A Queer Climate Change?

by Rev . Dr. Nancy Wilson

The streets of New York were thronging with people in the first ever Climate March on September 21. Demonstrators had a message for world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit beginning that week: approve a Climate Treaty that includes strong actions.

It was the largest Climate Change March in history with over 400,000 people in New York and over 2800 demonstrations in 166 countries. For days, the city had been bubbling with one event after another. And when the march was ready to begin, Green Faith convened spiritual leaders from many traditions to praise the beauty of the Earth, to pray to the Creator who set the galaxies spinning, and to inspire each other to action.

Three things struck me — first, in the hours and hours of prayers and presentations at the faith events, Al Gore and I were the only people who mentioned LGBT people — we need to push people to speak out. Second, only UUA President Rev. Peter Morales and myself were there as the head of a denomination — we must get faith leaders more involved. Third, I feel like all of this effort has pushed me, made me cross a Rubicon of sorts because of how important these issues are.

MCC leaders from New York, Texas, Connecticut, Florida, and Canada were part of the crowd. We had already joined together on Friday night at MCC New York to hear Joe Stevens play songs about fire, air, water, earth — the elements of the universe. Peterson Toscano and I traded theological reflections from the Bible and our lives. I confessed that for far too long I thought a group of smart people somewhere were thinking about climate change and would fix it.

Today, I realize that unless all of us take action against climate change, all of us will suffer.

Peterson and J Mase III unpacked the story of Joseph — whose colorful robe is better understood to be a many-colored princess dress rather than a robe. Mase’s poem and performance were featured on Huffington Post. Together, they revealed a story of a queer child who was sold into slavery but rose to be reign in Egypt. This royal and queer Joseph — Josephine — read the signs of his times to predict climate change in the form of a seven-year drought and saved thousands, including his own brothers who had betrayed him and their father.

The question for us today is, can we unpack our own queer stories to read the signs of the times and become leaders in this movement to make this planet home for every living creature — not just human creatures?

We learned so much from our long struggle with HIV/AIDS and can apply it to the movement to repair the earth. First, officials will ignore the problem; next, they will blame you for the problem; and then, they will block solutions if there is money to be made. We learned that we had to ACT UP! Our non-violent actions were in the street and blood was splashed on altars where our dead were not allowed to be memorialized. We did not go gently into the night. We went raging and screaming when drugs were withheld and, finally, many today hold the virus at bay with drug regimens.

We at Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) sat with the dying; we prepared food; all of us grieved. Our churches buried the dead with love, dignity, and the grace of God. Although it is easy to speak in the past tense about AIDS, we dare not drop our guard. HIV/AIDS is still at epidemic levels among African Americans and sub-Saharan Africans, while rates are growing among older people in the United States. We must not rest when 63% of new infections in the U.S. are among men who have sex with men.

Likewise, with climate change, our churches across the country are living through storms, hurricanes, droughts, and floods that are escalating to catastrophic levels by climate change. We can change this! The planet has an amazing capacity to heal itself if we can only stop attacking it. It will not be an easy struggle, and like HIV/AIDS, it will not be a short struggle, but all of our lives are at stake.

Among the gifts of MCC that emerged from adversity is the ability to challenge harmful and unfaithful teachings from churches. One more time, many conservative Christians are standing on the bulwarks of misinformation and bad theology to deny the facts of climate change.

We know how to read the Bible with new eyes. Our queer eyes are experienced at finding the overlooked stories — the ones that can save our lives — and perhaps life itself. Our queer bodies are the ones who would walk into the Garden of Eden and ask *snap, snap, snap* “Who’s in charge here? If that delicious apple gave Adam and Eve the knowledge of good and evil, why don’t our actions show we know the difference?”

MCC people of faith have learned that the Bible is a queer book.

We learned to read ourselves into the Bible and search for the gender non-conforming people to save our own lives and spirits. Remember, Adam and Eve are created from dirt and from a rib — now that’s queer, don’t you think? The whole creation story is about NOT being born in the usual way. God birthed Adam on God’s knees in a muddy bank of clay. Talk about non-conforming — like so many of us!  Like the fabulous Ethiopian Eunuch in the book of Acts, we boldly claim our place in the household of God — the whole creation of God. We are among God’s spectacular and sometimes endangered species. We know what it is to be put on a list of creatures who do not matter and who can be killed for sport.

As I write this, transgender women of color in the USA place themselves at risk of beating and murder just by walking out their front door. In Uganda, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people are still in exile within their own country and are trying to earn enough to survive without drawing attention to themselves and ending up in jail or beaten on the streets.

Whether in the USA or Uganda, our queer gift is hope, and there is no better symbol than the rainbow — that queer and elusive sign of hope claimed by Jews, Christians, and queers. After Noah saved all the animals in the Ark, God made a promise to never destroy the earth again and gave a rainbow to seal the deal.

Jewish and Christian believers need to read the rest of the story. This downright precipitous God reads all of creation into the very first covenant and includes all living creatures.

“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many, as came out of the ark.” Genesis 9:9-10

Our queer voices need to raise the cry, “God not only loves us but EVERY LIVING CREATURE.”

Now there is salvation that’s worth proclaiming! A Baptist pastor from Atlanta urged us to think about the first commandment before we think about the ten commandments — God instructed Adam to take care of the garden!

Finally, I think we bring to the climate movement the first-hand experience of change in our life that we never thought we would see. Today, marriage equality and equality before the law for LGBTQ people is becoming a reality. Many of us were doubtful and worried that the marriage effort would only backfire, but look at us now!

We know that if people all over this world rise up and demand justice for our planet, it will happen. If we create alternative energy sources and build sustainable communities, we can change the planet. If we reduce poverty, uplift women, educate children, protect everyone’s water, stop over-consumption, and eliminate wars, we can thrive!

Impossible? No. We have seen the impossible happen. We believe!

Originally published by Huffington Post