A couple of weeks ago, while relaxing in the Ngawha Springs with some friends I was introduced to the idea of a Queer God, and was intrigued- if a little flumuxed at what I heard as the idea of assigning God a sexual identity. So last week, when a friend at Waikato University mentioned that there was to be a lecture that very evening on "The Return of the Queer God" I decided to attend. (What follows is my take on the lecture, which may not be what the speaker intended.)
Marcella Olthaus-Reid is a "second generation liberation theologian" from Argentina, by way of Edinburgh University where she is a Reader in Christian Ethics and Theology. I was hoping for more information about what might make God queer, but mostly she talked about the queering of Christian theology. Which was very interesting and, it turns out, not that much to do with sexual identity... except as a category of marginalisation from which God/the church is dis-located from the perspectives of white, educated, middle to upper class, European, heterosexist (if not practicing heterosexual) men. It seems like a good idea, or at least a useful exercise, that I could sort of relate to the Reconstructionist and Renewal movements of Judaism to which I am attracted.
What I could glean about the nature of God as encountered through a queer journey of "invention and discovery" was that S/He is undomesticated, unstable, unpredictable, novel, unthinkable and surprising... Not only the human enquirer is liberated (from the burden of conforming with 'normality') through this perspective, but also God Her-/His-self, whose Will is freed from its employment as an excuse for continued unfairness and tragedy in the world. The Queer God is the permanent "stranger at the gates", incarnating at the margins of society amongst, and as, the poor, the female, the colonised, the indigenous, the people of colour and those whose gender doesn't necessarily align with their genitals and/or dominant models of sexual practice.
Fundamental to this way of thinking about God is an understanding that sexuality is an ideology; the basic ideology of monotheistic societies is heterosexuality; traditional theology is gendered as masculine; the Bible is a literary (not literal) mediated experience and Christian religion is saturated with sexuality.
Dr Olthaus-Reid began by pointing out that although Christian theology is full of talk about love, it struggles to accept all the many and varied forms that love can take. To me, any loving relationship is a celebration of the nature of [please insert your preferred higher power concept] and [preferred higher power concept] is too expansive to want, or accept, any limits on who loves who. If that makes my God queer, then maybe S/He is. And if that makes me queer, then maybe I am too.