The Queering Spirit, part 3
Current Queer Pnuematology
What role, then, does the Holy Spirit play in queer theology? If, as noted above, we can describe the Spirit as the “queerest” of the Trinity, we might expect a significant consideration of the Spirit’s work in “queering.” Surprisingly, this is not the case. There are seldom references to the Spirit in the work of queer theologians; indeed, one will search the topical index of critical books and anthologies of queer theology in vain for entries referring to “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit.” While there is ample discussion of the Trinity, this is generally limited to reflection on the perichoretic inter-relationship of the Three persons as a model for equality of relationship. And while the person of Christ as “queered” is examined at length (as we will explore in a later post), the Spirit is given very little treatment. Why might this be? Patrick Cheng is surely right to point out that this is hardly a problem limited to queer theologians:
The Holy Spirit is often marginalized in Western Christianity, which tends to focus on the relationship between the First and Second person of Trinity (that is, God and Jesus Christ). It is no surprise, therefore, that pneumatology, or the study of the Holy Spirit, is an underdeveloped subject in queer theology.
While Western pneumatology is a thin field in general, one might expect the “marginalization” of the Spirit to catch the attention of queer theologians. But there is another potential reason that the Spirit has been overlooked, and that Christ is given disproportionate focus. As queer theology is deeply interested in the performance of bodies, the incarnate Christ is more obviously aligned with this project. “Christ is seen as fully embodied and queer Christians understand their sexuality as a force for seeking justice and connecting beyond the boundaries of their own skins and that of their lovers.” Given this interest in the body, it is understandable that the Spirit is seen as less readily useful for the purposes of queer theology.
Cheng is an exception to this pneumatological silence, devoting a section of his book Radical Loveto the Holy Spirit. While Cheng still ties the Spirit largely to Church and Sacrament (giving the bulk of the chapter titled “Holy Spirit” to ecclesiology), he draws out the idea that the Holy Spirit is “the return to radical love… a love so extreme it dissolves all boundaries.” Cheng provides two images of the Spirit. First, he likens the Spirit to “gaydar” — the ability some gay people seem to have to recognize and move toward other gay people intuitively. Even so, the Spirit “helps direct us to radical love, whether Divine or human.” Second, the Spirit is seen as “dissolver of boundaries… that we normally think of as fixed or impermeable.” These include sexuality/church, private/public, unity/diversity, and law/lawlessness. Still, even this analysis of the Spirit remains meager compared to Cheng’s exploration of the Father and the Son.
See, for example: Daniel A. Helminiak, “The Trinitarian Vocation of the Gay Community,” Pastoral Psychology, 36, no. 2 (1987), 104ff; Gavin D’Costa, “Queer Trinity”, in Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body,ed. Gerard Loughlin (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 269ff; Buechel, 136ff.