Last summer I put out a call for a Queer Theology Synchroblog and in August of 2011 a great group of people participated. So it’s time for another one! The date of this year’s synchroblog is going to be October 10. On each Wednesday from now until then, I will post some reflections on Queer Theology. The official call for the synchroblog (with the theme and the instructions) will go up in a couple of Wednesdays, so keep checking back!
Here is your quick and dirty introduction to the three different forms of Queer Theology.
The first (and probably still most common) form of Queer Theology is Apologetics. From Wikipedia, “Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, “speaking in defense”) is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information.” In Queer Theology this is the art of taking apart the “clobber passages”. It looks at the Greek and Hebrew, tries to uncover the historical context, and attempts to make a Biblical case for (usually) Gay and Lesbian people.
Apologetics has been done well by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott in Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Revised and Updated: Positive Christian Response, A, John J. McNeill in The Church and the Homosexual: Fourth Edition, Jack Rogers in Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Revised and Expanded Edition: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church, John Shelby Spong in Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality, Justin Tanis in Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith (Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry) and in the films For The Bible Tells Me So and Fish Out of Water.
The second form of Queer Theology is what I call “Queer Exegesis and Hermeneutics”. Again, from Wikipedia: “Exegesis (from the Greek ἐξήγησις from ἐξηγεῖσθαι ‘to lead out’) is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text.”
Exegesis includes a wide range of critical disciplines: textual criticism is the investigation into the history and origins of the text, but exegesis may include the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds for the author, the text, and the original audience. Other analysis includes classification of the type of literary genres present in the text, and an analysis of grammatical and syntactical features in the text itself. The terms exegesis and hermeneutics have been used interchangeably. However, hermeneutics is a more widely defined discipline of interpretation theory: hermeneutics includes the entire framework of the interpretive process, encompassing all forms of communication: written, verbal and nonverbal, while exegesis focuses primarily on the written text.”
This is the art of reading Queer stories underneath the text. This works sees trans* experience in the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in the book of Acts, queer love between David and Jonathan in the Hebrew Scriptures, the gender nonconformity of Jacob and his son Joseph, etc.
Queer Exegesis and Hermeneutics has been done well by Peterson Toscano, Robert Shore Goss in Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto, Patrick Cheng in From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ, and in Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible.
The third kind of Queer Theology is what I would call “Embodiment Theology”. It’s the act of making queer experience central to the text. Reading the text through a queer lens. It moves into a living relationship with the text putting it in conversation with the lived lives of queer people.
When I think about the future of Queer Theology, I want to see us engaging more and more with categories two and three, and leaving category one behind. While Apologetics can be a vital first step for people, it’s also a place where many get stuck. It creates a conversation that is continually about Greek words, whether or not you believe in inerrancy, and arguments that go nowhere. It’s a discipline that is more about words on paper than lives lived.
When we get into exegesis and embodiment we bring our whole selves to the text. We make the text live and sing and dance. We breathe into the breathe of queerness and in so doing it gives us back our spiritual strength.
As Marcella Althaus Reid says in “The Queer God” “There are those who go to gay bars and salsa clubs with rosaries in their pockets, and who make camp chapels of their living rooms. Others enter churches with love letters hidden in their bags, because their need for God and their need for love refuse to fit into different compartments.”
Exegesis and Embodiment bring together the chapel and the salsa club, they allow our love letters to be read and answered, they allow us to enter into the Word of God with our flesh and in so doing we make the Word flesh again.
(All links go to my Amazon affiliate page. I get like $1.00 if you buy something. For a more complete history of Queer Theology, check out Patrick Cheng’s Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology.)