The Scream (for Orlando, June 12, 2016) One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord — the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream. – Edvard Munch We are the instruments of God. If that's all God has to work with we're doomed, an off-key, out of sync marching band parading off a cliff, cheered on by the bombastic blaring of trump-ets. Is that why the man is screaming under the blood red sky? Oh, how the crimson shrieks. Is it the horror of two men tenderly kissing? Is it the horror of forty-nine souls now missing? Is it the scream of a bad dream? Is it the blood raining from the clouds, running down the walls? Is it the tears flooding over the shrouds, cascading as an angel falls? Or is God screaming? And the man cowers as the shriek of nature's despair echoes, the cacophony of a marching band parading off a cliff. ©2016 Kenneth W. Arthur
Category: GLBT Page 2 of 3
This last week I spent some of my vacation time at a retreat called “Bear Your Soul” (BYS) at Easton Mountain, north of Albany, New York. I went to the same retreat last summer as well. As I understand it, the mission of this retreat is to create community for gay men (especially for “bears”) that is centered around building relationship instead of going out to the bar. BYS and Easton Mountain more generally provides a place that encourages spiritual growth, self-acceptance, and self-discovery, helping gay men to integrate body and soul.
This year, I’m feeling the need to debrief a little, so some random comments…
A quick and dirty poem inspired by my vacation retreat experience:
Bearing My Soul I am who I am. To bear my soul is to carry the knowledge of who I am. To bare my soul is to reveal the knowledge of who I am. My soul as a bear is strong yet weak, frightened yet courageous, healed yet wounded, unsure yet grounded, spiritual and physical, simple and complex. To bear my soul is to discover and accept who I am. To bare my soul is to open and risk who I am. I am who I am. It is enough and it is good. ©2016 Kenneth W. Arthur
The “anarchistreverend” blog, in the post http://anarchistreverend.com/2011/07/synchroblog/, asked people to blog about queer theology today, August 10, 2011. I think it will have a list of all of those who responded by blogging. My friend Cindi, who blogs at http://cindik.com/, has echoed the call several times, which finally inspired me to add a few words to the cause.
The original proposal stated: “On that day I want people to blog about what queer theology means to them. I want you to share your story of how reading the Bible queerly has changed your life. I want you to talk about how your sexuality or your gender identity has brought you deeper into relationship with God.”
And further clarified: “This synchroblog is NOT ABOUT apologetics. This isn’t about taking on the clobber passages or explaining why it’s okay to be queer. It’s time to move past those conversations. […] This day will give a hint of the beautiful stories that can be shared; of the amazing ways that queer folks read and delve into the Scriptures.”
Since I’ve waited until the last possible moment to think about this, my thoughts aren’t as well thought out as I would like… but I’ll give it a shot.
As a gay pastor of a small church composed of mostly LGBT people, the relationship of Christianity and queerness is very much of personal interest to me. First of all, I would echo the anarchistreverend’s sentiment that “it’s time to move past [apologetic] conversations.” Although I don’t mind giving my take on the “clobber” passages or why one can be queer and Christian to those who are genuinely struggling with those questions, I have no interest whatsoever in arguing about it with those who are determined to adhere to homophobic views. Queer people are loved children of God and our inherent, God-given worthiness is not up for debate. Period. End of Question.
But what does being queer and Christian mean to my life? For one, if I had not come to terms with being gay, I probably would never have come back to the church or Christianity. After many years, having left the church behind for reasons that had nothing to do with the question of queerness, I came back to church as a safe place to meet other gay people. In the process, I discovered “progressive” Christianity and re-found my love of the church and God. This has led me on a weird and wonderful journey to ministry.
But does being gay / queer enhance my spiritual journey? One way in which it does is that being a queer Christian forces me to question the status quo. To think for myself. I cannot just accept whatever traditional doctrine that I’m told I’m supposed to believe. Too many church teachings have historically been about maintaining the church’s power over people’s lives and not about helping them find God’s love. To buy into those doctrines would be self-damaging and irresponsible. The way many churches treat queer people is a good example of this at work.
This questioning and challenging is a gift that queer people give to the church. Being queer is to be on the margins of what is “acceptable.” Queerness makes people question and challenge boundaries, especially as to whether our boundaries are really God-given or established by fearful, power-pursuing humans. Marriage is a good example. Queerness challenges the status quo. It challenges the very definition of and reasons for marriage.
But, our questioning as queer people should also go beyond pushing the boundaries outward to include more people. We should question the very structure of the boundaries. Sticking with marriage, we might question whether being included in this institution is even the best thing. Perhaps we instead need new understandings of committed human relationships. In one way, I’m surprised that conservative Christians are against gay marriage. If conservatives wanted control over gay people and how they are allowed to act and present themselves then the best way to do that would be to bring them within the walls of their moral codes. I think it is wonderful when a new state approves gay marriage, but is to be within those walls really what is best? I’m not saying I disapprove of marriage… I think it is exciting when two people are in love and make a commitment to each other. But there are lots of side issues (such as church vs. state marriage) and this is not really meant to be a blog entry on marriage.
And there are plenty of other issues that come to mind… sexual ethics, open relationships, pornography, bdsm, family dynamics, the nature of love… Being queer should challenge us to try to think through those issues and not just accept the stereotypical, traditional Christian responses. And all of this questioning and searching the Bible, our hearts, and our fellow spiritual journeyers for answers should bring us closer to God in a more genuine, heartfelt relationship. Because that’s what queer people have to do, forge our own path of relationships – with each other and with God.
Related to this questioning, being a gay Christian has led me to think of Christ as queer… Jesus was always challenging the status quo, making people think. If you’re interested in the idea of a queer Christ, I’ll offer a sermon I preached a couple of years ago for further reflection. Listen to it at http://www.phoenixchurch.org/sermons/032909_ka_1corinth12_12-21_26.mp3 or read the pdf file attached to this blog entry.
Okay, that’s it as a last minute reflection on what being queer and Christian means to me… at least what it means to me today anyway 🙂 I’m still questioning… and hope I always will be.
referenced sermon in pdf format: Recognizing Ourselves in Christ