Just yesterday it happened again. It was not the first time. And it certainly will not be the last time. But it is tiring, every time around.
I speak about a certain kind of cis-het christian asking, no, inquiring about how we, queer people, reconcile our “lifestyle” with the teachings of the Bible. Ever so often, this question is more than just a simple, innocent question to gain some insight: often, it carries an implicit judgment – your lifestyle cannot be reconciled with the Bible, right? Come on, defend yourself.
And so the Bible gets turned into a weapon, something it was never intended to be. And first of all, it is not our job to educate those who don’t agree with us. So much has been written and done already by authors and theologian for which I’ll forever be grateful, so many sources are available readily for those are truly looking for answers that it is not our job to do that work.
To take matters further, I think it is time to take queer theology a step (or more) further. It is time to be done with apologetics (it is good and precious and was neccessary, and those who spent time and effort on it did a tremendous and awesome groundbreaking work that still does so much good today) and move on to create more and more queer theology that speaks to us and responds to the needs and in the language of the LGBTQIA+ community – whether we’re lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex, genderqueer, non-binary, ace… And to be fully creative to move in any way we see fit, be it within the bounds of orthodoxy or without. The Divine is not limited by our lack of imagination – it is only our language about it that is limited.
After my coming out and getting kicked out from my job as pastor, and later as teacher in seminary, anything having to do with theology had lost any interest and sense to me. Before, it had been my passion and my life. Suddenly, I looked at my books and nothing made sense any more. Empty, senseless words. It took a good year or a bit more before the interest started to come back, gently – and yet, it is not the same as before.
My longing for the Divine though has never changed or left me, nor the feeling of deep love and compassion for all living things, living in amazement and seeing beauty everywhere.
But I don’t subscribe to, or don’t want to get involved or be a part of any system anymore. I tracked down my ancestors, and looked at their beliefs and found many inspiring things there. There are so many different ways to look at, and approach the Divine; facets and images and ways language is used that can inspire, fertilize and enrichen mine.
The Jewish tradition is of course one that is very rich and provides many, many lenses and different ways of approaching the Divine Mystery. The Bible is for me the account of my people, and later, the disciples of Jesus from different nations, of the way they lived and perceived God and their relationship with God – texts that absolutely need to be studied in the light of the culture and history of their times if something wants to be gleaned from them for today.
Another figure that has gained my attention, or rather two, are Saint Jude and Santa Muerte. A good part of my ancestors were black slaves, some of whom were brought from Africa directly to the USA and others who were brought from Africa to Mexico, and only later came to California. Saint Jude is sometimes identified with Judas Thaddeus, the brother of Jesus (and thus not the Jude who betrayed Jesus). He is the patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations. His veneration is especially widespread among the poor, but also artists, manual laborers and students – even delinquents and drug abusers, those at the lowest scale of society. Devotees often also venerate Santa Muerte. He is considered a Saint to petition in situations that cannot get any worse, and that can be approached by anyone. Santa Muerte is a folk Saint in mexican catholicism, but not recognized by the catholic church. She has many names and is said to be merciful and welcoming to all, never mind who they are. Many of her followers are those who are excluded elsewhere, who live in the margins, endure hardships or find themselves excluded from the official churches. As such, she is seen as a protector of the LGBTQIA communities.
These are for me images of the Divine that speak to me: welcoming to all, without difference: the LGBTQIA community, all races, the poor, the marginalized, the artists, those are not in the norm – all are welcome, all may come with their petitions and expects nothing but mercy.