Archive for Queer theology

Before you “come out” as a LGBTQ ally in church…

wpid-Photo-5-feb-2012-2359.jpgI am watching a fellow Salvationist lament on the LGBTQ oppressive teaching they are getting at a Salvation Army event. I grieve with here and cringe inwardly at the damage being done in yet another Bible study where no consideration is being given to the possibility of HBTQ people in the room.

At the same time I remember the cost and the pain of “coming out” as a LGBTQ ally in the Swedish part of the Salvation Army. To that end I have a short list detailing a few things to consider before “coming out”.

  • Are you willing to risk your friendships over this issue?
  • Are you willing to risk your livelihood over this issue?
  • Have you wrestled with the scriptures and found a secure place to stand?
  • Have you wrestled with your own sexuality and are you confident in where you stand?
  • Have you spoken with your closest colleagues, friends and family that might also be impacted by your stand?
  • Do you have a support network of people around you to ride out the storm with?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for speaking up and taking a stand, but I urge you to find secure footing first, to find support and most importantly to truly reflect on the consequences to your faith, theology, relationships and work situation. In other words: count the cost before “coming out” so that when you to, you are ready.

Lastly, when you do, know that you are not alone!

Subverting the norm

Pete Rollins and Tony Jones at the Coffe Ethic in Springfield

The last couple of days I have spent at Subverting the norm II, a conference about radical theology, postmodernism and the church. It has been three days of deconstruction, radical thought and repentance.

It has been such a privilege and honour to spend three days with some of the greatest theologians involved in this ongoing conversation.

The tile of the conference “Subvert the norm” points to the fact there there is this thing, called “the norm” or normal and that it needs to be subverted. I love the idea of subversion, there is no correlating term in Swedish. So the closest I get to translate the title Subvert the norm to Swedish is normkritik – norm criticism, which of course is not quite the same.

To critique something is to stand on the outside and have an opinion about it, giving the appearance of objectivity, to subvert something is in my oppinion to engage in it and change the rules.

The conference itself was a wonderful gathering of great minds. To explore wether or not post-modernism can live in the church or maybe if the church can survive post-modernism. Here is an excerpt from the subverting the norm webpage:

Can the actually existing churches speak meaningfully and persuasively to those who aren’t so sure about the supernatural or the magical or the metaphysical, which includes the fastest growing religious demographic in North America, the “nones,” those with no formal religious affiliation?

Can the church retain a viable role in a world where God is often viewed as a relic of the past, or as a grand Santa Claus in the sky, or perhaps even as a narcotic or neurosis that we’d do well to get rid of?

And if the churches are to be faithful to the revolutionary event that gave birth to Christianity, or if they are to recover their theological voice in a compelling and transformative way, is it possible to do so by listening to voices on the margins of the church, or outside of the church, including even those who might rightly pass for atheists? And perhaps more to the point, why are voices on the fringes of the church, or outside of the church, becoming more influential on church leaders and practitioners than the traditionally “orthodox” voices inside the churches?

It has been three days of thought provocing, challenging and subverting experiences. With me home I have the strong conviction that if the church is to include post-modern thought and radical theology, then it must transform into a differnt structure than the traditional structures we see today.

Our liturgies must be transformed to allow for a radical liturgy that gives voice to a broader spectrum of human experience than todays often happy clappy evangelical liturgy.

I find that I will need some time to internalise the experience before I can capture it in words, but I want to take the time to thank all of you who made STN2 such a great experience for me. Thank you for your generosity, your hospitality, your humility and your love for a wayward Swede, lost in the bible belt.

 

In god’s queer image …

A dear friend and mentor wrote:

You ask whether your post will make you an outcast from the Christian community. I hope it does not because we could do with a dose of clear thinking, careful theological reflection, and honesty on this subject, and others.

Of course, the Christian community cannot bear such questions because, if we could answer the question honestly, we might discover that we’re just as queer as each other, in one way or another. However, that corporate testimony would lead to a serious theological question: What kind of a god would allow his creatures to be so screwed up? And it has to be God who shoulders that level of responsibility, because Adam and Eve are in no way big enough to do so. So, we keep our queernesses in the cupboard, because we cannot bear to encounter a God who, for all we know, has made us in his own queer image.
This comment is so on the money. We are afraid and in our fear we paint the other as the monster because we are afraid anyone will discover the monster in us.
This will of course lead to the other implication: this god, in who’s image we are created, what kind of wild and dangerous god is this?

Taking the G out of the kingdom ….

I was listening to a Homebrewed Christianity – Theology Nerd Throwdown (TNT) when I was struck with this beautiful idea.

It was Tripp Fuller who said (Not the exact quote, though these are his words)

If you take the G out of Kingdom you get kindom with no cock and no crown.

The kindom of God, the extended interdependent family of god not ruled by a Patriarch or King but by a loving nurturing parent who is genderless or rather transgendered (as I have written before, not trans as in going from one tend to the next but as in more than both the one and the other).

We are invited, not as loyal subjects and subordinates, but as family members and co-creators. We are invited into the perichoresis the divine dance of interdependence and mutual, loving submission.

 

On the recent silence…

So if you been following this blog for a while, you may have noticed the silence of late. There are many reasons for this. For one, I have been ill with strep throat although it is of course entirely possible to blog while you are ill. No the silence is due to the fact that I have been reading faster than I can process, in the past I have been able to simply write my thoughts as they come to me during my reading. I now feel I have reached the point where I cannot just write my thoughts without first processing, ordering and structuring my thoughts.

When you deconstruct something as fundamental as your sexuality and the nuclear family it is bound to shake your entire reality. It is bound to leave you, at times, confused and a little bit lost. We (both me and Hanna) are working on reconstructing a more human?? realistic?? true?? biblical?? View on human sexuality.

Problems abound, how do you tackle such an intimate and confusing issue and question what has “always” been the way of things? How do you teach a different ethic of sexuality? How do you reclaim eroticism without soiling your hands? Where shall new lines be drawn and do you need new lines?

How do you question the un/biblical “doctrine” of the nuclear family, especially when you are in one? It is like questioning the validity of church during a church meeting.

I think maybe, the subject cannot be unpacked and dealt with in the format of a blog post or even a series of posts it is something that can only be properly unpacked in the format of a book. Watch this space!

 

The big masturbation post

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Not so long ago I sat in a room with a group of young Christians, no longer teenagers but rather young adults. We where talking about the bible and Jesus. Was it possible that Jesus could have sinned and what does it mean that Jesus felt every human emotion, did he then lust? Masturbate?

The disgust that went through the room at this point was palpable and when I put my foot down and said “Masturbation is not a sin”, I was met with “Well then we may as well go of and masturbate and sleep with anyone we want!”

This immediate jump to the slippery slope argument (which in it self is a fallacy whenever used) prompted a further discussion that in turn prompted this post.

In Christian circles today it seems that masturbation, while both natural and a part of the teenagers discovery of his or her own body, is even more stigmatised than sex. It is somehow even more shameful to touch yourself than to have someone else do it. Why is this? Where does it come from? What does the bible say about masturbation and how does that sync with the churches traditional teaching on the subject? What does science and society say?

Let’s consider a few different voices on this issue.

It is beyond contestation that both psychology, anthropology and medical science say that masturbation is a healthy way for young persons to discover their bodies and come to terms with their sexuality. Furthermore, sex-councellors worldwide would advice men with longevity issues to learn control by practicing on their own.

Science also tells us that the resulting orgasm is beneficial for our health in many ways. Consider the following scientific findings as presented in the book Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan:

men who had ejaculated more than five times per week between the ages of twenty and fifty were one-third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life.

daily ejaculation dramatically reduced DNA damage to men’s sperm cells, thereby increasing male fertility—quite the opposite of the conventional wisdom.

Frequent orgasm is associated with better cardiac health as well. A study conducted at the University of Bristol and Queen’s University of Belfast found that men who have three or more orgasms per week are 50 percent less likely to die from coronary heart disease.

These are just a tidbit of information on what ejaculation and orgasm does for a man. For women there are a lot less research available (go figure) but here is one slightly off topic remark from the same book:

women who do not use condoms are less likely to suffer from depression than either women who do use condoms or who are not sexually active

So women who are sexually active are less likely to suffer from depression. On this note it is also interesting to recognise that one of the oldest documented pathologies is said to be female hysteria and the medical treatment was massage of the vulva, that is masturbation and orgasm. What may be even more shocking for some is that doctors around the world administered this treatment to women with an increased libido well into the 20th century and women lined up for the cure!

On a slightly less scholarly note, the book the 4 hour body has the following to say:

Nina emphasized, a woman has to be comfortable masturbating. “If she doesn’t masturbate regularly, she’ll be more trouble, baggage-wise, than it’s worth, unless you get off on being the fixer.”

While this sounds a bit of the cuff and misogynistic, science does tell us that body pleasure lowers aggression.

“deprivation of body pleasure throughout life—but particularly during the formative periods of infancy, childhood, and adolescence—is very closely related to the amount of warfare and interpersonal violence.” (also from Sex at Dawn)

Therefore we are told by the scientific corner to just chill out and not to be so uptight when it comes to these issues.

A reasonable relaxation of moralistic social codes making sexual satisfaction more easily available would also make it less problematic. (also from Sex at Dawn)

Hang on what about the Bible doesn’t the bible forbid masturbation? Well, thank you for asking, the short answer is no. The bible actually has no teaching on masturbation. The most cited passages are the story of Onan and a few remarks of Paul.

Let’s start with Onan. He married his dead brothers wife Tamar as the law instructed him but when the time came to consummate the marriage he practiced coitus interrupts (he pulled it out and spilled his seed on the ground) so that he would not give a child to his dead brothers wife that would not be considered his own, again according to Jewish law). Onan was then killed by god for not adhering to the Mosaic law. This story has nothing to do with masturbation and the fact that Onan’s name has become synonymous with masturbation in many languages in an attempt of controlling peoples sexuality is a serious abuse of scripture and power.

In Pauls first letter to Corinth there is a passage where Paul condemns a whole row of sexual deviations. Non of which are easily understood or translated the words used are porneo, malokos, and arsenokoites non of these words have anything to do with masturbation. Feel free to read my other commentary on these words here.

And even if Paul’s words had included masturbation, which they do not, I have to echo the sentiment of Marcus Borg in his fantastic novel “Putting Away Childish Things“: What if Paul was wrong? It sounds heretical, I know, but consider the fact that misinformation has been the norm on sexuality related facts throughout our known history. It was common to believe for example that masturbation caused both seizures, blindness and madness. Why is it that we assume that Paul to be an authority on every issue on the planet?

What we have left to consider is Jesus strong words on adultery: A man who looks upon a woman with lust in his heart has already committed adultery with her. If we assume that these are indeed the words of Jesus and that he recommends putting out our eyes to avoid it then every man I know should go blind immediately. For some men (I talk less about women simply because I have no experience in being one and do not presume to have an inkling on how female sexuality works) it may be that the act of masturbation preserves their fidelity and therefore their marriage.

It is interesting to note that hip youth ministers within the free churches will often be heard stating that masturbating together with your spouse can be a beautiful thing and part of a couples normal sex life. While this is a nice softening of the stigmatising view of masturbation it still leaves the ones in need of liberation, that is teenagers, sorely bound by shame and guilt.

Now let’s for a second consider how the bible supports and encourages sexuality and then maybe using the same inferring as the negative case is built on propose a more positive approach to sexuality and the topic at hand, masturbation.

First let’s again look at Adam and Eve or mythical hunter gatherer ancestors who lived in Eden, Naked and not ashamed. Right there is the first clue that sexuality understood correctly should not be a source of shame but rather a source of joy.

Moving on rapidly then to the song of songs (there are other more obvious examples in other OT narratives but it quickly gets oh so provocative and complicated to get into those) where unmarried sexuality is if not celebrated then simply a fact. The poetry in the Song is simply “not concerned” with the marital status of the young lovers.

From the song we can find a positive body image in regard to the young lovers genitalia and an exuberant celebration of their passionate sexuality. The following verses are from the CEB.

I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride!
I have gathered my myrrh and my spices.
I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk.
Eat, dear friends!
Drink and get drunk on love!

Here the lover has come to his garden, this garden was of course earlier the womans garden dripping with myrrh and spices sweeter than honey. We must understand that every word in the song is dripping with double entendre and the metaphors switch quickly as to leave you dizzy, the Song is probably more to be inhaled and experienced than read and understood.

Keeping the images of a garden dripping with myrrh lets move to the young womans bed room a few verses later.

“I have taken off my tunic—
why should I put it on again?
I have bathed my feet—
why should I get them dirty?”
 My love put his hand in through the latch hole,
and my body ached for him.
 I rose; I went to open for my love,
and my hands dripped myrrh,
my fingers, liquid myrrh,
over the handles of the lock.

Why is she naked in bed? Why is her hands dripping with myrrh? And let’s not even try to decipher the image of the hand through the latch hole ….

It seems to me that the bible is as capable of creating a positive and healthy image of both sexuality and the exploring of the same as it is in creating a misogynistic damaging and controlling one.

Fr. Richard Rohr makes an interesting comment about women being saved through childbirth, where he states that in childbirth women get the upper hand on the men as they are forced into body knowledge and self discovery through childbirth he also suggests that this is why male initiation rites often include arduous challenges and painful quests that will force the young man to get to know his body.

There is a certain composure and authority to a human being that is completely comfortable in his or her own body. There is a self awareness and confidence that only comes to those who know the ins and outs and limits of their own bodies. I suggest that a healthy exploration of ones sexuality, where masturbation is a part of that exploration, may help grant such body knowledge.

In conclusion I must also add that the gnostic notion of separating spirit and body, where the spirit is good and the body evil is one of those unspoken meta-narratives that derive from greek (Plato) philosophy hat stand in our way of a more holistic and healthy view of our own bodies. Those who desperately cling to it may benefit from stepping out of the spiritual and getting their hands dirty or as the case may be oily.

Who is queer?

I am not underprivileged, marginalised or persecuted in any ways. I am a Caucasian, heterosexual male with a DipHE in Theology and Mission. I am employed as a full time minister, doing what I love to do: to teach theology; to build and nurture relationships; to be a sign towards a mystery I may never understand.

When I started this journey THEY where the queer (weird) ones, the sinners. After some time they where still the weird ones but I had come to realise I was a sinner too. Slowly the line between them and us was blurred until I today realise that “we are here, we are queer, get used to it.” Today I am not sure that sin has anything to do with it (it being sex and sexuality). Don’t get me wrong I believe that it is entirely possible to abuse sex and sexuality, just as it is possible to abuse nature or friendships, or trust. What I have come to understand is that sex and sexuality is probably abused just as much (if not more) in the heterosexual bedroom/closet than the gay or lesbian bed.

The Q in LGBTQ stands for the Queer, not weird but rather that which crosses the boundary of what is generally consider normal. Just as “queer theory” is about the breaking down of traditionally fixed boundaries and categories. So if we are to stick with the traditional boxes and categories we are stuck with LGBTQ persons on the one side and the heterosexuals on the other. However what is normal heterosexual conduct? When do we cross into the Q? Are you queer if you only prefer blondes? If you only want to have sex standing up? If feet turn you on? If you prefer oral to vaginal? When are you queer, really, who’s to decide? I think it may be prudent for us heterosexuals to follow Marcella Althaus-Reid’s suggestion and come out of our hetero closet. In most marriage courses and classes on intimacy there will be a section on sharing our sexual fantasies (it seems the biggest hurdle to a healthy sex life is to what degree we are still in the closet) to share our personal queerness.

Patrik S. Cheng defines the Q of LGBTQ as those who are queer or Allies. At first when my theology started to shift I saw my self as an ally, one who could help them, over there. As my understanding of the term and myself grew, I realised that as an LGBTQ ally I was quickly becoming queer myself. Not that any of my sexual preferences changed, what changed was my perspective. By knowing “them” I came to love them, and by loving them I realised that them was really us. And so the boundary between them and me was blurred out by this radical love.

I agree fully with Patrick S. Cheng wh wrote:

“Christian theology is fundamentally a queer enterprise. That is, like queer theory, classical Christian theology is about the breaking down of traditionally fixed boundaries and categories.

God is a queer god, who crosses all boundaries by becoming a human, born by a woman, raised as part of a human family. We follow a queer Christ, who continually challenged the fixed boundary between clean and unclean, sacred and secular. The queer spirit then completely blurry the distinction between god and me as the spirit enters into my life, penetrating every part of me, incarnating into me if you will and the border between the world we know and the spiritual becomes hard to distinguish. Everything is spiritual, and if that is true then all our sexual queerness is spiritual too.

So while I may be a heterosexual, Caucasian male with a good education and a privileged position within the church I am also queer not only by questioning the heteronorm status quo but also by recognising that heterosexuality is exactly that: hetero, it is diverse and different from itself. Heterosexuality is not homogenous in any way, not that homosexuality is homogenous either. Maybe we would be better of talking about heterosexualities and homosexualities, indicating that rather than homogenous states they are two points in a complex matrix of sexualities.

In the end we come to a point where we must ask, what is normal? What is natural? And in the asking we become queer, and maybe that is the truth of it, maybe we are all queer?

Getting down and dirty with god.

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“God is not sexual” my friend stated matter-of-factly. It is odd that he did because he also does not believe in god. How the god he does not believe in can be, or not be, anything is beyond me. It is a common notion though to separate the divine from the worldly. It is even more common to draw a strong demarcation line between the sacred and the sexual. It is therefore imperative that we recognise that eros is an integral part of love and that god is love.

In my last post in this series I hinted at the possibility of having an erotic involvement with god. I said that this is a common image used by Christian mystics and I think an important part in recovering a healthy view on sexuality.

So lets return to the trinity the self sufficient community of god. The basis of grace lies in gods self sufficiency that is, because god had everything god needed within the trinity, god did not need to create the world and therefore all (as in all god creates outside godself) is grace, a free and scandalous gift.

The interrelations of the trinity have been described in theological terms as perichoresis. This term describes an indwelling or interconnectedness that has often been described as a dance.

Here is the Wikipwedia entry on perichoresis

Although clear references to full-blown Trinitarian theology in the New Testament are rare, it can be seen between two persons of the Trinity in passages such as the following from John’s Gospel:“the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father.”[1]

The relationship of the Triune God is intensified by the relationship of perichoresis. This indwelling expresses and realizes fellowship between the Father and the Son. It is intimacy. Jesus compares the oneness of this indwelling to the oneness of the fellowship of his church from this indwelling. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (John 17:21).”

The theological tradition has viewed the indwelling as fellowship. John of Damascus, who was influential in developing the doctrine of the perichoresis, described it as a “cleaving together.” Such is the fellowship in the Godhead that the Father and the Son not only embrace each other, but they also enter into each other, permeate each other, and dwell in each other. One in being, they are also always one in the intimacy of their friendship.

I think there are a few notes to be made from this image of the trinity in perichoresis. The first is the language of “oneness”, “becoming one” and “cleaving” that mirrors our understanding of a consummated marriage. I write consummated because in biblical times a marriage that was not consummated was not a marriage at all. Even today there are many parts of the world where a marriage can be annulled if not consummated. The whole idea of oneness and cleaving together comes from the sharing of the marriage bed and entering into one another.

This of course is the next image of the trinity, the entering into one another, indwelling, penetrating each other, crossing boundaries and blurring out the edges to the extent that it is hard to separate one from the other. Like dancers blurred on a stage, like lovers in a bed. I think one of the most beautiful images of perichoresis is in the C.S. Lewis space trilogy.

And now, by a transition which he did not notice, it seemed that what had begun as speech was turned into sight, or into something that can be remembered only as if it were seeing. He thought he saw the Great Dance. It seemed to be woven out of the intertwining undulation of many cords or bands of light, leaping over and under one another and mutually embraced in arabesques and flower-like subtleties.

Each figure as he looked at it became the master-figure or focus of the whole spectacle, by means of which his eye disentangled a1l else and brought it into unity–only to be itself entangled when he looked to what he had taken for mere marginal decorations and found that there also the same hegemony was claimed, and the claim made good, yet the former pattern not thereby dispossessed but finding in its new subordination a significance greater than that which it had abdicated. He could see also (but the word “seeing” is now plainly inadequate) wherever the ribbons or serpents of light intersected, minute corpuscles of momentary brightness: and he knew somehow that these particles were the secular generalities of which history tells–peoples, institutions, climates of opinion, civilisations, arts, sciences, and the like–ephemeral coruscations that piped their short song and vanished. The ribbons or cords themselves, in which millions of corpuscles lived and died, were things of some different kind. At first he could not say what. But he knew in the end that most of them were individual entities. If so, the time in which the Great Dance proceeds is very unlike time as we know it.

Some of the thinner and more delicate cords were beings that we call short-lived: flowers and insects, a fruit or a storm of rain, and once (he thought) a wave of the sea. Others were such things as we also think lasting: crystals, rivers, mountains, or even stars. Far above these in girth and luminosity and flashing with colours from beyond our spectrum were the lines of the personal beings, yet as different from one another in splendour as all of them from the previous class. But not all the cords were individuals: some were universal truths or universal qualities. It did not surprise him then to find that these and the persons were both cords and both stood together as against the mere atoms of generality which lived and died in the clashing of their streams: but afterwards, when he came back to earth, he wondered.

And by now the thing must have passed together out of the region of sight as we understand it. For he says that the whole solid figure of these enamoured and inter-inanimated circlings was suddenly revealed as the mere superficies of a far vaster pattern in four dimensions, and that figure as the boundary of yet others in other worlds: till suddenly as the movement grew yet swifter, the interweaving yet more ecstatic, the relevance of all to all yet more intense, as dimension was added to dimension and that part of him which could reason and remember was dropped farther and farther behind that part of him which saw, even then, at the very zenith of complexity, complexity was eaten up and faded, as a thin white cloud fades into the hard blue burning of the sky, and a  simplicity beyond all comprehension, ancient and young as spring, illimitable, pellucid, drew him with cords of infinite desire into its own stillness. He went up into such a quietness, a privacy, and a freshness that at the very moment when he stood farthest from our ordinary mode of being he had the sense of stripping off encumbrances and awaking from trance, and coming to himself. (C.S. Lewis – Perelandra)

OK, so god’s agape, fileo and eros is expressed in this dance, what does this have to do with me?

This is where I think it gets exciting. In John 17, Jesus prayer for the believers, for us we are invited into this dance. Jesus is extending an invitation to “be one” with him as he is “one” with the trinity. This means unconditionally accepted in gods agape, respected and loved as a friend in gods fileo and passionately adored and loved in gods eros. Michael Jackson expressed it like this:

Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in is the dance of the creator. Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an eye but the dance lives on. On many an occasion, when I am dancing, I have felt touched by something sacred. In those moments, I felt my spirit soar and become one with everything that exists. I become the stars and the moon. I become the lover and the beloved. I become the victor and the vanquished. I become the master and the slave. I become the singer and the song. I become the knower and the known. I keep on dancing and then, it is the eternal dance of creation. The creator and the creation merge into one wholeness of joy. I keep on dancing — until there is only. . . the dance.    

Paul young calls it to be included in the trinity’s “circle of submission”. Where I submit to Jesus as Jesus submits to the spirit and the spirit submits to the creator and the creator submits to Jesus and Jesus submits to me and I submit to god. On and on the dance extends throughout eternity.

I think this is where St. Theresa of Avila paints the picture of intimate communion with god that is ecstatic and pleasure at the same time as it is passion and pain. I think this is also where lovers transcend when they climax in the bedroom if they have the presence to notice, I thing this is where the sexual act becomes worship, whether with a partner or alone with god. I think we are called to experience this “at-one-ment” with god not only as acceptance (agape) and friendship (file) but the bodily, physical, erotic experience of being loved by god.

Sex as a sacrament.

There was this praise song on my favorite worship album, it always bugged me. “Take me, I am yours”, the woman sang with such throaty passion that it sounded almost sexual, indecent.

I mentioned it once to a friend who told me, it’s just your perverted mind that hears it like that. I never broach the subject again. Today I realise that the song was expressing exactly what my perverted mind thought it did. Our longing is exactly that, to become one with god. We may over/spiritualise it and try to make that union into something spiritual, something less dirty, less visceral. The longing is still the same. I want the spirit of god to enter me, surround me saturate me. Why does it offend us so to talk about penetration, ecstatic joy, pleasure in connection with god.

If we return to the mystics we will find that this is exactly the language that comes back over and over again when they talk about the ecstatic union with god. And if we venture into the night and ask those the church normally consider lost, their reply will be the same. Sex is trancendent, the closest we will ever come to god.

This is why G.K. Chesterton wrote, every man who has ever knocked on the door of a brothel was searching for God.

Only if we can separate our sexuality from the stigma of sinfullness will we dare to believe such things, only then will we dare to hope. WE must become virginal in our approach to sexuality, but not virgins in respect to our genitals but in respect to our minds. We have been filled with so much words, words of condemnation, words of contempt, words of fear. This per/version of our sexuality have rendered us unable to actually experience the divine bound into our sexuality, the sacrament of sex.

If a sacrament is, as we state in the Salvation Army, an outward sign of an inward grace. Then sex must truly be a sacrament, we have of course tried to sanitise it and call it marriage. It is the marriage that makes two people into one, that symbolises the complete union of man and woman to a hybrid that is something more. But we all know that it is in the consummation of the marriage that this happens. Sex is the sacrament, sex is the blurring of the boundaries between two people, but sex also blurrs the sacred/secular divide (the one we imagine is there, but realy does not exist) because it let’s us experience if only for a moment something divine.

That is the thing isn’t it. Sex is such a divine thing but at the same time it is so worldly (in the evangelical sense of the word) it is flesh, it is carnal. Wouldn’t a divine act that is carnal be the definition of incarnation. A carnal sign of a divine reality, a sacrament.

And why would god desire any less of us than this total abandonment, this total union, where we become more than friends, lovers.

“Take me now, I am yours!”

 

Meeting an adulterous god

I don’t know how I never saw it; One of the tenets of classical biblicism is faithfulness, I mean I even have it tattooed on my body, inked onto my skin so as to never forget. It is a label given to me by the voice of god on top of a mountain in wales. I bucked and fought arguing that whatever I am, faithful is not one of them. I am an adulterer, I think I have been unfaithful in every relationship in my life including or maybe especially my relationship with god. And yet this god comes down and covers my transgression (my queerness) with unlimited, unconditional grace. I couldn’t believe it then and I still struggle to live believing god actually loves me: A deviant, a queer closeted theologian of little consequence.

I decided, at this, to become the name, to live worthy of this faithfulness god has shown me (I even tattooed the hebrew for faithful/loyal, aman, into the back of my neck as a lifelong reminder). However, the more I delve into the grace of this god I realise that gods response was more than just grace, more than just acceptance it was encouragement not to limit myself by a rigid regiment of blinkered existence but to love like godself without limits.

It was as if god reached down and said “neither do I condemn you, I am unfaithful too.”

Could it be?

Let’s for a moment take of our religious glasses and all the cookie cutter phrases we ave been indoctrinated with. Let’s for one moment read the biblical narrative with virgin eyes.

We have this idea, that god could not be unfaithful, partly because “the bible tells me so”, partly because we have this idea that when we say that god “is the same today, yesterday and all days” we think that it means unchangeable. No matter how much the bible narrative paints the picture of a god that changes gods mind and develops. I am the same all my life, I feel instinctively the same today as when I was sixteen, I am still Patrik Olterman, but I have changed to, and I thank god for that. I am not the same Patrik Olterman I was when I was sixteen. Neither is god the same god, I mean god is still god, has always been and will always be, but god also changes, grows in relation to me and everyone else.

God makes a covenant with Abram renaming him Abraham, father of many. God goes on time and time again promising the Abraham descendants fidelity. Yet here I am a gentile, a pagan made Christian, adopted into gods own family by the grace of god. “You will be my people, and I will be your god” the words echo out through time, then later in history, god is unhappy with the relationship and broadens the definition of the covenant. God makes a new covenant where every nation is invited. God has not only turned polyamourous but omniamourous.

Or, how about this. If we strain our senses and sharpen our vision we discern something impossible in the biblical narrative like a palimpsest overwritten with our sacred text, we think we see what we have come to call the holy trinity. The trinity is described as the community of god, a never ending dance where god is complete, satisfied in godself. Never alone, three in one but three non the less. God is love, we say quoting scripture, and use the trinity as proof of this undying, eternal love. But love is agape, fileo, and eros. We just can’t imagine the erotic love of the trinity, entwined, in an endless embrace penetrating each others essence. This perfect community, once balanced with the three sides of love, is our blue print for marriage, or rather for all human relation. Yet for god this perfect union is not enough. God crosses over the boundaries of the blessed trinity, reaches out and creates a world filled with life and passion. Then god chooses to emancipate the earthlings and, oh the undecency, love them with all the agape, fileo and eros that god can muster. God loves me unconditionally, on my level like a sibling, erotically with all gods passion. And then as if this queer transgression is not enough, god invites me to interact and be part of what Paul Young called this circle of submission. But it is of course not only me but every living being is loved in this way. The trinity gives up independence for interdependence and queerly blurrs out the bounadries between godself and creature, between creature and nature, between me and you.

The omniamourous god doesn’t hold back, doesn’t temper love with prudence but impregnates a teenage peasent girl (who is incidentally bethrothed with a man) to fully cross all boundaries so that we may know this god, this passionate love.

Not that there is anything wrong with loyalty or faithfulness. The question is what are we called to be faithful to? Are we to be faithful to a religious system, a new set of laws and doctrines or are we to be faithful to this radical outpouring of omniamourous love?

It’s not that I want to surgically remove my tattoo and replace it with a symbol of promiscuity, pluralism or omniamory. I realise instead that I want to be loyal to this love priority of radical love because sometimes we are even called or compelled by that radical love to be unfaithful and cross boundaries no-one else dares to cross.

 

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