Whose Authority?

March 22, 2016

Our altar on Holy Wednesday at a queer affirming youth-led service with students from Mississippi College: hand washing and a reading from The Color Purple. Clinton MS, March 23, 2016
 

 

It's a scary and an intense statement to declare to conservative Christian colleges that queer, Black and Brown bodies are like Jesus' body. That our spirit is like that of Jesus.

 

I don’t throw that around lightly. I don't find solace in naming myself as Christ-like. I do not benefit from nailing my body onto the cross. Nor do I believe that my God wants my body to be anything, but adored and adorned. But I do think it's important for those of us whose theologies rest on the personified emulation of Jesus Christ's perfect life on Earth and ascent into Heaven to see just how scripture might cast Jesus as a table thrower.

 

It is said that millennia ago on Holy Tuesday, Jesus visited the temples of Jerusalem and threw askew the order of hierarchy, commerce, and the law of the resident priests. "By what authority are you doing these things,” asked the priests, “and who gave you this authority?"

 

Jesus cunningly made them a deal, you answer my question and I’ll answer yours: “'Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?'”

 

They argued over how to respond, because they knew if they said ‘from heaven’ Jesus would call them out asking, "Why then did you not believe him?” But if they said, “of human origin” they knew the crowd would riot since they regarded John as a prophet.

 

So instead of taking a position, “they answered Jesus, 'We do not know.' And he said to them, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'” (Matthew 21:23, NRSV)

 

When the Ride got to Huntsville, the sky had cracked open with sunset. We noted that it looked like our ancestors were welcoming us here. ​Huntsville, AL, Mar 19 2016.

 

The ruling order of that time saw Jesus as a threat to the establishment – a disruption to the law and order of what people were told to believe and the way things had been. Basically a troublemaker. There was a small subset of people who saw the gifts that Jesus had to offer, who followed him and wanted to hear what he had to say, who cared for and took care of him as a traveling preacher. But there were many in power, who treated him very poorly, imprisoned him, and caused his body and spirit great harm.

 

Oftentimes our bodies as LGBTQI and Black and Brown people are violated, those of us who refuse to keep silent, who refuse to ignore or be complicit in our own oppressions are seen as troublemakers, a threat to Christianity or the Church or the order of things - we are harmed to keep order. Who gave you the authority to lay in the street like that chanting "Black lives matter"? Who ordained you? Who allowed you to lay hands on your own body in revolutionary love and declare that this kind of body is precious in its creation and form? Who granted you the authority?

 

And out of our youth and our bodies and our queerness, we explode and say: "Nun'ya business."

 

Rev. Alba reads during the Holy Wednesday service in remembrance of our transgender and gender non-conforming who we lost to violence or suicide. Clinton, MS, March 23 2016.
 

Ultimately we know that the LGBTQI community has so many gifts to offer the world in our authenticity and deviance. The way that we flip the world, like a table, on its head. Could you imagine what this world would look like if we were allowed to live our full lifespans, prioritizing love, abundance, and health?
 
If we were not treated so poorly, akin to the ways that Jesus was treated, there might be revelation that could end up saving all of us and bringing about New Creation.

 

At the end of Jesus' lecture to the priests, he said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes.” (Matthew 21:42, NSRV)
 

So we are the cornerstone of a renewed, resurrected world: our desire the foundation, our bodies the altars.
 

 

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