Queering Christianity, coming out and a prophetic theophany ~ Guest Post by Luciano Kovacs

Luciano is currently serving as North America Regional Secretary for the World Student Christian Federation and has held this position since January 2008. In this capacity, Luciano coordinates the work of the WSCF in North America (Canada and US) and has global responsibilities as member of the global staff team. Luciano previously worked as Social Justice Director for Jan Hus Presbyterian Church in New York coordinating its homeless Outreach and Advocacy Program, its Global Concerns Program and its Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Advocacy Program. Luciano has produced six off-off Broadway plays at the Jan Hus Playhouse in New York City. Luciano writes poetry and lyrics for an Italian band, Pellicans, whose second CD will come out in October 2012. Acting and wild dancing are among his most-cherished passions and ubiquitousness his most sought-after desire. Luciano considers himself a long-life justice and peace activist!

I have a vivid memory of my struggle as a teenage boy to accept that I was falling in love with boys and not girls, that my sexuality was deviating from the norm that society was imposing at a time when there was no talk about gay marriage, in school there was no explicit queer literature and in my church – albeit a progressive Protestant denomination in Italy- there was no mention of queer theology. Where was a young dancing boy –the title of the second album of the band for which I write lyrics (Pellicans http://www.pellicans.com)- to find inspiration in God unless Godself would walk alongside me in the “coming out process” in a period in which I was still writing dreams on scrap paper? How were I and all those who were slowly breaking the chains of hetero-normative repression going to continue to define ourselves Christian unless the kenotic process of incarnation would reflect our bodily needs to love, express sexuality and feel the liberative breath of the spirit who moves beyond the static imagine of a patriarchal deity? Over twenty years have passed since the day of initiating my revelation to the world, a spiritual rebirth that has accompanied me in a process that lasts an entire life as coming out as a queer person entails. Although today my theological perspective, which has been highly influenced by late Argentine “indecent” theologian Marcela Althaus-Reid, maintains that queer theology is one of the many lenses that make resistance struggles visible through God-inspired intimate relationships between the excluded and the path for liberation, I still believe in the need for queering Christianity, which still so much upholds homophobic teachings, writings, practices and that still dooms many people to self-sacrificing body and soul in the name of an impostor Jesus. In this article, I would like to argue that the queering of Christianity allows for a prophetic process of contextual theophany (from ancient Greek for God’s appearance to the humans), the retelling of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus and the sexualization of a theologically- relevant justice discourse.

The prophetic process of contextual theophany

Queering Christianity is a liberative theological process that starts at the hands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender theologians and their allies. It is a contextual theology whose location lies with marginalized bodies and relationships of those who have engaged the God of history by untangling the limbs snared in the brier of sexual repression. It is a prophetic process that unveils the manifestation (theophany) of God in the bedrooms of those who have lived fearfully in hidden spaces and guilt-ridden amorous intimacy and comes out with them into the world to prophetize sexual liberation and its theological underpinnings. The God portrayed as “fag hater” by gay-bashing protesters who showed up at Matthew Shephard’s funeral, a young gay man who was murdered in the late 90s in a notorious case of hate crime in Wyoming, USA, rebels against that libeling labeling by reaffirming sexual salvation through “political and sexual liturgies”(Althaus-Reid 2003) of coming out stories. Coming out is God’s theophany in the context of sexual repression.

The retelling of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus

I have argued elsewhere that a consensual, healthy and respectful sexual intercourse outside of committed relationships, whether straight or gay, can be compared to a shared meal by strangers or people who know one another. Such sexual rapports have, in my opinion, significant theological ramifications, in that once sexuality is demythologized and deprived of repressive elements accrued over the centuries, it evokes the intimate calling that characterizes ceremonial and mystical experiences as well as the earthly bonding that occurs during the breaking of the bread and the sharing of wine. As Jesus’ liberation work from the yoke of empire, poverty, and pharisaical attitudes is exemplified by the sharing of a meal, the sexual subversion that queer persons have had to exercise given their marginalization and condemnation, becomes the quintessential theological act of freeing oneself from spiritual suffocation and corporal victimhood. When Matthew Shepard dies at the hands of his murderers, Jesus is once again crucified and deprived of the sustaining of food which is the basis of the sharing of the table. It is the resuscitated Christ embodied symbolically in the hope that follows the tragic death of queer people still burned at the modern stake of discrimination, bullying, imprisonment and homicide that appears on the road to Emmaus. Jesus is not concerned with the sexuality of the two disciples, as the two major tenets of the encounter are the announcement of rebirth and the codification of his legacy by means of eating together. The road to Emmaus can be a metaphor of queer liberation brought upon by the legacy of Jesus who chooses intimate relationships with fellow human beings to announce the kin-dom. Sharing a table or a bed is equivalent to following Jesus on the road to Emmaus. This could be the interpretation of a young queer man who is trying to make sense of the relationship between his sexuality, God,the Scripture and the denial suffered at the hands of the churche in many contexts.

The Sexualization of a theologically-relevant justice discourse

As the famous slogan that has accompanied the pacifist movement over the decade goes, make love not war is an eloquent theological rejection of a patriarchal belief system and practice that have subjugated women, gays, blacks, poor people and other marginalized groups through a grid of interconnected injustices that I refer to, as a Christian thinker and believer, as the continuation of the Roman Empire, under whose rule ancient Israel was governed. And as a Christian queer leader who believes in the salvific act of sexuality, not only do I affirm what Reid calls “courageous disaffiliations from traditional oppressive theological theories” and include hereto the sexualization of the journey to salvation as a disaffiliation from homophobic theological thinking. But I also endorse the idea that the hermeneutical reading of the walk to Emmaus as a possibly sexually-loaded encounter helps me to link my Christian faith to what I see as the natural flowing from sexuality to justice and peace for all. People who have been shunned by the institutions that have used a text to marginalize may find in it the opposing meanings relevant to their social location. And when people are oppressed, in this case because of their sexuality, they will use the object of their repression as a means for liberation. Given that people under the yoke of oppression are humanly debased no matter what the context is, liberation always means peace and justice for all. The walk to Emmaus is Jesus’ theophany to two disciples after his resurrection, which is the hope of living beyond the boundaries of oppression at the hands of empire.  Queer theology has therefore the responsibility of unsettling the hetero-normative way of locating God in traditional spaces upholding unequal and unjust relationships. The revolutionary coming out of God through the incarnation process is foray to a sexually-relevant path to social justice and peace for all.

I have a vivid memory of my struggle as a teenage boy to accept that I was falling in love with boys and not girls, that my sexuality was deviating from the norm that society was imposing at a time when there was no talk about gay marriage, in school there was no explicit queer literature and in my church – albeit a progressive Protestant denomination in Italy- there was no mention of queer theology. Where was a young dancing boy –the title of the second album of the band for which I write lyrics (Pellicans http://www.pellicans.com)- to find inspiration in God unless Godself would walk alongside me in the “coming out process” in a period in which I was still writing dreams on scrap paper? How were I and all those who were slowly breaking the chains of hetero-normative repression going to continue to define ourselves Christian unless the kenotic process of incarnation would reflect our bodily needs to love, express sexuality and feel the liberative breath of the spirit who moves beyond the static imagine of a patriarchal deity? Over twenty years have passed since the day of initiating my revelation to the world, a spiritual rebirth that has accompanied me in a process that lasts an entire life as coming out as a queer person entails. Although today my theological perspective, which has been highly influenced by late Argentine “indecent” theologian Marcela Althaus-Reid, maintains that queer theology is one of the many lenses that make resistance struggles visible through God-inspired intimate relationships between the excluded and the path for liberation, I still believe in the need for queering Christianity, which still so much upholds homophobic teachings, writings, practices and that still dooms many people to self-sacrificing body and soul in the name of an impostor Jesus. In this article, I would like to argue that the queering of Christianity allows for a prophetic process of contextual theophany (from ancient Greek for God’s appearance to the humans), the retelling of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus and the sexualization of a theologically- relevant justice discourse.

The prophetic process of contextual theophany

Queering Christianity is a liberative theological process that starts at the hands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender theologians and their allies. It is a contextual theology whose location lies with marginalized bodies and relationships of those who have engaged the God of history by untangling the limbs snared in the brier of sexual repression. It is a prophetic process that unveils the manifestation (theophany) of God in the bedrooms of those who have lived fearfully in hidden spaces and guilt-ridden amorous intimacy and comes out with them into the world to prophetize sexual liberation and its theological underpinnings. The God portrayed as “fag hater” by gay-bashing protesters who showed up at Matthew Shephard’s funeral, a young gay man who was murdered in the late 90s in a notorious case of hate crime in Wyoming, USA, rebels against that libeling labeling by reaffirming sexual salvation through “political and sexual liturgies”(Althaus-Reid 2003) of coming out stories. Coming out is God’s theophany in the context of sexual repression.

The retelling of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus

I have argued elsewhere that a consensual, healthy and respectful sexual intercourse outside of committed relationships, whether straight or gay, can be compared to a shared meal by strangers or people who know one another. Such sexual rapports have, in my opinion, significant theological ramifications, in that once sexuality is demythologized and deprived of repressive elements accrued over the centuries, it evokes the intimate calling that characterizes ceremonial and mystical experiences as well as the earthly bonding that occurs during the breaking of the bread and the sharing of wine. As Jesus’ liberation work from the yoke of empire, poverty, and pharisaical attitudes is exemplified by the sharing of a meal, the sexual subversion that queer persons have had to exercise given their marginalization and condemnation, becomes the quintessential theological act of freeing oneself from spiritual suffocation and corporal victimhood. When Matthew Shepard dies at the hands of his murderers, Jesus is once again crucified and deprived of the sustaining of food which is the basis of the sharing of the table. It is the resuscitated Christ embodied symbolically in the hope that follows the tragic death of queer people still burned at the modern stake of discrimination, bullying, imprisonment and homicide that appears on the road to Emmaus. Jesus is not concerned with the sexuality of the two disciples, as the two major tenets of the encounter are the announcement of rebirth and the codification of his legacy by means of eating together. The road to Emmaus can be a metaphor of queer liberation brought upon by the legacy of Jesus who chooses intimate relationships with fellow human beings to announce the kin-dom. Sharing a table or a bed is equivalent to following Jesus on the road to Emmaus. This could be the interpretation of a young queer man who is trying to make sense of the relationship between his sexuality, God,the Scripture and the denial suffered at the hands of the churche in many contexts.

The Sexualization of a theologically-relevant justice discourse

As the famous slogan that has accompanied the pacifist movement over the decade goes, make love not war is an eloquent theological rejection of a patriarchal belief system and practice that have subjugated women, gays, blacks, poor people and other marginalized groups through a grid of interconnected injustices that I refer to, as a Christian thinker and believer, as the continuation of the Roman Empire, under whose rule ancient Israel was governed. And as a Christian queer leader who believes in the salvific act of sexuality, not only do I affirm what Reid calls “courageous disaffiliations from traditional oppressive theological theories” and include hereto the sexualization of the journey to salvation as a disaffiliation from homophobic theological thinking. But I also endorse the idea that the hermeneutical reading of the walk to Emmaus as a possibly sexually-loaded encounter helps me to link my Christian faith to what I see as the natural flowing from sexuality to justice and peace for all. People who have been shunned by the institutions that have used a text to marginalize may find in it the opposing meanings relevant to their social location. And when people are oppressed, in this case because of their sexuality, they will use the object of their repression as a means for liberation. Given that people under the yoke of oppression are humanly debased no matter what the context is, liberation always means peace and justice for all. The walk to Emmaus is Jesus’ theophany to two disciples after his resurrection, which is the hope of living beyond the boundaries of oppression at the hands of empire.  Queer theology has therefore the responsibility of unsettling the hetero-normative way of locating God in traditional spaces upholding unequal and unjust relationships. The revolutionary coming out of God through the incarnation process is foray to a sexually-relevant path to social justice and peace for all.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Bible Studies, Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Queering Christianity, coming out and a prophetic theophany ~ Guest Post by Luciano Kovacs

  1. Pamela Brubaker says:

    Powerful and provocative in a liberating way. Thank you, Luciano!

  2. Philip Vinod Peacock says:

    Thanks Luciano. I like this piece more and more each time I read it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s