Thinking with Christianity

Christianity was once a big part of my life. Going to church, breaking bread, studying the bible…I did all of that. Hell, I spent three years at a theological seminary trying to figure out how to articulate my faith. I wanted to express, albeit in a prepositional sort of way, the restlessness of my heart. But I’ve come a long way. No longer can I secure myself within a Christian framework, espousing it as orthodoxy. The foundations of this frame were shaken. No longer could I take it as a given, and no longer could I lay claim to the truth. This frame, the one I used to locate myself and others, and make sense of life, has come to be seen as contingent, like any other. I went from being a confessional Christian to an uncertain wanderer. Some, such as Charles Taylor for instance, may consider the closed frame of an exclusive humanism existentially unsatisfying, but I’d say the same for the Christianity I was a part of. I was able, for some years, to keep trying to fit life’s rough edges into the Christian box, but I grew tired of this. I grew tired of the need to conform, to give Christian form to the forces I did not contrive (Lingis1996: Kindle location 100).

Throughout the course of my wanderings I came to invest my energy in new frames, take on new identities, and try making sense of life through an appeal to new referents. But as with Christianity, the foundations of these other frames were eventually shaken. I once again took up my position as a wonderer, with nowhere to rest my head. Perhaps it is that no bed is secure enough, no sheet vast enough to cover life without remainder. I’ve come to accept my own vulnerability, uncertainty, and lack. No idol, no matter how beautiful can satisfy me. I’m restless.

But here’s the thing: Christianity has, throughout all of this, come to take on a new significance for me. For it is in my wandering that I’ve come to love Jesus more and more. I guess the important thing to clarify here though is who the Jesus is that I’ve come to love. I’ve come to reclaim Christianity, as the only religious tradition I knew growing up in Barbados, and which I came to be a part of in my late teens. I want to acknowledge, without shame or denial, this aspect of my subjective heritage. No longer do I espouse any orthodoxy; but rather, I’ve come to find, within the Christian tradition, a radical kernel. Here, a truly orthodox Christianity becomes a heterodox one, a subversive one. In short, I’m saying this: Christ is queer. Jesus turned the world upside down, he initiated a new way of life, quite apart from the normative frameworks of the world. He was “drastically resistant to Rome,” as Vaughn Benjamin sings, “a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles (1 Cor. 1:23).” This is my Jesus, the one I read, the one I love. And guess what? I am free to do so. I can read the gospels in this way, I can love Jesus in this way. I’m laying claim to the Christian tradition; I’m saying that I can experiment on and with it, decolonize and queer it. I’m thinking with the Christian tradition— the same one that was used to oppress the Caribbean people, give form to the force of my life, narrow my outlook, and which does little for for the marginalized LGTBQ persons in the Caribbean — as a resource for critical thinking and action.

I am by no means the first to do so. I am simply following in the footsteps of others, others who want to operate within the Christian frame without absolutizing it, without turning it into an idol. This is a Christianity that is becoming, a messiah that is always still yet to come.

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