Liz Edsall says Christianity must be queer: it must learn from LGBT folk to be truly Christian. In Queer theory, queer is a verb, meaning to rupture. Queer breaks down false binaries between male and female, to make space for queer people. Christianity too, when working properly, ruptures false binaries, between human and divine, sacred and profane. The Revd. Liz, an Episcopal priest from New York, ignores the clobber passages. Why should we engage with Leviticus 20, which calls for our death by stoning? Who would cite such a passage imagining it had anything to do with life now, or was other than repulsive? Instead, she starts with the story of the Good Samaritan, the Outsider who did the humane, loving thing, the despised foreigner who saved a life when Jews would not. Christianity ruptures the boundary between self and other, as there must be no outsiders, no bad people, no Them.
Even St Paul wrote, There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. I loved that verse, and yet there is Presbyterian and Episcopalian, even ECUSA and ACNA.
Queers find the identity which defines us, and tell the truth about it. We build community with others with the same identity. We live this path over and over, and get better at it. Liz Edsall learned the Christian path from following the Queer path, what she calls “Queer virtue”. The importance and effectiveness of both paths is rooted in their relation to Scandal. Both are powerless because they are scandalous, and that is the basis of their power. Christianity was never expected to be respectable. Mark calls Jesus “Mary’s son”, that is, the illegitimate child. It was a scandal for Jesus to touch the Unclean, defend adulterers or value people on the margins of society, such as the women who followed him. The cross was designed as a public shaming, destruction of the personality, and breaking of the body. The Resurrection overcomes death and the violent destruction of dignity. Jesus shook up convention and disrupted the understanding of power.
This disruption is good for the whole world. When she protests racism she does not just quote the Bible but gives it a meaning for us, now. The Christian Left needs a theological framework to make sense of the tradition and the world. Queer is a lens to give clarity to our vision of Christianity. Queer shows us how to be Christian: come out, find healthy pride. Christianity is actual Good News, allowing everyone to be their authentic selves, as opposed to conservative Christianity which would crush everyone into the same straitjacket.
People on the margins will not be nice but will gain their God-given dignity by opposing violence to their souls.
An audience member asked, how to queer liberal Christianity. When they oppose equal marriage, the conservatives portray themselves as counter-cultural and the liberals as infected by secularism. To revitalise our faith, Queer it; be honest about the dynamics in play in relationships, pay attention to the life and health of everyone, and make community.
Liberal Christians want nuance, and others want false simplicity. Everyone is entitled to respect.
The woman next to me, who recognised me from my talk last year, photographed my notes.