Fleshiness Theology

“‘There’s something very important about the fleshiness of Jesus,'” says Jay Johnson, a theologian at the Pacific School of Religion’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry. That “fleshiness” is at the heart of a growing school of queer theology explored with admirable depth and balance by Malcolm Gay, writing for the East Bay Express.

The Revealer likes to avoid superlatives, but Gay’s lengthy cover story may be the best piece of journalism about gay marriage and the Episcopal rift that we’ve seen — and it’s not even about gay marriage or the Episcopal rift. Rather, Gay goes to the heart of the the many debates about homosexuality and Christianity by profiling queer theology’s flagship institution. Along the way, he incorporates plenty of dissenting voices.

Not just anti-gay traditionalists, whose arguments he presents with greater cogency than many of them do themselves, but some more surprising provocateurs. Take “Mary,” a United Church of Christ minister from a conservative congregation who studies at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, but critiques queery theology’s concentration on presenting the gospel’s eroticism as some kind of new revelation, a gift of the gay community to the straight world. “’Has the entire heterosexual world for all this time been failing to commune with God?’” she asks.

Or Gabriel Hermelin, a transgender seminarian who rejects attempts to find queer antecedents in scripture. “‘It doesn’t matter to me whether … there’s proof that the eunuch of yesterday is the transsexual, or transgender of today,'” Hermelin says, referring to queer theology’s focus on the role of eunuchs — neither male nor female — in the Bible. “‘I think that we’ll find whatever we want to find. Each marginalized group tries to bolster or justify their position using the same thing that’s used against them…. There’s no merit in it for me. You have to start from scratch.'”

Gay isn’t practicing the cheap-shot journalism genre of letting a group’s own members damn it. He’s too smart to see the vast number of people included under the headings “queer” and “Christian” as a single group at all. Instead, he presents a broad portrait of a lot of smart people mixing it up with one another. As evidence of the fairness with which he approaches them, The Revealer found itself almost persuaded by each perspective in turn — only to have the next voice present a meaningful challenge.

But what really sets this piece apart — and should endear it to conservatives as well — is the emphasis on God throughout. You know, what He (or She, or S/he) wants? Well, if you’re not sure, you’ll find yourself in excellent company here among this collection of good, wholesome, religious folk.

We’d leave it at that. but The Revealer is on a mission to help religion writers, so… Religion writers: Start your engines and motor over to a queer theologian near you. It’s a necessary step if you want to add some depth to your coverage of “issues” like gay marriage and denominational implosion.

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