Two weeks ago, Shannon T. L. Kearns wrote an impassioned call for a Queer Theology Synchroblog.. His post got my wheels turning, and what follows is what I wrote in response.
I came to queer theory and deconstruction at the same time and experienced them in much the same way. In both I found that the binaries which defined reality were faulty delineations. I found that the messiness with which I experienced life wasn’t a defect of my own, but my experience of reality bumping up against the arbitrary walls of those binaries.
It started with gender. Nearly every association I had with maleness was like sandpaper on a good day and like a razor wire wall on a bad day. It took moving past the binaries of male/female, man/woman, masculine/feminine to get to a point where something in gender made sense. No longer was there this class and that class. There was a mass of relationships, like a tag cloud, through which I could move. Ultimately it was my identification as genderfucking and genderqueer that led to my finding anything comfortable in gender. It went from being a constraint to being a plaything, a medium in which to create myself. Queer theory was my entrance into moving past either/or into and.
How could I not fall deeply into the and? When I named it, and echoed through my being. I suddenly saw it everywhere. It was at the core of my (polyamorous) sexuality. It was at the core of my spirituality. Since before I can remember I sang the praises of the God-and-Human who was life-in-death. As Patrick Cheng said, “I believe that Christianity is, at its very core, queer, and the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a deconstruction of basic binaries… That’s why for some folks, Christianity is so hard to wrap their heads around, precisely because it blurs so many boundaries.” I had been steeped in blurred boundaries my entire life, but never saw them. Indeed, the same forces that steeped me in them worked hard to deny that the blurring ever existed. They were hidden behind strict rules of behavior which clearly defined those within the boundaries and those outside, but once I saw in the center of my faith the explosion of the Creator/creation duality I could feel the very queerness of Christianity. In Christ was Creator-as-creation and God-as-human and life-in-death. The boundaries didn’t look blurred to me. They were exploded! I was no longer a soul living in a body. I was a nephesh, a life. Just as moving beyond man/woman brought me closer to my own experience, moving beyond Creator/creation and beyond soul/body brought me closer to my self and my God. It’s here that Queer Theologies have affected me most deeply. More than understanding gender, more than celebrating sexualities, more than understanding sexual ethics is the understanding that And takes precedence over Or.
In that last paragraph I counted more than twenty mentions of myself. How could I not mention myself so often in such a writing? But as long as I’m immersing myself in exploding binaries, why should I stop short of me/you? How far down this queer journey can I take those distinct categories?
Who am I?
In On Religion John Caputo discusses Augustine asking that question as well.
In your eyes, O Lord, he says, “I have become a question to myself.” So these two questions, the question of God and the question of the self, go hand in hand for Augustine. So much God, so much self: the more I am inwardly tossed about by what I love, the more I am tossed about by the question of who I am, in virtue of which this sense of being a “self ” is stirred up and intensified. That is why I think that I am being very Augustinian when I say: we do not know who we are – that is who we are. I do not question the self, but I treat the self as a question.… Who am I?, I ask with Augustine, and the answer is, I am a question unto myself. Who am I? The answer that comes back is another question; the answer is to keep questioning, to keep the question alive.
Even the boundaries that define the self dissolve into the question “What is the self?” The question is the important part, not the answer. The answered self is limited, defined and in opposition to the other. The true self is the self that cannot be answered nor defined. It is in relationship with the other, not in opposition to it. As David Dark says,
[T]he idea that any of us can have meaning alone or be the authors of our own significance or have joy for which we only have ourselves to thank is a death-dealing delusion… that implies that a strong, successful few of us might somehow gain our lives without losing them… I am because we are. Whatever self I can be said to have is the gift of self I receive from my relation to others.
I went down the queer rabbit hole when I questioned man/woman and I found my questioning not answered, but echoed by my God. I followed the question so far that I have become something that is not but is. There is no me that is not in relationship with you. I am only inasmuch as others are. I do not exist independently, but interdependently. I am undefinable as I only exist in relationship with you. My boundaries do not end where yours begin. My self is changed by its contact with you. I am made new, and once again I must ask “Who am I?”
I do not question the self, but I treat the self as a question… Who am I? The answer that comes back is another question; the answer is to keep questioning, to keep the question alive.
And that is the great gift of queerness and queer theology to me. I open myself to being changed by you, by your reality. I let down the patrol of the boundaries that keep me in and keep you out, not codependence, but interdependence. The queerness of Christ leaves me open to you, to us, to acting as Christ’s body, to a life in which our differences and our particularities are recognized, but not used as reductionist definitions of us. The queerness of Christ situates me in a world in which, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.”
Here are the list of other participants in the synchroblog so far:
Shay writes Queer Theology Synchroblog home.
Brian writes “Why Queer Liberation Must Be Queer Led”
Cindi writes Queer Theology From a Reluctantly Queer Theologian
Gabe writes The Queerness of Christ: And over Or
Christians for Justice Action write “Imagine the Possibilities Four Years From Now”.
Darrel writes “Queer Theology: Outside the Box” at the Blog of the Grateful Bear.
Ken writes Queer Theology.
Peterson writes Lazarus Come Out!
Mike writes Queer Theology Synchroblog #SCEP.
Cindy writes Creative Differences in the Image of God (this link opens a PDF)
Jules writes Being Queerly Forward
Vince writes Loving Promiscuously: A Queer Theology of Doing It
Alison writes Why I’m Queer Too
Sonnie writes God Made Me Queer
Ellen writes Through A Glass Queerly
Steve writes In Solidarity