Allow me to first offer my sincere apology to all of you, my devoted readers, for making you wait so long for Part 2. This part is going to be a lot different from the first one because I’ll be sharing and discussing my favorite passages from Nadia’s book. Are you ready for it? Let’s go.
God planted so many of us in the corners, yet the center-pivot irrigation of the church’s teachings about sex and sexuality tends to exclude us.
This is so life-affirming. For all #exvangelicals out there and for people who still have ties to the church, the feelings of exclusion that we experience in relation to our religious upbringings are so strong that they almost manifest in corporeal form whenever we’re exposed to the teachings inculcated in us from when we were congregants.
We were taught that the body is a site of shame. We were taught that we were tainted by Adam’s original sin, that our flesh is something we must overcome in order to become one with God. We were taught that sharing our bodies with others outside the confines of monogamous, heterosexual marriage separates us from the holy.
We were even condemned for finding pleasure(s) on our own. Masturbating was something we all discovered by accident, performed in secret, and never talked about. It was the secret sin that tainted our relationship with God, with our families, with ourselves. The rose is not branded an apostate when it blooms, so why then should we be branded? This is not even mentioning the shame accompanying your masturbatory fantasies if you were anything other than 100% straight.
But our sexual and gender expressions are as integral to who we are as our religious upbringings are. To separate these aspects of ourselves—to separate life as a sexual being from a life with God—is to bifurcate our psyche, like a musical progression that never comes to resolution.
I love the imagery Bolz-Weber (I think from here on out I’m just going to refer to her as Pastor Nadia) uses here. So many of us who were raised in the church had to develop a dichotomy between our spiritual and corporeal identities, thus the bifurcation she’s talking about here. We were all musical progressions never coming to a resolution. If you ask me, we were robbed. That forced separation caused us to become less of ourselves, meaning that in the end we had less to offer God and less to give to others.
What would we be like if this bifurcation had not caused us to tear ourselves asunder? What if instead we read the Scriptures with new eyes?
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within you, whom you have [received as a gift] from God, and that you are not your own [property]? You were bought with a price [you were actually purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and made His own]. So then, honor and glorify God with your body.1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (AMP)
At what point did the church carnalize our bodies? When we are taken in totality, no bifurcation is necessary, and if we are to believe the Scriptures, our bodies house (contain) the Holy Spirit. Now, I am by no stretch of the imagination a Bible scholar or theologian, but there’s nothing wrong with my reading comprehension.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ And he said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’Genesis 3:6-11 (NIV)
Here we see that shame was a consequence of the first sin—before sin, the first humans were naked, without shame, and free.
So what are the implications for us? Because man fell [from grace or right standing with God], we all have an awareness of our nakedness, of our bodies as a site of inherent shame, and this inherent shame is a direct consequence of the serpent’s temptation. So every time a little effeminate boy is called a faggot and beat up by his classmates, or a transgender Black woman is murdered for having the audacity to exist in public, the serpent wins, and the anti-LGBT people of faith rejoice with him. Is that saying a whole hell of a lot? You bet it is. I said what I said.
I refuse to accept or participate in a faith tradition that excludes some while exalting others, that prizes some bodies above others, or draws lines of demarcation between who can and who cannot be joint-heirs with Christ. He didn’t just die for them. I don’t know which version of the Bible they’re reading, but in every one of the baker’s dozen I own, Jesus welcomed everyone to his table, and there are no garbage tables in God’s Kingdom.
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