One day, a farmer went out sowing seed. Some of the seed landed on a footpath, where birds came and ate it up. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. This seed sprouted at once since the soil had no depth, but the sun rose and scorched it, it withered away for lack of roots. Again, some of it landed on good soil, and yielded a crop thirty, sixty, even a hundred time what was sown.
-Matthew 13:3b-9 (Mark 4:3-8; Luke 8:5-18)
It can be hard for queer folk to here this simple parable of seeds and soil. Typically we are cast as the inhospitable ground with the kingdom (or better empire) of God rejecting us or being choked out by the weeds of our “queerness.” The conformist tradition makes it clear that the realm of the Sacred is hetro-centric and only straight people enjoy the bounty of this terrain.
However, such understanding of the kingdom has missed what it is all about. Today we have smoothed out and made palatable to people of democracies the radical notion of God’s realm. The translation above drops the idea of kingdom all together and substitute the notion of a “kin”-dom, a place where we gather because of kinship ties and common ground. Jesus was much more radical. In the face of the Roman occupation and of stubborn religious hegemony Jesus declared the Empire of God – a bulwark of justice and liberation amidst the injustice and oppression of his time.
There is cause for rejoicing here. You may, for a time, have to suffer the distress of many trials. But this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears.
-1 Peter 1:6-8
The christian community was on the ropes. A suspect group within a larger social matrix, the majority of which thought of christians as “those people.” Here is a parallel with the queer experience as marginalized, suspect, and outside the mainstream. In a ironic twist of history (or is it the hand of God at play?) contemporary queers know better the experience of the early church then do the many christians who raise their voice against us. At what point did the persecuted become the persecutors? The answer is always when power corrupts.
The thought and attitude expressed in this text has caused me much frustration. For a number of years I understood the metaphor of refining gold and suffering persecution as a poor excuse for submitting to torment and affliction. I tended to resonate with Dada’s understanding as portrayed above – bigotry contorts and mangles the lives of good people. The present suicide rate among queer teens is a tenacious witness to the crushing effects of bigotry.
Over the years though I’ve come to find this metaphor strangely wise.