Return, return, the Shulamite. Return, return, and let us gaze on you. How will you gaze on Shulamite in the dance of the two camps? How beautiful are your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter. The curves of your (quivering) thighs are like jewels crafted by artist hands. Your vulva a rounded bowl; may it never lack wine. Your belly a mound of wheat hedged by lotuses. Your breasts like two fawns…
LGBTQ persons of faith know well the importance of seeing reflections of ourselves in the pulpit, pew, and podium. There is life-changing power in seeing a person who looks and loves like you affirmed, ordained, degreed. Because not all persons of faith are straight, white, cisgender men.
These sentiments sparked in me a resolve to create.
As a scholar of Art and Religion, I have long known the power of images to evoke spiritual meaning, providing believers with a visual entry point into faith. As an ordained queer woman, I have also long known that much of iconography excludes anyone who looks and loves like me.
"As a pastor who has served a church where Fred Phelps protested, I have experienced the vitriol he spewed throughout his life. But if my tradition has taught me anything, it has taught me the power of forgiveness. May his funeral be filled with signs that read 'you are a beloved creature of worth;' may his tormented soul finally find peace; and may we all be more kind, welcoming, and peaceful."
These were the words I posted on Facebook upon learning of the death of Fred Phelps.
Each Sunday, clad in a bright red robe, I step into the pulpit. Before I even utter a word, my body preaches on my behalf. My gendered, queer, dancing, disordered body proclaims the Word before I ever open my mouth.
There are Sundays when a congregant might ask me, “Why do you always talk about gay stuff in worship?”