Friday, September 14, 2012

From the Blogs: The Grace of Queer Theory and Queer Theology

Sr. Teresa Forcades, OSB

At his Queering the Church blog, Terry Weldon presents excerpts from an interview at Iglesia Descalza with Catalan Benedictine sister Teresa Forcades, who observes,

…. [T]he grace of “queer” theory is that it says “very well then, instead of tolerating them and putting them in a box aside or discriminating against them as certain fundamentalists do, and persecuting them and punishing them, and even killing them, as has happened throughout history, no, we invite them to teach us something essential about who we are. Because, in fact, it’s not appropriate to put any of us in a prefabricated box. And, as such, it helps us to think about ourselves in more open categories.”

And, in response, Terry notes,

The extract quoted above precisely captures the point of queer theory: the importance of looking beyond closed definitions, whether of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or even biological sex – or any other arbitrary descriptors, such as race. By referring to the value of queer theory as a “grace”, Sr Forcades also points indirectly to its value in theology. A core message of the Gospels is precisely that like Christ, we too should treat all people as equals, without putting them into any boxes, or discriminating against them. So, just as there is “grace” in queer theory, there is grace in queer theology.

Both of these observations, as well as the comments of Cynthia-Marie O'Brien in the posting immediately preceding this, seem to me to confirm the framing thesis of Sister Elizabeth Johnson's book Quest for the Living God (NY: Continuum, 2008).  Johnson maintains that, in various places in the world, communities of people living in solidarity with each other and those on the margins seeking justice and more humane lives are producing a "revolution" in the theology of God (pp. 1-2).  As Johnson's book demonstrates, classic notions of the theology of God in Christian theology are being radically reexamined--and given new life--as communities on the margins testify to the glimpses of the living God that they see from their vantage point of marginalization, and from their shared practical commitments to the struggle for justice and to enact practical compassion in their communities.

Women, gay and lesbian folks, the economically disadvantaged, those struggling for ecological healing of the planet: these and others are producing, Johnson maintains, a "golden age of discovery" in the theology of God (ibid.).  And I suspect that the serious threat that theologies arising from the margins and from the shared experiences of communities struggling for justice and compassion in the world presents to the defining, authority-enforcing centers of the churches is precisely that these testimonies to the presence of the living God in our midst are not coming from those centers that have traditionally issued the definitions and enforced them.

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