*Delivered at Greater Dallas Metropolitan Community Church
When we think about God…we often go to this pace of thinking about Zeus or something in the sky hurling lightening bolts. This Greek or Roman God is way off and only interacts with us when HE is pissed. This God can only be negative or nasty and then we act like Jesus is the sweet God that comes along to redeem God. I believe we all yearn for the God that has been with us the whole time. I have often wondered about this phrase the “God with us”… the incarnation…this Emmanuel. What does such an expression of God mean for the long experience of people created in the image of God?
When we do theology that is queer…we are responding to a God that truly is ultimately indescribable…a God that is beyond our ability to describe…a God that is simply not normative. When we create an idea of God that uses our normativities…when we dare say God is ultimately like this…we are always going to come up short. When we say that God is love…how can one describe a love beyond love? When we say that God is joy…how can one describe a joy beyond joy? How can we explain a peace beyond peace? Ultimately the God that is God is in the words of Paul Tillich, “the God beyond God.” When we arrive at such a space, we realize that God is quintessentially queer…quintessentially beyond our normativities…quintessentially beyond our wildest dreams.
Unfortunately, we have bound up God with our terms, dichotomies and normativities. I believe it is time to set God free in our minds and souls. We have to find the God beyond our terms and our descriptions. We have to find God. The God that is unique and truly queer created us in God’s image. If we want to get to the truth of the matter, then I believe we have to go back to the beginning.
In that place of beginning, the Queer God created human beings in God’s image. Why would we want to describe God or our self in any other way? Why would we want us or God to be anything else? When we start to head down the road of identity and normatizing…creating boundaries and borders…dichotomizing and trying to describe who and what we are…we have already lost. You see the courage to follow God the God who is God is again in the words of Tillich, “the courage to be”…the courage to find your self…the courage to locate your self within the God that declares God’s self to be love…the God that declares God’s self to be beyond. Will we dare locate such a God within? Ultimately, when we locate such a God within…we gain the courage to declare that we are created in the image of a God that is queer and we are queer. Such a declaration changes things.
When we look at the first sin…the trouble that went down back there in Eden…and we think about the first persons. I am not interested in dichotomizing them. God declared them to be both male and female. I think there was some gender-bending going on in Eden. Could it be that each person had a gender that was unique to the person? Wouldn’t that be something??? Regardless, the story is quickly progressing toward the fall.
When the serpent approaches one of the first persons, the serpent seeks to persuade the person by telling the person if the person eats of the tree then the person will be made like God. Ultimately, the first sin is locating God somewhere apart from the self…believing that God is somewhere beside the image of God that is within you. The first sin is always a denial of self…a denial of the God in whose image you are made.
Jesus tells us in Mark to “love our neighbor as our self.” I am going to have to revert to the great theologian Ru Paul on this one, “How the hell are you going to love somebody when you can’t love your self? Can I get an amen?” Really…if you can’t love your self, how are you going to love anybody else? This God that is queer and that created us to be queer wants us to place love in the self so that we might love somebody else.
In the life of Jesus, I see Jesus constantly living into this queer context. Jesus is not afraid to go into situations and demand a place. When is the last time you went into a situation and demanded a place? Why? Because of who you are…created in the image of the living God. When is the last time you stood your tallest and declared your self to be queer and said that’s it? What if we all said…”If you want to talk about God then you need to talk to me”? People might reply, “How do you know God so well”? Because God is within us! God created me. We have to start championing the queerness of our self in order to start championing the queerness of all people.
For far too long we have tried to create conversation and community by pushing everyone to be the same. I think that this has been a fault for a long time of many of our LGBT spaces. When we create community based on sameness, we are stifling people’s voices. I don’t believe you can demand everyone be the same in a space and allow room for queerness at the same time. When we demand sameness, we are stifling queerness.
I do much activism and work around issues of social justice. I work because I believe that people matter…individuals matter…not because they can be made to be the same…and not because they can be made to fit into certain identities and groups that carry certain collective identities…but because people simply matter. Somebody asked me the other day “How do you identify?”…I responded, “Well I saw a cute guy walk by the other day. I am married to a beautiful woman. I sometimes have some female tendencies that well up inside of me. There are all sorts of things going on.” Can anybody else relate? For so long we have only offered binaries for people to name their sexuality and gender. What happens we decide to stop having these conversations? What happens when such conversations end at queer? The conversation changes when we just decide to be who we are created by God to be and expect nothing more from anyone else.
The queer project asks people to come together based on differences not similarities. I believe the world can be changed if difference becomes what we hold up as sacred not sameness. When that happens, we will start valuing the image of God within each individual and begin to come together.
The story starts to progress toward the end. How does it shake down? How does it end? I believe that God is drawing us all to a place where the queerness of every individual will be made complete and celebrated. In that place, all will be loved, cherished and respected.
We often come out of the closet in terms of our sexuality and gender, but stay in the closet in terms of allowing our self the freedom to be who we are. I think that God wants to talk about much more than our sexuality, our gender or our race. I think that God wants to talk about the queer that is deep within us…and letting that queer run free and wild.
I believe the beginning of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene speaks directly to the finality and eternality of the queer experience. “…Will matter be destroyed or not?” The savior replied, “All natures, all formed things, all creatures exist in and with each other, and they will dissolve into their own root.” If the root is queer and we are all going to dissolve into that root, then shouldn’t we live for the day when we are all truly living as the queers that God created us to be in the first place? We need to go ahead and get that process started so that we can go and do and be who we were created to be at the root.
What does all this have to do with justice? What makes you think that we need national boundaries and borders anyways? Why do we need a United States of America? Why do we need Canada or any other country either? Why do we need nations? Do you think you will get to heaven and St. Peter will ask for a US passport? When we start to think about things queerly and allow our selves to be queered, then borders and boundaries start to be blurred and people start coming together. The reason we have an immigration crisis in our country is because we have resources that we believe are more valuable than human beings. When we think that resources are more valuable than human beings, we become the epitome of normativity. I think that a large part of the problem comes from bad theology. We come from a Christian tradition that has often talked about being chosen and blessed by God. When you believe your nation has been chosen or blessed by God to be rich, then you don’t have much problem with everyone else being poor. Wouldn’t it be great if we opened up the border and people came here and started eating your food, sleeping in your bed, driving your car and what not? We would all quickly get to see if we are truly Christians. The justice conversation has to move beyond identity. The queering of the conversation has to go all the way from national identities to racial identities to gender identities to sexual identities to intelligence identities to many other categories we have created.
I do much work on Texas’ Death Row. Most of the people on death row are lacking in capital. Whether it is a lack of financial capital or intellectual capital or whatever, our state kills the least of these on a regular basis. I was down on Texas’ Death Row about six months ago visiting a gentleman who has killed multiple people. People call him a monster, say he doesn’t matter and other him in all kinds of ways. One of the reasons the gay rights movement, the LGBT rights movement or whatever you want to call it has been so instructive for the rest of the populace is that we have all been taught that people matter…we all matter…love matters. When we start talking like this, the conversation gets wider and wider to the point where we begin to go places we never expected to go. Would you have imagined that claiming your identity as a child of God would have allowed someone on death row to claim their identity as a child of God? The widening conversation gets wider and more beautiful by the hour. Queer talk and action keeps taking us to wider and wilder spaces.
In closing…when we have a queer God who creates us in God’s image queerly. We are all able to locate our person in God. When we do that, God takes on interesting shapes and forms. One of the great theologians of our time is former Emory University professor Dr. Nancy Eisland. Chronically disabled, Dr. Eisland passed away a few years ago. Dr. Eisland wrote a book entitled, “The Disabled God.” In the text, Dr. Eisland imagines the disabled God in a puff wheelchair rolling around heaven. The question for Dr. Eisland and for us is: How far are we willing to go to locate the image of God? If we can’t locate God in folks from every walk of life and circumstance then how can we locate God in our self? If we are bold enough, we will say that God died last night trying to get across our southern border, we will say that a nine-year-old God was shot six times in Chicago a few nights ago and we will say that God is suffering and dying in our hospitals…among many other Gods. How far are we willing to expand our minds and our hearts? The queer project says there should be no end.
I believe that God is here with us. I don’t believe that God is some kind of wind. I believe God is in you and you and you and you and all of us. The beautiful image of God is here. As you leave this place…remember if you want to make a difference in the world then you have to be different. Go and be the queer that God has created you to be.