“At the appointed time the Promised One will come in glory, escorted by all the angels of heaven, and will sit upon the royal throne, with all the nations assembled below. Then the Promised One will separate them from one another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. The sheep will be place on the right hand, the goats on the left…
|Self Hatred Is So Gay|
Thus begins a favorite passage from my halcyon days as a social activist in college. The parable has everything a budding activist needs: a portrait of Jesus as the reigning sovereign; humanity divided by how we care for the most vulnerable among us; and – the coup-de-grace – the teaching that the Sacred is found in the marginalized, the poor, the outcast. Yes, this parable fueled my actions to care for the least of these, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. Those were some great days. My heart is still warmed by the memories of my friends and our adventures in counterculture attitudes and actions.
As expected, college gave way to seminary. In the class on parables I chose this one to investigate. At that time my budding scriptural interpretation skills (do they ever fruit?) was anchored in “Cannonical Criticism” – situating a passage in the larger flow of themes within the individual biblical book it is located, and then situating that theme within the broader flow of the entire bible (or cannon).
I found that the term “least of these” is used in Matthew to speak not of the marginalized of society, but rather to speak of the disciples and followers of Jesus (see the parallel passage in Matthew 10). Now this intrigued me – why would the emergent church self-identify as hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned? The reason was that being a christian in those days often put you at odds with your family and society.
There exists a mirroring between the estrangement of queers from family and society and the estrangement of the emergent church. Like queers today, the early followers of Jesus turned to one another for support, acceptance, and safety when society and family only offered shame, derision, and illegality. What divides (a very Matthean theme) the sheep from the goats is a failure of an oppressed and despised group to take care of their own.
We queers are guilty of such shunning. Within our attitudes and actions is as rigid a hierarchy as exist among the most pressing settings of patriarchy. Fems and flames need not respond, bears carved out their own space, and the aging gay male body is anathema. Lesbians can be more concerned about who has suffered more, bisexuals are deemed “fench setters,” transgenders and intersexuals are oddities of nature, and the asexual is a prude.
If we cannot bless and love each other in the queer community, then why should we look to the straight community to bless and accept us? We queers must learn to love one another without the barriers that keep us segregated in our subculture "ghettos." We are good at understanding how discrimination against one person due to sexual orientation, sexual expression, or gender non-conformity is discrimination against all queers everywhere. We are not so good at understanding how our personal prejudice against various persons and groups within queerdom diminishes the community as a whole. The sheep recognized they are in it together, the goats only recognized themselves.
We are now at the core of this parable. In having compassion on our own we find we have entertained Christ unaware. The empire of God comes disguised in the garb of the weak, lonely, and destitute queer sister/brother we might be tempted to turn away from due to our prejudice.