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The PC(USA)’s ‘New Way’ podcast offers hope and courage during ‘a kind of scary time right now’

Episcopal priest and activist the Rev. Elizabeth Edman continues her conversation with the Rev. Sara Hayden

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Justin Luca Krause via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — It’s time for people to start using their community — whether it’s a faith community, friends or one’s family — to talk about “the dangerous moment” that queer people are in right now.

“Start talking about the risks you and your community together are willing to take to witness to this force of love as a real force of love in our world,” the Rev. Elizabeth Edman, an Episcopal priest and activist and the author of the book “Queer Virtue,” tells host the Rev. Sara Hayden during this week’s “New Way” podcast, part of the ministry of 1001 New Worshiping Communities. “It’s just crystal clear to me that if we want to be able to look back at this time and not just be filled with shame, the time is now to identify how we are going to put our bodies on the line and witness to our faith.”

Listen to the first and second parts of Hayden’s conversation with Edman — produced by the Rev. Marthame Sanders — by going here. A Presbyterian News Service report on the first conversation is here.

In “Queer Virtue,” “you talk a lot about Jesus putting his body on the line, and what it means to live in the destruction of this binary,” Hayden tells Edman, “and God ushering us into the reality of a non-binary world, and the scandal that manifests because of that.”

The Rev. Elizabeth Edman

“Certainly, in queer identity,” Edman replies, “nonbinary identity is this really important identity itself that people are naming and claiming and living into in extraordinary ways. But the rupturing that queerness accomplishes is the rupturing of false binaries particularly.”

“This is what I mean when I talk about queerness,” Edman says. In queer theory, “there is this idea that to queer something is to rupture it, and specifically to rupture false binaries. So, the word ‘queer’ becomes a verb. And you see this in queer identity when people disrupt the idea that male and female are two completely separate poles.” There are “growing numbers of people who are rejecting any notion they are male or female at all.”

Edman sees “queerness in the Christian tradition in moments where we talk about Jesus being both human and divine … That’s the disruption of an incredible binary, right?”

It’s not that Jesus is “a little human and a little divine,” Edman says. “No, he’s fully human and fully divine.” When Jesus touches people who were ritually unclean in order to heal them, Edman wonders: Were his actions sacred or were they profane?

“Well, they were both,” Edman says. “When he was resurrected, had he died or was he alive? Well, we say both.”

Jesus “queers the very idea of what life and death are, and their relationship to each other,” according to Edman. “And then Jesus tells these gorgeous parables that relentlessly encourage people to disrupt a false binary of self and other. ‘Don’t tell me about this woman you’ve caught in adultery. Tell me about the sins you’ve committed.’ I mean, that’s what the Parable of the Good Samaritan is all about.”

Then there’s “this disruption of false binary of self and other” in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Those, Edman says, “were the biggest binaries of Paul’s day.”

“These are not marginal ideas in Christian theology,” Edman says. “These are the central tenets of the faith, which is why, to me, I can only but say that if we take these disruptions seriously, that authentic Christianity itself must be queer. We must be queer in that sense.”

The Rev. Sara Hayden

“It’s not the same for someone else to say it,” Hayden says, “but when you say it, it helps those of us for whom nothing really is on the line … It helps us recover … the profound truths of our faith and what they actually mean, who they include, and what they demand of us.”

Many of the anti-trans laws passed in state legislatures in recent months “are about trying to erase trans identity, and many of them are explicit about that,” Edman says. “Theologically, I don’t know how to respond to that that, other than to say we exist … You can’t rub us out because that works for you politically, which is why it matters so much right now that those of us who are Christian step up to … combat all the hate that’s behind it, but also proclaim the gospel, the real gospel.”

Edman says she often hears faith communities asking her, “What’s next?” after they’ve offered welcome to everyone.

“This is what’s next for us,” Edman says. “Not just saying, ‘Oh, how lovely that you’ve come in the door of our church.’ This is about us, I think, going the other direction — walking outside and really, quite literally, putting our bodies on the line.”

Near the end of the conversation, Hayden thanks Edman for “this vital look at our faith.”

“It makes me excited to move forward with more courage and greater examination of my own conscience about what it means to be a person of faith and a member of a broad and beautiful family,” Hayden says.

“The hope is in family, right?” Edman replies. “And so, Sara, to have this time with your and the others who are listening, that’s a beautiful experience, and gives me hope and courage at a kind of scary time right now. Thank you for that.”

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