Saturday, March 28, 2015

Queering Religion (Matthew 21:12-17)

If there is a model for us queer religious folk it is this Jesus: disrupting and creating, queering and inviting, acting up and "presencing" God's hope. 

     When Jesus entered the Temple, he drove out all those who were selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those selling doves. He said to them, "Scriptures says, 'My house is to be called a house of prayer,' but you make it a den of thieves!"
     Those who were blind or couldn't walk came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. When the (religious leaders) saw the wonderful things Jesus did, and heard the children shouting "Hosanna to the Heir to the House of David!" throughout the Temple area, they became indignant. 
    "Do you hear what the children are shouting?" they asked him.
    "Yes," Jesus replied. "Have you never read, 'From the mouths of children and nursing babies, you have brought forth praise'?" After leaving them, he went out to Bethany to spend the night.

Queering is an intentional disruption to the normal perception of reality. To queer is to act up and unmask hypocrisy and injustice. To say that Jesus queers religion is to say that Jesus purposefully disrupts the unexamined hypocritical and unjust use of religion to subjugate marginalized populations as "sinners."

"Jesus acted up when he saw something wrong. Nothing made him angrier than religious hypocrisy blocking the way to God. He got mad when religious leaders made people pay to attend worship. He said, you can't buy your way to heaven! Everyone gets God for free... Hypocrites! You're like fancy tombs, pretty on the outside, but full of death on the inside." (The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision text by Kittredge Cherry, art by Douglas Blanchard)

Jesus disrupts the oppression of religious systems. Notice in Blanchard's painting the gates being torn down due to Jesus acting up, freeing those held back by religious attitudes. In this protest Jesus liberates the people to claim their own relationship to God without the intervention of religious institutions. 

Our text doesn't stop here though, and neither should we. Queering doesn't only disrupt, queering also creates. The text immediately moves us to Jesus other act of queering. Traditionally it's called "Teaching in the Temple," but that is not really what Jesus is doing here. It is more like he is "Creating Community in the Temple." Those who were marginalized by the institution, who were barred by the gates, are now welcomed into the fullness of God's love and being. Jesus creates community among those and for those who had been shunned under the old order of things. Those classified as sinners are the very ones Jesus welcomes. In the language of the gospels, Jesus makes present the coming kin-dom of God. 

If there is a model for us queer religious folk it is this Jesus: disrupting and creating, queering and inviting, acting up and "presencing" God's hope. 

A cautious word of warning. These two acts of queering are held by many biblical and historical scholars to be the events which trigger the plot to execute Jesus as a prisoner of the state. Civil religion takes a very sour view of those who would queer her and hold her accountable for her hypocrisy and injustice. 

For all my wrestling, as a leader in a religious institution, I squirm uncomfortably at the feet of our queering Christ. Even though I serve in a very progressive expression of the faith, hypocrisy still sniffs at my heels. Which is why I need this acting up Jesus who queered and continues to queer religion until the gates I help build are torn down, those I seek to exclude are welcome, and God's kin-dom comes in its fullness.


  1. Thank you for an honest and thoughtful piece. Queering Christ in a religious institutional setting is tough. May the queer Christ continue to inspire you this Holy Week and Easter.

  2. Kittredge - you and Doug have been my inspiration this Holy Week. The backlash you two have endured over the book mentioned above, and the grace under fire which the two of you have born is truly a wonderful model that I strive for as I see the embodiment of the queer Christ in you two.