The Kingdom According to a Queer Poet
Encountering the Saviour in a new way in an unexpected place
There are times when I wish Christ was in the room with me, in the flesh. Days I wish I could have him at my side in situations where I don’t know how to respond but I know he would; I wish I could whisper my own questions in his ear, hear his answer straight from his mouth, hug him and be held.
The day I read the CBC’s report on policies at Redeemer University that allegedly discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and ARPA’s response, I wished for all those things.
However affirmative or non-affirmative I may be regarding orthodoxy on matters of sexuality, none of that conviction relieved the anguished tension I felt reading both articles. I mourned the fact that an institution I love is being taken to task in the public square, while also grieving the reality that there are those who felt hurt or unsafe under its care. I wanted to hear my Lord’s response to both articles, because I didn’t know how to respond.
And yet, over the next few weeks, a moment in my life from years ago kept coming to mind unbidden – my unconscious response for this moment.
That moment occurred in a graduate seminar on contemporary Canadian poetry, and the text being studied on that September day was a poetry collection entitled This Wound is a World by Bill-Ray Belcourt, a queer Indigenous poet. To say this collection’s depictions of queer experiences are heavy (not to mention its depictions of Indigenous experiences) is an understatement. Love and freedom and grief and violence and hope and desire and death blur together until they become virtually indistinguishable. Sexual intimacy is simultaneously what wounds and what is used to try and heal those wounds. Even the speaker’s body itself is not secure, but is always at risk of dis-integrating, since “gender is another word for horror story” (23) and “sometimes bodies don’t always feel like bodies but like wounds” (27). Brokenness and loneliness and woundedness ooze out of the collection’s pores, and on that September day I began to feel like I was drowning in woundedness.
And then one of my classmates pointed out how, for Belcourt, such woundedness also contains the desire and potential for the creation of new worlds and new possibilities and new futures. With a thunderclap, I heard what Belcourt desires as a perfect description of what Christ’s wounds have achieved for us, and suddenly it was as if Christ was in the room, with Belcourt’s poetry posing rhetorical questions about Him in a tidal wave of grace: Haven’t the wounds he received on the cross created the ultimate new world of the Kingdom? In the history of humankind, has anyone been more gravely wounded by sin than the Lord on the cross? Isn’t his separation from the Father in the dereliction the most horrifying dis-integration of a person from their own self, their own essence or nature?
“Ministry can indeed be a witness to the living truth that the wound, which causes us to suffer now, will be revealed to us later as the place where God intimated [God’s] new creation.”
—Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932–1996)
In that moment, I understood with fresh eyes the reality that because of his wounds and dis-integration, our Lord relates to and understands Belcourt and all wounded members of the LGBTQ+ community deeply and profoundly. I knew that he was (and is) near to Belcourt as well, even if Belcourt doesn’t realize it, and I was no longer drowning.
And yet the fact that Christ’s wounds are the gateway to the Kingdom does not mean that we are meant to remain wounded. Christ became wounded so that one day in the Kingdom we will no longer be wounded. The reality that, through the cross, he understands our brokenness and woundedness more deeply than we ever will ourselves means that it’s not the final note rung on the bell, not the last word of the story; it’s part of our current reality but not the essence or defining aspect for any of us.
That moment in class continues to remind me that Christ can minister to all because his woundedness means he relates to every person, including LGBTQ+ people. Just as he did with Thomas, he invites all of us to stick our fingers in his wounds and to trust that he promises to heal our wounds. What exactly we will be like when we are fully healed, I have no idea. But I do know this: Belcourt gave me a new view of the Kingdom and the Saviour, and for that I will always be grateful.
“Individually, and as a community, we grieve and regret that any student may not have had the caring and respectful experience that Redeemer aspires to create on campus. We want Redeemer to serve as an example of loving engagement across disagreement or differences. As such, we are committed to hearing and learning from diverse voices, ensuring that we express our Reformed Christian identity with humility, kindness, prayerfulness, and care so that we are a community where people feel respected and heard.”
Read more in this letter from Redeemer’s President Robert Graham to the Redeemer community, posted Sept. 4, responding to CBC’s news article.