Perhaps I am getting older, and moving into the curmudgeon state of existence much earlier than expected, but there is a sense that I get when queer theology, which is that it often re-centers Christianity as important, especially in the US. Let me be honest and say that queer theology has been formative for me in the sense that it has allowed me to think outside of the box as an interpreter. Yet, there are manifestations of queer theology, especially the more popular ones that come across as assmiliationist. Because the US is still overwhelmingly Christian, it functions to allow queer theology to be grafted onto the proverbial tree of Christianity. Overall, the discourse of queerness and religion in the United States is not about religion, so as much as it is about Christianity. The debate about same-sex marriage is really about whether the US is a Christian nation. Sometimes it feels as if the
As a Jew, queer theology often revives implicitly anti-Jewish discourse. One will still hear queer Christians argue that “Christians follow Jesus not the Law,” which promotes supercessionist rhetoric: the law is antiquated, calcified, and bigoted. The law is normative, and Jesus is queer. Moreover, one can still hear queer Christians naming queer antagonistic Christians as “Pharisees,” which was used as coded language to describe Jews. In the end, queer antagonistic Christians are seen as being like us Jews, who are more concerned with interpreting the Torah than following Jesus. Now obviously, I am not sure most queer Christians think about the anti-Judaism implicit in this discourse. Yet, that’s part of the problem when so much discourse about queerness and religion in the US is really about Christianity’s uncomfortable relationship with diversity.
This kind of anti-Jewish rhetoric also sounds strange, since following Jesus quickly became the norm across Europe and the Americas. Those who do claim adherence to the Law (Jews) are actually those framed as queer, since they live outside of the norms of Christian society, and for most of European and US American history, Jews were often marginalized because of their Jewishness. Moreover, European culture often considered Jewish men and women to be queer because Jewish women were seen as much more assertive and “masculine,” while Jewish men were seen to be “feminine,” and often implicitly homosexual. Overall, the reuse of anti-Jewish rhetoric in queer Christianity ignores the hegemony that Christianity has. It in fact obscures the fact that Christianity is a privileged discourse, even as most US Americans know very little about queer theology.
In many ways, these thoughts have been a long time coming. Along with the anti-Jewish rhetoric in queer Christian discourse, queer theology buttresses the Bible, and attempts to center it as a part of queer religious experiences. The obvious problem I have with this is that there is anti-queer sentiments in the Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament. Indeed, these sentiments are few and far in between. Moreover, these sentiments do not line up with our notions of gender and sexuality (they didn’t know of homosexuality as a medical category, for instance). Yet, it surprises me that we don’t focus more on the experiences of queer people, their stories, their practices. I hesitate to use the term queer hagiography, since such terminology projects religiosity onto queer narratives that I am not sure is appropriate. Nevertheless, there is much about arguing how the bible is queer, never about saying “well, queer narratives are worth our study, our investment.” It seems to me that queer theology can often privilege a conservative discourse that attempts to project queerness in the past. Here, I would rather focus on the queer and now. Yes, our queer ancestors are always worth veneration. But we mustn’t make too much of attempting to justify queerness by trying to always find it in biblical narrative.
My current frustrations with queer theology derives from the fact that in queer religious circles “religion” and “faith” are thrown around, when in actuality, religion equals Christianity. For me and others who are not Christian, this is alienating. So much of queer religious experience is about justifying queerness and Christianity. To some degree, this makes sense: Christianity is so hegemonic in the US that queerness is most directly a threat to Christianity. Even so, these kinds of conversations about queerness and religion come across as attempts to re-center Christianity in a way that allows it to be hegemonic, while still being inclusive to queers. Many of us who aren’t Christian want Christianity to be de-centered altogether. At what point do the queer voices(either religious minorities or the non-religious) that fall outside the hegemony of Christianity get to weigh in on their perspectives, and their narratives?
I am not sure of where to go from here. But as I joked on twitter a few days ago, I might break up with queer theology for a while.