(For the purpose of this blog post, I will be using “queer” as a catch-all for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Genderqueer, Asexual, and Questioning identities, for the purpose of expedience.)
A couple of weeks ago, when I posted about how my life is not a question mark, I didn’t expect that, so soon, I’d have such a prime example of WHY having discussions about people’s bodies without including them in the discussion is wrong and offensive. Andy Crouch, editor at Christianity Today, put together an article that reeks of privilege and results in incoherent Gnostic theology – precisely because he seems to have failed to consult with actual queer theologians and is making assumptions about their thought and theologies.
From the first paragraph to the last, Crouch gets stuff wrong. He discusses transgender people, but calls them transgendered – which is incorrect, as it places trans-ness as thing that happens to a person, rather than an identity they are. It’s also, journalistically, a failure to follow basic AP style – something an editor should know.
Crouch’s problems continue when he begins to discuss bodies. Rather than actually consulting with queer theologians, he assigns motives and theologies to queer people, and separates them from the church body as a whole – ignoring the fact that queer people from every part of the spectrum of gender and sexuality exist within the church body and call themselves Christians. Some are even church leaders and ordained priests. But instead of considering that possibility – and the possibility that queer theologians might have their own defined theologies – Crouch assigns them his own conception of how they think, saying:
There is really only one conviction that can hold this coalition of disparate human experiences together. And it is the irrelevance of bodies—specifically, the irrelevance of biological sexual differentiation in how we use our bodies.
What unites the LGBTQIA coalition is a conviction that human beings are not created male and female in any essential or important way. What matters is not one's body but one's heart—the seat of human will and desire, which only its owner can know.
Christians will have to choose between two consistent positions. One, which we believe Christians who affirm gay and lesbian unions will ultimately have to embrace, is to say that embodied sexual differentiation is irrelevant—completely, thoroughly, totally irrelevant—to covenant faithfulness.
I have absolutely no idea how Crouch could arrive at such a conclusion – unless it is complete ignorance on his part (and that's the charitable reading). Queer theologians have written book after book on the utter and complete importance of the embodied person, arguing against the Gnosticism Crouch assigns to them here.* Queer theologians – like those I read when I studied Queer Theory during my graduate studies – emphasize the importance of the body as inseparable from the self, and the importance the body plays in the church.
Instead of actually listening to what queer folk have to say, though, Crouch would rather assign them a value that turns them into the foil for heterosexual, cisgender people. Without making queer people a silent opposition, an Other outside of the church as a whole, Crouch wouldn’t be able to make his entirely offensive point that “traditional marriages” between cishet binary people are a better reflection of the Gospel because they are more "embodied."
As a result of these assumptions, Crouch's argument devolves into incoherence. Far from deemphasizing the importance of bodies, queer theologians emphasize the importance of individuation within those bodies, recognizing the glory of each God created person. This is opposed to a gender-role based theology, in which a person’s particular skills and embodied self matter not, so long as they are playing their role in the world correctly. For example, when John Piper says that we should follow gendered roles “irrespective of compentency,” he is ignoring embodiment, placing labels upon people that erase and ignore their selves. This form of gendered thinking is, in fact, true Gnosticism, not queer folks who insist in integrating their selves and their bodies into one whole person.
Far from saying that bodies are irrelevant, queer theology upholds their importance – in their individuation, in their difference and fluidity, and in their reality. It is complementarians, traditional marriage supporters, hardline gender role theologians who ignore the embodied selves of church people and rather has them conform to a Platonic ideal, an unreachable and untenable “role.”
It is these folk that Crouch implies are “true Christians” that are, in fact, endorsing a particularly harsh brand of Gnosticism – and one only has to look at the accompanying theologies of purity and discussion of subduing the Flesh to see it.
Offensively, Crouch uses his presumption about the minds of queer folk to place them, once again, into a category of sin, declaring that because none are ever sexually satisfied, then we are all queer and that a sixth “orientation”** should be added to the list – H for Human. It is a twist on "we are all fallen" theology. Aside from incoherence, Crouch just spent an entire article failing to treat queer people as the people they are, insulting their theology, trotting out tropes and stereotypes about their sexuality and sex lives, getting important things wrong and now…he wants to call himself queer?
No, honey, it doesn’t work like that. You don’t get to treat queer people as objects for study and then use their labels to promote yourself. You don't get to spend paragraph after paragraph arguing the conservative "traditional marriage" people have a monopoly on embodiment and Gospel and then appropriate the term "queer" just because you believe we're all fallen. You don't get to place an entire swath of people outside your Gospel message and then pretend to be their friend.
*I put the Wikipedia link to show that Crouch appears not to have done research that even freshman composition students would do. It is, of course, not comprehensive and fails in a lot of ways, but it would at least tip you off that there’s an entire field there.
**I can’t believe I have to say this, but trans* and Intersex are not an orientations.