An Advent People: Queer Christians in Times of Violence

An Advent People: Queer Christians in Times of Violence


It was a sunny Sunday morning, and I was getting ready for church and our observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance when I heard the news from Colorado: A gunman had opened fire at a queer nightclub, leaving five people dead (1).  

Like these Club Q patrons, I have been to such clubs on many nights, these refuges where we feel like we can express ourselves more freely, where we can just be - without the luring presence of the straight and cisgender gaze. As the news about the shooting registered with me, my heart sank. I felt helplessness creep in my body, and my eyes started to fill with tears. 

This response is one of the desired effects of such terror: to spread fear, to chip away at our feelings of belonging and safety. Whether it happens in a supermarket visited by predominantly by black customers (2or in a salon operated by Asian women (3), whether it is worshippers in a synagogue (4) or, as in Colorado Springs, dancers in a nightclub - the message is clear: You do not belong here, you do not even ‘deserve’ to live.  

The irony of my situation was not lost on me that Sunday morning: Right after the news broke, I was scheduled to go onto the chancel and join my congregation in proclaiming “Joyful, joyful, we adore you.” This is emblematic of the strange tension in which Christians live: We reside in a broken world riddled by structural sin and oppression and at the same time proclaim a God that is good, merciful and loving, a God of justice and liberation. We live in a country where fascist ideas and hate against LGBTQIA2S+(5) people are on the rise (6) and where drag performers and trans people in particular, while frequently embraced in entertainment and popular culture, are vilified, targeted and, too often, even killed. At the same time, we as a people of faith speak about and work towards God’s kin-dom of love and justice for all. This tension is especially stark in moments like that Sunday morning, but it is always present in our faith.  
As Christians, we are a people for whom “already” and “not yet” is a central manifestation of faith. We believe that God has already come into this world and continues to already work in this world through God’s spirit. Simultaneously, there is a deep awareness of the brokenness of this world, of the ways evil and structural sin permeate our communities. Our faith is based on a crucified God - the paradox of “already” and “not yet” is in our spiritual DNA. 

Advent is traditionally a time when we lean into this tension: It’s a time of waiting, when we remember a God who has already become flesh in Jesus. We also long for a God who is yet to return, for a day when “God may be all in all.” (1. Cor 15:28). It is in the very name of the season: The Latin “adventus” translates as arrival, reminding us that God has already arrived in Christ, but is yet to arrive again.  
With the ugly face of queer- and transphobia becoming so visible right around this holy season, I find myself clinging to this Advent hope: Not a hope that is void of suffering but a hope that is deeply situated in it. A hope that resides in the places where Jesus - the word made flesh and the flesh crucified - would reside: At Club Q and the Pulse nightclub. At the Emmanual AME Church (7), and the Tree of Life Synagogue. In beauty parlors in Atlanta and the Husseini Islamic Center in Sanford (8).
Advent hope does not take away the pain nor does it offer cheap consolation. But it reminds us that, even though the world is not yet transformed fully, God is already here. With this God-with-us, this “Emmanuel,” and with our communities, we can face this evil and can work towards the kin-dom.  
We ended up singing “Joyful, joyful” on that Sunday. We sang because there is already joy in our communities, even though the violence is not yet eradicated. We sang because I serve a congregation that is home to gay, lesbian, bi, trans, non-binary, polyamorous, and many other queer people, who have found a home with us. They deserve joy and already have joy.  
On this very same day, the Southern New England Conference publicized a collection of quotes under the title “Joy in the midst of grief.” It was a space where trans and gender non-binary people in our conference expressed what brings them joy about their trans or non-binary identity. I invite you to read those wonderful statements and to ask about queer joy in your own circles. Our joy is a valuable resource:  
Let us foster it and guard it from violence and terror.  
Let us be Advent people, who tell stories of the “already” to make it through the “not yets.”  
Let us sing “joyful, joyful” to remind us that it is not the gunman at who Club Q has the last word, but the God who became flesh.  
[5] which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirited


Michael Streib

Michael is the Queer Justice Advocate for the Southern New England Conference UCC, and pastoral resident at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Somerville, MA

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