What Christians can learn from queer courage

A woman dances in a cloud of bubbles while marching in a gay pride parade in San Francisco on June 28, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-EDMAN-OPED, originally transmitted on June 21, 2016.

(RNS) As our country asks how to protect itself from the terror of more mass shootings, elected leaders who call themselves Christian might look to the LGBTQ community for inspiration. Queer people have a weapon in our arsenal that no gun will ever defeat.

We dance.

That’s what we have always done to celebrate our lives and our love. From the femme lovingly stroking her butch’s lapel as they sway in each other’s arms, to the Pride marchers who turn our city streets into sprawling dance floors, to the Latin queers  doing the merengue in Orlando, we have always found ourselves, our souls, our courage, in the rhythm of our bodies set to music.

Our bars have always been places where we can be ourselves together. They have long been sanctuaries, as so many have noted in the past few days. But we don’t kid ourselves: The bars have never been safe spaces. The butches and femmes and faggots of the mid-20th century knew that the cops were coming, that a raid could happen any night, leading to assault, arrest and public shaming.

They knew, and they went anyway.

They went because despite the chronic threat of violence, the bars were also places where we had a sense of identity, a sense of family, a sense of home. They have always been places where, in one way or another, we have found love. And queer people know: Love demands vulnerability.

This awareness is not some relic of a bygone era. For better and for worse, an awareness of the threat of violence is encoded in our cultural DNA.

Those of us who are particularly visible, including trans people and queers of color, are conscious of this threat every day of our lives. And so we dance. Knowing that our gathering places might become targets for violence, we crank up the sound, clap our hands, look each other in the eye and put our bodies and souls on fabulous display.

In this way, the LGBTQ community models a kind of courage that reminds me, an Episcopal priest, of the kind of spiritual courage that Christians are supposed to live.

It involves faith in the knowledge that there is something bigger than each of us that connects us to one another. Telling the truth about that connection, living into it together, is how we survive as a people — even though many of us will be injured or even killed by those who hate us for who we are.

American Christians should take note. Christianity is supposed to be about witnessing the truth that love, which we understand to be the essence of the living God, is a real and potent force in our world. We are called to make that love visible by putting our vulnerability on display.

This is what the people of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., did when they invited a stranger in to share their joy in Holy Scripture, and the power of that witness reverberates still.

Sadly, too many elected officials who claim to be Christian are witnessing to precisely the opposite message, selling out the most basic tenets of our faith in order to promote the sale of guns in our country.

This is as basic as it gets: Encouraging people to rely on guns for our safety is blasphemous to the Christian message. The entire history of both Judaism and Christianity comes back again and again to make the point that true security rests in our reliance on God alone.

The Judeo-Christian tradition grapples almost obsessively with the human temptation to trust in something — some weapon, some empire — other than God. Virtually the entire canon of history and prophecy in Hebrew Scripture and the entire narrative of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are a sustained meditation on this theme: Reliance on God makes possible justice, love, life, while failure to rely on God — which is to say, fear of relying on God — breeds injustice, enmity and death.

The women and men dancing their hearts out at Latin night at Pulse embodied the best of queer tradition; and I would argue, of Christian tradition as well.  To those Christians who doubt it, I say, “Look again.”

If you open your heart and look closely at the joy, love and sheer courage of the faces gathered in that club, you will see people who may have a great deal to teach you about the path that you, as a Christian, are called to walk. Or better yet, to dance.

(The Rev. Elizabeth M. Edman is the author of “Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How it Can Revitalize Christianity.”  She is an Episcopal priest and a political strategist)

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  • Your description of LGBT people seems to be based on stereotype and seems like you’re trying to hard to talk the talk. It comes off as almost offensive, painting all LGBT people as if we’re all swishy, flamboyant, clubbers.

    “Encouraging people to rely on guns for our safety is blasphemous to the Christian message.”

    “He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.'” (Luke 22:36)

    Weapons and self defense is not blasphemous, so sayeth Jesus. Stop trying to shame Christians and LGBT people who might want to attempt self defense. Hell, even my peacenik “all forms of warfare are literally Satanic” religion has scripture that allows for the carry and use of a weapon for the purposes of self defense.

    How is it that I, as a non-Christian, am more familiar with the scriptures of Jesus than this apparent Reverend?? It seems like you’re the kind of person who just states whatever you don’t like to be not “Christian” without any scripture to back it up.

    The verse where Jesus permits-nay, COMMANDS-his followers to carry a weapon for self defense is in SO many early scriptures that it’s almost certainly something the man actually said. Yet you call this act of following Jesus’ command “un-Christian”. It’s weird, ’cause I thought that the act of following Christ’s commandments was the definition of being a Christian, but apparently I’m wrong. 😛

  • Romans 1:28 – New International Version

    Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

  • So. God makes people depraved, according to your quotation, where they weren’t depraved before, and then, presumably makes them burn in hell for it.

    Great advertisement for your God.

  • So, you did not read the article, and you have been living in a cave. Tune in the Buffalo news channels, sandy. Windsor is close enough.

  • Actually, he just turns them over to do that which is not good – what they wanted in the first place. He gives them exactly what they want. They want to reject He and His blessings, he’ll give you eternity to do so.
    I cannot see how you wouldn’t like that.

  • which mass murder; simple question.

    Are you talking about the 21 Christians beheaded by ISIS In Feb 2015?
    Are you talking about the 3 men beheaded March 12/2016?
    Are you talking about the, I believe, 20 Christian children burned in a house in Africa by ISIS?
    Are you talking about the Christian children who have been beheaded in the ME?
    Are you talking about the over 200 Christian children abducted from a school, and with some survivors found, they learned mere children are pregnant by their Islamic abductors?

    So, what mass murder are you discussing?

  • But without his turning them over, they wouldn’t be doing it. That’s what your quote says. And if they WOULD be, then god’s “turning them over” to it is completely irrelevant.

  • You really do read what you want into things don’t you. “Turning over” + “allowed”. They wanted to do wrong, and He allowed it.

  • You’re not making it better. We have free will. He allows everything in the world, and does nothing about it.

  • Silly claim. “Homosexuality” is a modern medical concept, and the bible was written thousands of years before the scientific evidence about sexual orientation became available.

  • Not really. Homosexuality and it’s variants have been around a long, long time and it’s always been a sin – all the way back to Sodom and Gomorrah.

  • Wrong, completely wrong. You are assuming that ancient people understood sexual orientation the way we do. That is anachronistic thinking. PS why was Gomorrah destroyed when the angels were in Sodom?

  • Ah, the old “look here” magic trick. Christians have killed more human beings than any religion in the history of humanity, often killing their fellow Christians – the witchcraft trials, Inquisition, Crusades, US Civil War, World War I, World War II, Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Granada, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan. Only the US, our nation made up of mainly Christians, has dropped nuclear bombs and used drones to kill large numbers of people, including school kids. And right now in Africa Christian militias are killing thousands of Muslims while driving millions from their homes.

  • In spite of all that Sandi and I listed, the fact remains THE BIGGEST MASS MURDER IN NORTH AMERICAN HISTORY FOR ALL HUMANS WAS JUST DONE TO THE LGBT PEOPLE IN THE GAY BAR, PULSE. 103 people were shot, with 49 dead so far and six more still in critical condition. And we have multiple Christian pastors praying more will die and praising the killing. Most ignore it, as Sandi has done.

  • So that makes murdering them correct? We have a homosexual man in Montreal who cut up his lover and mailed him across the country. Are you saying that is fine to do with homosexuals through your comment?

  • You don’t think the God who created you understood the immorality of man? Homosexuals have been around a long long time, and they are understood.

  • How does “I am against murder” indicate I am pro-murder? It doesn’t. You know you are a hate-filled bigot who when faced with the mass murder of gay people by a scripture-quoting religious conservative, you come down on the same side as the shooter and his father.

  • Re read your comment to me about Christians, Rusty. Where did I agree with the shooter and his father? You do make things up Rusty. (edit)

  • Orlando wasn’t caused because of guns… Orlando was because of homophobia, which was generated from religious rhetoric.

    Do what you will with guns… But the Omar Marteens will still be there, until religions stop their persecution of LGBT.

    (BTW. If you feel inclined to write about the degree of one religions persecution of LGBT over another…. Here will be a version of my reply ; prejudice is prejudice. If you are try to claim your religion is different than the other – it doesn’t say much for your religion to point out that your hate isn’t as violent as another religions).

  • No, not really. You ever try arguing that the Bible advocates ATHEISM? Just doesn’t pan out. Doesn’t work.

    Same for GAY MARRIAGE too. That stuff is indefensible from the Bible. It’s a sin, and it will stay that way.

  • Last time I checked, Mateen said on the phone that he was cool with ISIS. Just them. Not the local preachers, priests, rabbis, imams, nuns, or monks. ***Just ISIS.***

    See, all this broad-brushing that you want to do, isn’t helping anything or anybody. You’re just making things worse for all sides.

  • Uhh, no, that last one got debunked already. I know the gay activists keep repeating the lie, but the Greek just ain’t sealing their deal. Plus the fact that Jesus ONLY affirms the Roman guy’s faith — absolutely nothing else about either of them. So, debunked.

    PS…Just because a person genuinely loves his or her parents for example, doesn’t mean that person is doing inappropriate sexual behaviors with them.

    Likewise, Jesus wasn’t doing same-sex-mess with his disciples, not even “the beloved disciple” John.

  • So. I should stick my head in the sand, because the truth to you is uncomfortable?

    Pastor Donnie Romero of Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth TX told his flock “These 50 sodomites are all perverts and pedophiles, and they are the scum of the earth, and the earth is a little bit better place now,”

    Romero said in the Sunday sermon. “And I’ll take it a step further, because I heard on the news today, that there are still several dozen of these queers in ICU and intensive care. And I will pray to God like I did this morning, I will do it tonight, I’ll pray that God will finish the job that that man started, and he will end their life, and by tomorrow morning they will all be burning in hell, just like the rest of them, so that they don’t get any more opportunity to go out and hurt little children.”

  • So blame Romero for what HE said. He’s wrong.
    But Romero didn’t pull any triggers, and YOU don’t have any evidence yet of any people getting murdered from what you quoted.

    So that only leaves one man to blame for the actual shooting. The man who had the gun. Mateen. Nobody else. (Okay, maybe ISIS, blame them too).

  • So.. By that logic you are trying… Religion is pointless, then. Because if Mateen wasn’t influenced by his religion, then religion has no point. // why was Romero preaching, if his sermon hold no value in influencing people?

    Again. You don’t get to pick n choose the part of a religion that suits your comfort level

    Here’s another gem :

    A Kenyan court has upheld the use of anal examinations to determine a suspect’s sexual orientation, dismissing the argument that the procedure amounts to torture and degrading treatment.

    Kenyan Judge Mathew Emukule said on Thursday. “I find no violation of human dignity, right to privacy and right to freedom of the petitioners,”.

    The predominant Religion in Kenya is Christianity, which is adhered to by an estimated 82.6% of the total population. Islam is the second largest religion in Kenya, practiced by about 11.1% of the total population.

  • You apparently are not smart enough to just use the assumption of Jesus as a given in a discussion with Christians about Christian Theology.

    What you’re doing now is similar to coming across two people avidly discussing their favorite Game of Thrones theories and loudly proclaiming “GAME OF THRONES ISN’T ACTUALLY REAL THO!!”

    Your point is not relevant to this discussion. I am not Christian, my own religion’s founders (by virtue of being founded in the nineteenth century) are easily verifiable, historical fact, and as such I really couldn’t care less about your ~opinions~ on the historicity of a particular figure that you have a bias against in the first place. Go away.

  • Great analogy – Christianity is as real as a fictional TV show. Thanks. And now you are the one who will go away – as I block you.

  • Where is this debunking you speak of? Go to The Secret Gospel of Mark for the erotic details.

  • The bible never said whether Jesus was gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered and whether he was celibate, married or just played around. So many facts left out of the old myth. see www (dot) jesusneverexisted (dot) com if you like history

  • The whole ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ story was a nature myth. There is zero historical or archeological evidence either city existed in reality. What is real is “Lot’s wife” a 75 foot high rock formation vaguely resembling a woman’s form from some angles. If that was really Lot’s wife, he liked his ladies large. “She” has no name because there never was a human being behind the fairy tale. It’s such a strange story, too, because in it “God’s hero” Lot is willing to have his 2 young daughters raped by every man in the city rather than let strange men take their chances. And there is no way in which the story has anything to do with sexual orientation. PS angels are not male or female, and rape has nothing to do with a same-sex couple getting married

  • Lol, this guy.

    Dude… really… you’re shouting at a non-Christian about how Christianity isn’t real. Methinks you are totally, completely obsessed, and I look forward to never hearing from you again. XD XD

    Seriously. Who the hell has a hateboner against a particular religion SO HARD that they go around to people who aren’t even affiliated with that religion to shout at them about how that religion is fiction. XD

    I don’t care about your opinions on the historicity of a religion I am not affiliated with

    Funniest guy I’ve interacted with today!! 10/10!! I imagine how your life must be… walking around the street, shouting “CHRISTIANITY IS FICTION!!” at random people on the street unprompted. Later he kicks in the door of a Hindu Temple and shouts “HEY DID YOU GUYS KNOW CHRISTIANITY ISN’T REAL!? IT’S NOT AND YOU’VE ALL FALLEN FOR THE LIE OF CHRISTIANITY!! IT’S FICTION!!” and then he goes on to harass more non-Christians and spread the word of his anti-Christianity message!!

  • The banality of this is really beyond the pale. Courage is the Christians who on the beach in Libya refused to deny Christ even as they knew with certainty that they would die a grisly death for not doing so.

  • So you are trying to say the news source is lying, but can’t actually back it up. So you are simply casting aspersions.

  • Of course if you read through to Romans 2. You would know the subject is idolatry and temple rites. But that requires a great deal more honesty and moral fiber than someone proof texting the Bible to justify bigotry is going to do.

  • Proof texting the Bible to justify immoral ends is not scholarship or even a remotely convincing argument. All it means is the speaker is lazy and wants to claim “god says I’m right” and foreclose criticism on their view. It’s a sign of poor character.

  • Actually it also has roots in the ancient taboo against the law of hospitality. The worst social transgressions in the ancient world was treating strangers badly. The sins of Sodom and Gommorah was maltreatment of visitors, indifference to the destitute, usury and attempted attack on angelic visitors. The last part is also fairly common in Greek myth as well (see Procrustes, Tantalus, Ixion, Sisyphus, Lycaon and the underlying theme of the Odyssey)

  • ” Romans 1:28 plus others ”

    Keep this in mind when reading or quoting Paul’s writings —

    Paul, who authored most of the NT and most of the negativity about homosexuality, makes these very revealing statements about his own knowledge and understanding —

    1. …our knowledge is partial and incomplete…
    2. …we see things imperfectly…
    3. All that I know now is partial and incomplete…
    (1 Corinthians 13:9,12)

    Those are excellent examples that ‘teach us’ that Paul’s writings are too partial, too incomplete and too imperfect to be meaningful and useful for everybody in every situation.

    Here’s a positive from Paul, the later verse indicating that a blessing will be experienced and it is easily applied to all LGBTs —
    You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, so you can keep it between yourself and God if you want…
    …Blessed are those who don’t condemn themselves for doing or being something they have decided is best for themselves…..Romans 14:22

    All of those are worthy attitudes to have and are good and easy to follow.

  • No Billy – Paul was taught by Jesus for 3 years in Asia. Paul was led by the Holy Spirit. Paul was taught by Gamaliel, and was a Pharisee of Pharisees….He knew what he was talking about. If you read 1 Corinthians, he states that Jesus told him things and I’m certain, some of it was about homosexuality as Jesus brought it into the New Testament. I’m sorry Billy. Paul was accurate and where he was unsure, he made known.

  • Well learn how to read it properly then Spud, and you’ll be able to discuss it intelligently.

  • Speak for Christianity, but Judaism does not share your view that true security can only be obtained through non-human means. On the contrary, Judaism teaches that God provides humans with the means to help themselves. Aside from the theological issues, Jewish institutions have long relied on armed security for protection. This is increasing in North America; in Europe synagogues have been fortresses for some time.

  • All by a man news sources report is a homosexual. The most tragic event in US history was committed by a homosexual. No need to place blame further than that. In an attempt to evade the reality of homosexual, against homosexual, they have tried to blame religion, nationality. Maybe it was just straight homosexual against homosexual and they will never know. I’m tired of watching the rest of the bashing with no proof of anything.

  • Courage comes in many forms. Hard to see it when you hate someone. PS there are over 4 million Christians alive today who are LGBT. And there is no record of Jesus ever speaking a word against LGBT people, so don’t link your bigotry to him.

  • Actually you can find a lot from the words of Jesus which will not show approval for self-righteous hateful dillholes. But nothing from him on the subject of homosexuality. Go figure.

  • I don’t think a person trying to use the bible to justify their personal bigotry is in any position to tell anyone about immorality. Except for the purposes of personal admission..

  • Yes, he did speak about the way you talk, Spuddie. I still grant you the respect of answering you.

  • “The Secret Gospel of Mark”? Seriously? That one died on the vine YEARS ago, it’s not even Scripture anyway.

  • Haven’t got the same perspective as the good reverend above, but will not sink to denigration of her remarks, reading her thoughts only makes me more pensive about the future. I don’t really think it’s about guns, it’s about a world spinning out of control, with actions and attitudes that are becoming more extreme on all sides…and in every place. My faith tradition causes me to view homosexuality as a sin. However, Pride, Greed, Envy, Sloth, Hatred, and a host of other things are categorized as sin as well, so I won’t demonize any class of people. Even radical Islamists are worthy of our prayers as lost and deceived souls. Any Christian preacher who glories in the death of these victims because of their sexuality had better take a good look in the mirror; Christ died for All sinners, preachers not excepted. And while on earth He condemned the self-righteousness of the religious leaders of His day. I am guilty because I am a human being, and I thank God, because God died for me.

  • You don’t know me. Please put your ad hominem attacks back in the poison pill box. Of course Jesus doesn’t speak against sinners, but against the behavior, words or thoughts that are sinful. Jesus loves everyone just as they are, but doesn’t want us to stay where we are. For that he could have stayed in heaven.

  • So you are saying “Jesus came that you might mock LGBT people, and hate them more abundantly.” Got it.

  • On the bright side, the bible is FOR gay marriage and marijuana legalization. It says, “When a man lies with another man, as with a woman… they should both be stoned.”

  • Actually reading the bible creates more atheism than anything else. see www (dot) evilbible (dot) com for the many horrors of the bible.

  • There were many gospels and epistles written, but most were tossed in the trash because the Roman Emperor Constantine wanted only the ones that taught citizens to be obedient to the government, not those which dealt with spiritual matters. Constantine had his slave, Eusebius, write the official fiction known today as ‘church history.’ And Eusebius heavily edited and added to the bible. Jerome, the son of Eusebius, wrote the first bible as we know it today. The whole thing was created to control and manipulate the masses.

  • God so loves homosexuality that God created some of it throughout nature. Only God can create a homosexual, and only God does. Sexual orientation is a gift from God given in the womb, with a no-return policy. Jesus never changed anyone from homosexual to heterosexual during his life, or during the 40 years of the ‘ex-gay’ scams because God gave sexual orientation in the first place. I know it’s hard for you plains’ to not be jealous of the Fabulous, but try.

  • The shooter was married while also reported to have picked up guys at that club many times. He was closeted for some reason (like many of the most anti-gay preachers).He was angry at these people for some reason. Well it could be nonstop ignoranced about gays that is great for dividing and convincing gstupid followers that there can always be people who are less human who can be corrected with the help from generous donations. These are people who are taught that gsys are a threat to straight marriages and who unbelievably think that you can pray gay away and join two really pathetic and dishonest gay persons into a straight marriage. This insane and harmful thinking comes from religion and affects many in horrible ways. It seems very reasonable that a disturbed closet case who thought being married to a woman could stop something that he was convinced was wrong. So wrong in his mind that he might have felt that those who tempted him (along with the innocent children he heard they had abused) needed to die because they were his excuse for his unhappiness and anger. And they were also probably more deserving of death in his mind the more honest and out and content with themselves and making him act out in a bitter rage. And then the religious zealots blame each other rather than all of the nonsense they spread based on faith (meaning nothing) in old tales and proverbs written by humans for the purpose of controlling and maintaining masses of uneducated people desperate to find meaning and willing to believe anything much like the filth and fear spread about in these times.

  • American &ndians regardee gays as the wisest and as truth seekers. They saw that gays exist and are part of nature and not an issue of morality. This belief was probably less widespread after the christians came in with absolute sense of moral superiority and slaughtered them. For those lived through the slaughters, a new knd of religion was forced. And of course, it was forced by people who only cared about saving Indians from their misguided evil heathen selves and sin. They loved the Indians but hated their sin. Nothing changes with the kind of blind and mind numbing allegiance that faith requires. People who see faith as a psitive are just as small minded, petty, and arrogant as those of faith 200 years ago. Even today, God is love and progress is ever more evil as knowledge expands

  • There you go again. I never mocked anyone. We are ALL sinners. Including me. We all need to change to be like Jesus.

  • Mockery is your forte. Telling someone they’re about to jump off of a cliff is love. The opposite of love is not hate, but use or indifference.