The role of the Queering Spirit is to lead us out of the constructs that exclude and divide us from God, creation, one another and ourselves. “The Spirit acts both in and out of the church to subvert this sinful tendency to idolatry, of making ultimate what is merely contingent and unstable, even if valuable in itself.” Thus the alignment of Spirit with queer theology — both centrally act to “trouble” what seems most normal. In this concluding section, I would like to gesture toward Scriptural directions indicative of the Queering Spirit.
First, the Queering Spirit acts as advocate for the accused queer person. As the defense counsellor “knows that the victim is hated without cause, and constantly declares the victim’s innocence… (The Spirit) does this by constantly bringing to memory the real story, which happened historically, of the teaching and the works of Jesus.” In this connection, Jesus’ teaching that the Spirit will bring Jesus’ words to mind, and even guide us into the things which “you cannot bear now” (cf. John 16:12–15) is to point to the Spirit’s queering action. If the Spirit is Paraclete, this is most clearly expressed where the Spirit is overturning “norms” of justice and vindicating the wrongly accused, thus queering our sense of justice. Here queer theology “hopes to allow the Spirit room to transform us, to tell us who we are, rather than us trying to dictate the terms.”
Second, and crucially, the Spirit’s queering action is paradigmatically expressed in the inclusion of the Gentiles in Acts 10 and 15. Peter’s vision of the lowered blanket with unclean creatures, the Spirit’s admonition not to call unclean what God has called clean, the falling of the Spirit on the Gentiles, and the Jerusalem council’s confession that “it seemed right to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28, NRSV) to include the Gentiles fully, are all clear examples of queering action. In considering these events we must remember that this was obviously transgressive. “Peter was on to something important. His was a precedent-setting theological argument: clear evidence of the presence of the Holy spirit… overrules any particular regulation.” We need to remember that this was not easy to accept, and viewed as clearly wrong by many Jewish Christians for sometime after. Based on this precedent, we should expect the work of the Spirit to be queering action which transgresses our sense of boundaries in startling ways.
Finally, as the Nicene Creed confesses, we know the Spirit as the one who “spake by the prophets.” While we have largely lost the office of the prophet in Western Christianity, this role constitutes one of the “two main poles in the preaching office. One is the instituted pole of the hierarchy… The other is formed by the prophetic tradition, by people who may be members of the hierarchy, but more often are not.” The prophetic office exists specifically to “trouble” or “queer” the tendency of the hierarchy to become static and oppressive. “It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the hierarchywants to urge as the only thinkable one.” Here the Spirit that speaks by the prophets is the one whose queering action makes visible how any norm will, after time, become oppressive and need to be reimagined, challenged, reformed.
The resources of queer theology, therefore, make a substantial contribution to our understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit. Far from a mere subordinate who enables us to believe in Christ, the Spirit “blows where it wills,” troubling and problematizing our idols, drawing us with Christ into the wilderness of uncertainty beyond our structures of “normal.” By building this conception of the Spirit into our vision of Trinitarian faith, we make clear that part of Christian practice is remaining open to the queering action of the Spirit; we are unsurprised when challenges come to our norms from the marginalized and transgressive, and are attentive to the ways these voices might be leading us further into truth. Following the paradigms of the Jerusalem Council, and expecting the Spirit to say things now which could not bear before, we rehabilitate the office of the prophet and become again and pneumatic people. Our identity (or anti-identity) is “queer” for we are united, through the Queered Christ by the Queering Spirit, to the Queer Father, the Triune “Other” that cannot be collapsed into our systems. As a queer people, we gather around the table and share the all-inclusive meal, calling on the Queering Spirit to join us in our multiplicity.
James Forbes, “Introduction,” in Homosexuality and Christian Faith, ed. Walter Wink (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1999), 1.
James V. Brownson, Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013), 10.
José Comblin, The Holy Spirit and Liberation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1989), 153.
Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001), 40.