’s just normal love of your neighbors and family).

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And this is where I find myself on the eve of the SCOTUS announcements: recognizing that these decisions have the power to impact how others are legally allowed to treat me, but they don’t auto-magically impact how people actually will treat me, and more importantly, they don’t impact who I am or how I understand my own identity or relationships.

At best they are tools to help other people come to terms with how to honor what I know about myself already.

In short, same-sex marriage laws (along with LGBTIQ job and housing protections) are not for Queer people–they’re for straight people in a heteronormative society. They’re regulations designed to prevent straight people from amassing privilege (which, incidentally, is why they’re so-damn-hard to get passed). Just like the section of the Voter’s Rights law, just stricken by the SCOTUS, was not for People of Color. It was for the white people who were doing the oppressing–to keep them from creating barriers to voting that could reinforce white privilege and supremacy.

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No law can support or affirm the human dignity of any person. It is simply not within the purview of a law to do that. Nation-states do not confer human dignity or rights. At best they are custodians of privilege.

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This is why I do not pledge allegiance to the flag of USAmerica. I do not stand or place my hand over my heart for the playing of the national anthem or God bless America. I do not support the military.

I do not live or die by laws of the state. My loyalty is to the kin-dom of God– to the world, to loving my entire human family; striving to love my enemies until I know them as my neighbors and then doing the harder work of loving them once I know them.

Legal protections are good, but loving communities are better.

When it comes to pledging my allegiance, it is to the good news of Jesus that affirms the belovedness of all people; that recognizes as persons–as human–every particular expression of humanity, particularly crossing categories of stigmatized social difference in order to honor the personhood of another.

Placing my hand over my heart is an expression I find myself doing spontaneously when I am deeply moved by the humanity of another person. It is often in the moments of witnessing suffering or sorrow. It is a physical manifestation of compassion–my body’s recognition of another person’s humanity. It is a gesture that comes naturally in the holy moments of bearing wit(h)ness to another person’s life.

Why would I waste this response by binding myself to a system of nationalism that is predicated on asserting higher status for certain people on the basis of arbitrary citizenship?

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I will have big feelings tomorrow morning. No matter what news gets announced. I will celebrate fiercely when I receive federal marriage approval and job & housing protections (Incidentally, I’ll probably celebrate a lot more when I have someone to celebrate gay marriage with).

But I will not wait for those privileges to be granted to me–not by a judicial system, not by elected officials, not by public opinion polls–not even if it’s “99%.”

I don’t believe that might (or white) makes right. I believe in the given-ness of the sanctity of humanity. I believe that human rights are granted by human breath; by the interplay of oxygen that stands between our being people and our being corpses. As a Christian, I see this breath as the animating Spirit of God.

I don’t believe in “the right side of history.” I believe in stories of past, present, and future that are alive within us and our social communities, showing us who we have been and who are being drawn into being together.

These narratives hold together our small, particular human stories, where we are droplets within the stream of human experience–a shared stream that is turbulent with oppression and deep with compassion.

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At the heart of the gospel of Jesus, we see these truths. We are not bound or beholden to empires–be they governments, private corporations, or social and religious institutions. We are called into the freedom of loving and claiming humanity–our own and that of those who are oppressed (whom we collude in oppressing to maintain our privilege).

To the extent that the technology of institutions, laws, and governance serve the goal of helping us love our neighbors, they are useful. To the extent that they protect privilege and hinder compassion, they are hell on earth. Either way, they deserve no loyalty. Loyalty; fidelity; love–is reserved for people.

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The Christian church is under no obligation to wait for the culture or legal obligations to treat Queer people well.

There’s nothing in the gospel stopping churches and religious institutions from going ahead and affirming God’s call on the lives of Queer people, God’s blessing on vows of fidelity between Queer people, and job, housing, insurance, adoption rights, etc. for Queer people.

Most churches and Christian organizations that obfuscate discrimination over sexual orientation by claiming it as an issue of sin, don’t do the same kind of holiness patrol on the relationships of their straight constituents. Yet their blessing of hetero marriages, their protection of straight employees’ jobs, their granting adoptions to straight people, is in no way seen as an endorsement of unhealthy (even sinful) dynamics in those peoples’ relationships and lives.

By the numbers, if only 10% of the straight folks granted these privileges by Christian churches and organizations had damaging, sinful dynamics in their intimate relationships (a gross underestimation by any accounting method), then there are far more in the “straight and sinful” camp then there are in the entire LGBTIQ camp. So what’s it going to hurt to go ahead and show everyone the same level of dignity in how you treat them?

My challenge to Christian churches and organizations is to lead with the compassion and courage of Jesus. Stop waiting for society to drag us along. God’s Spirit is at work in the world and if it takes using social change to move the church, then She’ll do it that way, but we don’t have to wait, we can go ahead and dance with the Spirit now.

Offering equal protections of relationships, jobs, housing, and healthcare isn’t endorsing a position on same-sex relationships. Withholding equal protections of relationships, jobs, housing, and healthcare is. Moreover, withholding equal protections is collusion with systems of privilege that reinforce stratified definitions of humanity. To Christians, I will charge that this is, in fact, collusion with evil, and counter to the kin-dom of God inaugurated by Jesus in the message of loving God and neighbor.

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To my Queer friends, I charge us to fully own and celebrate our full humanity and the dignity and goodness of our relationships. Endeavor to love well and do not let anyone fool us into believing that laws, churches, corporations, or states give us any part of our own humanity. At best, these are technologies that can help those with privilege grow in their capacity to recognize the truth of what we already know: we are breathing, we are here, we are whole and alive–we deserve the same respect as anyone else whether we receive it or not.

Whatever the news from the SCOTUS (and by the time you read this, we’ll all know) remember this: our welcome in the world is not dependent on anyone’s approval.

Read part 10 here.