Learning how to be Christian…from Drag Queens.

Jes Kast Uncategorized 14 Comments

I am always looking for jams to flow through my ear buds when I’m out running. This new beat has been on repeat as my feet hit ground and run:

You need to know that I adore RuPaul.

This week on my facebook newsfeed, my clergy colleague who serves another congregation, put a picture of Sahara Davenport (Antoine Ashley) on his wall expressing how sad he is that his friend, Antoine, has passed away. I watched Sahara Davenport compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 2. Even though I was not a friend of his, like my clergy colleague, I am sad to hear about her death.

I have another friend who has shared stories of the 1960’s in New York City when he and his drag queen friends would hang out. He told me about the abuse and the hate crimes and we lamented how there are still too many hate crimes today. My friend shared stories about his drag queen friends who were catalysts in the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which began the LGBTQ liberation movement.

I dig learning about the history of New York City. One of the recent documentaries I watched is called Paris is Burning. This film chronicles the 1980’s African American and Latino transgendered and gay drag ball culture. It is a well-done documentary. Both as a film and a piece of education I highly recommend it to you.

You need to know I adore drag queens.

In fact, I believe some of drag culture embodies so much of what I would hope for any Christian. The friends I have and the stories I have inherited about drag culture have taught me invaluable lessons about what being a faithful Christian looks like. Let me explain.

One of the essential movements of Christianity is transformation. We are called to change or in the Greek, metanoia. Like Saul of Tarsus we go through changes and become new people. We have conversion experiences that help us live more faithfully to God in a way that is true to the personality that God has given us. Drag queens are a clear example of what transformation looks like.

I also think that drag queens remind us of joy. Our holy text is filled with verses that remind us to play and be filled with joy. Ecclesiastes 8:15 is one of those anchor passages for me which expresses, So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their toil through the days of life that God gives them under the sun. Drag queens remind us to laugh, have fun, and enjoy life.

In 2002 my graduating class chose John Lennon’s song Imagine. We were a bunch of millennials romanticizing an era that we believed embodied imagination and liberation. Imagination is essential to the Christian believer. When we imagine we regain hope. Drag queens teach us how to imagine. Drag queens help us to be imaginative Christians who work for thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Finally, I believe drag queens can teach us a lot about asking questions about why many things seem to be engendered that don’t actually have a gender (since when was their such a thing as a male soap and a female soap? Soap is soap.) I think the Christian culture has too easily bought into the captialistic movements of engendering and it’s time for many of us to be more playful with our gender presentations. I could go on but I will save the topic of this paragraph for another post another day. Drag queens welcome us to be more thoughtful about gender presentation.

If you are not familiar with drag culture I want to encourage you to get familiar. Watch Paris is Burning with an open mind and learn about a culture that might be different than yours. Go to a drag queen performance. Seek out a friend who is a drag queen and listen to their story. Don’t go to evangelize but instead to be evangelized to. Let them teach you/us how to love thy neighbor better. 

I have learned the more I get to know people who live differently than I do the more compassionate I become and the more I learn what it means when Jesus demands of us to love our neighbor as yourself. In two weeks from now I will write on what my friends who are Muslim have taught me about what it means to be a better Christian. 

’till next time…

Grace and Peace.

 

Comments 14

  1. To anyone who may be reading this post:
    Despite the fact that the "About" section of this blog states that "Perspectives' purpose is to express the Reformed faith theologically" I would like to assert that the views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are not widely representative of the "Reformed faith," nor the Reformed Church in America. And I would like to ask the moderators of the blog to please clarify by making such a disclaimer. I myself was not able to find a disclaimer.
    If you are unfamiliar with the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and its views on sexuality, you can find a good summary here. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/06/29/what-happened-at-the-rca-general-synod/
    I hope you will understand that most RCA leadership does not glorify the "drag queen" lifestyle, nor irresponsible, pleasure-seeking lifestyles, nor the lyrics of a song which openly mocks religion, heaven and hell.

    I know many Reformed Church leaders are faithfully doing their best to show kindness and acceptance to those who experience gender identity confusion or same-sex attraction, but at the same time refuse to celebrate or glorify lifestyles that are clearly not God's ideal according to Scripture.

    Jes, I appreciate that you are able to learn from all kinds of people. That's a valuable skill. However, I believe you have crossed a line here, glorifying certain lifestyles and viewpoints. As a fellow RCA minister, I believe that on this blog that is inappropriate. You have your own blog on which to express your opinions.

  2. A cluster of questions arise from this note, not least the one whether drag is the same as transgendered. Had we stayed with the transgendered, then the shift, the adopting of the shape of the other gender can suggest something like the path of every Christian toward a true or authentic identity. Drag carries more the expression of duality or double identity; presentation and person are different; the presentation is a constructed reality, and in drag queens something of a hyper-feminine reality. It's fundamentally play.

    Lexically, the difficulties arise with the citation of metanoia as a word for transformation. In Greek, surely the better family of words for transformation would turn on variants of morphos. Even the Classical Greek understanding of hupocrisis would carry more of the sense of social construction.

    Theologically, drag's celebration of the presented identity, this playful "seemingness" certainly carries with it a whiff of Docetism.

    Now there is a role for play in our identities, but that seems arise more from a fundamental freedom we have in Christ, a willingness to surrender, to be open to the other. We assume identities because at the center we have an identity that is of one piece.

  3. Holy cluster of questions bat/cat/man/woman! These men in their crisis of identity unable to find themselves in more traditional gender expressions inhabit the artifice of a Barbie doll. Doing a compare and contrast with Barbified Housewives of wealthy American community X might be enlightening too. It's broadly embraced that the Barbification of the female persona degrades the culture and damages girls. I can't conceive how to process this within that critique. Strange indeed. pvk

  4. "Seek out a friend who is a drag queen and listen to their story. Don’t go to evangelize but instead to be evangelized to. Let them teach you/us how to love thy neighbor better."

    "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto Me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that i have commanded you."

    If this were a Sesame Street episode, it would have that song over it that sings "One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn't belong."
    Simply awful. May the Lord rebuke you for such a twisted presentation of His truth.

  5. Grace and Peace of Christ.

    To respond to the question, this is not a joke. Part of my role in this blog is to write about my ministry context and write about that from a Reformed perspective. New York City is my context and this post represents some of my ministry. I want to see the image of God in each person and in humility ask "what can my neighbor teach me about following Christ".

    I am happy to civilly and graciously dialogue. I am not interested in conversation that is not gracious.

    Joyfully,
    Jes

  6. Jes,

    I'm still waiting for the "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night Live" thing. I wish it would start up. Since you've informed us that it won't, I must confess that I'm almost speechless. What exactly your "goal" in all this? I understand "understanding" your ministry context, but what's the goal here? What do you hope to accomplish? I'm sorry, but I don't see the image of God in this kind of perversion. It's shameful and disgusting. It perverts the image of God so badly, that I can't even begin to see God. I only see Romans 1. So what's your goal once you "understand" this context? What do you hope to do?

    Sincerely,
    Shane

  7. Jes,

    In Christian love and (per your request) civility, I humbly ask two simple questions:

    Question #1) What makes this post or your approach "Reformed"?

    The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 3, sums up the Reformed perspective on the image of God quite simply.

    Lord's Day 3

    Q&A 6
    Q. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?
    A. No. God created them good1 and in his own image,2 that is, in true righteousness and holiness,3 so that they might truly know God their creator,4 love him with all their heart, and live with God in eternal happiness, to praise and glorify him.5

    1 Gen. 1:31
    2 Gen. 1:26-27
    3 Eph. 4:24
    4 Col. 3:10
    5 Ps. 8

    Q&A 7
    Q. Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?
    A. The fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise.1 This fall has so poisoned our nature2 that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition.3

    1 Gen. 3
    2 Rom. 5:12, 18-19
    3 Ps. 51:5

    Q&A 8
    Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?
    A. Yes,1 unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.2

    1 Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Job 14:4; Isa. 53:6
    2 John 3:3-5

    Question #2) Did you find the image you were looking for?

    I hope these questions are civil and gracious enough to meet your tolerant guidelines and you will be willing to enter into a dialogue.

    Grace and Peace,

    Nathan

  8. Dear Shane,

    Grace and Peace of Christ be with you.

    My "goal" in all this is to be with and for people that [some of] the church can quickly exclude. I listen to many stories from all sorts of people (drag queens included) who have a deep faith in God but have been so hurt by the church they love because they did not fit a prescribed norm. My "goal" in this is to see Christ in everyone. My "goal" in writing this is to testify to the work of Christ in places/people we might not consider that the Holy Spirit is present. The world is thick of God's presence and part of my work as a minister of the Gospel is to call forth the image of Christ in everyone and that means in humility considering others better than myself.

    What do I hope to do with these goals? Love God with my whole heart, soul, and mind and love my neighbor as myself.

    Joyfully,
    Jes

  9. Dear Nathan,

    Grace and Peace of Christ be with you.

    Thank you for your Christian love and civility. I hear it and will warmly engage, later. For now, as you may understand, the demands of my work day call to me.

    Joyfully,
    Jes

  10. Jes,

    Thanks Jes for responding. I appreciate you wanting to see the image of God in those who you are ministering to. And I also appreciate you wanting to learn your ministry context. That is, in and of itself, honorable and biblical. But I'm not quite catching on how we "learn" about what it means to be a Christian from these shameful practices? Are we to "adore" those who openly mock God's creation and creative order? It's kind of like me saying, "I adore drunks….there is just so much I learn about being a Christian from drunks." Now, I can have compassion on those who are involved in this sin…I can even highlight evidences of God's common grace/or His image in them as fellow image bearers. But I don't look at the "sin" itself and find honorable and godly traits in it.

    So we are to learn about "transformation", "joy", and how to be more "thoughtful" about "gender presentations" from drag queens? I'd rather not! Transformation? Men, who were created in God's image (as men) perverting that and openly rebelling against God's creative order…how exactly do we learn to be better Christians from that? Joy? Do you think that biblical joy, as it flows from Christ, as a fruit of the Spirit, can be illustrated by perversion? And how exactly do drag queens (who are openly perverting God's image/creative order) show us how to be thoughtful about "gender presentations"? How does sexual confusion of this kind illustrate to us the good news of the Gospel?

    Jes, nothing that you have shared here shows me that you are full of compassion for drag queens. In fact, quite the opposite. Remember Jesus with the women at the well (see John 4:1-29)? This is one of my favorite stories on how we should show compassion to sinners. What did Jesus do? Did he commend her sin? No. He actually pointed it out quite specifically. But he didn't just leave it there. He gave her something superior to her sin. "The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14). The way we show compassion, Jes, is the same. We offer the forgiveness of sins in and through Jesus Christ. We offer new life in His name. We offer them the Gospel of Christ. We offer them the true "living waters" that lead to eternal life. This woman didn't need Jesus affirming her sin and pointing out how wonderful adultery, divorce, and fornication was. No. She needed to hear about the contrast. She needed to know that her sin would never lead her to these living waters. Only the Messiah could bring that to her. That is TRUE compassion illustrated.

    So Jes, what kind of hope do you offer to drag queens? Do you teach them to turn from their sin and go to Christ? Do you call them to repentance with the Good News of Christ's love for them? Once you've understood them better–what hope do you offer them? What is your "good news" to them?

    Sincerely,
    Shane

  11. Dear Nathan,

    Grace and Peace of Christ.

    Thank you for bringing the beloved Heidelberg into this conversation, I appreciate it. I also appreciate the Christian love you are extending. I want to honor brevity so I will attempt to trim my response (though it is tempting for me to expand).

    Re: Q#1 – I believe in God’s sovereignty and for me that means that God is God and I am not. I am totally depraved (as is all of humanity) and rest in God’s gracious, never-ending love. This means I live my life in a way that exhibits grace to all humankind as God has showed grace to all humankind. I live out of my gratitude (and joy!) for the diversity of humankind. Does it sound trite to say guilt, grace, and gratitude is my framework for every interaction I have? I hope not because I like the 3 G’s and they seem to be quite Reformed.

    Re: Q#2 – I am constantly surprised and I am challenged by God, in the ways God is made manifest in people I would least expect. God has breathed God’s breath into humanity and I trust the Spirit is wooing/loving/working in people in ways that are bigger than my perspective.

    Joyfully,
    Jes

  12. To all:

    Grace and Peace of Christ.

    I know it may be difficult to understand where I am coming from because I, too, am having some difficulty trying to understand where some of you are coming from. If I saw people and God in the ways that I think some of you do I may react to me in anger, disgust, and complete bafflement. If I held some of the thoughts that I think some of you do, I may even view me as offensive and thus want to defend my perspective of the Gospel I love. I am trying to understand some of your perspectives. Forgive me if I have fallen short in compassionately engaging while also being true to my perspective and living out the Gospel in how I understand the good news.

    I view God as ever-loving, gracious, alive, and joyous about the diversity of creatures that God has made. I trust that God is at work in me, you, others, and in places/people we least expect God’s presence to be seen.

    I find it tempting to continue this conversation but I do not think it would be wise because this is, after all, just a simple/small blog. I hope to meet some of you in the future where we can humanize our conversation face-to-face. This will be my last comment on this post.

    I pray God’s gracious love to everyone who is reading this. May God surprise and expand our perspective. May God teach us how to make room for different perspectives and people. May God help us to live in the unity of Christ that is both a gift and obligation of the church.

    God’s love and joy,
    Jes

Leave a Reply