Queering All Saints and All Souls: Celebrating the Queer Body of Christ

The blood of the queer martyrs is the seed of the queer Church.

As we enter the season of remembering saints (11/1) and departed souls (11/2), including transgender people murdered in hate crimes (11/20) and those who died of AIDS (12/1), these words keep coming to mind, paraphrasing the cherished phrase of Tertullian, declared a heretic yet celebrated for this observation about the paradoxical flourishing of Christianity under Roman imperial persecution in his time.

The queer martyrs -- nonconforming in gender or sexuality (or both), cast out of the visible church of the saints

...those who dare not approach the Holy of Holies, are unwelcome in both the Court of the Men and the Court of the Women, not even permitted to stand with God-fearing Gentiles in what passes for the Temple today...

Outside of the shelter of privileged entry to the Temple and its courts, we gather.

Bloodied in psyche and even body, outcast, untouchable,

...our marriages an "abomination" -- our love declared to condemned both partners to Sheol.

Even after death, having left behind these bodies deemed by the righteous to be "disordered," these self-righteous lovers of Law keeping casting stones at our fallen (John 8.7).

Gather in the shadow of the Temple with us. In a parking lot, on a downtown city street closed for a parade where we can celebrate our queer love, our queer bodies, we take the cup of Thanksgiving together and remember the broken body of our risen wounded Teacher as we share bread. Dare to see the invisible queer Church sitting next to you in your visible church, hiding behind a name we don't use for ourselves, wearing clothes that don't fit us, because we have more compassion more for the discomfort we might cause you, the "weaker brethren," than we do for ourselves -- even though the shame and discomfort we thus internalize may drive more than half of us to attempt suicide.

Believing God's answer to who we are can never be yes (as queer poet James Baldwin described it), we still gather to worship the same God proclaimed by those who see us as less than human. Nothing is left to gain for those who believe the lies that we are hell-bound, that the God who made us hates us. What kind of faith is this but the same adoration embodied by the hemorrhaging woman who only wanted to touch them hem of Jesus' garment -- not even knowing if she would ever be healed. To be close enough to adore God in the presence of those who love God with us -- with no promise of healing or salvation, we gather.

The queer saints gather to break bread together, to keep Sabbath, to pray, to watch and witness, to hope, believing in the Beloved Community of unconditional grace that we have not yet seen in fullness -- only in a glass darkly in our queer koinonia. This is true love for God, without self-interest, with nothing left to gain -- no gold ticket to heaven in the next life, only justice and equality and grace-filled love in this one. If God our Maker has made us profane, to be an abomination to God's chosen people, still we gather and still we love God. If God casts us out of God's presence into everlasting torment (as others proclaim) for celebrating our marriages faithfully as a grace-filled sacrament, still we gather, and still we love God. This is a divine, unconditional grace that cuts both ways, in every direction from divine to human and back again. Do you love God this much?

Who dares to condemn this boldly selfless faith as heresy? If you have cast out these faithful lovers of God or stood by in silence as we were cast out, "agreeing to disagree," you have departed from the true and Invisible Church. Only now, in the queer Body of Christ, wounded and yet alive, disgraced and yet glorifying God with a depth and intensity of grace seen nowhere else, we can see our queer God face to face: The One whom Jesus called God Abba (Daddy) yet Who boasts of birthing creation from His-Her womb (Job 38.29). Queer Christ is known by the wounds in His Body (John 20.24-29). See and believe the invisible Church in the church visible. Glorify God whose living grace is proclaimed in the continued presence and witness of the queer saints.