Thursday, April 17, 2014

Queering Death (Mark 16:1-8)

     When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome brought spices, so they could go and anoint (Jesus). Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. They were saying to one another, "Who will role away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?" Looking up they observed that the stone - which was very large - had been rolled away. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed.
     "Don't be alarmed," he told them. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.'"
     So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.
Mark 16:1-8


"Queering" means to resist the social constraints which seek to "norm" our attitudes. Saying that through the resurrection of Jesus the Sacred queers death is naming that God resists the attitudes which norm the crucifixion. The metaphor of resurrection points to an active protest of God - defying, opposing, refusing, withstanding - social constraints that divide the world into "us" and "other."

I am taken by the comment of the late queer theorist and theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid that Jesus' death was a suicidal crisis for publicly owning what was different in him. As sexual and gender diverse people of faith we see in the rejection of Jesus the same hatred which is directed toward us for owning our difference (Jesus Died a Queer's Death). By recognizing the dynamic of rejection we acknowledge that the norming of social constraints is so powerful that we have "adopted death-dealing violence as a solution to social problems" to quote my friend Sean Weston (Holy Week, Violence, and Resurrection at Ashes and Resurrection). 

It is this death - dealt out by constraints and the violence aimed at us who own our differences - that the Holy resists in the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is not simply a reversal of fate. Rather it is a reconfiguration of reality toward an expanded life which now embraces those punished for being "other." No wonder the Gospel according to Mark originally ended on the word "afraid." (The extended ending is not found in the earliest copies of the gospel.) God not only reconfigures, but also celebrates those whom social constraints norm as worthy of death. 

The good news is not the somebody was raised from the dead - that is nothing more than a zombie uprising. The news is good for God usurped the attitudes which marked Jesus for death because Jesus owned what made him different. As a queering act, the resurrection opposes our inclination to define what makes us different as something less than beautiful and whole. This queering is wonderfully noted in Blanchard's painting where doors are burst open, chains are broken, and even the picture frame is cracked while Jesus is clasping hands with those crushed by the constraints of being normed as other.  
The author of Mark indicates that this power of resistance leaves us alarmed, trembling, overwhelmed, and afraid because it usurps the social constraints that teach us who to love and who to hate, who to befriend and who to fear. From the christian perspective the defining act of God in the world is the resurrection of Jesus. It is a defining act because as the Sacred queers death all of creation is usurped from what was in order to welcome what can be.