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Identity

Queer Virtue Study Guide

Session 1

Opening Prayer

(silence)

Lord, you have made us.  You know us, each of us, and you call us by name.  Help us to know ourselves. Guide us as we seek to know you, together.  Amen. 

 

Part I

(7-10 minutes)

Watch film short "Identity"  

Each person is invited to pair off with a person sitting next to them and discuss:

What image or idea most struck you in the film? Why do you think it struck you? 

 

Part 2

(20 minutes)

Small Group Discussion of Excerpts from Queer Virtue   

Below are three brief excerpts from the chapters on Identity and Pride.  Allow participants to choose which quote they want to discuss, then break up into three groups (all the people who want to discuss Excerpt 1 in this corner, Excerpt 2 in that corner, etc).  After the groups are settled, have someone in each group read the selected quote aloud.  Participants then respond to the following questions:

·       Why were you drawn to this quote? 

·       What do you understand by it, and/or what do you learn from it?

·       How does it articulate something new or different for you?

·       How does it challenge you?

·       How would you like to challenge it? 

·       If the author were here, what would you ask her about this? 

 

Excerpts:

1:  “I am not saying that queer people are or must be Christian. I am saying that authentic Christianity is and must be queer. … I mean “queer” as something that has at its center an impulse to disrupt any and all efforts to reduce into simplistic dualisms our experience of life, of God. Queer theory is historically rooted in the urgent need to rupture, or disrupt, binary thinking about gender and sexual identity—and very specifically, to dismantle rigid attachment to male and female as definitive poles.

Queering as an impulse and lens has been applied to countless human perceptions and academic disciplines, from architecture to biology to linguistics to theology. It is not a stretch to see how Jesus ruptured simplistic dualisms all the time: life and death, human and divine, sacred and profane. Paul’s insistence that in Christ there is neither male nor female is the essence of queering, set in the midst of a passage that also queers the lines between Jew and Greek, slave and free.”

 

2: “I found myself pondering the question that had so many times been posed to me by religious conservatives: “How do you know God doesn’t condemn you as a lesbian?” Okay, I didn’t actually ponder that question. I find that question to be a colossal waste of time. What I found myself pondering was my answer: “I know, because it’s who I am.” This is an answer that moves in two directions, expressing two truths simultaneously: I am gay, and I am caught up in this fantastic, passionate relationship with God—which I know, absolutely, to be reciprocal. These are not opinions, or postulates to a logical argument. They are truths, truths I perceive because both of them express something about me, about my soul, about my existence. Seeing myself so clearly—or more accurately, looking out at the world and feeling so unequivocally the ground of my perspective, I understand the power of identity. Pondering this, I recognized that this was also the answer to any challenge to my faith: “I believe, because it’s who I am.”

What I comprehended in that moment was much more than an answer to the question, “How do I explain my faith to others?” What I understood, more clearly than I ever had before, was what my faith meant to me. … Queerness, Christianity, priestliness—these exist inside of me, and I spend my daily life, my work, my relationships, finding ways to express what they reveal to me.

Suddenly I saw with fresh eyes the essence of what I have long known Jesus was trying to communicate to his contemporaries: ‘Put God first in your life. Orient your entire being toward the sacred. Not because I’m telling you that you should, not because it’s what scripture tells you to do. Do it because it’s who you are. It is who God made you to be.’ My lecture flowed easily from that point, as has every profession of faith I’ve made since.”

 

3:  “If you were to try to sum up in a single word the difficulty of being both queer and Christian, the word ‘pride’ would pretty much do it. There may be no concept more sacred to queers than ‘Pride.’ But look in Christian scripture and hymnody, and you’ll see ‘pride’ condemned as a glaring and destructive human sin. …Conventionally, pride can refer to the valuing of the self over and against the other. When defined this way, pride is a manifestation of a deeply imbalanced relationship between Self and Other. Calling people to account for harboring this kind of pride is one of the ways that Christianity pays attention to this imbalance, which in a way is a good thing. Aggressive, hubristic self-aggrandizement absolutely can and does come at God’s expense, resulting in a stubborn refusal to participate in God’s vision for humanity or even to recognize God’s transcendent power.

But we need to be careful with our language. Defined like this ‘pride’ becomes the exact opposite of queer Pride. The two concepts are not only definitionally opposed, but also energetically opposed. Hubristic pride is the antithesis of healthy relationship. That’s why in Christian theology pride is in no small way the essence of sin: hubristic pride makes relationship with Self, Other, and God nearly impossible.

By contrast, queer Pride is all about a healthy relationship with Self, Other, and for many of us, transcendent reality. Awareness and celebration of Pride thus involves a complex understanding of Self, of Self-in-Community, of Self-and-Community, and of Community itself. The complexity of these dynamics makes many of us queers keenly aware that our Pride is born of something deep within that connects us to one another, and also to something bigger than all of us. For some of us that ‘bigger than all of us’ points to God; for some of us it points to big-picture truth and meaning that is authentic if not divine; for a great many of us it suggests and at times demands moral decisions, speech, and activism.”

 

4:  Optional:  Was there something in these chapters – a passage or an idea – that stayed with you and that you’d like to discuss?  Feel free to organize a fourth group to discuss that idea. 


Part 3

(30 minutes)

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Stay seated in the same configuration. 

Excerpt to read aloud:
Yet somehow it was my queerness that first taught me the clear connection between identity and ethics. It was in discerning my lesbianism, and my need of queer community, that I first perceived an identity that offered guidance, created obligations, helped push me out into the world to do work that I new was important and necessary.

Pair off and discuss:   (5 min)

  • What identity or experience has been defining for you in some way? The point isn’t to determine whether something has been positive or negative, but simply central for you.
  • If you think of that identity or experience as a lens, how does it shape how you see the world?

 

Turn to your small group and discuss:  (10 min)

  • Does that identity ask things of you?
  • Does it ask things of you that feel healthy, that have helped you navigate your life?

  

Full group discussion:  (15 min)

Shift your seats if necessary to recreate a single full group.

  • Has that identity or its ethical mandates taught you anything about God -- such as, who God is, how God treats us, what God demands?
  • If so, what could the church take from that lesson that would help us all live our faith better?
 

Closing Prayer, depart