I was moved to rage during a particular worship moment several years ago. I sat on the pew in disbelief while the rest of my sisters and brothers in the congregation were ecstatically offering praise to God. It happened when a well-known evangelist proudly declared from the pulpit that she would rather her son be addicted to drugs than to be a “sissy.”
Shame on her, I thought, for subjecting the congregation to her cockeyed logic and for preaching a hateful homophobic message in the name of Christ.
Shame on the gullible congregants, I also considered, for affirming her rash crudeness by elatedly jumping up out of their seats, lifting up their hands, and screaming conformist “amens” at the conclusion of her vicious statement.
In that moment of violation, I considered: What becomes of the scorned believer? How should those who are maligned by their own worshipping communities respond? And is there an appropriate manner in which queer Christians ought to express our righteous indignation in response to the spiritual maltreatment committed by our Christian brothers and sisters?
I respond by suggesting that we, queer women and men, have every reason to be angry. I contend that our righteous rage–a justifiable rage that takes as its subject vilifying acts of injustice, a ferocity that refuses to be settled until redress is actualized–should thusly form the foundation of our resistance.
The ignoring of our voices and the alienation to which we are subjected within the Christian community are, indeed, violent occurrences that mutilate our endowed freedom to exist as equals in our less than equitable world.
The present discourse on the acceptance of and ordination of queer men and women within the Church is a debate pivoting on the meager polarities of right/wrong, sinfulness/righteousness, victim/victimizer, and saint/sinner.
These discussions are often framed as cerebral deliberations by a heterosexist majority so as to highlight the need for “rational” and “intellectual” debate rather than dialogue fueled by queer folks’ emotions and contexts. Individuals have turned to scientific studies in search of the plausible biological underpinnings of sexual identity, theological resources in search of the existential answer to the hyper-imagined “institutions” of marriage and the traditional family, and psycho-social-cultural investigations in search of the common idealized norms that, supposedly, govern our universal moral codes.
One notices, however, that the search for and appeal to imagined universal, objective truths have resulted in the denial of the most inestimable of truths, namely, the “truth” / the reality / the subjectivities / the authenticity of the named experience of being and existence by the queer subject her/himself. As circular arguments continue to center on the perceived “homosexual problem,” the very voices of queer people are ignored, our life-stories denied, our sense of self disregarded, our agency stifled, and our very ontological speculations rendered mute.
The ignoring of our voices and the alienation to which we are subjected within the Christian community are, indeed, violent occurrences that mutilate our endowed freedom to exist as equals in our less than equitable world. The experience of alienation and self-disintegration are, indeed, lamentable acts, but if we, queer Christians, only cry as victims in response, then surely, we shall be heard as victims and not as the falsely accused and vindicated oppressed who vehemently seek to resist and uproot the trifling heteronormative, hegemonic ideals and moves of those who attempt to demoralize us.
I propose, then, a turn from a lament and a turn to rage to enervate the oppressive structures that seek to kill our senses of being-in-the-world. I contend that our theologizing should be foregrounded in scriptural texts that give voice to the expression of righteous rage, especially, rage pointed at injustices committed, not by invisible social structures, but by the community of believers–our own sisters and brothers–that we call the body of Christ.
M. Shawn Copeland defines theology as the system/process through which one “interprets scripture and tradition in particular historical, social (i.e. political, economic, technological), and cultural situations for particular faith communities. Theology takes its language, questions, and concerns from particular communities in particular situations; the answers it can provide are tentative, partial, provisional.” It is the latter end of the definition, a delineation of the process through which theological reflection is shared and the mode through which inquiries should be disseminated, which is most relevant to the discussion at hand.
- First, theologies can be characterized as hostile and destructive when the produced speech, inquiries, and concerns are conceived as resolutely universal and objective despite the particularities that gesture toward the varied subjectivities and life experiences that characterize the diversity of God’s created beings.
- Second, dangerous theologies mimic definitive as opposed to tentative speculation, absolute rather than partial truth, and undeviating as opposed to provisional reflection. This type of theologizing often takes the form of imperialized God-talk which reinforces the leveraged power of those dominating the conversation within the theological circle while exploiting those on the otherside.
Violent theology is nothing less than a move towards the refusal of the humanity of the other. Thus, when one’s sense of “who she is in the world” is produced and reproduced by the Other and when theological constructions collapse the varied narratives fashioned in the global and local spaces of shared community into a coagulated, univocal, and hegemonic rendering of truth, then, it becomes violent. It is a type of violence that demands the silencing of queer voices and a denial of our freedom to name our selves.
In response, we have a right to lift up our voices and to do so loudly. We are responsible for setting right our wrongs. We must not acquiesce to the ill treatment of our intimates, but should allow our voices to ring aloud until radical change (e.g. the ordination of queer women and men in our denominations; the full acceptance and space to participate within Christian worship communities; etc.) is actualized.
 See M. Shawn Copeland in Letty M. Russell’s and Jeanette Shannon’s (eds.) Clarkson Dictionary of Feminist Theologies, (Knoxville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 83.
Darnell L. Moore, writer/poet, activist, social commentator, and blogger. He is known for his scholarship on Black Theology and Black Christian thought. Reprinted with permission.