Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gay Theology and Critique of the Straight: Another Excerpt from My Journals

Another excerpt from journals I kept in the past.  This entry is dated 12 Feb. 1997:

A Lenten reflection: as I pray this morning (though I've forgotten that today is Ash Wednesday), I think of Isaiah crying out, "Make a straight path for our God" (40:2).  I open the bible to find that verse, and instead, my eyes happen to fall on the following line: "Consider the work of God; who can set straight what he has made crooked?" (Ecclesiastes 7:13).

An interesting diptych of verses.  On the one hand, we're commanded to make the way straight.  On the other hand, we're told that God makes crooked, and who can then straighten?

Is the rhythm of spiritual life somehow about the dissonance between these two commands, about trying to prepare a straight path for God to come into our lives, knowing all the while that God does what God will do?  As Wisława Szymborska says in her poem “The Century’s Decline”:

How should we live? someone asked me in a letter./I had meant to ask him/the same question./Again, and as ever,/as may be seen above,/the most pressing questions/are naïve ones” (in View with a Grain of Sand, p. 146).

A gay theology, or one that seeks to take gay experience into account, subjects the notion of straightness to radical scrutiny.  Straight is too often a human plan or concept, rather than a divine one, a way of ordering the world so that--essentially--it can be controlled.  Theologies that question straightness find God in the wild verges, a God who peers out from the margins at straight lines with suspicion.

These theologies recover a central strand of prophetic wisdom: that is, that God does as God wills.  God's the divine potter, and we the clay.  Gay theology also retrieves a central insight of folk wisdom: God writes straight with crooked lines.

These theologies are inherently suspicious of the rationales for straightness and order, the way they reflect the need to foreclose the openness of a world not yet at its point of eschatological fulfillment, and make it manageable--and, above all, subservient to those who have power in the present arrangement of things.  And who just happen to be, over and over again, straight men.  And who appear, from the vantage point of the critique of straight presuppositions by gay theology, altogether eager to make God in man's image.  In their own image.

In British slang, a gay man is "bent."  Being bent causes one to ask critical questions about straightness.  So make straight God's ways, but don't expect God to respect one's need for a straightness that is more than openness to God's ways.  This insight might well be at the heart of what gay theologians have to offer the churches today.

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