For Their Sake

Today’s reflection is by Bondings 2.0 contributor Allison Connelly, whose bio is available here.

Today’s liturgical readings for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time can be found here.

My gay heart twinged with anxiety when I saw that today’s first reading referenced Sodom and Gomorrah. Every gay Christian knows that the “sin of Sodom” is predominantly interpreted as the “sin of homosexuality” (even though the scholarly consensus is that it was the sin of inhospitality). This belief is what led to “sodomy laws” primarily enforced to make same-gender sexual acts illegal. Lest you think such laws are simple history, Justice Clarence Thomas recently revealed that he wants to revisit a Supreme Court case which overturned sodomy laws in Texas. Sodom is still relevant, but in more ways than you might assume.

The good news comes when we move past the first few sentences of our reading from Genesis: no reference to sinful sexuality here! In fact, what we witness in this text is Abraham practicing solidarity and allyship in a big way: he is pleading for the people of Sodom to be spared from divine punishment.

Although Abraham knows full well of the “great outcry” against the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, he puts his relationship with God, and indeed, his relationship with power, on the line to advocate for the wellbeing and survival of these people who face annihilation. In doing so, Abraham is an ally, negotiating strategically with God by reminding God of God’s values. Abraham says to God, “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty!” and “Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”

As queer and trans people, what more could we ask from our allies? Often (and yet not often enough), I witness allies to the LGBTQ community making the same arguments: “Don’t you remember? The greatest commandment is love” or “Didn’t Jesus model our responsibility to care for and include those on the margins?” This commitment to calling people back to their core convictions in the name of justice and liberation: this is allyship at its best.

I often think of this story in my ministry, when I find myself ministering to or with such small groups these days. Small groups of elders who no longer have the capacity to volunteer for the church in the ways they used to. Small groups of teenagers who are totally disconnected from their faith communities after COVID. Small groups of in-person worshippers and small groups of Zoom worshippers, both far fewer in number than pre-pandemic. In my ministry, when I feel weary and worn-out, frustrated to be putting in so much effort for such few people, I find that the roles in this story of Sodom and Gomorrah are reversed. God asks me: “Is this book club worth it for ten elders? Will you run this communion class for four students? Are you willing to invest real time into this worship service for 20 congregants?” In this situation, it is God, and not me, being the ally of those to whom I minister. God reminds me of my values: my commitment to providing comprehensive spiritual nourishment, meaningful faith formation, creative and imaginative liturgical and ritual experiences.

But these values are difficult to live consistently. These days, there is so much that feels defeating and overwhelming: as a queer person, the Supreme Court may possibly re-implement sodomy laws and make my marriage illegal; as a person with a uterus, courts and local governments are stripping me of my ability to make lifesaving healthcare decisions for myself; as a hopeful future parent, national and international governing bodies are destroying the planet my children will inhabit. I mindlessly scroll my newsfeed, wildly oscillating between being devastated and heartbroken at each new injustice and being entirely numb and emotionally disconnected from the constant state of crisis we seem to inhabit.

And yet, God comes to me, ever an ally to the vulnerable, and asks: “Will you do it for their sake? Will you minister to these people, these queer and trans people, these abortion patients and providers, these parents and children who are now and who are yet to be, these created beings threatened by climate catastrophe? Will you do it for them?”

At my best, I feel the support of generations of queer and faithful ancestors who have come before me, who have survived horrific, intentional efforts to destroy those who commit their lives to liberation. At my best, with my community behind, within, and around me, I say: “Yes, God, I will do it for their sake.” At my best, like Abraham standing before God as an ally to Sodom, I say: “I will do it, for the sake of the ten; for the sake of the four; for the sake of the twenty.”

Allison Connelly, July 24, 2022

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