“O Queer One”

Photo by Tony Rubino

A while back, I read a beautiful Twitter thread from a non-binary Christian. In it, they go through the Creation and how it stands for them as a testament of God’s love for them and their validity. I won’t do it justice, so I’ll just quote it:

“… the variety in God’s creation emphasizes God’s creativity as an artist. Genesis gives us several examples of this.”
“God made “day and night.” this sounds like a binary, similar to “male and female,” right?
that isn’t quite all we experience in 24 hours. sunrises and sunsets do not fit into the binary of day or night. yet God paints the skies with these too.”
“On the second day God separated the sky from water. seems like another binary.
yet the clouds hold water for us in the sky, the condensation and rain cycle refreshing our earth constantly. the sky, separate from water, contains and releases water.”
“God also said “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.”
that isn’t the full story, either. consider marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens. not fully land, not fully waters. there is such glorious variety in God’s creation.”
“We see another binary in the celestial bodies God made: “the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night.” and then, almost as a footnote, “and the stars.”
there is more than just sun and moon in outer space. planets, asteroids, black holes, supernovae.”
“”God created the great sea monsters” and “every winged bird of every kind.” a split again between water and sky.
yet we see creatures like penguins that are definitely a “winged bird,” but do not fly and instead walk and swim.”
“and finally “male and female he created them.”
first off, intersex people exist.
but, and perhaps more importantly, friends, look around. listen. do you have friends or family that say they don’t fall under “male” or “female?” if so, honor that.”

In this thread, Michaela Atencio lays out a wonderful sermon that shows both their full embrace of their gender identity and their deep and loving relationship with God. Rather than two competing identities that they must reconcile; they are two harmonious parts of themself, and they are able to find meaning and peace in both. Michaela is not alone; roughly 42% of LGBTQ+ adults identify as Christian of some flavor. That means there are roughly nine million queer Christians in the United States who can follow the teachings of Jesus Christ while being authentic and honest with themselves about their sexual / gender minority status.

Queer Christians add immensely to the strength of the faith communities that have welcomed them in and bring a unique perspective to their congregations. The Bible itself speaks to the importance of diversity within the Church. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” The writer of Corinthians continues the comparison of the church to a human body by illustrating how bodies function because not all of its parts are the same. Likewise, the church functions best when it contains both queer and non-queer members.

As an example, last month during the Pride flag-raising ceremony last month at Fresno City Hall, a gay Christian gave a moving prayer. During the prayer, Rev. Raygan Baker invoked God as “O Queer One, O Queering One”. He also referred to God as “the ultimate transgressor, queerer of norms that harm and confine, and [the One that] bear witness to the glory of the strange.” In this invocation, Rev. Baker shared with us a glimpse of his relationship with God and how he reconciles his spiritual and sexual selves. I wonder how Rev. Baker came to a place where he felt God was the Queer One? I wonder how many prayers and readings of the Bible it took for him to find a place where he and God loved each other, regardless of what his sexuality may be? I wonder how rich and beautiful his faith is because of his life experience and dedication to following the Bible, which has led him to be a preacher? While I’ve never met him, I can only imagine that he has seen miracles and the hand of God in his life, and that he uses these experiences to uplift and refresh those around him.

However, some Christians disagreed with his expression of his faith, and chose to be divisive. A group of local pastors held a rally downtown to express their opposition to the prayer and the raising of the Pride flag, after signing a petition expressing their views. Councilman Garry Bredefeld took to Twitter to voice his dissent, and the Fresno County Republican Party put out a statement condemning the prayer. In other words, a group of Christians held a protest because there was a Christian prayer at a city event. They have sent the message to LGBTQ+ Christians that they are free to follow Jesus Christ, just not like that. I can only assume that this reflects a lack of support or outright opposition to any queer members of their congregations. As a result, these congregations are less vibrant than God wants them to be because they lack the gospel perspective that only queer people could provide. In the body example, they are the eye that has said to the hand that “they have no need to [it]”. They cannot see the hand of God in queer people’s lives because they refuse to “come and see”.

Taken in context, I agree with Rev. Baker’s statement that God is the “ultimate transgressor”, in that God is terrible at following the rules and norms of mankind. Christ proved as much with His consistent run-ins with the church leaders due to rule-breaking and was ultimately charged and punished with blasphemy according to the law. It’s as if God knows more than us and created the world, or something. Christ famously welcomed the sick, the poor, the sinners, and anyone who was willing to hear what He had to say and follow Him. This invitation to all went against the norms of His times. Today, there are many good queer people who avoid church because they do not feel welcome or have been cast out. I invite the Christians protesting a prayer to become “transgressors” of harmful cultural norms and follow the Savior’s example to love one another.

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