I just found out that we lost another one. At this point, I am numb. There’s no anger, just sadness. It is a sense of profound anxiety and despair. This time the suicide was related to a city council meeting in Norman, OK, which you can view here. If you go about 33 minutes in, you can see residents begin their speeches. Some are in support of October being GLBT month and others against it. The trend throughout this is that those who oppose do so because this is “a moral issue.” That people should oppose this because of a sense of Christian piety. It’s a destructive lifestyle. Like, Queerty, I agree that this did not directly result in Zach Harrington’s suicide.
But. We cannot fail to realize that discourses have consequences. When a pastor preaches from the pulpit that homosexuality is immoral, an abomination, or we’re what’s wrong with this country today, their theological rhetoric has profound implications for the way we live our lives. Might I add David Barton’s claim that homosexuality is unhealthy precisely because our queer children are more likely to commit suicide — as if homosexuality is the cause of these suicides. (Let’s stop for a pause and ask ourselves whether Barton’s rhetoric will add to the anxiety of our children who struggle with their sexuality). Let’s be real too, the arguments of the residents of Norman, OK are the cause of Zach’s death because they are not particularly innovative arguments. I’ve heard these since I was a kid.
Does this mean that Religious fundamentalists should be censored? No because that’s counterintuitive. It feeds the fire and gives Religious fundamentalists the ammunition they need to claim that they, rather than queers, are the ones being oppressed.
Does this mean that heterosexist discourse is found exclusively in Religious fundamentalist camps? No because, in fact, the majority of the overt forms of homophobia I experienced growing up were from people either pretty irreligious, or the forms of homophobic discourse promoted were irreligious. In other words, we cannot just target religious fundamentalists when talking about heterosexism.
Nevertheless, theological responses are vital to this issue. Theology often justifies the most abhorrent of heterosexist and homophobic discourse. It rarely condemns heterosexist harassment, bullying, and assault. We need to encounter it by constructing a theology that is deeper than shallow readings of Biblical texts. From what I’ve seen, we only combat poisonous biblical exegesis through describing the inaccuracy of it. We need to deconstruct it. Our message needs to speak louder than bigots, metaphorically speaking.We need to offer a wide-range of textual analysis when constructing our theologies of inclusion. We need to not only point to commandments, but also principles, paradigms and the symbolic worlds that biblical texts create. More importantly, we cannot just construct theology that is discourse. We need to construct a theology that can be embodied in our communities by putting them into practice. The question I have is how can we do cultural synthesis? How can we put dialogics into practice? Can we? As Kathe Darr said about violent Biblical texts, “Sometimes the only appropriate response to a violent text is by saying, ‘no.'” The same is true about theologies used to actively marginalize the queer community. Same is true of any theology that marginalizes. Now, I need to take steps towards the creation of this theology.
Right now, however, I think the only appropriate response is to lament the death of another beautiful child.