• Grace Oliver

Queer resurrection

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Exactly at the time in 1972 when I fell in love with the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield in Yorkshire, Harry Williams’ book, True Resurrection, was published, and it was also on the occasion of his joining that religious order.

I remember being awe-struck by him because he had been Chaplain to Prince Charles at Cambridge University, but what I managed to block out of my memory was that he had been the first prominent clergyman in the Church of England, not just to be openly homosexual but that he was ‘crucified’ by the experience. Though ‘coming out’ almost destroyed his mental health, as his book testifies, out of the graveyard of that experience there came his ‘resurrection’.

Resurrection, for Williams, is meaningless if it is simply a datum of memory out of a long

dead past and meaningless if it is a matter of credal belief about an incomprehensible

future, and worse than meaningless if it is an infantile projection of desire, an avoidance of

living in the present, a life in Peter Pan’s Never-Never Land where we never grow up.

Resurrection for the adult, is always a miracle, a mystery, a re-creative act that brings new


'What separates, injures, destroys, is overcome by what unites, heals and creates.'

1. Queer Resurrection is the resurrection of the body now

In resurrection there is both continuity and discontinuity, as there is between a seed and

the harvest. The resurrected Christ unites all things in earth and heaven, the perishable

puts on the imperishable, and our alienation from our bodies overcome. In Holy

Communion we present our bodies in loving worship to the Eternal Word that is Love at

the heart of Creation. Our bodies are no longer mere bodies. They have ceased to be

dead matter, cages for our minds condemned to hell, no longer shameful bodies, corpses

that are perfumed, painted and covered over to make us either hyper-female or hyper-male. The breath of God that is the Spirit of new wine has liberated our bodies out of the

bondage of death. Our queer bodies are brought to life. What is true in Holy Communion

is true in our physical loving, and most particularly so in our sexual loving. Sexuality

becomes not a furtive act of bodily machines doing their ‘thing’, what the Catholic Church

only justifies for the purpose of making babies, what society justifies in a legal marriage of

property rights, but joyful worshipful love, the self-giving and receiving of the grace of

God-with-us, the ecstasy of sacred sex, the supreme moment of our at-one-ment with all

of Creation.

2. Queer Resurrection is the resurrection of society now

Society is the dead past that cradles and brings us into life now. The roles created from

that dead past perpetuate death when they define who we are, burying us in anonymity,

as in first English or Irish and only then persons. Death is perpetuated when we are

punished into conforming to these roles given from the dead past - even worse, made to

feel guilty if we dare think of breaking out of them. Whether at church, business or school,

we are mocked as foolish like Christ whipped with his crown of thorns, crucified as a

rebel if we advocate tearing asunder these roles that kill individuality. However the Spirit

of Resurrection manifests itself in lives that will brave and live out of the Christ-like image

of God who is Creator, (our divine image we were given at our birth). Resurrection occurs

when we defy the death-dealing structures of society that condition people into acting like

objects, selves forced to become extensions of machines on the conveyor belt of

production, selves obliterated by social identities not our own. Queer resurrection occurs

when we hear the call of the Eternal Word of ‘love that is love’ to ‘come out’, to become

agents of resurrection, to set free the spirit of joy, the ecstasy that bubbles up as we

emerge from our tombs; the coming out from our sealed closets of death. No longer do

the roles of male or female define us but we define them by ‘love that is love’. We can

now play with gender roles, transgender them if that is true to who we are, and create our

goodness out of our gift of ethical insight, a new journey in which breaking out of

conformity to roles is a journey of resurrection, life that is actual living.

3. Queer Resurrection is resurrection of minds now

Our culture of death is epitomised by the creation of nuclear bombs that are held in

waiting to incinerate us. Scientific culture takes a living flower, strips it of its petals, draws

its dead parts and calls it the truth. Gazing at our cyber screens we substitute real living

for games of pretend and computer animation. Our real life is now observation,

calculation, control and indulgence as we await the world’s end in the race to consume

more and more of less and less real living. Whether by drugs or by alcohol, our isolated

interior ghosts are medicated in sick wards as we wait for a life that never comes. In the

nightmare of our final demise we are terrified that all that we will have left are memories,

lifeless like paper money, empty of meaning. As in science, so in religion, our lives are

even more lost in stories of a dead past, statements of orthodoxy or creeds that are

sediments of a river of life that has long dried out.

Resurrection, however, breaks in when we rise out of our graves to become feeling

people made for involvement and communion with the mystery that is our world around

us; when we choose to come alive to our neighbour and all living creatures. Resurrection

occurs when our faith consists not of closing our minds but of opening our eyes to see a

world with love at its core. The new life given us in resurrection is not one that is

possessed but one that is kissed as we are beckoned to life-in-communion. It is the world

in which all that separates, injures, destroys is overcome by what unites, heals, and

creates. In the world of ‘True Resurrection’, reality is heaven-on-earth and earth-in-heaven.

The binary way of thinking about the world is overcome. As in life-in-death / death-in-life, so earth-in heaven / heaven-in-earth. There is no heaven above and earth below because they are now a single experience, a single intuition of the Eternal Word that is miracle and mystery. The ‘Heights of Heaven’ are at one with the ‘Depths of the Ocean of Feeling’ that is in the immediate moment, the infinite present in the ‘Eternal Now’ that is the Eternal Word of Love. Symbols and words do not hold this mystery of resurrection life. Symbols of resurrection act as vessels or siphons of love, the mystery present to us in the flesh of the beloved, the universe of meaning present in the queer mantra: ‘Love is love’.

Resurrection and the sum of the Gospel of Queer Christianity

The biblical story begins with a good world, a Garden of Eden, in which the divine walks

with us ‘in the cool of the day’. The story proceeds in a quest for a return to that pristine

innocence through a bloody story that ends with a story of the resurrection of Jesus, the

promised Saviour who then restores the Tree of Life in a visionary time yet to come. Jesus

raises up our earth into heaven as ascends into heaven at his resurrection and heaven

descends to earth at its Apocalypse. Its truth seems all too improbable, unless we let the

light of its Gospel pass through the rainbow lens of its incarnation in Queer Christianity,

the mystical expression of Earth raised up to Heaven and Heaven come down to Earth.

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