In Search for Joyful Belonging: Living the Questions with Divine Doubt

Today in the Christian liturgical calendar is Holy Saturday, which is part of the three-day Easter celebration. Yesterday was Good Friday where the Christian Church remembers the crucifixion of Jesus, and today is the day of darkness, death, with a move toward hoping for the resurrection, which is celebrated tomorrow on Easter Sunday. For Christians, this past week has been the high holy week of their calendar and many Christians have moved through this week with an eye toward the resurrection celebration on Sunday.

I have to admit something to each of you reading. I’m really agnostic when it comes to institutionalized religion and institutionalized faith. I even struggle with any notion of certainty and belief. I think in many ways, American Christianity has forced folks to assimilate into belief structures that have not honored the genuine act of asking questions and habituating a life of what I call ‘living the questions.’

The Christianity that we know today is akin to the same empire-driven politics that crucified a brown Palestinian Jew. We live in a time of lynching where brown and black bodies are murdered by empire-driven politics. And, so, how do we even begin to reframe the question: ‘when you hear the word ‘god,’ what comes up for you?’

I’m a generation Xer who hangs out with a lot of Millennials. They are onto something in their search for ‘joyful belonging,’ as my friend and colleague, Casper ter Kuile at Harvard Divinity Schools says. It is my deep hope that we can commit to curating spaces of joyful belonging. I think we do this by composting religion, as my dear colleague, friend, and sister in the struggle, Rev. Jennifer Bailey, talks about here in her Huffington Post Article.

The other thing I have to be honest with you about is that I’m trained as a theologian and ethicist and have spent a lot of time working at the intersections of theology, philosophy, and cultural theory. I am invested in the discourse not from a normative confessional standpoint, but in an effort to subvert the very tradition that advances what I call empire religion. And, Christianity has a a long history of being hegemonic and colonial because of an internal supremacist ideology that has not fostered or curated an attitude or habit of ‘living the questions.’ In many respects, Christianity has demanded certainty with no wiggle room to explore the in/between spaces like doubt and imagining something other than hegemonic notions of god. Living the questions helps us unhinge from heteropatriarhcal religion and really ask the question that Mary Daly asked decades ago: Is Christianity irredeemably patriarchal? I want to modify that question and ask the following: Is our understanding of religion irredeemably supremacist? And, my follow-up question is: Can we compost that version of religion and habituate a life that is grounded in living the questions in an attempt to curate a togetherness of joyful belonging?

So, when we think about this question concerning what comes up for you when you hear the word ‘god,’ I want to ask the following questions, especially on this liturgical day where many are reflecting on the intersection of State violence as a particular extension of empire religion. Today is a dark day in the liturgical calendar, and for communities of color, LGBTQIA folks, trans women of color, we don’t know that a resurrection is to come! So, what is coming up for us when we hear the word ‘god?’

What happens when this question is unintelligible to those who have left the Church due to micro-aggressions or outright violence by means of various theologies and uses of the bible? Is there a way to reframe the language of god for those who negotiate space & systems that perpetually marginalize them? How can this language unhinge from empire religion? Can we ever get out of Christo-centric logic & dismantle Christian supremacy? Can we find ways to develop contours of belonging outside the laborious reality of “God?” Or, are we entrenched in this logic? Can we achieve collective liberation with & thru this language? As a Constructive Philosophical Theologian & Ethicist, I am eager to find answers to these questions.

As I move thru this day, I am mindful that it is a day between death and life for Christians. And, this in/between space is a great space to really ask the hard questions that are reinforcing theologies and ethics that not only dehumanize those of us who are different from the norm, but those of who are on a journey to find those spaces of joyful belonging that isn’t reduced, necessarily, to god. As a Transqueer Latinx, I am deeply committed to a sense of joyful belonging and a deep togetherness that advances radical social change. And, I’m aware that a deep togetherness requires a shit-ton of work addressing the logic of white supremacy, anti-black racism, heteropatriarchal misogyny, transphobia, Christian Supremacy, Islamaphobia, poverty, those who are under homed due to gentrification, and so much more. And, while I struggle with the uncertainty of belief in a normative understanding of god or universal spirit, I do believe the politics of Jesus help orient us toward innovating spaces of joyful belonging. Part of this work is the paradoxical act of bridging with radical difference.

With that in mind, let us lean in to the paradox of living the questions that will motivate commitments to bridging with radical difference, and let us remember what Rev. Jennifer Bailey wrote in that what we need to do now is simply compost religion. And, doing that might help us achieve this horizon of joyful belonging and live out the greatest politics, which are the politics of radical difference!

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