When I was a kid my grandmother would rock back and forth on her green metallic rocking chair singing old Spirituals like, “We shall overcome, someday.” I still remember her tears. My grandmother, big and yellow, a proud Christian, guarded our South Dallas porch singing songs like, “I’m a solider in the Army of the Lord. I’m a solider in the Army.”
As a thirteen years old gay black boy, I didn’t understand the significance of my grandmother singing these songs in the midst of outrageous poverty, skyrocketing unemployment and the heaviness of being worried about raising kids that the world seemed to be against.
The truth is, my grandmother weaved faith and action.
Through the liturgical move of singing out loud—my grandmother taught me and my twenty cousins that in the midst of what others called danger, the unlivable, the ghetto, that we can overcome as soldiers of the Lord.
But what does it mean to be a solider of the Lord? What does it mean to overcome? What does this have to do with LGBTQ People of Faith?
I would like to suggest that for LGBTQ people of faith, we must begin to embrace a theology of power. This is not the power of the oppressor. This is not the power that seeks to dominate others.
This is a power that can be best described as having three distinct characteristics: prophetic, radical and intersectional.
One of the best definitions of power that I received as an organizer is recognizing that power is organized money and organized people. This definition honors a powerful basic organizing truth: people and money organized shifts empires, challenges systems and has the capacity to liberate our world
As people of faith and people of conscience holding power to an organizing trinity of being prophetic, radical and intersectional answers questions about what we as LGBTQ people of faith can actually do with this power, with this organized money and organized people.
The following is what this ethic would mean for people of faith.
By Prophetic, I mean this power calls things into being that we do not see. This is more than hope—we take seriously that our Faith drives us to call things into being. We call into being a world that is liberative for all marginalized peoples—including at times ourselves.
By Radical, I mean that this power seeks to transform the root causes of our pain. This power moves beyond the shallow conceptions of justice making. We are suspicious of any actions that do not look to dismantle the systems and structures that have allowed us to believe that our lives, our identities, who we love, how we love are wrong.
By Intersectional, I mean that this power recognizes that as LGBTQ people of faith there can be no other. “Other” people’s pains, struggles and challenges become our struggles, pains and challenges.
Intersectional recognizes that the key to our faith is community—that we are all one in the eyes and sight of the Divine.
Power, for and by LGBTQ people of Faith, seeks to ensure that no one suffers in our world—that we are all one family—and it recognizes that the struggle of the “other” has been a tool of those in power to keep us separate and thus not whole as a community.
My grandmother sat on her porch in Dallas, Texas, inspiring her family and her community to dream, hope and pray for the emergence of a new world which embraced the totality of everyone. My grandmother sat on her porch singing about using power in a new way. As people of faith, and as LGBTQ people, we must sing, write, fight, and pray about this, too.
Lifting up this notion of power that is prophetic, intersectional and radical, challenges us to organize, to pray, to meditate and to breathe in a new possibility for a world that for too long has been deeply painful for so many of us.
We as LGBTQ people of faith must examine our fears, concerns and hopes about power.
We must begin to call forth this new notion of power that supports our community to be wholly who we are while also dismantling the idea that our work is only about us. As People of Faith we must reject the way in which power is continually used to harm, alienate and persecute so many people in our communities.
Photo via flickr user Amancay Maahs; Originally published in May 2015