Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Given the content of my blog over the past couple years, I think it goes without saying that I’m on the theologically progressive side of Christianity. How I got here is a mixture of self-awareness and my education at a Christian university (that I now think is not progressive enough). I am simultaneously more connected with the Christian tradition (liturgy, hymns, etc) than ever before and also more analytical about the many, many ways that Christians understand the Bible, our traditions, worship, and our responsibility to the world. This has led me to renounce many of the pet values of American Christianity–to widen my circle of knowledge about the Christian tradition and all of its theologies, and to especially question doctrines that perpetuate systematic oppression.

Social responsibility is at the heart of where I find myself now, in the United Church of Christ. For the past two years, I’ve been intricately involved in the most genuine, spiritually healthy church community I have ever encountered in my life. I mark my insatiable curiosities and the ways that I have left behind some “Christian values” as signs of how the Holy Spirit has compelled me to compassion–to continuously treat the most marginalized precisely as Christ commands, including and especially those cast out by the Church on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This doesn’t mean I don’t care deeply about other forms of oppression because I do, but these two ways in particular are the ones I encounter the most on a personal, day-to-day basis.

I won’t go into a full apologia of queer theology or explain the nuances of my beliefs since I’m constantly growing in knowledge and compassion and I intend for this post to be a general “go to” for readers to understand my framework. For those that need a starting point, here are some 101 links:

Simply put, I think the journey begins with humbling your own self and listening to the Other. You may never understand them and you may never figure out how they fit into your theology or how your theology fits them, but Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves and how can we love our neighbor, especially our oppressed neighbor, when we insist with the power of God at our backs that they are perverse and fallen for who they are? We cannot see into the mind of God, but we know through Christ’s actions and his death on the cross that historic exclusion and condemnation of Otherized people within the Church is not the message Jesus has for the world.

There are many things about many kinds of people that I may never understand. There are people whose identities I cannot fathom–identities that are beyond the limits of my logic. But if I believe in a man who turned water into wine and rose from death in the cleansing of all sin (systematic and personal) despite how little sense it makes, then I can affirm the existence of genders and sexualities that I may not fully understand and that they are all fearfully and wonderfully made. They are all images of a God who cannot be bound by human logic and that is part of the beautiful mystery.

Growing in awareness of the gross systematic injustices of this world–the archies and isms and phobias that bring suffering to entire groups of people–is intricately tied with my spiritual journey. The closer I grow to God, the more deeply I see into these systems and vice versa.

Sometimes, progressive Christianity scares me. Sometimes, I’m rendered speechless in the face of conservative Christianity. Some may read what I’m about and think I’ve fallen from grace despite everything I’ve said. Some may think I’m still too far behind.

But one thing should be unquestionably clear: my faith is alive and my walk with Christ continues to stir me to compassion. On this blog, I will continue writing about this in relation to anime, TV shows, movies, etc., since I’m trying to keep the content consistent, but as I continue to thoughtfully engage with stories and occasionally run into ideas that jive with my theology, I thought it would be useful to lay out the basics of whatever more specific approaches I take now or in the future. It stems from Christ within me.

I named this post after the hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” since I recently discovered it and it’s stayed on my heart recently (and now I’m watching a Bioshock Infinite LP as a result, but that’s besides the point). In a way, it adds to a constant prayer I have. How many times has the circle–the Church–broken because of poisonous racist rhetoric? Classist and sexist rhetoric? Homophobic and transphobic rhetoric? To fix the circle, we have to recognize the toxin that erodes it, even if it seems like something right. If the fruits are exclusion or inclusion with the intentions to change who someone is into a person the Church would like to think is more Godly, I’d still call that a broken circle. Until Christ comes again, the circle may never be unbroken, but it can come close.

Draw the circle wide. Christianity has not always been good to people. There is a time to listen and a time to speak. Christ says to all people “come as you are.” No caveats. No requirements for change before receiving his love. May we as Christians constantly strive to create an unbroken circle.

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