Finding God and Resurrection in Queer Marriages and Intimacies

Today’s post is from guest contributor Barbara Anne Kozee, who is a doctoral student in Theological Ethics at Boston College and holds an M.Div. from Santa Clara University. As a Queer Catholic, Barb researches sexual and family ethics, queer feminist theology, and political ethics. Follow her on Twitter: @barbkozee.

Today’s liturgical readings for 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time can be found here.

I have come to love the puzzling marriage and family texts from the Gospels, like we have today in Luke, where Jesus appears rather anti-family and anti-marriage. I like these texts because they challenge many assumptions that the Western church and culture use to define the good life. These scriptural texts require a response from us as Christians, presenting opportunities for Queer Catholics to contribute to conversations about the lived experience of marriage and family.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is challenged on the possibility of a bodily resurrection. The predicament concerns a woman who has remarried several times after the subsequent deaths of her husbands: Whose wife will she be at the resurrection? In his classic manner, instead of answering the question directly, Jesus responds, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:34-36).

In her monograph on gender in Luke’s gospel, Turid Karlsen Seim, a biblical scholar, writes that this text is representative of the Lukan Jesus’ belief that practicing celibacy anticipates the resurrection. Early Christian aesthetics and Greek Christian philosophers used this text in debates about the meaning of a bodily, fleshy resurrection and what aspects, if any, of sex and gender will remain in Heaven. Scriptural texts like these were used to justify a hierarchy of approaches to sex: a “perfect” spiritual life requires celibacy, and marriage is for lay people seeking the best of the undesirable alternatives. This history, which of course also condemned queer relationships, is one that Christian sexual ethicists are still confronting and undoing today.

Moving away from how the early Church regarded the text as a justification for their positions on marriage, sex, and celibacy, how might we read this text in light of Jesus’ central Gospel messages? We can do this by thinking about marriage in light of what Jesus is saying here about resurrection.

Theologian Outi Lehtipuu writes that, instead of contrasting worldly marriage with marriage in the afterlife, Luke’s emphasis is on a difference between two groups of people: “children of this age” and “children of the resurrection.” These groups are not differentiated by time, but by ethical characteristics and by what it means to be Christian. Luke’s Jesus presents a theology of his own resurrection with implications for the here-and-now.

This is good news! This is exciting and mysterious news! The celibacy facet of this text becomes less central. Instead, we are called to reflect on what aspects of our experiences of relationship, marriage, family, intimacy, and/or partnership allow us to know God and the resurrection in embodied ways.

Reading this text in this “marriage-affirming” way is especially important for Queer Catholics, who are told by magisterial teaching that our only vocation is the celibate lifestyle. The good of marriage has been confirmed by the experiences of a wide variety of genders and sexualities in Christian community. The marital as well as intimate experiences of Queer Catholics especially help us to see beyond gender complementarity and the biological, nuclear family. Our experiences illuminate ways of being in relationship to each other that define what it means to be the “children of the resurrection” that today’s Gospel calls us to be. Christian relationship is defined by intimacy, commitment, care, joy and suffering, and familial participation in community and society.

At the risk of sounding overly romantic about the marriage institution, today I am reveling in the gift of knowing God through our relationships and the ability to see glimpses of the resurrection in the sacredness of queer intimacies.

Barbara Anne Kozee, November 6, 2022

1 reply
  1. Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy
    Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy says:

    I wonder whether in Matthew 19.12 Jesus is trying to say something about gay relationships, without having in 1st-century Aramaic the linguistic and conceptual framework needed to do so clearly.


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