• Stephen Oliver B-M

In sickness and in health, or, Flesh and the Devil

17th century engraving, representing the inauguration of Pope Innocent X

After electing a pope, his genitals must be publicly checked to see that they are not mutilated. The ritual makes an important statement about Christian faith - our flesh and especially our genitals are sacred and must not to be castrated.

Queer Christianity adds the rider - there are many ways that genitals and our sexuality can be mutilated other than by castration. Western Christianity rightly embraces our minds, spirits, souls, body, being and heart as constitutive of our humanity, but sadly cut off our genitals. Genitals are cut off when pleasuring is prohibited, dirtied, maligned, or as a priest once told me, “Masturbation is the sin of pure selfishness”. We have not just covered our genitals with shame and fig leaves, we have covered them with the pall of ignorance, foolishness and lies.

Queer Christianity knows that Christ calls us to treasure bodies in sickness and in health, in their individuality and in their sexuality, regardless of gender identity or lack of it. Our treasured bodies are the expression of our DNA, the mystery of nucleic acids that reaches inwards to our innermost souls and out to the environment, to ecology in time that is evolution, to the Stars in primal time and the bounds of final mystery beyond the limits of understanding.

The one law of nature is that eggs are precious and sperm cheap. We all begin as eggs, as females, and in the embrace of sperm we gain the unity required to become diverse and unique manifestations of DNA that is our selves, the beauty of undefined gender, our undefinable uniqueness beyond the ability of words to convey. To limit sex to giving birth to babies is to miss the profound constitutional nature of our DNA, our sexuality, to our psyche and souls. In its violation we have overpopulated our world in total disregard of all the manifold expressions of DNA that is the life and soul of Creation.

Queer Christianity seeks to reclaim the life of the Spirit, the freedom and primacy of the Spirit of Love. It radically renounces any legalism that masks itself as Christianity. St. Augustine taught that so long as we meet the demands of love, of the heights and depths of love that embraces our neighbour and God, we are truly free to do as we please. The Spirit of Love gives us our leadings and makes unconditional demands to ‘walk the talk’ in all its simplicity and complexity - in our bodies, minds, souls, hearts, being, spirts and yes, our genitals. Forcing rationalised gendered behaviours on people is not an expression of the heart of understanding but that of the cutting mind that wounds and mutilates, the cause of deepest alienation, the source of devils that prowl as sexual predators to cover over their own emptiness and brokeness.

Queer Christianity identifies with the ‘toads’ that when kissed turn into princes and princesses, the beggars, thieves, lepers, outcastes, the people that Jesus embraced and brought into one body, one family of Christ. We follow his example as the radical lover, the Good Shepherd who protects his ’sheep’ of every colour - all the colours of the rainbow. We stand for overcoming the neurotic split of flesh and soul by claiming the power of the Spirit of Love to unite and reconcile them; the power to bring heaven down to earth and raise up earth into heaven. We reject the idolatry that cannot see through the mask of the body to the soul that is its incarnation. We reject the false piety that climbs up mountains of perfection by negating the joys of sexuality. We understand the nuns that cover their bodies so as to sublimate their sexuality for the treasuring of bodies in sickness and health, as we see in ‘Call the Midwife’, as they lovingly tend the womb in its ecstasies and agonies, with the light of science and tenderness of compassion. Where celibacy serves to enhance love of neighbour in all its crying needs, we understand and honour that vocation. The dualism or neurosis that we oppose is the polarisation of flesh against law, the split in our psyche that denies the unity of flesh and spirit as but two aspects of one reality.

Queer Christianity has at its heart the sacred marriage that is the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Slain Lamb of God, given for us that we may be healed from all our sickness of body, mind, soul, spirit, heart, being and sexuality. It declares too that this Holy Communion, open to all those with faith in Love, is also one with the sacred marriage that is sacred sexuality, the sacrament of love that is open to all who would give themselves so as to be come to know, even as they are known, the heights and depths and breadth of incarnate love. To deny either as Christianity is to play God, to storm heaven, to epitomise ‘the flesh and the devil’ that is renounced in our baptism.

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