What does it mean to be a voice in the wilderness? What will you cry?
Note: Straight Christians, we’ve all been complicit in the irreparable personal harms and civil rights violations that have been inflicted on the LGBTQIA+ community by virtue of belonging to an institution that propagates such violence, and therefore it is incumbent upon us to align ourselves to help eradicate these systemic injustices. So this entry is just as much for you to read and meditate upon as our fellow queer family members, neighbors, and friends.
Please join me as we read these two vignettes to reflect on this week’s Advent theme of Preparation.
Voices in the Wilderness
By Ophelia Hu Kinney
December 4, 2018
Reconciling Ministries Network
The United Methodist Church, the third largest denomination in the world, is heading this February to a decision-making forum in which we’ll answer just one question: is there a place for LGBTQ people in the kin-dom of God?
If I’m being honest, it’s a question I hold lightly. Though I work for an organization working to open the doors of The UMC to LGBTQ people, it’s a question I hold lightly. It isn’t that I should, but I do. Because I’ve been turned away from churches before on account of who I am, and I don’t just want queer Christians to survive. I want us to thrive.
But my colleagues are grassroots organizers who travel for weeks at a time, holding Dunkin Donuts cups on their laps at 3am while they wind down South Georgia roads to talk to folks who’ve never met an out queer or trans person; board a train in California to teach a whole church how to love a trans child in their congregation; fly out to Oregon to listen to the direction in which African Christians are taking us.
And those quiet feet going out into the world while every day is still young, they tell me to clutch the vision close to me – to hold it tight. I want to hold it lightly, but good news is like honey on the fingers; it doesn’t let you let it go.
Last month, my colleague flew to Brazil to visit the nation’s first queer-affirming, all-welcoming Methodist church. The nation just elected a president who’s vehemently, violently anti-gay, stating publicly that he’d sooner have his own son be dead than gay. What would you do as a Brazilian queer or trans person with that knowledge? That terror?
It’s in the midst of that that this church reaches out and says, “We want to be bold.” They write me online. “Greetings to the Reconciling Movement from the Reconciling Church of Brazil.” It’s a modern-day epistle. I write them back.
Erica Malunguinho, a Brazilian activist and trans woman, put it this way: “I’m not afraid. According to the system, I was already born dead.”
Born dead with no-place to go but six feet up. Six feet up through the dirt and the breathlessness and the suffocating weight, a memory of sunlight that hasn’t happened yet…
The Brazilian church is raising funds for its new building. Its leadership is electric. They sent a 360-degree photo last month. The site is yet unbroken. It’s in the middle of the city.
Everywhere I look, I’m catching visions of life that have yet to push through the ground – sunlight that has yet to break.
Excerpt from Legion of Demons:
A Sermon After the Pulse Mass Shooting
By Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz
June 19, 2016
Westminster Presbyterian Church
In the days following Pulse, Rev. Laura gave a sermon naming the evils in our society and world. In it, she stated that it is important to name that which is demonic today, and that our demons are Legion. From mass shootings to systemic racial injustice, she spent much of her sermon naming injustice after injustice, and then how we are to be delivered from them. We pick up as she closes with this bit of advice:
“We who hear this story have no reason to turn away from hope.
It is turning from a myopic focus on our own fears about decline, our fears of not speaking prophetically enough, our fears about becoming too political, our fears about how much we lose in this time of rapid social change, to the news of what God has done for us.
If you recall from the Scripture for today that the demons do not just depart. They do not dissolve into the atmosphere. They have to relocate. In this world of the Scriptures, evil is not erased. It moves.
Being a Christian is not living in some fantasy world of butterflies and unicorns. Demons do not simply disappear. Being a Christian, struggling with our faith, struggling to find the will to be part of a community that can be exasperating, is to see a world full of demons, to know these demons better than we would like to, and know exactly what we are up against. It is to stare death, chaos, and disorder in the face and proclaim the gift of life, God’s presence, the power of community, in the same breath. It is deciding to live resurrection.
Hope is the queer community showing up at Pride. Hope is being brown and gender nonconforming, and leaving one’s house every day. Hope is the young black person protesting police brutality because there are beautiful people out there who deserve to live. […] Hope is the family fleeing violence in another land, hoping to reach safer shores through impossible conditions. Hope is the legal team fighting to defend Native American sovereignty against the broken treaties and promises of the U.S. government. After all, if a Gentile possessed by Legion can be freed and sent even before Jesus’ ministry was officially open to non-Jews, if someone who lived chained and naked among the tombs can be restored to community, I say we who sit here with our doubts and fears and grief and brokenness and tiny glimmering hopes have no excuse.
Go. Get out of here. Do your work.
- Care more about saving lives than retaining members.
- Refuse to be held hostage by xenophobic fears and bureaucratic excuses that prevent us from welcoming more refugees
- Refuse to be held hostage by a gun culture propped up and fed by gun manufacturers, who care more about the bottom line than about our beautiful children.
- Become a thorn in the side of those who feed the demons.
- Become the elderly women who have been standing on the corner of Washington Street and MLK Drive in Atlanta, protesting the war since the early 2000s.
- Make it easier for people to exercise their citizenship.
- Make it safer for queer people to gather.
- Teach your children you don’t have to know what gender someone is to treat that person like a human being.
- Make this country really free for Muslims and Sikhs who want to live without being harassed, or their places of worship vandalized.
Aren’t you sick and tired of holding vigils?
When you return to your home, don’t pretend like anything is the same as it was. Name the demons. Declare how much God has done for you.
[Full Text: A Legion of Demons]
These two vignettes remind us that there are voices crying out on your behalf and on behalf of the Christian community. These voices call evil in the Church and in society for what it is. They name the injustices of conversion therapy, the firing of queer leaders, and the shaming and outcasting of human souls. They name injustice in the fact that it is at most times impossible to be fully queer and fully Christian in the world today.
Therefore, know that you are not alone and that you are known. Known not only by a harm-bound institution, but too by a holy Divine. Know this and cast your light, a light that is greater than the light of stars, onto the Legion that has been unjustly placed upon your shoulders.
Then speak, and walk through the world as wholly yourself.
About the author: Ophelia Hu Kinney (she/her/hers) lives in Portland, Maine with her wife and two cats. She is the wife of a fearless reformer, the daughter of two circumstantial pragmatists, and the sister of a hopeful romantic. Although she grew up in a family of agnostics, she became a Christian in college and has worked ever since to understand what that means. Ophelia believes that we inherit from our divine source the ability to co-author and co-build the kin-dom of God. She and her wife tend www.QueeringTheKindom.com. You can support the work that Ophelia described in her piece by donating to www.rmnetwork.org.
About the author: Laura M. Cheifetz (pronouns: she/her) is a Teaching Elder in the PC(USA). She serves as Deputy Director of Systems & Sustainability at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), overseeing operations and development. She is an online contributing editor to Inheritance, a progressive Asian American Christian magazine. Laura is multiracial Asian American of Japanese and white Jewish descent.