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Relevant experience: Resurrection

Updated: Jul 1

The resurrection is a funny story to be the lynchpin of a religious narrative because it can seem very abstract. How absurd to think and to say that Jesus who is God who was a guy died, was dead for three days, came back to life, and hung out for like two more weeks before he flew up into the sky until a yet to be determined date. It's nuts.

So we work around the story, we talk about not what it means to die but what it means to live, we talk about the incarnation and about ministry, we focus on what it means to do ministry, how to make community and feed the hungry and tend to the sick. If you've known me at all, you might've heard me say something like "what happens to me after I die is none of my business," "what happens to me when I die is a problem for future Ethan". And lately I've been feeling less and less like that's the case, not because I suddenly know the answer but because I think it has already been my business. The resurrection is the shape of the lives of queer people.

I have this, like, visceral memory from when I was maybe age 12 or 13 -- the details don't matter but I remember them -- I was training for my middle school cross country team or something and I was on this run through my neighborhood and I had this horrible pit of my stomach feeling and I got to the top of this hill, sweaty and panting, and I thought "I really am gay aren't I,,, Oh no" and in that moment, I can scarcely describe the feeling except that my entire future went tunnel vision like there was not a thing that would come after that moment, like I would never get to be an adult or have a future, this is a thing that will at best constrain me forever and at worst halt my life entirely. Of course, that was not the case, but at the time it felt like the truest and only thing.

The entire story of scripture echoes with this pattern of impasse and halted future -- it begins with a dark, formless, and empty void, and from it God imagines and creates an entire world, a vast future, and gives it to us a gift simply because God wants us to have it, God wants to have us. The story of Exodus climaxes with liberated-from-Egypt Israelites arrested at the edge of the sea and with a vicious army behind them, there simply not being a way forward until, suddenly, there is. The story of the dry bones seems cut and dried until the prophecy is spoken over them and breath is breathed on them, you are not done yet, you have more to do, get up and live some more. Scripture is full of stories of people reaching the end of the road, confronting that terrible realization, and finding out that it simply was not the end for them, there was more life ahead of them, on the other side of a void, a sea, a desert, a tomb, there is more road, and you get to walk it.

This is not an experience limited to queer people, but I don't know a single queer person who hasn't lived this story with their hearts and minds and bodies -- reaching the end of the road, finding yourself in the void, the sea, the desert, the tomb, believing that this is all there is left for you, and finding out that that is simply not the case. There is life after death, the stone between you and your future can be rolled back, there is a future for you and for us, and it gets to be queer and it gets to be good and it's inscribed in your very bodies that it is true. And how lucky are we that it gets to be true.

I say all this to say that queer Christians have a powerful witness to give to the church, and it is a unique witness that the Church has urgent need of.

There's this understanding I think sometimes in conservative churches that queer Christians are something merely to be tolerated; this idea that like, we don't love the choices you've made and frankly we don't think they're even valid but if you want to come and be Christian with us, that's okay. In a slightly different vein, but similar I think there's this understanding in liberal churches that to be a queer Christian is no more interesting than to be a vegetarian Christian or a cinephile Christian-- that what sets you apart is of no consequence or import-- which is a genuinely lovely sentiment and denies the reality of the experience we bring to the table: Queer people have been put in the tomb and walked out, queer people have stood on one side of the sea with an army behind them and discovered, there is not a way back or around but there is a way through. Queer people have imagined -- have discovered -- for themselves, out of a void, a future.

The witness queer people have to give to the church is that on the other side of the veil, there is more for us. And in a season and a time where the church is riddled with decline, conflict, discouragement, schism, indignity, where the army is behind us and the water lapping before us, where the stone feels too impossibly big to roll away, where we can't imagine what it's like on the other side and we're not sure if we're brave enough to find out, well, Church, the people that have been there too have a testimony to give to you. As it is with all testimonies of resurrection, it may sound like nonsense, but the proof is in the pudding. We're here. We're still here. Amen.

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