Monday, October 22, 2018

A Queer Shine to the Face of God (Exodus 34:29-35)

              As Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the two tablets of the Covenant, he was not aware that the skin on his face was radiant from speaking with God. When Aaron and the other Israelites saw Moses, they were afraid to approach him because of the radiance of the skin of his face. Only when Moses called to them did Aaron and the leaders of the community come near, and then Moses spoke to them.
                Later, all the Israelites gathered around, and Moses gave them the instructions he had received from Our God on Mount Sinai. When he finished speaking to them, Moses put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses entered the presence of Our God, he would remove the veil until he came out again, and when he would come out and tell the Israelites what had been commanded, they would see that the skin on his face was radiant. Then he would put the veil over his face again until he went in to speak with God.                                                                                          
Exodus 34:29-35

Moses represents butch patriarchy that leaves no place for me – a man who would lie with another man as with a woman. Yet, Moses experience on Sinai is thoroughly queer in his knowledge of God and of public repudiation.

This is Moses second trot to the summit. On his first trek up great spiritual things happened. The lightning and thunder of revelation and inspiration shook the ground and dazzled the sky with brilliance. Filled with the ways of God, Moses returned to the people of Israel. But his own experience of God, like that of queer folks, was dismissed even before he had a chance to speak it.

The public had already chosen the idol or frozen metaphors of God. In this culture, there was no place for Moses and his new spiritual understandings.

Queer persons or at least religious queer folk – arguably the queerest, as in "odd," of the queer - face the same silencing. We are rebuffed by those who worship frozen texts and cold idols of the god of compulsory heterosexuality.

The lack of queer images of the Sacred in most religious dialogue is disquieting. But more painful is the silence and non-existent voice to speak of queer religious experience and queer spiritual insights. Like Moses, the experience of our Sinai is refused before it can be expressed, and we dash our experience to smithereens, rejecting our own relationship and our own received revelations of God. Yet, like Moses, God calls us back to Sinai – to our transgender-bisexual-gay-lesbian mountain tops.

From Moses, we learn that as sexual and gender diverse people we cannot, we must not wait on others to legitimate our own experience of the Sacred. Those invested in their idols will not give space or thought to the God who is in the business of continual revelation. As Moses did, we need to quarry our own tablets for writing. We must claim our own venture with the Sacred in the face of an obstinate religious tradition.

Like Moses, when we continue to enter into the Sacred, our faces shine! Since it is our faces, the shine has a fabulous queer tinge, reflecting nothing other than the queer shine of the face of God.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sick Religion (Genesis 22:9-13)

"It is a sick religion to sacrifice your children to God ."    

               When they arrived at the place God had pointed out, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged wood on it. Then he tied up his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill the child.
                 But the angel of God called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!”
                “Here I am!” he replied.
              “Do not raise your hand against the boy!” the angel said. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how deeply you revere God, since you did not refuse me your son, your only child.”
             Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. He went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his child.                                                   
Genesis 22:9-13

Abraham and Isaac

Abraham and Sarah wrote the book on sexual ruse. Abraham passed Sarah off as his sister to escape a ruler's covetousness of her beauty not once, but twice (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-28). With God's help, the couple lived to tell the tale both times. Later Sarah hatched a plan to ensure an heir. With her blessings and insistence, Abraham had sex with Hagar, Sarah's house slave. Nine months later Abraham had a bouncing baby boy on his knee. Even through as old as dirt, Abraham and Sarah still enjoyed sex play and Sarah also birthed a bouncing baby boy named Isaac. Hagar, now an embarrassment, found herself and her son left in the desert to die. With God's help, Hagar and her son Ishmael live to tell the tale.

Besides dabbling in sexual subterfuge, Abraham also dabbled in the Sacred. Along the way, he got the idea that an appropriate laudable sacrifice to God would be Isaac, his son by Sarah. It comes as no surprise, after all, he had already sought to sacrifice both Hagar and Ishmael.

It is a sick religion to sacrifice your children to God, yet that is the experience of many a queer person. Our families of origin often sacrifice us in the name of the twin idols of heterosexism and homophobia. Like Hagar and Ishmael, we are left to die of exposure. Worse, like Isaac, we are led by lies and half-truths to the altar of our own deaths.

Once again God stops the silliness of blind devotion and calms the soul of misdirected passions. Those involved live to tell the tale. Isaac was saved. But I am not sure he and Abraham were ever restored as father and son. How can you trust a parent who is crazy enough to appease the Sacred with your blood?

Queer persons know intimately the distinction between being tolerated and being celebrated within our families. We know the humiliation of leaving portions of our lives outside family gatherings so as not to upset others. We know rupture. We know the difficulty of sleep as we lie awake at night wondering why atonement is made with our blood.

It is a shame that the Holy could rescue Isaac, but was unable to touch the mind and heart of Abraham. Indeed, Isaac would have inherited something far more meaningful than herds and flocks, if the Sacred was more fully loved rather than feared by Abraham and Sarah.