Queer Theology goes beyond identity. Queer Theology seeks to affirm people for who God has created them to be. So often we give categories and identities to provide description for who we are. We forget that we were created in the image of God and that the core of us is that dear image. We have eternal value beyond the categories and identities, beyond whatever we can do and beyond whatever we can claim to be. When I start thinking about who God is, I head back to the beginning.
People created in the image of God come on the scene at the hand of God in a place called Eden. These people were created to be both male and female. This church did not invent gender bending…God did. The first people were genderless or genderfull. We too are a genderless and genderfull people made in the image of God to be so much more than the categories we struggle to claim. When I talk about a Queer God, I am talking about a God that is beyond our normative constructions. Who can describe a God that is love beyond love? Who can describe a God that is hope beyond hope? Who can describe a God that is justice beyond justice? Grace beyond grace? Mercy beyond mercy? When we start talking about and seeking God then we have to be prepared to experience the God that is beyond the God that we can conjure up…for that is the true God…the God that made us…the God that is queer.
There are these queers that are running around in Eden. Perhaps they were bumping into each other, they didn’t have any clothes on and we really don’t know what was going on. We know that a serpent slithered up and changed the narrative. We know that the serpent says in Genesis 3:5, “If you eat of the tree, you will be made like God.” The temptation was given and taken. Too often we simply brush off the first sin as one of mere disobedience of an outward God, I think the first sin was a denial of the Queer or God within. That first person denied the Queer within and thought there was something better at the tree. Unfortunately, our lives are a struggle because we have all fallen victim to the lie that you can find God somewhere else besides that image of God that is within you. When you start looking elsewhere for God and stop looking within, you start getting confused. When you start grabbing hold of normative identity to give value to who you are, you make the mistake of thinking that you could possibly bind the God that is within you.
From a queer perspective, I am going to take us deep into much of the Gospel of John today. Hang on…things will only grow queerer from here.
John 1:1, “In the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word was God.” When we flip the script a bit, things begin to grow queerer. “In the beginning was the Queer, the Queer was with God and the Queer was God.” I believe that God has never fit our normativities and when Jesus lives into his queerness…Jesus is the Queer that was and is and is to come. The Queer in John 1:1 sits in juxtaposition with the thief in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” I believe that there are two forces at work in our world, one of queerness that calls you to be different so that you might have life and one of normativity that pulls you to be the same so that you might live dead. God is on the side of queerness. The queerest of them all is Jesus.
We are going to chase Jesus through John. There in John 2, we find Jesus at a wedding. I don’t know if it was a gay wedding or a straight wedding…but I know that when Jesus showed up it quickly became a queer wedding. Love is exciting. Love is worthy of celebration. Our God turns the water into wine. But before we get ahead of ourselves, what prompted Jesus to turn the water into wine? The word at the party was that the wine had given out. I don’t know how many parties you have been to, but when someone starts talking about the drink giving out…folks have had much to drink. The normative response of our churches is to regulate and restrict. Our God set the party off. If we are going to be the queers that God calls us to be, then we too will be the ones who set things off. Do we have the courage to set things off? As everyone danced and lived life in abundance, I can just imagine Jesus sitting there at the wedding and thinking that this is what he came for. Jesus came so that we might have life. Do we have the courage to embrace life? Do we have the courage to not leave anything on the dance floor?
In John 4, we meet an incredible woman from Samaria. We live in a difficult time for women. All you have to do is look at the news to see that violence against women is out of control. From domestic violence to false detentions to glass ceilings to all sorts of evil, the question of our age is: Will you stand on the side of the liberation of women? Are you going to be on the side of the thieves who constantly cause women to live in fear or are you on the side of the God who comes to liberate us all? We cannot talk about abundance for our self while people are being abused and mistreated. Are we willing to join the struggle so that all might experience abundance? Jesus meets this Samaritan woman and asks her for a drink of water. There are racial and gender dynamics at play. These two folks are not supposed to be talking to each other. White folks and black folks are not even supposed to be talking to each other…yet here is this black man talking to this white woman. These stories didn’t just happen two thousand years ago…these stories are taking place right now. Jesus asks for a drink of water. The woman can’t figure out why this man is speaking to her. Jesus tells her that he has some water that will make her live forever. Can you imagine someone coming up to you and offering you some living water at the gas station? Far too often we are too worried about why someone is talking to us and not paying attention to the living water that they bring. This woman has been married and partnered over and over again. Jesus offers to break the cycle of abuse in her life with a true love and justice. What are we offering? We can offer the water of life only when we are willing to change the way we think. We must stop thinking that men are more important than women. If we are to truly be queer, then we must change the way that we think. We must empower all with living water. If we don’t, it is like we have tasted Jesus’ living water and spit it out. The woman of Samaria has much to teach us about our time.
Next to the Pool of Bethesda in John 5, there is a sick man who has been lying there for some time. The normative thing to do in our society is to inquire whether or not he has health insurance…that is the first question on our tongues. Jesus asks in John 5:6, “Do you want to be made well?” If we are going to be a queer people, this will be our first question as well. We have to ask the question of wellness. When the angel stirred the Pool of Bethesda up and the first person in got healed, this sick man never had anyone to help him. All this man was asking for was a hand up and not just a hand out. The people of God must stand on the side of healthcare for all people. We have to stop leaving people lying on the roadways. So many of us see someone struggling on the side of the road and just hit the gas. The queer thing to do is to hit the brake. Jesus calls us to stop. I don’t see how people of faith can fail to support universal healthcare. We must hit the brake and care for the vulnerable. If we wait, we will have the blood of millions on our hands. There is nothing queer about waiting for justice.
In John 8, we meet a woman that is caught in adultery. Jesus doesn’t wait. This woman is thrown at the feet of Jesus. She is called a tramp, hoe, hoar, slut and probably a few other things. The Pharisees feel like they have Jesus trapped. Whose side are we on? When we see women and men giving their bodies over to reckless lifestyles, how do we respond? Will we be the ones calling them hoe, tramp, slut and hoe or will we be the ones seeking to help them be made well? Jesus doesn’t just speak. Jesus acts. When the woman is thrown at his feet, Jesus lays down with her. Jesus gets down in the dirt with her. I am thankful that we serve a dirty God that is willing to get down in the dirt with us. Jesus is willing to take on the names that are being called. Jesus is prepared to die with this woman. When was the last time that we bound our bodies this close to those our society would call slut and hoe? The Queer God calls us to get dirty. Jesus is a dirty dirty God. There is nothing queer about being clean. Jesus is in the dirt as all of this slut shaming is going on. Perhaps there were even some racist, classist, homophobic or transphobic comments bantered about. There is all of this othering going on. Regardless of the comments, Jesus starts writing in the dirt. We are left to wonder what he wrote…but I think he wrote something like: I’m with her. By being down in the dirt and taunting the Pharisees, Jesus is declaring that if you kill her then you are going to have to kill me. The crucifixion almost came early. Are we willing to get down in the dirt with the oppressed and give our lives for their liberation? Everyone says that they want to be with the oppressed until their lives are required of them. If we want to follow this queer way, then we are going to have to give our lives. Jesus stands up and the Pharisees start walking away. I wonder if Jesus made a tactical error here. I wonder what it would have been like if Jesus would have called the Pharisees back for a conversation. Often we fail to talk to our enemies. When we think we have won, we consistently let the oppressors walk away. If you let the oppressor walk away while you declare victory, you have actually lost because that oppressor will be there to oppress you again another day. Until we are willing to turn our enemies into friends, we are not making any progress. Jesus is not about winning. Jesus is about redeeming. When we have the courage to be different like Jesus then we will be able to make a difference. After the Pharisees departed, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). I wish those Pharisees would have heard such words. Jesus is showing us the path to the Queer. Jesus is showing us what it looks like to be queer. If you are willing to be queer like Jesus, then you too can stand on the corner and say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” When the scriptures say in 1 John 3:2 that we will be made like God in the end, I think it is important that we start that process a little early…we can start living like Jesus now. Are you queer enough to stand on the corner and be the light?
The blind man gets spit in his eyes in John 9. Have you ever had anyone spit on you? Have you ever had anyone spit in your face? Have you ever thought that that spit could your salvation? Have you ever thought that spit could be your healing? When Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as our self, I don’t think Jesus was just talking about those neighbors that we like. I believe we are called to love our enemies as our self too. If you are able to love your enemy as your self, then you will become invincible. Sometimes the spit is our salvation. The spit is what opens up the blind man’s eyes. If you are dating someone and they spit on you…that better open up your eyes and help you get on out the door to claim your salvation. We go from blindness to vision through spit. If we are willing to be spit upon and not spit back, then we will capture the queer nonviolent spirit of Jesus. People spend so much time spitting on each other. What comes of it? How many guns will have to be fired and bombs to go off before we realize that you can’t teach people not to shoot by shooting, not to kill by killing and not to bomb by bombing? The spit will only heal us and others if we don’t spit back.
In John 11, we arrive at the story of Lazurus. Jesus is standing outside the tomb. Then the words hit in John 11:43, “Lazarus come forth!” Jesus raises the dead. What does it look like for the dead to get up? Sometimes I am the walking dead. I don’t respond or interact in the way that God would have me to. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Jesus would have called Lazarus and Lazarus would have responded, “No thank you, I have had enough.” How many of us have had enough? How many of us miss opportunities to heal others because we are dead? Lazarus comes out stinking and bandaged. If you are living in a moment right now and you would rather be dead, know that the Queer is within you waiting to be activated and engaged to enliven and fulfill you. So many of us live our lives trembling in the corners of closets. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock…” Jesus came and knocked on Lazarus’ door and Lazarus came forth. Jesus is knocking on the door of your closet. What are you going to do? I know so many people who talk about coming out of the closet and they remain just as closeted as they ever were. So many come out to declare their identity and live as normative as everybody else. What difference does it make if you are gay or lesbian or transgender or whatever if you are not different? I’ve come out! To what? If you are not going to live in a newness of life and be queer, then who cares what identity you claim.
Jesus washes the disciples feet in John 13. If you are queer, then you know how to massage other queers. When you are queer and out of the closet, then you want to help others feel like they can be queer and out of the closet too. When Jesus humbly washes the disciples feet, Jesus is not preparing those feet to walk backwards…Jesus is preparing those feet to run. When we have the courage to be queer, we have the courage to run. Washing the feet of others helps us to know how to wash our own feet and prepare our own feet to run. When we embrace the Queer, we embrace our feet and the feet of others. We wash feet to help people take those steps out of the closet and embrace the Queer.
The crucifixion is quickly approaching in John 18 and 19. Jesus is praying and upset. Blood is pouring down. Jesus is in anguish because the world is so normal and normative. There is nothing more normal than treating people like shit. There is nothing more normal than perpetuating injustice. There is nothing more normal than embracing evil. Jesus is not being killed because Jesus is like everyone else. Many churches and speakers try to spend their time teaching their followers how to get. You don’t get killed for getting. You get killed for giving. Queerness is about giving your true self to the world. God comes out when we get together and be who we were created by God to be in the first place. Let God come out! One of the things that the LGBT community has to teach the church is what it looks like to make a difference by being different. How many times have we been in the same place that Jesus was and declared, “If only there was another way…”? If only I could force myself into a category or identity that is not as oppressed. If only I could perform my gender in a different way. If only I could be attracted to the opposite sex. If you went down one of these paths, you would find where God is not. God is where the Queer is. Everybody wants to talk about safe spaces…there is nothing safe about being the queer that God calls you to be. Jesus got killed ya’ll. We live in a society where living queerly can get you killed. We all know that. But don’t be fooled by the dangers that lurk about…there is no safer place to be than resting queerly in the arms of God. Jesus knew this…and grew queerer and braver as the night went on. If we will embrace our queerness, we will grow braver as the night goes on. Jesus is about to be taken away and Peter slashes off the ear of Malchus…the servant of the high priest. How often do we act like Peter and think we are going to help Jesus or help God? I see a pattern in activism and advocacy these days…everyone has out their swords and wants to just slice people up. Hurt people hurt people or slice people. We must be different. We must be about reconciliation. Jesus says in Matthew 26:52, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” We have to educate people that slicing people will only get you sliced. If you want to help people…If you want to help God…leave your guns and swords at home. If we don’t, then we are no different than anybody else.
The story both ends and begins with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Three days after his death and burial, the women discover Jesus is not in the tomb. I can tell you that there is nothing queerer than being alive when you are supposed to be dead. When we are willing to live…When we move past all that was supposed to have killed us…we live into the resurrection of Jesus. We bring the message of God. If you want to follow Jesus, be alive…be queer. Don’t go home thinking those same old thoughts. Don’t listen to those same old bullies and abusers. Don’t let anybody push you into categories that you don’t want to be. Be alive! Be queer! Be who God created you to be! Don’t live into the fear! Take courage with you today! Jesus walks into that space with the disciples and they weren’t expecting him. Jesus lives beyond their expectations and continues to live past ours. Quit expecting and be…because in the being is the expecting. In the being is God! Thomas asks to put his hands where the holes were. In the touch and belief of Thomas, I believe we see one of the early manifestations of Jesus’ queering of the world through the constant giving of his queer body to us. The queering of the world continues and the world is slowly being returned to right. How does Jesus do that? Jesus gives his body and shows the wounds. As you leave this place, be healers by being queers that show your wounds. The message of Jesus is to let people in by being the queer that God created you to be in the first place. Connect honestly and queerly with the world so that the world can connect to God through you.