Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It Ain't Easy Being Queer and Christian

All right all you queer kids who follow Jesus, here's something to make you really squirm with ambivalent feelings, this year's Hunky Jesus event in San Fran.

In case you're outraged, Peter LaBarbera, no friend of ours, beat you to it. Read his rant and Sister Zsa Zsa's gracious reply.

It's hard to know what exactly to feel when looking at all of this. Part of me thought this was all very funny (in an "O God, make my enemies ridiculous" sense). Another part of me found this disturbing, not so much in the sense that sacred things are being ridiculed (frequently they richly deserve it) so much as seeing myself and others like me as the objects of the ridicule.

As usual, I have a hard time blaming other gay folk for feeling the way they do about Christianity and the Church. They rightly see the Christian religious establishment as being the primary enabler of the violence that always threatens us. Also, they rightly point out that so much of the Christian establishment wants nothing less than our extermination whether through Christianist versions of Sharia law executions, or through reparative "therapy" to "kill the gay and save the soul."

And yet, I know that this is not the whole story. The right and far right have claimed a copyright on Christianity for more than 30 years, and everyone else very lazily let them keep it without challenge. It has only been very recently that people outside the right noticed that the Bible (and especially the Gospel) does not really endorse right wing supremacist ideology; in fact they've discovered that Scripture says quite the contrary. Nowhere did Jesus take the Widow's Mite and give it to the Rich Young Man. Nowhere did Jesus accuse the poor of being lazy and shiftless and say that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a poor man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Isaiah said that the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. He didn't say anything about hard-working productive rich white people having front row seats. Nowhere in Scripture does Ben Franklin pop up to tell us that God helps those who help themselves. On the contrary, Jesus tells us quite clearly that no one pulls themselves up into Heaven by their own bootstraps.

Only now are people beginning to notice that the Bible actually says very little about homosexuality, that the very word "homosexuality" is a 19th century anachronism that appears nowhere in Scripture. Christ had nothing at all to say on the subject in all four Gospels. It turns out that He had a lot to say about two other sins, hypocrisy and selfishness. The Teabaggers may well keep the Bible and Atlas Shrugged together on the same shelf, but we know that concordance between those two books is impossible without grotesquely contorting both texts. The very selfishness which Ayn Rand declared to be virtue Jesus said creates its own self-isolating hell and makes life hell for everyone else.

The public face of Gay Liberation was always affluent white male, all the boys who could afford the gym and party circuit. Closer inspection reveals that something much more complicated is true. Even most gay white males are not exactly affluent, and the majority of same sex families raising children are not white and male, but female and minority. The city with the largest concentration of same sex families is not San Francisco or New York, but Jacksonville, Florida.

Gay radicals, with some justice, accuse gay Christians of being quislings of an established "mainstream" culture that is corrupt to the root. Why try to be part of a culture that gave the world the Vietnam War, the Iraq Invasion, imperialism, predatory capitalism, and that thought Elton John was straight for a quarter century; a "mainstream" culture built on greed, sexism, and racism? Queerness, being contrary to all of that sanctimonious steaming pile of toxic crap in all ways politically, culturally, and especially sexually is the only truly decent position to hold. Outsider status should be embraced gladly. The Church so frequently plays the role of spiritual enforcer of that established imperial order, policing our desires and thoughts.

And yet, closer inspection of the original texts of the Christian faith, apart from what the doctrinal gatekeepers tell us, actually endorses that outsider position in regard to all established power. The prophets were all social drop outs who challenged the Conventional Wisdom all the time. Jesus Himself was hardly a Rotary Club success story. He was from a poor background, left behind a humble family trade to wander around as a homeless charismatic preacher dependent upon the charity of other people. He probably alienated about as many people as He attracted. He died the death of a common criminal condemned for blasphemy and sedition. The crowds gathered to watch His death probably felt satisfaction that this damn trouble-maker was finally getting what was coming to Him.

A lot of Queer Christians notice that emphasis in the Scripture. As a result, there are a lot of queer and transgender Evangelical congregations here and there in cities around the country. Gays and Lesbians enter MCC congregations, the Episcopal Church, and gay-affirming congregations among the Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, UCC, Baptists (even a few Southern ones) and the large liberal underground in the officially very gay hostile Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, not for establishment embrace, but to challenge that very establishment, to demand that it change to make room for them and for others left out in the cold, that it abandon its predatory and imperial ways.


JCF said...

The city with the largest concentration of same sex families is not San Francisco or New York, but Jacksonville, Florida.

Gay radicals, with some justice, accuse gay Christians of being quislings of an established "mainstream" culture that is corrupt to the root.

This juxtaposition is pointed.

A few weeks ago, a news bureau (CBS?) did a story re same-sex families in Jacksonville, noting their (frequent) female&black...and CHRISTIAN character.

This story was linked to on the (predominantly gay male) site, Joe.My.God., and it prompted a torrent of contempt (including racist and misogynist contempt. Some commenters felt free to ridicule the BODIES of black Christian lesbians).

Can somebody explain to me why we queer people are so often our own worst enemies? :-(

IT said...

Preach it, brother Doug!

MadPriest said...

Excellent post, Doug.

There is one thing that has always confused the hell out of me. In England, the Anglo-Catholic part of the Church of England has been dominated by gay priests since the time of John Henry Newman. Yet this is the faction of my church that has been most vocal in their opposition to moves to allow gay priests the freedom to be open about their sexuality and moves to allow same sex couples to be married in church.

Life is so weird sometimes.

MadPriest said...

Because they have far too much taste, human decency and plain common sense to belong to yours, troll.

it's margaret said...

...and isn't the Anglo-Catholic part of the church opposed to the ordination of women?!

I love this post Counterlight. (And I loved the video) --I am far more offended by the so-called Christian right and their crap in the name of Jesus than I am of ridicule....

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks for this. I’ve been planning to blog about the Hunky Jesus contest too, but hadn’t yet figured out the right approach… plus I’m still busy posting your “Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision.” The last painting will be posted tomorrow at the Jesus in Love Blog.

Your approach to Hunky Jesus is most eloquent and I plan to link to it when and I blog on the subject.

Counterlight said...

Thanks everyone. I sent Brad Evans back under his rock.

Kittredge Cherry said...

I included a link to this post in my the piece that I just posted: Hunky Jesus contest: Liberating or offensive? I focused more on the benefits of the LGBT community reclaiming Jesus. Some of it is offensive, but it also results in some wonderful images of gay Jesues, or “Jesi” as they are called. Thanks for posting this thought-provoking piece about an event with many theological ramifications.