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Jesus Christ is Queer

QueerChristHow befuddled Fred Phelps would be if Jesus were to come out of the closet! Yes I know, if Jesus came out as queer I’m sure more than Fred Phelps would spontaneously combust. Technically, he did come out of a tomb at one point, but I know I would just be giddy if Jesus donned a rainbow robe or carried a bedazzled staff and pronounced to the world “Hey listen here! I’m Queer!” I might find church a bit more interesting/relevant if he did. What would churches look like today if Jesus came out? What would this word “Queer” mean if he did? What would happen to Christian theology and practice? For some academic theologians, and a small but growing number of practicing Christians, the notion of a queer theology is beginning to inform both queer identity and experiences of faith when the norm has been to see them in conflict or silent all together in relation to the other.

The word Queer might bring up many different things for us too, and we might wonder why not just use the term LGBTQ theology. For some of us it might be a derogatory term with some history of violence behind it that we feel uncomfortable with. You might specifically identify with it as a word that connects with your identity as a person. Also, you might find it as a reclaimed word that encompasses the entire community of persons of marginalized sexualities and marginalized gender identities. While the term queer has a variety of definitions, the word theology typically is defined across the board as “talk about God” and from this one definition Christian denominations take on their own flavors with their own understandings of faith. Thus, queer theology = queer talk about God; depending on the denomination, including your choice of sprinkles of affirmation or bigotry.

BookIn theologian Patrick Cheng’s work, Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology, Cheng gives three definitions of queer theology that give reason why queer theology. While this is not the only set of definitions, Cheng makes them accessible and provides a good start for further exploration. Briefly, his first two points are that queer theology 1) is LGBTQ people talking about God and, 2) aims to “unearth silenced voices” where Christian theology has often silenced them. What I find intriguing and most queer is Cheng’s third definition of queer theology as 3) the challenging and erasing of the boundaries of what has become constrictive norms or categories for sexual and gender identity (i.e. male/female, heterosexual/homosexual, even life/death and human/divine). If this sounds familiar to some of you, queer theology touches roots with queer theory, feminist theory & theology, and other liberation theologies that often are born out of experiences of oppression.

Where this matters to Christian followers and Christian churches brings us back to the all too fabulous Queer Jesus, rainbow robe and all. While orthodox Christianity holds that Jesus was the human form of God on earth for the forgiveness of the sins of humanity, queer theology takes on Jesus in a way that connects to the well known queer ritual of coming out. Queer theology proposes that Jesus was not a sacrifice for sin, but the divine “coming out” to humanity in radical ways. Much like we come out to family, friends, co-workers, ourselves and often cause a shock to the hetero and gender normative world around us. Additionally and arguably, Christianity and queer life can be kindred spirits in being “othered” by the world. Queer theology proposes that not only does queer life push boundaries and norms, but also Christianity itself has the potential to do this as well in the world it occurs in.

While this is one of many central concepts to queer theology, and arguably can be seen as only academic headiness, I see queer theology as a way for LGBTQ Christians to no longer have to make compromises while practicing their faith. There no longer has to be an assumed straight, cisgendered Christianity that has caused so much disconnect and dehumanization, but there can be a way to practice one’s faith that is rooted in one’s identity as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer person. While many churches are not ready to change the assumed straight-male identity of Jesus quite yet, a growing number of churches are exploring ways in order to be more inclusive of LGBTQ people. Churches aim to do this through using inclusive language, partnering with LGBTQ community events, and by advocating for new ways of defining family and relationships in the law. My hope is that as the church opens itself up bit by bit to the authentic lives that LGBTQ people bravely live, and queer persons continue to push norms and boundaries within the church and world, a Queer Jesus will be a possible symbol of the Christian faith.

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About BC

BC is a Texan transplant to the city of Chicago, moving here to attend theology school. She has a great love for a good glass of wine, great books, meaningful conversations, her family, dance parties, and crime shows. Her great hope in this life is that LGBTQ stories will be equally heard and valued, and she believes that religious/spiritual experience and dialogue is one of many ways to work towards such a reality. BC is a pastor by trade but a mystical religious mutt in spirit, hoping to soak up as many understandings of hope each person has to offer.

Discussion

One Response to “Jesus Christ is Queer”

  1. I didn’t read it all but. Let me say this. I think Jesus would be in support of gays, as they’re at least getting along. He would be okay with gays, as long as they aren’t forcing people into the life style. Jesus never directly preached against gays, so I think it’s safe to conclude, that Jesus would support it. He taught us to love, so what’s so wrong with men loving one and other? He was kind and loving to all. And, for all we know, he did play in Homosexuality some. He did travel with mostly men. For all we know, they engaged in some Homosexual play.

    What ever there. I still believe Jesus loves us what ever way we are. As long as we are comfortable with it, he still loves and supports us.

    Posted by Denny Strausser | June 10, 2013, 1:50 pm

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