Surrealist Theology at the Huffington Post: ‘What I Learned About Drag Queens From the Gospel’
Forget the Letters of Paul. It’s time for the Gospel of RuPaul, at least for the Huffington Post that celebrated a drag queen take on faith. That surrealist theology was fully displayed in a Sept. 16, 2012, article, titled “What I Learned About Drag Queens From the Gospel.”
Rev. Wil Gafney, an associate professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, preached a truly crazy sermon to her congregation, which HuffPo found too good to pass up. Her sermon referred to transgender TV personalities such as RuPaul as theologians. “Drag queens like RuPaul, Sharon Needles and Latrice Royale are some of my favorite critical gender theorists and theologians,” she said.
Gafney began her sermon with a meditation of sorts on Mark 7:27-29, and claimed that Jesus called a woman a “bitch.” The passage she derived this accusation from reads:
Jesus said to her, "Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For that saying, for this logos, go now, the demon, the disease, the disease, has left your daughter." Mark 7:27-29
Gafney completely ignored the context of the Biblical passage. The previous two verses, Mark 7:25-26, provided context to the parable. They read: “For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.”
The “dogs” referred to by the passage are Gentiles. The Jews were the Chosen People – the “children” which the passage refers to. As the Gospel makes clear, the woman was a Gentile – to the Jewish people, an outsider and an alien. Jesus noted that the woman was not Jewish; in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 15:24), he specifically stated that his mission was to minister the Jews. The woman humbly recognized this, and in faith asked for her daughter to be healed. Jesus, recognizing her great faith, promptly healed her daughter.
But such advanced exegesis was apparently too much for Gafney, who remained undeterred in her efforts to mangle Biblical theology. She then began to praise drag queens as theologians: “I love drag queens. I love the way they make me think about gender, its construction and its performance. Drag queens like RuPaul, Sharon Needles and Latrice Royale are some of my favorite critical gender theorists and theologians.”
Gafney’s definition of “theologian” appears to be quite expansive. In Gafney’s conception, one can be declared a theologian by “sabotaging male privilege.” “Drag queens have also been subject to public censure, ridicule, harassment and violence. RuPaul, the reigning Queen of Queens, is famous for saying "wearing drag in a male dominated society is an act of treason." Ru knows that choosing any kind of female gender performance by intentionally surrendering and/or sabotaging male privilege is an act of treason -- or resistance -- against the androcentrism is this planet's original sin, pervading the scriptures and on display in the Gospel, on the lips of Jesus, no less.”
Gafney’s meandering sermon eventually turned into a reflection on the supposed human imperfection of Jesus. Gafney opined: “The church has taught that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, taught and fought, killed and died over that notion and it's implications. But most of us are not ready for Jesus who was quite that human. Who you calling a b----? A fully human Jesus is a product of his culture. Perhaps he was influenced by his own scriptures, Sirach who shared the same Jesus says in 26:25: A headstrong woman is regarded as a dog, but one who has a sense of shame will fear the Lord. The Anchor Bible Commentary (Skehan and Di Lella) has, ‘The unruly [woman] will be thought of as a bitch...’ Even Jesus is affected by the androcentrism and ethnocentrism that characterize his people and their time. As am I.”
In orthodox Christian theology, Christ is fully divine and fully human. But Christ was the perfect human, who did not sin and who taught timeless truths. By emphasizing the supposed imperfection of Christ, Gafney essentially denies Christ’s divinity, and makes Christ out to be just another imperfect product of his time (and therefore someone to be ignored whenever his words prove inconvenient or uncomfortable).
The Huffington Post is not exactly a bastion of sound Biblical exegesis. During the height of the media-manufactured Chick-fil-A controversy, one Huffington Post contributor tried to use his lack of knowledge of the Book of Leviticus to slam the restaurant. Still, however, the Huffington Post should at least be more cautious about promoting a minister who anoints transgender TV personalities as theologians. But any religious justification for militant tolerance and pushing boundaries, no matter how absurd, passes for sound religious teaching at the Huffington Post.