"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Queer Stories From The Bible–Sunday School At The United Church Of Christ

Fairmount was a prosperous, leafy suburb of a major metropolitan city, home to professionals, academics, and non-profit executives  It was proud of its progressive credentials – it, and the entire ward of which it was a small but important quadrant, had voted Democratic to a man in all Presidential and Congressional elections.  Black Lives Matter, rainbow, and Hate Has No Place Here banners were festooned everywhere, lawn signs urging small-scale development, dedicated bike lanes, and clean air were seen on most lawns, and PTA meetings were solid in their support for diversity, inclusivity, and affirmative action.  

Speaker after speaker championed the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-gendered student and faculty bodies, and parents contributed for new resource teachers who would act as both instructors of the new progressive agenda and monitors of the school’s adherence to inclusive policies. 

Black Trans Lives Matter Yard Sign LGBQT Black Pride Power - Etsy

There was no dissent within Fairmount, and residents were proud of their principled, moral stance on race, gender, and ethnicity.  All championed the black man and his African heritage, the gay man for his courageous stand against transphobia and eloquent reconfiguration of sexual identity, and the Latino man who gave leaf-blowers, house painters, nannies, and gardeners their rightful due and equal place in white, middle class society.  In short, the community was in lockstep, absolute in their convictions, and militant in their opposition to those who stood in the way of social reform.

The Fairmount United Church of Christ was the community’s church, and all denominations were welcome there.  Because the church did not stand on points of doctrinal order, and because the teachings of Calvin, Luther, and Wesley were incidental to the ‘spiritual secularism’ that it espoused, there would be no riffling through hymn books, stumbling through common prayer, or responses to questions from the pulpit.  In fact, only an incidental understanding of the principles of faith and a passing familiarity with the Bible were required.  

There was to be no cant, ceremony, or hocus pocus at Fairmount United; no hectoring about sin, redemption, or spiritual resolution.  Religion was about creating a better, more peaceful, more tolerant, and accepting world and it took community enterprise, not 2000 year old homilies from the Bible to make it all happen.

MilArt.com Protestant Cross

Because the clergy of Fairmount United were still beholden to the state capital and the conservative leadership of the wider congregation seated there, traditional religious references could not be completely dismissed from the Sunday services; and if the pastors at least included an acknowledgement of Jesus’s teachings and spiritual preeminence, they could preach whatever they felt necessary and important.

The titles of the sermons were posted outside the church so that all who passed by could see what was on the program and would be encouraged to join.  “Queer Theology – The True Nature Of Jesus’ Message”;  “Jesus, A Man Of Color And A Proud Palestinian”; “Jesus And His Disciples – Male Love And Bonding” were just a few. 

The Church spun off discussion groups led by lay members of the church and infused with clerical commentary by the clergy.  The church website featured books and articles of interest to the congregation, and consolidated belief around the many secular, progressive tenets of the church. 

The latest issue proposed by the church was on gender and sexual identity.  Heterosexual sex was an outmoded concept and was responsible for the virulent misogyny and homophobia as systemic in American culture as racism.  The new sexual order based on the gender spectrum would not only free individuals from the chains of dutiful, prescriptive, and unnatural male-female coupling, but would illustrate the broader principle of inclusivity.  

Championing the hundred ways of gender identity would, by nature of sexual centrality to human activity, would illustrate and teach real, universal inclusivity.

The church of course turned to the education of the youngest members of the congregation which were to be given priority within its ambitious, universal mandate.  The children were to be taught to reject their whiteness, their sex at birth, and their presumptive ideas about status and privilege; and what better place than in Sunday school?

Under the supervision of Dr. Poultice, rector of the church, former secondary school teacher turned deacon and secular evangelist, a book list for younger readers was prepared.  One for the youngest readers introduced the facts of Jesus’ non-white origins, his singleness, and his preference for male friendship, camaraderie, and love.  Sequels which were more forthright about Jesus’ likely homosexuality were discussed with older children; and in the last of the series the Holy Family, The Trinity, and Old Testament tales of abundant heterosexual sex were ignored completely.

What did Jesus really look like? - BBC News

The invitation of a drag queen to read from these books was an obvious choice.  Linda Blakely formerly Blaze O’Fire was perfect for the part.  Prepped and primed by Dr. Poultice, she wore outfits from Saks, white silk blouses, and strings of pearls.  Only her gruff voice and broad shoulders gave her away as a man; but that was the point.  If she completely passed as a woman, why was the church bothering at all?  Her bi-sexual identity was what counted.  Children were meant to see the man-trappings beneath the beautiful mother look-alike reading to them; and of course who more fitting to suggest Jesus’s inclusive sexuality than she?

God’s ambivalent sexuality was also the point.  God is neither male nor female, but a combination of both.  There is no divine sexual difference, no yoni and lingam, no gods and goddesses in the One, Universal, and Triumphant Christian God.  This point was also not to be lost while teaching young children.

There were the usual innocent remarks by the children who were told to give a big round of applause for Ms. Blakely.  “What are you?”, said one girl in the reading circle.  “A man or a woman?”.  Blaze should have been prepared for this question, but was not and sputtered an answer about pearls, football, and babies; but this group of youngsters coming from the best educated adults in the entire metropolitan area were not to be ignored. 

 “Well, which is it?”, said Bobby Davis, a precocious six-year old who knew more of what’s what than most children his age and son of one of the loudest and most intimidating members of the city council.  Again, Ms. Blakely stuttered and stammered a mish-mash of a reply; and miffed, said that the reading would continue, now.

 Drag queens are no harder for kids to grasp than clowns, Teletubbies, or  Disney characters | Opinion

When the news wires picked up on the incident thanks to a leak from a disaffected church member, the conservative press descended on the church in numbers, demanding answers.  Ms. Blakely had disappeared completely, back to California it was rumored, and Dr. Poultice was not available for comment.  “Perhaps we went a bit far with this one”, he told his staff; and so he had.  His supervisor in the capital immediately removed him, asked him to retire from the Church, and make himself scarce. 

“This outrageous event has nothing so ever to do with the principles of the United Church of Christ, and is the sole responsibility of the Fairmount congregation, now reconfigured, recast, and realigned with the proper teachings of Jesus”.

The larger Fairmount community was chastened by the experience but blamed it on MAGA Trumpists who had somehow breeched the security firewall around the neighborhood.  They never once recanted about the principles and ideals of their church, but were a bit more careful about their sexual flagrancy – i.e. claiming that just about every public figure had ‘a problem’ with their sexuality and needed re-education. 

Attendance at Sunday services at Fairmount dropped substantially until the dust settled, but then returned to full pews to hear the somewhat toned down, but still penetratingly honest messages of Jesus and social reform. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.