*This article first appeared in The Yoke Quarterly
I couldn’t believe how green the grass was. With each step, I felt like I was touching air. The water spoke. The closer I got, the more I realized that I could see aquatic life for miles. The clearness was unimaginable. I swam. With each stroke, I knew that I was beloved. I reached the rocks and climbed. When I got to the top, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. I didn’t hesitate. I jumped.
Before I hit the water, an eternity passed. Time was no more. I simply was.
Somehow, I left the water and flew into the sky. The experience was more real than anything I ever experienced. I could see billions and billions of unique people living in love and justice. The tears of joy started to flow. I never thought such a thing could happen again. I didn’t want to open my eyes. When I did, I knew where I had been…Eden.
Humans are afflicted with a chronic illness. We are homesick. Together, we spend every hour yearning for what was. It is in our genetic composition. We have untapped memories. If we are ever to be healed, we must find a way back…back to our future.
The God beyond god cannot be contained by normative constructions. God is the great blurrer of all of our categories. Who can describe love beyond love? How do you describe the sexuality of a God who created and is within all sexualities? Who can describe justice beyond justice? How do you describe the body of a God who creates and is within all bodies? Who can describe mercy beyond mercy? How do you describe the gender of a God who creates and is within all genders? These questions combine with many left unasked to illustrate the fascinating vastness and beauty of God. In simply being, God is queer.
What happened to God’s image?
Queerness was in limitless supply. Categories were unfathomable. The people simply were. With each day, God was there. The electricity that flowed through each person created life beyond life. With the knowledge that I could never do it justice, I hesitate to even describe it any further. Imagine a world where everyone was the very image of God. They were a queer people able to live into all queerness. There was no need for healing. No one was sick.
Can you imagine the queer sex that was shared in Eden? Passion existed in absolute perfection. Can you imagine the food and wine? The table was always open. Can you imagine the joy? There was no scarcity. All was as it should be. People loved in unfathomable ways. Everything was queer.
Then, the normative became an option.
The day was the darkest ever known.
The people awoke with love and purpose. The sounds were a symphonic melody. Walking around in their imaginations, the people approached the great tree. There was something different about the fruit. They couldn’t figure out what it was. God warned them.
The sound of a snake didn’t startle them. How could it? Everyone and everything loved each other. When the snake spoke, the people listened. “Do you want a bite?” The people didn’t know how to respond. “God is afraid that you will be all powerful.” Unable to comprehend the danger of normativity, the people wondered. Everything changed with one bite.
Categories rushed in. The people sickened. Being was fleeting. Pain was unbelievable. Why would God put something in Eden to harm them? They never knew why. Embarrassed of their lack of queerness, the people fled. We have been sick with normativity ever since. What happened? We may never know. The only thing we know is that we have to get back.
Queerness is the way, the truth and the life.
God didn’t know how in the hell it went down like it did. One second everyone was enjoying each other in Eden and the next second everyone was running out with their leaves on fire. Regardless of the cause, God knew the result. Normativity took over the planet. Humans were relegated to a life filled with categories. For many moons, God tried to get people to understand that queerness was the only path back. One cannot expect to be right relationship with the universe when they are not living into the image of God that they were created to be. War raged within and without. Most people didn’t know if they were going to kill themselves or their neighbor first. The twin sicknesses of violence and hate were amongst the most normative constructions that developed. Deeply pained and realizing that humanity needed a path to healing, God prepared a rescue mission. At exactly the right moment, queerness exploded onto the earth once more.
The queerest of them all hit the hay covered in blood and amniotic fluid. While it was obvious that most of the people there didn’t realize the magnitude of what they were witnessing, the random poor shepherds covered in sheep shit might have offered them a clue. This child would grow to push us beyond all of our categories to that most holy space of queer. Though he was God, the child grew and struggled with normativity just like anyone else. Suffering from the normative sickness of being human, Jesus needed healing too. The categories were just too powerful.
Jesus was a racist. The Canaanite woman cried out for help. Her daughter was afflicted with a demon and needed healing from God. Instead of help, Jesus declared that he was here for Israel only and called her a dog. There ain’t a damn thing queer about racism. In this moment, Jesus was just like every other normative bigot. Refusing to let him go without a healing, the woman questioned his racism and challenged him to be better. This woman was not even supposed to be speaking to Jesus and she had the audacity to queerly tell it like it is. At that very second she spoke, a miracle happened…Jesus was healed from his racism and he healed her daughter. One has to first realize they are sick before they can heal. This queer woman boldly dared to heal Jesus of his racism. Only the queer could heal Jesus.
There once was a woman whose queerness was destroyed early and almost entirely. Throughout her life, she sought healing. From counseling to spiritual discernment to relationships to supplements, she tried it all. On a whim, she married a man who had been interested in her for a long time. “Maybe I might find healing in the security of marriage,” she thought. Thinking that she would never marry, her parents were thrilled. Before long, her husband started to abuse her physically and emotionally. She was in unbearable pain. At the market one day, a man caught her eye. She couldn’t shake the thought of him and fell in love. Praying for forgiveness, she responded to a note he passed her. Before long, the two were involved in an affair. Love was all they knew.
When her husband found out, rage overwhelmed him. Immediately, he went to his local Rabbi and demanded the punishment prescribed by law. The Pharisees realized that this was the opportunity they needed to show their strength as the keepers of normativity. For a week, the Pharisees spied on the woman and the man she was having an affair with. After watching the live pornography for a few minutes, the Pharisees stormed in. Ordering the man not to tell anyone, the men grabbed the woman and drug her through the street. The entire time, the woman kept feeling like her first chance at real love was going to be what ultimately killed her. “If only I had just been normative and done what I was supposed to do like everyone else…” she thought. When she was slung at the feet of Jesus and the Pharisees raised their rocks, she knew she was going to die.
If Jesus had not met a queer Canaanite woman a few months prior, he wouldn’t have been ready for this situation. Dust rose from the ground. Breathing was heavy. Hate was winning. The woman caught in adultery begged him for help. Looking down, Jesus knew that the only way to help was to cross a boundary. When he looked up at the Pharisees, Jesus looked deeply into their eyes and lowered his body further into the dirt. Nothing needed to be said, everyone knew that Jesus was placing his body into the conversation. In placing his person between the rocks and the woman, Jesus showed how the queer heals…by offering the body for the sake of justice. The Canaanite prepared Jesus to place his body in the dirt with an adulterous woman by drawing him into the plight of the oppressed and marginalized. The queer heals through incarnational body exchanges and so must we.
“Love you neighbor as yourself.” Have you ever considered what a queer concept love is? The wellness of your neighbor is dependent on your ability to love yourself. You have to understand yourself as a queer human being made in the image of a queer God before you can heal. Normativity cannot be banished without blurring the categories and lines of what is. Jesus had to learn to be different in order to make a difference. When Jesus was talking to the Canaanite woman, he was just as racist as everyone else. The Canaanite decided to love her neighbor as herself and pull Jesus out of his racism to a place of love. When Jesus met the adulterous woman, he was ready to pull her out of the normative oppression of the Pharisees that she was facing. By getting down in the dirt, Jesus declared that the normative force of hate had no power in the face of love. Difference makes a difference. Queerness makes thing queer. To be like God is to give your body to healing…there is nothing queerer.
“Is there any other way?” Jesus knew there was not. The only way to be queer is to give your body for the healing of others. Regardless of the pain, Jesus was prepared. The Canaanite and adulterous woman made sure of it. You have to present your body as a roadblock to racism. You have to give your body to save others. You have to be queer in order to heal. When Jesus was lifted high up on that cross, I know that he thought about the two women who made him God. Looking out into the distance, he must have remembered how the Canaanite taught him to love everyone. As the blood dropped into his eyes, the woman caught in adultery must have spoken to him about how he saved her. Before him, the gathered represented the normatizers that we all are. In giving his body, Jesus wanted to set us all free. To love queerly is to give the body. In immense pain, Jesus cried out, “Forgive them for they know not what they do!” We fail to understand the consequences of our normativity. In the greatest healing moment of all time, Jesus was most fully queer and therefore most fully God. We know the way back.
Queer love is the most powerful healer of all. We are called to be the healed healers that we were created to be. In giving his body, Jesus loved queerly. We are called to go and do likewise. The path back to queerness is to love the self enough to give the self away. Imprints of Eden are within us. Search deeply. We have to first be healed of all the categories that hold us back and then place our bodies on the line for the liberation of others. There is queerness within us. We once walked without categories. We were free. Do your remember? Let us return. In the face of the devastating categories that afflict us, God is calling us to grow queerer…for only the queer heals.