In Search of the Missing Myth: Explorations in Queer Theology

As I noted in my ‘How I’ve Changed’ post back in November, the focus of this blog — about how spirituality changes lives in tangible ways — has impelled me towards being more vocal on issues of social justice over the past three years. And so I’ve done quite a bit of writing promoting the work of Black theologians, discussing some of the ways White folk need to participate in anti-racism work, and actively promoting a decolonizing and Indigenizing agenda within Christian theology and spirituality. But one collection of issues I haven’t really addressed here are the questions of sexuality and gender identity that are so prominent right now in our culture, in politics, and in our churches. There are a number of reasons why this is the case: First, I don’t tend to find the theological questions around them all that compelling; second, as a gay man, the conflict is close to my heart and many old spiritual wounds, and so I don’t enjoy wading into these debates that so often lack grace; and third, I never really knew how to approach it, particularly since as a cisgendered white man, I can only speak from a very narrow piece of the wider ‘queer’ or LGBTQ2S+ experiences. But, as the reactionary movements against queer folk seem to be stepping up, it feels disingenuous to remain quiet. And so, over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring some of these issues in, what I hope will be a light-hearted and interesting way.

A number of years ago, I read a fascinating book by Gilles Herrada called The Missing Myth. In it, Herrada makes the argument that in places where the founding myths include some form of representation of queer experiences — whether in the form of same-sex relationships, gender-fluid characters, or what have you — there has tended to be more room for diverse expressions of sexuality and gender than it places where this representation is absent from mythology. It stands to reason, then, according to this idea, that the places where the Abrahamic faiths have taken hold — with their one, solitary, transcendent and theoretically-genderless-but-predominantly-conceived-as-masculine God — there has been a denial and rejection of those whose experiences of life do not fit comfortably into fixed, received gender roles or sexuality.

But, for all that our experiences as LGBTQ2S+ people may indeed be missing from the traditional readings of Scripture, people of good faith from across the wide spectrum of the ever-expanding queer alphabet have in fact seen reflections of ourselves and experiences in our sacred texts. It leads one to ask the question: Is the myth missing, or has it been silenced, whether intentionally or simply by virtue of people not looking for it? In this series, I’ll mostly be looking at these places where queer folk have seen our varied experiences reflected in the Scriptures, and the places where we see the Scriptures change its mind. The point of this exercise will not be to uncover the correct reading of any passage, but to engage the stories with love and curiosity to see what other interpretations might be present in them if we just have eyes to see and ears to hear.

This approach won’t be for everyone and that’s okay. I hope that if you choose to join me on this adventure, you’ll do so with an open heart and with curiosity. And that if you aren’t curious or open-hearted about these questions, you will simply choose not to engage, and come back to the blog for my Sunday reflections and for what I have planned for Lent (which I’m very excited about!).