This is a very short article on a massive school of thought, but hopefully it will be beneficial as a way of introduction. I’m going to define what Queer Theology is, then establish if Living Out is Queer Theology and lastly explain why I am not a queer theologian.
‘Queer’, once upon a time, was used in a perjorative way to describe people and behaviour that was not considered to be normal. Now LGBT+ activists have reclaimed the word to denote and celebrate their sexuality. However, ‘queer’ is not simply a term to describe LGBT+ people, but it is a term used to describe a transgressive act. Queer means turning something upside down and inside out. It takes something from the margins and makes it central. It destabilizes and deconstructs society by erasing traditional boundaries. Queer activists ‘queer’ society by campaigning for same-sex marriage and promoting transgender rights.
Queer Theology is about turning inside out and upside-down classical Christianity.
Queer Theology is an umbrella term used to describe the theology done by the LGBT+ community. It is done primarily by those who identify as LGBT+, however it also includes those who ally themselves with the aims of the LGBT+ community. Queer Theologians want to do to theology what Queer activists have done to the rest of society. They want to queer traditional understandings of not only marriage and gender, but also God and every element of Christian thinking.1 Queer Theology is about turning inside out and upside-down classical Christianity (the historic Christian faith established in the Creeds and the Confessions) by placing LGBT+ Christians and their religious experiences at the centre of our understanding of the faith.
Does Living Out embrace Queer Theology?
I am same-sex attracted, and a Christian thinker so you could assume that I’m also a queer theologian. However, I do not desire the erosion of classical Christian theology. This is true for me and for Living Out as a whole. Queer theologians believe that classical Christian theology must be challenged for LGBT+ people to flourish. Living Out disagrees. We believe that Classical Theology holds within it the most beautiful news in the entire world. News so life-giving that it brings about real freedom. News that is universally good no matter your sexuality or gender identity.
Why I am not a Queer Theologian
Put simply; Queer Theology has a wrong understanding of what Christian theology is and how it works. The queer theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid labels classical Christian theology as ‘Heterosexual Theology.’2 She believes that classical Christian theology has been shaped by heterosexual experiences and thinking. This has occurred to such an extent that God has been theologically closeted by traditional theologians. Thus, she can state ‘queering theology is the path of God’s own liberation.’3
The theological implication of this statement is vast and far-reaching. Queer theology, by claiming that God is closeted, is stating that until this current moment in time God has been unable to faithfully communicate his will and purpose. This paints a picture of a God who is fundamentally weak and ineffective. He required humans to sexually liberate themselves first, so that in turn they could liberate him.
Now that he has been liberated, they argue God’s teaching on gender, sexuality and marriage can finally be heard. Gender is not limited to your biological sex but is a choice each person makes. Your sexuality is fluid so sleep with whoever you want. Marriage is not the property of heterosexual couples but is open to all.
But is classical Christian theology really Heterosexual Theology? I think not. Queer theologians, by labeling classical Christian theology as Heterosexual Theology, are revealing something about the way they think theology works. They assume that our theology is based on human experiences. That we know God by looking within.
This is indeed queer, because it turns theology upside down, but in turning it upside down it no longer is theology. Queer Theology makes our experiences the source of theology. But our experiences are the wrong source for truth. We humans were the pinnacle of Creation, and have great value as God’s image bearers, but we are still creatures (Gen 1:26-28). God created us. We did not create God. God is all-knowing (Hebrews 4:13), our knowledge is limited. God is everywhere (Acts 17:24-27), we exist in only one space. God is eternal (Revelation 1:8), we had a beginning. God as the Creator of all is not simply a more trustworthy source of truth, but as the Creator of all that is, was and will be, he is the ultimate source of truth itself.
So, God is truth, but how can we know what is true? The God who is overflowing love has spoken to us! He speaks to us through his written Word. As we read the Scriptures, a light is turned on and the way ahead is revealed to us (Psalm 119:105). But he also speaks to us through the Word, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When God the Father sent God the Son to earth, truth visited us. Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). This means that when we come to, listen to, and obey Jesus, we are coming to, listening to, and obeying truth itself.
This is one of the joys of being a Christian. In Christ Jesus we know God. Sadly, this is one of the joys that Queer Theology robs us of. By emphasizing the place of human experience in theology they end up at the very best limiting God and at the very worst silencing him. Theology becomes about a projection of human experiences, rather than humbly listening to the One who made us and speaks to us.
Our source of theology is not ourselves and our own experiences. There is only one God who is the source of truth itself.
Our source of theology is not ourselves and our own experiences. If it were, then we would have seven billion gods as we have seven billion people on earth. But there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). He is the Creator of all and the source of truth itself. This is why I am not a queer theologian. Theology is not built on our human experiences and looking within ourselves, but outside ourselves to the source of truth itself. Thus, classical Christian theology is not heterosexual theology, but instead it seeks to be faithful to the gift of God’s self-revelation in the Scriptures and in Jesus Christ. This gift is given equally to all people no matter their sexuality, or gender. This gift is given to you, will you receive it?
- In Patrick Cheng’s introduction to Queer Theology he includes sub-chapters on Revelation, the Trinity, creation, sin, atonement, the incarnation, and the Church. This demonstrates how far reaching Queer Theology is. It is not just about redefining marriage and gender. Patrick S. Cheng, Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology (Seabury Books, 2011).
- Marcella Althaus-Reid, The Queer God (Routledge, 2003), p.4.
- Althaus-Reid, The Queer God, p.4.