Monday, June 20, 2016

Too much blood at the intersections

A few years back I bought (and then mostly didn't read) David H. Kelsey's Eccentric Existence: A Theological Existence. It's really long (two volumes!), which is no argument against it. It has come out on my desk a couple of times, then gone back on the shelf, because it's going to take time to read, with long stretches available for focus and concentration, something that seems in short supply these days.

But good Lord, here I am doing what I often do when I'm emotionally stressed, I'm distracting me/us by talking about long books.

Ok. Focus.

Here's one thing Kelsey says in his book: "Love as neighbor is expressed as a passionate desire to be for fellow estranged human creatures precisely in the consequences that their shared estrangement have for their shared proximate contexts" (803). 

This past week we all lived this, are still living it. We learned that a man hated himself and the gay community (of which he was a member) so much he could think of no other option than to kill. He was, as it were, estranged, both from himself and others. In his estrangement, he slaughtered many others who had been trying themselves to be "for" each other in their shared estrangement by sharing a proximate context (a nightclub).

When I arrived at a rally and vigil Sunday night at the local Episcopal parish, and saw it was full to overflowing with people--in particular, full of people I don't often see in church--I couldn't help but cry. I have this passionate desire to be for fellow estranged human creatures. I love queer people. Part of what I shared (and of course my words were weak and inept and lacking) was simply this: "Look around you. These are your people. This is your place."

As a pastor, I deeply, profoundly want the community that gathered Sunday night to be a community in Christ together... and never at the expense of their queerness.

So therein lies the rub. Most Christian churches for much of history have taught queer folks they are only welcome in Christianity community if they conform to certain kinds of gendered normativity.

Tuesday night we hosted a Christian service of prayer and worship in light of Orlando. The crowd was (and here I am generalizing) more white and less tipping generationally toward millenial than the Sunday gathering. One of our speakers, a young Latinx and LGBTQ advocate, noticed how white we were, and remarked on it.

But then he named his own pain, that our community was willing to offer space for his grief in ways some of his own Latino community was not. He feels out of place in either context--in our church because it is predominately white, in the churches in which he grew up because he is not straight.

The dangers of double or triple estrangement are rampant. If you are LGBTQ and an ethnic minority, for example, you are at greater risk of experiencing violence or prejudice than if you live at just one intersection of queerness.

So I was proud of our predominately white and cis faith communities for coming out to pray for those who died in Orlando. It made me hopeful for the future.

The disjunction between the groups present Sunday night and Tuesday night, however, made me wonder, "How can we bring these communities together? What does it look like to have shared proximate contexts? What can we do to build trust, and bridges?"

We know that diversity strengthens society and contributes to economic and cultural vitality. We also know that the most diverse societies are the most punitive. So the paradox of diversity: it strengthens us and causes us to fear all at the same time.

Here's what I posted the night of our own prayer vigil:
Today I called the police to let them know about our Prayer and Worship in Light of Orlando. I did so because the television news had been calling all afternoon wanting to do a "security" angle. We don't enlist security at church typically, so I hadn't thought of it. But I decided to go ahead and call. Talked to some nice folks over there. 
Tonight two of the officers decided to come in and listen to the service from the narthex. After service one of them told me he had just lost his gay brother, who died of addiction. It was helpful to him to be able to hear the names of the Orlando fallen read aloud, and the bells. It helped him grieve. He was rather amazed a church would host such an event. I was honored they came in, and thankful they were there.
You never can tell.
Somehow that event right there is the intersection of the punitive, the diverse, the healing, the weak, the straight and the queer. Somehow the Spirit snuck in.

I think my favorite word these days is queer. Queering Christianity. Queer virtue. Queer grace. More and more is being written and collected (like this encyclopedia of LGBTQ and Christian Life by Emmy Kegler) that brings together the intersection of queer and Christian.

Queer is where the strength of diversity can beautifully overcome the drift to punitive and retributive blood at the intersections.

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