A Queer Response to Hallmark Christmas Programming
When Hallmark recently wavered between caving to pressure from conservative Christians and claiming to support the LGBTQ community, one central element was missing from the controversy’s discussion: Christmas.
After the Hallmark Channel aired a commercial depicting a lesbian couple’s wedding during their non-stop Christmas movie programming, a group of conservative Christian women protested the association of “inappropriate content” with family-friendly Christmas movies. After further protest from LGBTQ groups, decrying the suppression of queer representation in 2019, Hallmark reversed its decision and has resumed airing the ad featuring the lesbian couple.
Admittedly, I am not a connoisseur of Hallmark Christmas movies, but as a Catholic, I take their supposed subject—Christmas—very seriously. And because I take Christmas seriously, I think queer relationships should be associated with Christmas more regularly.
Central to the Christmas message is Jesus’ type of birth depicted in the Gospels. Catholic theologians highlight how the birth of Jesus was so very different from all other births. They point to the star of Bethlehem, the Magi visitors, the angelic song announcing Jesus’ birth as messages that this birth was not like any other birth.
Liberation theologians take this one step further to say that these signs of uniqueness highlight the other aspect of Jesus’ birth: the fact that the son of God is born a poor, rejected outcast. In entering into the world as an outcast, God not only expresses solidarity with the poor and marginalized, God assumes the identity of the outcast. The supernatural uniqueness that accompanies the low birth of Jesus signifies God’s solidarity with the weak.
In other words, Jesus’ birth was very queer.
Queer theologian Patrick Cheng defines “queer” as that which breaks down boundaries. For Catholics and Christians everywhere, the Christmas event is a shattering of boundaries of all kinds. First, Christmas destroys the boundary between the divine and the human. God enters into the messiness of human life in the birth of Jesus.
Most importantly, Christmas destroys the boundary between the powerful and the weak. By Jesus being born in stable, having been rejected by people of Bethlehem, as the child of Galilean peasants, God fundamentally queers the social construct of power. In a world dominated by religious and political elite, God quietly initiates the saving mission of Jesus Christ in a barn, far from any centers of worldly power. God does not announce the Messiah at the Temple or in the courts of the Roman governor or through client King Herod, but the angels sing the birth of Jesus to other outcasts: shepherds.
The Gospel birth narratives make it clear that Jesus’ birth, and therefore, Jesus himself does not come for the rich and powerful, but Jesus comes as the marginalized one, and within that weakness is found the infinite power of the almighty God. No longer do we look to those with economic, political, or religious power to find God. God is not to be found there. Christmas reveals that we find God in the poor, the outcast, the oppressed, the marginalized. God is found among the lowly and the weak of the world, rejecting the ins of the world in favor for the outs. True power is found both in the outcasts of the world and bringing those on the margins to the center of society to restore their wholeness.
The LGBTQ community is one of the most marginalized, oppressed, and outcast groups in the Catholic Church. Rejected by the religiously powerful, scorned and degraded by those who claim to love God, queer folks can find their hope in Christmas. For if Jesus were to be born in a stable today, he surely would associate himself with the LGBTQ community. As Catholics, we must find the true power of God within the queer community.
Since Christmas destroys the boundaries between the powerful and the weak, it is a queer event. Christmas is not a time for telling romantic stories that simply happen during the commercialized month of December. It is a time to remind Catholics that Jesus challenges the world to reject power and embrace weakness in the pursuit of making the world whole. One way to do that is to highlight queer love during Christmas. Thus, from a queer theology perspective, the commercial featuring a lesbian wedding during a Christmas-themed show was not only not offensive, it was actually highly appropriate for this queer holiday.
Though rejected by the religious elite, LGBTQ folks love each other and the world endlessly, and they are able to create a more whole world for themselves and future generations, thus making the Christmas message come alive more than 2000 years later.
—Kevin Molloy, New Ways Ministry, December 23, 2019
Enjoyed reading your article with one very notable exception.
I felt excluded and offended by the use of the Q-word.
I am a Gay man and do NOT like or accept the appellation, “queer,” to describe myself or other Gay People I know.
Please DO NOT use that ugly, vicious word, “QUEER,” to refer to me or any other Gay Person who does not accept it willingly.
If you want to use the Q-word to describe yourself, that is your right. But, please do not force it upon those of us who see it as a term of derision and bigotry.
I have been violently Gay Bashed several times, and in each instance the “Queer” word was used by the anti-Gay criminals involved.
In addition, I have been fighting for Gay Civil Rights since the beginning of the movement 50 years ago: I can attest that the Enemies of Gay People have been using the “Queer” word against us since then — and long before.
And they still do.
Most people would no longer dare to tell members of a minority group what words to use when referring to themselves. Would you, for example, tell African-American women what word they should use to talk about/describe themselves? I don’t think anyone would want to do that.
Then why have Gay Men had the horrible word “Queer” imposed on themselves by others — by a seemingly misguided group?
James E. D’Eramo, Ph.D.
What a beautiful message. Thank you for the reminder that Christmas, often sanitized as a celebration of material gifts, is a radical and beautiful demonstration of our Creator’s love for those in the margins.