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Can Jesus Christ be a Resource for Queer Masculinities?

Rob Day-Walker

By Rob Day-Walker
Rob Day-Walker is a 27-year-old English Major, lay theologian, and disabled gay man currently living in Winnipeg, Canada. He loves Battlestar Galactica, learning about radical social analysis, and singing about Jesus. When he grows up, he wants to be a good writer, a Christian clergyperson, and a happy member of a polyamorous family. He's learned one thing in particular from the submission process for this anthology: when all else fails, read the directions.

Opening Space for Conversation

n many queer male communities, talking about Jesus smells a bit like sleeping with the enemy. I would like to think that I understand the queer academic allergy to listening to Christian discourse about sexualities or the nature of God. After all, invoking God, it seems, is the ultimate power move—the ultimate unanswerable argument. If heterosexism has divine sanction, then queer males are off to hell in a hand basket, right? Some queer men conclude that it’s much better to focus on how God is used as a weapon against us, continuously expose why this happens, and then set aside all the rhetoric and get on with thinking intentionally about our own bodies and identities. God—or any conception of the transcendent realm—is better left to private imagining. Anything else seems to smack of universals, of grand, scientifically validated stories that supposedly explain the whole universe (metanarratives). Contemporary culture, claims scholar Jean-Francois Lyotard, experiences “incredulity” toward such grand visions of reality. This is understandable, especially when so many of these visions leave no room for our experiences as queer men? Yet, here I am, writing an essay about Jesus, the central figure in our culture’s major “metanarrative,” as though queer men should pay attention to him!

I am certainly not the first to suggest that Jesus can be—and is—the ally of queer people. I write as a Christian, a queer man who wants to be a friend of Jesus; I want to stay affiliated with the Church, even (and especially) if some Christians are heterosexist homophobes. I fear, though, that most of my queer brothers will dismiss this essay with justifiable anger: “Of course Jesus has nothing to do with San Francisco. Next!”

I grew up in a Christian home for most of my life. I prayed the “sinner’s prayer” at five years old with my Dad on the way to kindergarten, the day after my birthday. I think I’d lied about something and gotten caught by my dad. So, as I sat with tears streaming down my face, he asked me, “Bobby, do you want to know why you do bad things?” I really did (which might figure when I was trying to avoid being disciplined again!). But I was totally unprepared for what happened next. Somehow, I understood what my dad was saying to me about Jesus dying to take away my sin and give me new life with God, though I’m quite sure, as I look back, that the language was probably beyond my comprehension at Kindergarten age! I started bawling, and as I prayed to Jesus for forgiveness of sin, it wasn’t guilt that I felt lift from my shoulders—it was fear. You have to understand: my step-dad and I never really got along—I was sometimes petrified with fear of him—but during that prayer, I experienced Jesus’ love for me, and his complete welcome.

People like Richard Dawkins claim that children cannot have true experiences of conversion because their parents have indoctrinated them. All I know is that after my prayer, the constant fear in my life was never quite so crippling. Despite all the grown-up sceptics who pooh-pooh’ed my conversion, I never expected the kind of mystical experience I had that day with my step-dad. Afterward, when I was scared or frightened, I would sing songs to Jesus because I knew that he loved me even when I doubted my dad’s love. Later, when I was a teenager, I would forget the welcome of this simple Christ as I battled with a Christ who seemed to ask me to change my sexual orientation. I often thanked God the Father several times a week for not killing me outright whenever I came crashing down from the bliss of sexual fantasy about boys.

After attending Bible College for a year and a half (while living in dorms with beautiful men!), I was suspended because of issues surrounding my sexuality; I couldn’t put off dealing with it any longer. I enrolled in counselling to change my orientation, and also saw a secular social worker once or twice a month. From the age of nineteen until the age of twenty-two, I snapped like a yo-yo between what my emotions and body told me and what my conservative theology dictated. It was a brutal struggle, but in the end, I concluded that Scripture didn’t say anything about homosexuality being sinful, per se. Despite the so-called “clobber verses” (e.g. “Man shall not lie with man, for it is an abomination”)that most of us have heard before, I found that a contextual reading of the Bible does not support homophobia any more than it does the oppression of women or ethnic minorities... (continue reading)

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Rob Day-Walker said:

I keep wanting to correct the tiny typos that I see...especially the last sentence: "The peace of Christ be yours." LOL. Minor thing!

Posted at: May 31, 2008 3:30 PM

Chris Coombs said:

Fantastic essay! I think one of the most exciting ideas suggested by your essay is the idea of adopting a subversive masculinity, a masculinity of which Jesus (at least in this characterization) is a superb example. I also appreciated the inclusion of a critique of our postmodern disdain for metanarratives. While I think this disdain arises quite naturally out of the radical critiques and the sheer volume of alternative readings of "important" texts that have accompanied poststructuralism and deconstruction, I also think there are radical possibilities (and even something of a practical imperative) to be found in reconstructing metanarratives on a wider, more inclusive foundation, by weaving together the millions of personal narratives that structure our daily existences, as queer men, as masculine, as feminists, as people of color, as people with disabilities, etc. - that out of this melting pot or mosaic or what have you, certain patterns begin to emerge and it is these patterns that offer us an opportunity to write our own story, our own grand narrative and lend our movement direction, sweeping up the whole of humanity in its march forward. This is just a flowery way of suggesting that the problem lies not with these grand narratives, but with their exclusivity. I also thought your approach to forgiveness was refreshing. I think what I've found missing in some of the essays was a failure to question or seek forgiveness for our own transgressions against one another or understand our attackers. On the surface this doesn't sound very radical, until you realize that we ourselves are the attackers at times and that change begins with ourselves. Wow, that was a lot more than I was going to write. Anyway: Thank You!

Posted at: December 19, 2008 11:23 AM