When Queer Spiritual Gifts Meet Toxic Religious Beliefs
It seems to me that most people are threatened on some level by the gifts of others.
For example, I tend to feel this irrational sense of insecurity when I come across someone else’s writing, especially if they find themselves in the niche genre of “queer Christian” writing. When I read someone else’s blog, I get this strange fear that my own writing is invalid. This fear tends to turn into a brief moment of defensiveness, a scoff at the talents of another human because in that moment, I cannot process the fact that someone may be more experienced, more talented, or have more resources than I do.
Thankfully, these feelings that I experience come and go freely, and I am able to remember that the gifts of others do not diminish my own writing ability. Someone else can be an excellent writer who reveals truths that are difficult for me to express, and I can find my own voice in the midst of other important voices.
This is a relatively common and mostly harmless experience. But when does it become harmful? When do layered feelings of fear and insecurity become toxic for others who are simply using their God-given gifts?
These feelings, when unaddressed and improperly processed, are the same feelings that manifest into destructive ideas about queer people and all other marginalized people.
To understand how this kind of fear works against queer people specifically, we should look at some of the many spiritual gifts of LGBTQIA+ people.
While God does not create marginalization, God works with marginalized people, allowing their experiences to be used for moments of grace and healing. I see this in the queer community’s ability to create chosen families, extending their definition of family beyond a spouse and children, and into deep, meaningful friendships built on loyalty and protection.
Queer people have an innate ability to leave behind more than what was left behind previously. LGBTQIA+ activists fight for queer rights and visibility because they want to create a world that is more welcoming for the queer people who will be born into communities that may not want them. Those of us who fight for queer people on some level do this work because we recognize the efforts of those who came before us and want to pass that on for those who will follow.
I see that queer people have the spiritual gift of finding God in unexpected places. The Church has told LGBTQIA+ people that we are hopeless, godless, and worthless people who want to justify sexual perversion. The reality is that many, if not most of us, have given up on finding God in the four walls of harmful religious spaces, and we have chosen to find God in the communities we build, in our radical acceptance of hurt people, and in our unique experiences of being queer. Queer people are closer to Christ because we are one with not only the suffering, but also the glorious resurrection and joy of Christ.
Fear Responses Are Not a Queer Responsibility
It is easy for the rest of the Church to see these gifts that queer people hold and feel threatened on some level. Maybe straight, cisgender Christians feel like their stronghold on Jesus is being attacked by some queer agenda, as if God could ever be boxed neatly and perfectly categorized by limited humans. Maybe the cishet Church feels like their family values are being attacked by queer people who have been forced to redefine family because of the severe abandonment and removal from their own homes.
This defensiveness, left unaddressed and improperly processed, has turned into the abuse of LGBTQIA+ people by communities who claim they hold the love and grace of Christ.
And maybe the idea that queer people are carving out spaces where no space was given before is an attack on heteronormative values. Maybe it has to be. But if our greatest attack is radical love, acceptance, and equality, maybe that says more about the values we are attacking than it says about the queer people “attacking” them.