God is a God of order” is something I’ve heard countless times from conservative pastors. What they’re referring to is 1 Corinthians 14:33: “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” In many churches it’s used as the reason that church services and worship must follow a specific format, and the reason that the established pastor is the primary person to speak, to lead. “Order,” it seems, is when nothing out of the ordinary happens; it is when only certain types of people decide what can be said and done as part of church, what is holy and what is Christian.
As church members who do not want to upset the cart of this “order,” you are expected not to speak up unless called upon (unless you are a cishet white man you probably will not be called upon.) “Order” has come to mean that silence is a sign of holiness, and that anything unusual is not godly. Stay quiet and don’t be weird. Ultimately it suggests that following established power structures and not speaking out are the holy things to do.
Over the centuries, Christian culture has become about telling people to hide. Hide our bodies, hide from positive talk of sexuality, hide our strange thoughts, hide our questions, hide our weirdness, hide different ways of wanting to do things, hide our hurt, hide our thoughts and hide our needs. Hiding has become holy. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Smile and do what’s expected.
But the fact is that hiding was the very first fruit of sin. It was the clear evidence to God that people had become broken. The Garden of Eden was a place of freedom and openness, but then Genesis 3:10: “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
Hiding is diametrically opposed to God, to who She/He is, and to who She/He created us to be. God is color and expression and creativity and weirdness. God is certainly not One who hides, and did not design us to do so, either. God created each one of us to contain unique pieces of the Godself. Each one of us is meant to display and bring something new. But humans — especially humans in power — can always be counted on to fear that which is unfamiliar, and that over which they do not have control. Yet every time one of us chooses to hide, that is one more facet of God’s nature that is stifled.
Silence is not order. It is fear that seeks silence as a moral touchstone — fear of oneself, fear of others, and fear of anything that one cannot understand or have power over. It is easier to regulate than to open up Church — open up the world — for people to bring whatever they possess, and then see how those things can fit together. We can never expect to see the fullness of the Church’s capacity when we utilize the natures and preferences of historically accepted leadership figures alone.
The word for “peace” in 1 Corinthians 14:33 is the Greek eirḗnē, from the root eirō, which means “to join” or “tie together into a whole.” It is a reference to wholeness, which by definition can only occur when every part is tied in. And that is not achieved by mimicking others or adhering to conventionality, but by bringing who we are. We are meant to discover what the tapestry of the Church actually looks like and how great its capacity for creativity. Anything less is not the body and is not truth.
So many leaders within the church would rather make art by way of copying and pasting a stock image rather than by utilizing all of the supplies at our disposal and fostering an atmosphere in which new things can be made. If we were truly utilizing what we could, each successive generation would contain even more color and expression than the previous. The true order of God and of the universe is to bring the pieces of glory contained in all creation — in every person — into play in all beauty and truth.
Hiding was never something godly and lovely. God is always saying and doing new things out of Her/His unchanging nature of love, and we were made to do the same. “Sing to the LORD a new song… all the earth,” Psalm 96:1. We need to push ourselves and love ourselves, learning about the pieces of who we are. We cannot continue to see unconventionality as disparate from God. Our goal should always be to make the most that we can with all that God has given us, not to gatekeep which parts of people are worthy, or who, by making us the least uncomfortable, deserves to be heard.
If we value a peace of silence over a peace of harmony, God’s creation is stifled and the world becomes off-kilter, like an instrument playing out of tune. Until its frequency has been made harmonious with (and by) the spectrum of creation, the music it plays will never be beautiful.
As usual, the solution is less simple than people want it to be, but more glorious. God has never asked us to avoid being different, outspoken, strange, expressive, etc. God simply wants us not to be discordant. That means fostering the true gifts that are within all members of a community and learning how they can be interwoven. When each instrument is played well, it brings out the glory of the others. We need to learn how to love ourselves and love others — including all of the unusual pieces — otherwise our holiness will always be hidden, buried in the ground.
Megan Mercier is an author and homeopath living in Madison, Wisconsin. She writes the fantasy series The Innerland Chronicles and other fictions under the name Windy Phillips, and also passionately writes, speaks and advocates on the topics of abuse, feminism, and the Church's responsibility. Follow her on Twitter @nutmegisme and her blog at sherlocktam.blogspot.com. She owns and runs Freedom Homeopathy during her spare time as a single mom.“
This guest post was written by Marian Edmonds-Allen and originally published on patheos.com.
Glitter is serious business. No, really.
On March 1st, as the Christian world enters the holy season of Lent, LGBT and LGBT affirming clergy will be offering ashes mixed with a bit of purple glitter as a means of welcoming LGBT people who may have felt rejected by the church and as an affirmation of God’s love for all. The project is a partnership between Parity, Liz Edman (the author of Queer Virtue), and Metropolitan Community Churches, and has clergy from a variety of denominations who will be participating throughout the country, currently in eleven states.
Parity has been receiving criticism that our Glitter Ash Wednesday project is “Blasphemy!” “Save glitter for Fat Tuesday,” some critics say, because glitter betrays the “somber time that is Ash Wednesday.”
We disagree. In fact, the whole point of Glitter Ash Wednesday is to reflect the deep, somber, serious faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that millions of queer Christians have. And yes, there are millions of us queer and queer positive Christians. Surprised? No wonder, because the lie gets told over and over again that “God hates fags” and that homosexuality is sinful. Precious few queer Christians survive the hate and make it through to become visible members of the church.
I spent five years working with LGBTQ+ youth and their families in Utah, and saw time and again hundreds of youth and children kicked out for being–or even seeming–LGBTQ+. Parents told their kids, “I wish you had never been born” and even “I wish you were dead.” One week eight young people died by suicide. One night a young girl slept in the snow because her parents told her to leave at bedtime. One Christmas a young teen found himself with a suitcase and no place to go. One trans girl, kicked out by her father the Bishop, walked for miles to “safety,” only to be assaulted again and again.
And why? Because of the misplaced belief that God hates queer people. That queer people are not born that way, that they need to change or face the consequences of their sin. The still burgeoning field of “reparative therapy” attests to that, with thousands of people to this day subjected to terrifying experiences, including physical punishment, all trying to win God’s (and parental) love.
“Throw religion out!” is the rallying cry, and no wonder. While 20% of mainstream Americans don’t identify with a religion, 50% of LGBTQ identified people refuse religious affiliation. Some say this is further proof that God hates gay people, that gay people hate God back. My experience with queer youth, especially queer homeless youth, shows the opposite: spiritually gifted people whose gifts are denied long enough that they no longer even try.
What happens when queer people lose faith? The majority wins. The very people who say God hates gay people are the people who control churches, communities, and governments. Laws are passed, and the cycle continues. Try telling a trans kid that the reason they can’t use the bathroom that matches their gender identity is because “God made Adam and Eve,” and watch their face fall and then harden. Religion is killing kids and expelling them from their homes. Religion is excluding queer people from assuming leadership positions.
But Jesus despised religion and loved people who were hated and excluded–He gathered them to Himself. This Glitter Ash Wednesday, queer Christians are not being silly and disrespectful. They are claiming their birthright as children of a God that loves them, exactly as who they are. These queer and queer positive Christians are claiming the journey that is Lent, towards the persecution and death of Jesus. And these queer and queer positive Christians also claim the resurrection of Jesus. For when those ashes sparkle, that glitter shines, it is a reflection of the very light and life of Christ Himself, given up as a gift for all people. Queer Christians claim that gift, on Ash Wednesday, for all to see.
For more information, visit http://www.queervirtue.com/glitter-ash-wednesday.
Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen is the Executive Director of Parity, a faith-based organization that works to empower LGBTQ and allied people as they explore the intersections of their spiritual, gender and sexual identities. Parity offers a range of education and advocacy programs for adults and youth, and supports new and prospective LGBTQ faith and social justice leaders. Find out more at parity.nyc.
The Slate Project will be participating in Glitter + Ash this Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017, at the following locations and times in Baltimore, MD:
7-10am - Penn Station
11-2pm - North Ave. & St. Paul St.
3-6pm - University Pkwy & Charles St.
Iron Man began what is now known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (a.k.a. the MCU) way back in May 2, 2008 and is still considered one of the greatest movies in the continuing collection. Tony Stark says, early in the film while promoting his Jericho missile, "Is it better to be feared or respected? I say, is it too much to ask for both?", and it seems to be the same question that Marvel Studios was asking when releasing their first venture into this acclaimed shared universe. Theologian and Author, John Piper said, "All heroes are a shadow of Christ." Despite whatever thoughts you may have about his books, it is still a thought that I have considered. Watching these movies that have enthralled comic enthusiasts around the world, I can't help but see how the narrative of the Christian faith is seen through this particular lens and platform.
One of the first problems we see thematically present in this movie is the dichotomy of Tony Stark being a weapons manufacturer while at the same time being seen as a hero of sorts (much as his father before him was seen as a "war hero"). Many times, we may have seemingly contradicting things about us as people that need to have a light shone upon them if we're to reconcile our ourselves to our faith; in order to become holistic people, our faith should be shown in both word and action. This brings us to a major question that is covered in both the film and our own lives: what is peace? Is peace "having the biggest stick", or is it more aptly, much like the Hebrew word for peace (shalom), to be complete, perfect and full. In many ways, Tony Stark's development through the MCU shows a back and forth between trying to find his own completeness while continuing to have the bigger stick (i.e. control). For our own development in the Christian walk, this idea of completeness is better understood when finding our identity in Christ.
How do we do that? The way I've best articulated this idea to my students in the past is to stay rooted in the One that made you. This will look different for each of you, be it daily Bible reading or walks in the woods, but I’m not trying to be intangible when I say this: connect to God in ways that are natural to you, but also in new and unexpected ways. You are never a finished product and are always being made new, struggling with sins and dependencies, but through it all we should be asking ourselves, “where do I see God in all of this?” and looking for his hand in the daily, mundane things, as well as the grandiose. I believe wholeheartedly that continually striving to find your identity in Christ (s opposed to other things. i.e. job, family,money, etc.) and living out of that is the most important thing you can do for yourself and the community you find yourself in.
(The idea for this blog post was taken from a podcast that my friend Derrick Weston (@derricklweston) and I recently put together. I wanted to get the thoughts and themes that we discussed in text form to better articulate my own thoughts. Listen to the first episode of "The Gospel According to Marvel" over at iTunes and follow us on Twitter: @marvel_gospel.)
Zane Sanders is a movie lover with a marvel focus. He loves having these sorts of conversations all the time, so feel free to follow him on twitter @zaneEsanders and interact.
Author's Note: Communion is the celebration of the Last Supper. There are two elements: bread or a wafer and wine or grape juice depending on your denomination’s practices. Also depending on your denomination’s practices is whether the offering is symbolic or it actually becomes the body and blood of Christ.
Theological differences aside, I would like to focus on the repast or meal itself and what it means to share in this special meal with others.
I was raised Catholic but became agnostic from the age of thirteen or fourteen. I officially stopped going to mass when I turned eighteen. Still interested in religion, I wanted answers to the big questions and after several years of higher education I found myself knocking on Philosophy’s door. What I found was what philosophers call an aporia or inherent paradox. The philosophical reasoning ran out after a while and I was left with a choice: to believe or not to believe. I stubbornly remained undecided. Communion became part of the special-occasion masses at Christmas and Easter.
Then life decided to teach me other lessons and I went through a rough time. One day I was sitting alone in my apartment, feeling the deafening silence and isolation and I suddenly had a singular thought: “Find a church.”
I tried one church and found it closed. Never one to give up easily I turned right and walked to the next one. It was open; they greeted me warmly and gave me a book to read and a schedule of services. I had just met the Episcopalians. They mentioned an interdenominational service on Mondays. That was where I met Jenn, Jason and Sara. They were leading the Slate Project. It was the first service I would attend at my new church. I quickly became a regular at the more traditional Sunday morning service and the monastic service on Thursday nights as well as at Breaking Bread.
When I arrived at my first Breaking Bread service, I was overcome by friendliness. Everyone greeted each other and prepared for dinner. One or two chefs manned the kitchen. After singing and lighting candles, we gathered in a circle and one of the ministers blessed a loaf of bread and broke it in two, saying “This is my body, broken for you.” Jenn’s four-year-old son endearly calls it the “Jesus Bread.” Half the loaf was passed around and each person broke off a piece, handing it to his or her neighbor and echoing the minister’s words. I wondered what happened to the wafer but once I tried the Jesus Bread a quiet calm settled over my heart. It stayed there as I made new friends over dinner and I got to take the feeling home with me. We all shared in the loaf. Grape juice was drunk at the end of the meal as one of the ministers said “And at the end of the meal, he took the cup and said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’”
I have “Jesus Bread” and wine at the other services, both with social events afterward. Three times a week I receive the sacrament, which I find spiritually nourishing and I get to enjoy the company of my fellow parishioners, which is emotionally uplifting. It’s a lot easier to hold the “big questions” in my heart and accept that sometimes there is no clear answer, just Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith.”
Is it any wonder we find the word “community” in “communion?”
Pamela M. Shuggi is a member of the Cathedral of Incarnation in Baltimore. She blogs about books and experiences as vehicles to her personal and professional journey. Follow her at https://pamelashuggi.com. She teaches Spanish at Morgan State University and is a freelance writer, editor and translator. She is the proud pet parent of Caesar, an orange and white tabby cat. She enjoys knitting, reading, practicing yoga and walking.
I’ve been doing the work for LGBTQ equality in the church both personally and professionally for over a decade now. In the early days, because I was newly out and still so raw with that experience, I was happy for whatever crumbs of tolerance I was able to find. This church didn’t overtly condemn LGBT people from the pulpit so I felt good there. This person told me they still loved me even though they didn’t support my “lifestyle”; they got a pass because they at least still loved me.
As the years went on I became a little louder in my calls for true equality but I was still willing to walk and work with people who were on a journey. The mom’s of the kids who had just come out, the Pastors who were personally affirming but struggling with an unaffirming congregation, the people who “wanted” to be on board but just couldn’t get there “theologically”. I may have been frustrated at their slowness but I also trusted that they were moving.
Now, though? Now things have changed. It’s a change that I’ve felt coming on slowly, but that has crystalized rapidly since the November election.
I no longer have time to waste on mealy mouthed half acceptance. I no longer have time to “walk with you” on the journey you should have completed a decade ago. I no longer have time to hold your hand while you process your grief about your kid’s transition. I no longer have time to do this because people are literally dying (and your kid who is transitioning but who is very much alive isn’t one of them).
I run an online community called Sanctuary Collective. It’s a place for LGBTQ Christians to come together and find support. For some of them it’s the only place they can be around other LGBTQ Christians, for others it’s the only place they can bring all of themselves to the table. In in their affirming churches they still have to leave too much out. I am both honored to run this community and angered by the need for it.
And the stories I hear break my heart because they come from people who consider themselves loving and affirming but who won’t let LGBTQ people serve in leadership in their churches, or who require ridiculous standards around sex, or who “love” their kids but who still won’t let them bring their partner over for dinner.
All of these people who claim to love but who are killing the souls of LGBTQ people. It has to stop and it has to stop now. Right now. Right this instant. Not with another ten years of theological writings or discernment periods. Not with church committees to “examine the issue”. Not with agreements to disagree in love. A full stop to the oppression and marginalization of LGBTQ people in the church needs to happen today. No more excuses. No more journeys that are really shields to protect you from having to do the hard things.
People need to leave unaffirming churches. People need to abandon hateful theology. People need to love their LGBTQ siblings in all of their complexity (and that includes identities that you might not understand or be comfortable with).
In Deuteronomy 30:15 it says “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.” God sets a choice between the people and lets them choose: life or death. there is no third way when it comes to justice, there is the way of life and the way of death. There is the full acceptance of LGBTQ people (which is the way of life for both LGBTQ people and for straight, cisgender people) and there is the way of death. There is no middle way. Not anymore. Though, the more I think about it, I don’t think there ever really was.
If you’re willing to choose life, then let’s get to work. If you’re choosing death? Well, I no longer have time for the way of death. My community and I have too much beautiful living to do.
Father Shannon T.L. Kearns (he/him/his) is a writer, speaker, and theologian. He is the co-founder of Queer Theology. He is also the founder of Uprising Theatre Company. He graduated from Union Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity and is an ordained priest in the Old Catholic Church. Fr. Shay is a sought after speaker on queer theology, transgender issues, and the intersections of identity and faith. He’s been published in Geez Magazine, Lavender Magazine, Believe Out Loud, and the Huffington Post, and featured in The Advocate and the Star Tribune. You can find him on Facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram, and his website.