Christianity

This Is Not The Progress I Wanted: A Queer Christian Defends Diversity

by Alison Amyx

Same rights, same love, same values: this mantra is repeated across our movement as we work to claim space for LGBTQ people in an exclusive society.

In a society that meets nonconformity with violence, it is no wonder we want to blend in.

 

But if equality is earned through sameness, how can we answer to folks who continue to live outside our society’s definition of “normal,” even as acceptance of certain LGBT people grows?

How will we answer to trans* or gender non-conforming individuals who avoid using bathrooms in public for fear of violence? What shall we say to individuals who face barriers of class, race, gender, and other differences?

 

Can people like me—privileged, white, and cisgender gays—look our friends in the eye and promise in good conscience that they, too, can one day be the same?

 

 

Our work to become the same ignores our call to a justice that transcends all barriers, not just those of sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

Christian advocates for LGBT inclusion have made a strong case that all humans deserve dignity because we are created in the image of the God. But what we have failed to articulate is that divine dignity does not erase diversity.

Pretending we are all the same ignores the reality of our God-given differences, and it lays a foundation only for palatable progress—the kind of “equality” that ignores persistent, structural barriers of prejudice, power, and privilege.

I am tired of petitioning for the right to walk hand in hand with a woman when black boys like Trayvon Martin are killed in our streets simply because of the color of their skin.

If we are all made in the image of God, then the diversity of bodies and our beings reflects the vastness of the divine.  

Christians are called to make space for the wholeness of humanity, and we are in a unique position to ensure that our progress not only opens doors for people who are like us, but also examines the structures that built those barriers in the first place.

How can we as Christians create progress that breaks down barriers of prejudice while honoring our diversity? How can we develop the eyes to see the limits of palatable progress?

For me, the answer lies partially in my queer identity. My queerness is a gift of perspective that allows me to see the limits of our society’s definition of “normal.”

My queerness puts me in the margins, right where Christians are called to be.

This is why I embrace the fact that my sexual orientation makes me different, and I maintain hope that coming out creates space for others to question harmful assumptions that pervade our society.

As a queer Christian, I will not accept “equality” and the notion to accept that progress for LGBT people is enough when our work ignores our greater call to justice for all.

This is why I will never bemoan, “It shouldn’t matter,” when someone comes out. Instead, I will continue to explore queer theology, which asks not how LGBT people can be accepted into our churches, but rather, what our churches can learn from our queer perspectives.

For me, my sexual orientation is inextricably linked to my Christian call to justice.

Our progress is cheap when we ignore the differences that will continue to divide beyond the issue of homosexuality, including barriers of race, class, gender, and physical ability.

 

Our work toward sameness has missed a crucial point: divine dignity does not erase diversity. 

Christians are called to progress that not only opens the doors for people like us, but also examines the structures that built those barriers in the first place.

I am tired of pretending to be the same. I am tired of petitioning for palatable progress.

I am proud to be queer. I am proud to see the world through this lens of difference, and I have no doubt that, before I could even name it, my sexual orientation instilled in me a greater and deeper compassion for others in the world who live in the margins.

I am tired of pretending that our queer cause does not, cannot, and should not shake the foundations of our society’s broken systems.

 

 

 

Sameness is not the goal in my “perfect world.” Sameness ignores both the challenges and merits of diversity. The challenges of justice and diversity. I would rather work to build a society where we can learn from one another’s perspectives and build equality for everyone, even those whom society deems as “different.”

 

This vision is much closer to the body of Christ than a world that demands assimilation:

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many….The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect (1 Corinthians 12: 13-14, 21-23).

This passage describes the body of Christ as a living organism dependent upon a number of individual parts. If all parts were the same, there would be no hope for survival.

As a Christian, I know our movement will not succeed if we only secure equality for people who are like us.

 

Instead, we are called to build an interdependent world that honors diversity as vital to our shared community.

However, I can hope that my testimony as a Southern Baptist turned queer Christian will inspire others to look beyond their expectations and imagine, as Patrick Cheng describes it, a “radical love…so extreme that it dissolves our existing boundaries.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sameness leaves no room for diversity, and assimilation demands nothing more than palatable progress.

 

We need look no further than the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act juxtoposed with their ruling in favor of marriage equality to see that homosexuality is becoming more acceptable than racial justice.

Unfortunately, we have trapped ourselves in the confines of broken and sinful structures built miles of prejudices away from a biblical vision of blessed diversity. Those of us who embody nonconformity—whether it is in our sexual orientation, our gender identity, the shape of our bodies, or the color of our skin—are familiar with the problems that stem from this brokenness.

 

Is it Christian to defend our sameness in a world that devalues and destroys God-given difference?

 

What exactly is Christian about conformity? 

Christians are not called to conform. We are not called to be the same.

Dissolving boundaries does not erase difference. Instrad,

Opening doors to palatable progress ignores underlying divisions of race, class, and

Our faith drives in us a deep call to create a kingdom of God where all equal. This is what we, as queers and as Christians, can bring to the LGBT movement.  valued, uplifted and it informs our knowing that our informs our knowledge that our challenges and our successes are intrinsic to one another.

 

As a queer Christian, I do not aspire to create a world where we are all the same.

Instead, I hope we can work to build a world where unexpected expressions of gender and sexuality can be embraced as reflections of a divine love beyond our wildest imaginations.