Friday, June 17, 2011

A Drag Queen In Revelation (Revelation 22:17)

Revelation speaks poignantly to the queer experience.

The Spirit and the Betrothed say, "Come!"
Let the one who hears it answer, "Come!"
Let the thirsty come forward. Let all who desire it accept the gift of life-giving water.
Revelation 22:17

At first glance the writer of Revelation appears well known to us, he is John of Patmos. He should not be confused with the anonymous writer of the fourth gospel. He may or may not be the John of Jesus inner-circle, and he may or may not be a John known to christian or jewish history. Tongue-in-check, I think John of Patmos is the best candidate for a drag queen author of a book of the bible.

The images and language of Revelation, raw even in translation, speak to me of my drag-queen sisters' imagination: multi-headed beasts, whores, wrath and plagues, a savior in white, and at the end, hope for reconciliation and renewal. All of it sounds like a queen rant to me. I wonder if our failure to understand this book is born out our failure to appreciate the author's social location.

All punning and stereotyping aside, Revelation speaks poignantly to the queer experience. It speaks from the low point of view, the underbelly of life. John does not write from a position of privilege or power. The book of Revelation is dark and brooding because John's world is foreboding and dangerous. It seems to be that this is often the queer experience. And like John we often find dominant religious and cultural voices allied against us.

Our straight brothers and sisters in the faith often miss this struggle. For they have not been engaged in the daily exertion for dignity. John of Patmos has, and his experience of fear, uncertainty, and worry – of closet dynamics – mirrors the queer experience on multiple levels. His community has been decimated, his society is uncaring. His world is filled with monsters and armies coming for him. Terrifying shadows drift across his soulscape.

Only great conflict can resolve the weighty oppression John is caught in. The moon will need to be ex-sponged and the sun to burn blood-red before John is rescued from a closed–off life. Nothing in all the earth is scarier than an unhinged queen – we fight like cats and spit like vipers.

More so the beauty of the closing chapters where John, freed of his fears and demons, describes the world set right by a gracious and welcoming God. The closing includes a vision of a new heavenly Jerusalem. From her center flows the river of life carrying in her waters the hope of sustenance and abundance for a weary land. Following this description is the great invitation "Come all who are thirsty and drink."

Thank you my sister John, for I am thirsty, my throat is dry and cracked. I need the sacred water of the Divine to revive a life worth celebrating.

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