Thursday, September 19, 2013

Unbinding (John 11:43-44)

      Then Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"
     And Lazarus came out of the tomb, still bound hand and foot with linen strips, his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus told the crowd, "untie him and let him go free"
John 11:43-44

Lazarus Come Out, by Larry Farris

Like Mary and Martha - Lazarus' sisters - the queer community knows death. Sisters and brothers beaten, jailed, killed because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. It's enough to handle these external threats to life, but we also have to handle the internal threats. Self-loathing, born of internalized heteronormative attitudes, erupts within many souls of our community as suicide. The statistics speak for themselves. Within the general US population the suicide attempt rate is 1.6%. Heterosexual teen suicide attempt rate is 4%. LGB teen suicide attempt rate is 20%. Transsexual suicide attempt rate is 41% (source CDC). Then there is, of course, disease, with the great plague of our times - AIDS - having swept away many friends and loved ones. Yes the queer community is accustomed to death.

To add to our sorrow are the metaphorical deaths we receive in our psyche. The rejection which comes from public detractors, the fear shown by some of our own families, the "friends" who keep reminding us that we are in the "wrong." We react in a variety of ways. Unfortunately among them are self-hatred, alcohol and substance abuse, and other self-negating behavior that stops short of suicide yet, is just as life denying.

Like Martha and Mary we shed our tears for the great loss of life and love from our community.

We discover in this story that the Divine is not satisfied with death and decay and moves to establish life and joy. In christian terms we call this resurrection. Queer folk, like Lazarus, also know resurrection. Every time we come out, every time we "represent," we participate in resurrection. For a good article on the dynamics of Lazarus' raising and coming out see: The Raising of Lazarus and the Gay Experience of Coming Out, over at The Wild Reed.

What interest me here is that which follows the raising of Lazarus. He comes out of the tomb, yet still wrapped in the trappings of death. The process is not complete until Jesus directs the crowd to unbind the wrappings. It invites us to ponder the recent straight community's "tomb breaking" by which it is letting go of the death dealing anti-gay attitudes of the past. It seems to me that we who are queer should be about unbinding the straight community, which is also caught up in the deadly legacy of the heteronormative.

The command is for all of us to emerge from what entombs us. The invitation is to assist our neighbors in being unbound from death's heritage.

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