I attended chapel service at Episcopal Divinity School the Tuesday after Easter. It was what we refer to as "alternative week" for liturgy and it was the annual Queer Week offering from the students on campus. I attended to be supportive of my former classmates still in school there and to my delight my friend Keith Patterson asked me to do a reading. When he handed it to me it was an excerpt from the great Audre Lord's "The Erotic as Power" with which I am intimately acquainted.
I am including the text of that reading below in italics followed by the reflection on the reading that my friend Keith gave that morning. He is a powerful example of ministry, friendship and leadership. He taught me much in my time at EDS and continues to be an example of living into a persistent call to ordained ministry, even though the church does not celebrate his gay gifts of ministry. Read the Audre Lorde's words and then read Keith's. I hope you feel the power I felt in both.
Audre Lorde – Uses of the Erotic – The Erotic as Power
To share the power of each other’s feelings is different from using another’s feelings as we would use a Kleenex. When we look the other way from our experience, erotic or otherwise, we use rather than share the feelings of those others who participate in the experience with us. And use without consent of the used is abuse.
In order to be utilized, our erotic feelings must be recognized. The need for sharing deep feeling is a human need. But within the european-american tradition, this need is satisfied by certain proscribed erotic comings-together. These occasions are almost always characterized by a simultaneous looking away, a pretense of calling them something else, whether a religion, a fit, mob violence or even playing doctor. And this misnaming of the need and the deed give rise to that distortion which results in pornography and obscenity—the abuse of feeling.
When we look away from the importance of the erotic in the development and sustenance of our power, or when we look away from ourselves as we satisfy our erotic needs in concert with others, we use each other as objects of satisfaction rather than share our joy in the satisfying, rather than make connection with our similarities and our differences. To refuse to be conscious of what we are feeling at any time, however comfortable that might seem, is to deny a large part of the experience, and to allow ourselves to be reduced to the pornographic, the abused, and the absurd.
The erotic cannot be felt secondhand.
[We need] to risk sharing the erotic’s electrical charge without having to look away.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
A Reflection on the Words of Audre Lorde
March 25, 2008
The theme of this week’s Morning Prayer in a queered style is "resurrection."
What do we die to? What do we rise to?
Preparing for Kwok Pui-Lan’s class in “Spirituality for the Contemporary World,” I read this section and had my own resurrection of a question that periodically arouses a question in my mind—“How do I help facilitate the healing of the rupture of the sexual and the spiritual?” I think this question is relevant to my coming to understand the mysteries that have transpired this past Holy Week which focused on the passion of Christ as well as the glories of Eastertide.
I speak only from my experience and my observations as being a person who often stands at a peculiar angle and distance from the LBGT community. Being a person of faith I am often viewed with suspicion within the particular community in which I circulate.
Lorde provides some prophetic analysis of the dangers we as a people, particularly queer people face when seeking live our lives fully.
So many Gay men have put aside the religious or spiritual because of the incongruence of religion/spirituality to their sexuality. They have been told that their form of love is unnatural and has no place in the Kingdom of God – they have no place in the Kingdom of God. Too often they have succumbed, I have succumbed to a brand of “looking the other way” when faced with the dichotomy of being either sexual or spiritual. Usually spirituality is the loser in this game. Sometimes the encounters we have with people are as Lorde describes them pornographic and abusive. The sacredness, the hunger being sought becomes elusive. Is it any wonder that [for some of us old enough to remember] Peggy Lee’s song of the sixties, “Is that all there is?” comes to mind. The God-shaped hole longs to be filled. What sometimes happens is the hole is not filled with God but with things, with substances.
In order become consonant with St. Iranaeus of Lyon’s dictum that “the glory of God is humanity fully alive” we will need to die to old constructions of being both sexual and spiritual.