I was touched by a letter from a young man, struggling with the issue of masturbation and Catholic teaching. The letter gives no indication of his sexual orientation, and there is no reason to think that he is gay (or that he is not). His concerns however, are applicable to all Catholics, especially when young and vulnerable.
It’s an extraordinary experience to be told, quite unexpectedly, that you have cancer – or in my case, maybe not. (Is a GIST cancer? That depends on who you speak to). I’ve learned a lot about the condition over the last eight months, including the terminology.
A week ago, I returned from a magical fortnight’s holiday with family in Switzerland and Italy. The background is that as I was under medical advice not to travel to South Africa, my daughter Barbara in Johannesburg decided to bring her family to her sister Robynn in Switzerland (canton Zurich), where I could join them. Then, we all crossed the Alps to Italy, where they had taken a villa in Portese (part of San Felice del Benaco), right on the shore of Lake Garda.
And as it turns out, the best inspiration for
radical honesty comes right from Scripture (The
Book of Esther to be precise).
Queen Esther is a cool woman by most accounts,
but did you know she’s a perfect analogy for being queer!? Here’s why:
1. She is locked in a system of rigid gender roles.
The setup of Esther’s story is that King Xerxes keeps his women (yes, plural) on a short leash. One of those wives, Queen Vashti, isn’t too keen on being at the King’s beck and call like a doorman. So one day…
In today’s reading, we learn how Jonah was sent to preach to the people of Nineveh, and by reforming them, to save them from the Lord’s destruction:
The word of the Lord was addressed to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour. And God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.
Well – great. Terrific. But what, if anything, does this say to queer Christians? The key lies in seeing the greater context, the prequel. Jonah had not wanted to go to Nineveh, at all. He tried to resist the Lord’s command, and boarded a boat to sail away, in the opposite direction. But the Lord’s command is not so easily resisted, and after his familiar troubles at sea, he ended up washed ashore – on the coast of Nineveh. That is where today’s reading begins.
Earlier, I wrote that some Bible stories are so familiar, we do not stop to consider their significance. I could also add, that some others are so familiar, we do not stop to ask if they are accurate. A case in point is that of today’s feast of the Epiphany, which we routinely celebrate as the visit of the three kings of the East to the infant Jesus – but the Gospel text does not specify that there were three, nor that they were kings.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
It is the term “magi” that has been traditionally adapted to “wise men”, or corrupted in popular imagination to “kings”. Astrologer-magicians, in the Zoroastrian religion, would be a more accurate translation. (Note the obvious linguistic connection between “magus” and “magic”). Kittredge quotes Nancy Wilson and Virginia Mollenkott, to suggest that the Magi were probably either eunuchs, or trans.
For almost a month, my primary site, “Queering the Church”, has been down. Readers cannot access it, I cannot access it – or the admin dashboard. I’ve spent time investigating, hours (and money) on the telephone to the hosting company, and still no idea if I’m on the verge of retrieving it – or no closer than ever before. Only two things I know for certain: I will soon be taking a final decision on which of two approaches I will adopt – and that like the phoenix, the site in one form or another, will rise again.