Thursday, October 11, 2012

QueerSpirit (Matthew 15:13)

… Jesus replied, “Every religious scholar who has become a student of the kindom of heaven is like the head of a household who can bring from the storeroom both the new and the old.”
Matthew 15:13
Logo created by Jenny Goring
for the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Church of Christ
QueerSpirit Retreat
To be a student of the empire is to be a student of God’s ways among us. After all, God’s realm is not something “out there” waiting to arrive. Rather God’s reign is the inbreaking of the Sacred into the very midst of our lives, hearts, and souls. This parable invites all who are “students of the kindom” to be responsible for bringing treasures out of the storeroom of faith to aid this inbreaking. I personally feel that les-gay-bi-trans-queer/questioning-intersex-asexual students of the kingdom are uniquely gifted to bring forth the peculiar queer treasure known as "camp."  

Susanne Sachsse and Marc Siegel help to define camp:
For some, camp is a lie that tells the truth. For others, it’s an unexpectedly intense commitment to the seemingly trivial. Some say that camp is so bad that it’s good. For others, it’s so good that it calls into question dominant value systems.”  (Kaltblut Magazine)

I would add that through the humor of lampooning, camp produces a social critique by way of absurdity which helps us discern the truth claims of issues and persons. As an example, when we camp religious expressions we help name the sublime nature of faith while at the same time bringing attention to the ridiculous aspects of dogma.

For a number of years I helped coordinate an event dubbed “QueerSpirit.” It was a gathering of the spectrum of human sexuality – straight allies, transgender folk, lesbians, bisexuals, and gays. We were a mix of clergy and lay, of professional and student, of understanding and confusion. As campy students of the kingdom we brought out of the storeroom our experience of being sexual minorities. We sought to connect with the Sacred in and through our sexual identities, as opposed to in-spite-of our “predilections.”

We told our stories, laughed, cried, debated, and held silence. Answers were few but questions abounded: What is the gift of queer faith to a hetero-centric church? How does sexuality impinge spirituality? Do queers and straights experience God the same way? What is the role of scripture and tradition in the matrix of oppression? The same in the matrix of liberation? What is my place in this event called life? Answers in the form of yet more questions allowed satire and parody to shape and reshape our connections to the Holy.

By being unabashedly campy with the kingdom we help name it as a life-enhancing entity from the hand of God, while at the same time critiquing it when it becomes a life-denying entity in the hands of humans. A kindom, or realm which cannot be enriched from such appraisal is not in touch with the full extent of human experience infused with the elegance of the Sacred.

As queer people we bring to religious traditions the treasure of an open, campy faith which seeks ways forward through the unorthodox methods of spoof, caricature, and exaggeration. Detractors will question if camp is an appropriate storeroom treasure. I believe it is, for camp helps us to critique the absurd in order to find the sublime. Pitiful is the religious expression which doesn’t want this treasure to be brought forth.

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