By: Victoria Featherston
Deborah Huntsinger describes a “lifeline” as “a line (such as a rope) used for saving or preserving life: such as a line along the outer edge of the deck of a boat or ship.” In thinking about my queer identity in relation to my call to ordained ministry and what it means to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with” the Divine, I have come to realize that one way to queer or queer-y Scripture is in reclaiming the stories and songs that were ours all along.
The photograph I have attached is entitled “Earth Awakens at Stiles Cove,” taken in St, John’s, Newfoundland. It harkens to the idea of simultaneously dying and being reborn, regardless of our ever-changing context. It also speaks to the rebirth of possibilities, of new creation and being mindful of new ways of being in relation to one’s neighbours. As I was taking this photo, I was struck at how the jagged edges of the ice hanging over the cliffs were slowly melting away, allowing for the cliff to simply be in the changing season.
In a similar vein, when I think about my own relationship with Scripture over the course of my life, it is complex. At times, it has been quite rocky, as in the image where harmful interpretat’ions have cemented beliefs about my identity which made me feel less than. It has also been about the dying of my former self, my closeted self which prevented me from being authentic in my relationship with God and with others and becoming new again, as the ice in the image melting away and drifting back into the sea. Paul in his letter to the Romans states that one’s life of discipleship with Christ is interwoven through baptism: when one is baptized in Jesus’ name, they are also baptized into Jesus’ death on the cross. This same dying and being brought back to life in right relationship with the Divine is a bit like coming out and coming in to oneself, to be authentically queer and set free.
Queer[y]ing scripture is my lifeline in that I am always looking for what the Divine is doing in the text, what ways has Scripture been used or has the potential to harm my neighbours; and asking myself in what ways have I been complicit and what harmful concepts do I myself need to unlearn. What is the Divine calling me to do to better love the broken pieces of myself and my neighbour and to discover what work still needs to be done within myself? The shifting in the season and the melting of the ice leaves room for possibility and for new voices to emerge as the old, dead, crystallized water melts away and becomes fluid.
As I reflected while standing on the icy, slippery rock beneath my feet as I took the photograph, queer[y]ing scripture has at times been uncertain and shaky. However, I am driven by both calling the things (in this case, harmful interpretations and naming them as such) for what they are and meeting the Divine in the broken places and spaces. In the Lutheran faith, this is known as the “theology of the cross.” That slippery ground is sacred ground because it is a lot like one’s life in faith: uncertain, at times terrifying but also filled with the possibility and hope of continuously becoming new alongside others. In my own experience of coming out, the ground was definitely shaky. I questioned whether I would be accepted in my authentic self.
As the water dripped and flowed down to my feet, I found a quiet comfort in simultaneously dying and being revived through baptism and the ethical responsibility of queer[y]ing scripture as a result. When worship spaces and places are not welcoming to my friends and my community, it is important for me to create disruptive spaces for their stories to be heard as there is no asterisk or exception in one’s baptism. The walls around me like the ice beneath my feet on that winter’s day may shake, the wind that pressed against my back like the prevalence of harmful attitudes may roar, but the foundation that has kept me grounded even when I was lamenting the presence of the Divine, that foundation is unshakable.
Victoria Featherston is the Intern Pastor at First Evangelical Lutheran Church. Victoria has used her passion for social justice in their prison ministry while volunteering at the John Howard Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. Victoria enjoys spending her spare time reading, knitting, hiking, nature photography and singing.