This reflection was given at SCM London’s prayer service to mark LGBTQ+ History Month 2021.
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29 Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31 The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ 32 Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; 33 and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.Mark 12:28-34
One of the nerdier things I like to do in my spare time is finding books on queer theology and adding them to an ever-growing reading list. There are now well over two hundred books and articles on this list and while I know I probably won’t read through all of them, it certainly is satisfying to visualise this huge collection of queer literature acknowledging and validating my existence as a queer Christian, affirming that I am loved by God just as I am.
Being a queer Christian has its many joys, but it can often feel like I constantly have to be on the defensive, always needing advanced scriptural exegesis and queer theoretical frameworks on the tip of my tongue, ready to respond to any combative questions about being queer and a person of faith. However, I am grateful to the vast array of resources available to which I can direct people to learn about and grapple with queer theology, where they can find a much more clearly articulated answer than I could give on the spot.
In the Gospels, Jesus is also often faced with difficult and argumentative questions designed to catch him out and find faults in his radical teaching. In the passage from Mark, he too looks back to earlier works to give an answer to a very tricky question: what is the most important commandment? Quoting Deuteronomy, he says it is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
As queer people who have historically, and sadly far too often currently, been excluded from or abused by the Church, shut out, told we’re sinners or unclean or un-Christian, such a commandment can be daunting. Many of us are tired, worn out from constantly having to justify ourselves and fight to make a space for us to be. Many of our souls carry pain and trauma. Many of our hearts have been broken, perhaps by the Church, by those we love, or by the societal injustice around us.
But God does not require us to have all the answers to hand or to be fully at peace with how our faith and queer identity interact. God simply wants our love and to be in a relationship with us, just as we are. Loving God with our whole selves means loving God in our brokenness, in our pain, and in our sorrows. For queer people, loving God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength means loving God in all our queerness, in all our non-conformity, and in all that we are as children queerly and wonderfully made in God’s image.
And when we begin to love God, we can begin to love ourselves, knowing we are made in Her image, that we are loved more than we can ever know, and that our queerness is knitted into our very being. And once we begin to love ourselves, we can begin to love each other, recognising the divine in everyone and honouring them with respect and dignity. In this way, if we believe God is everywhere present and in all things, loving God with our whole being has knock-on effects for how we love ourselves, each other, and the world in which we live.
May we be gentle with ourselves so that we may begin to love God with our whole being, always knowing we are loved by God in all our queerness.