Queer Joy, Saint Francis, and Skipping Church

I want to write about joy. I want it to be profound and eloquent and make us all feel better.

I also wanted to skip church yesterday, but apparently I can’t figure out how to do either.

I wanted to skip church because I was tired and frustrated and angry. I’ve been angry for the past couple weeks. I’ve been angry at homophobic blog comments. I’ve been angry at the dude who rolled down his car window as he drove by just to call me a dyke. I’ve been angry at myself for letting that Eugene Peterson interview make me feel better. I’ve been angry at myself for being surprised and hurt when he took it all back. I’ve been angry about all the chances I’ve given Evangelicals, all the grace I’ve shown, and all the bitterness I’ve still managed to feel. I’ve been angry at myself for being angry.

So I thought that one Sunday off might do me some good. Because, guys…I don’t want to be angry at anyone anymore. I want to sleep in and I want to write about joy. But I don’t know how…

It has become a running joke among some of my friends to justify ridiculous life choices with the phrase “Queer joy is resistance.” It doesn’t matter if I’m getting Chipotle for the third time in one week, sticking birthday candles in my pancakes, drinking a La Croix in the shower, or ditching class for a Tuesday road trip to Chicago. The personal is political. Queer joy is resistance. Let me live.

Although I’m usually just making fun of misguided activism and my own propensity for hi-jinks, I’ve been using this phrase a little more earnestly as of late. Joy hasn’t felt natural. Joy has been an active and difficult series of decisions. And in a society where queer people are still expected to hate themselves, there’s something to the idea that being publicly, unapologetically gay and happy is kind of a radical thing to do. So last week I took lots of walks. I bought myself flowers. I went to a drag show. I took more selfies than usual. I danced to Beyoncé in my apartment. I ate a really good donut. Because queer joy is resistance. It really probably is, I think.

But damn. Is joy supposed to be this exhausting? Because as much as I love the idea of resisting, I’m getting a little tired of my “joy” being a giant middle finger. I don’t want to be joyful just because society tells me not to be. I don’t want to baptize my rage in glitter and call it happiness. But sometimes that’s what we do. Sometimes queer anger and queer joy look a lot alike. Sometimes we burn our anger like gasoline and then dance around the fire. It’s good and it’s important and it’s beautiful. But I don’t think I can do it forever.

I wanted to skip church yesterday. I wanted to once again sarcastically claim my queer joy by sleeping in and eating waffles. But I couldn’t sleep in, and I ran out of waffles, and yeah, ok God,  I also really needed to go to church.

During liturgy, I sat next to a stained glass window of St. Francis of Assisi, and I remembered his prayer that I prayed every day last summer as a closeted evangelical camp counselor…

Lord, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

I prayed the prayer again. I thought about some of my blog comments. I thought about the guy who yelled at me from his car. I thought about Eugene Peterson and the people who share his “biblical views of everything.” I thought about queer joy and wondered where on earth it was supposed to come from. I repented of the belief that it comes from people like Eugene Peterson.

Sure, queer joy is resistance. But I don’t know if it can exist without queer love, queer peace, queer patience, queer kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

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7 comments

  1. I’m so sorry, Honey. Keep going… God has got this and He knows your heart. Surround yourself with Christian friends who understand what you’re going through and find out how they maintain in the midst of hate. Some will have found the secret and some, not so much… But it’s still worth seeking after. I love you so much and I love your heart for God. Even though some days it may feel like it, not all of Christendom is against you!

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

    Some days you have to really trust that He has overcome, don’t you? I find that in my life, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love and miss you, Caitlin Joy Stout! I learn so much from you, about life, about love, about Jesus, and about queer joy! Keep writing. And keep going to church. 🙂 What you are doing is so important! And know that there are so many Christ followers who love and affirm you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Two of my great inspirations — Francis of Assisi and Caitlin Joy Stout. Your pursuit of God, justice and love are amazing. Thank you for being such an articulate voice for many hurting people. Loving those who are stepped on and loving those who are still stepping on them is a gargantuan task. We need your insight and leadership in this. Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your mom and dad didn’t choose “Joy” as your middle name for the fun of it. You are an inspiration for understanding a world that is not easy to understand. Thank you for sharing your heart, for in doing so, the hearts of many, including mine are much aware, more encompassing, and more understanding of God’s love for “ALL”.

    May every day be a day of real “JOY”.

    Like

  5. Now you have me thinking I’ll be back at Mass on Sunday. Thank you & thank you to your mom for sharing. 💜💜 #mamabear

    Like

  6. You’re awesome, Caitlin! I think and hope that those who read this will learn to understand, accept, and quit judging those that are not exactly like them. From the day I met you at girl’s camp at Indian Lake I knew you were a better person than most, you just always brought people together, and now you continue to do that by still having hope that closed minded people within the evangilical comunity will at some point stop being bigots, and you’re using grace in your words to go about it and reach out to them with a love that they themselves haven’t shown. Anyways, this is just basically me trying to say i admire what you’re doing and support you whole heartedly. It’s been forever since we talked, but i will always consider you a friend 🙂 keep being you!

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