Moreover, what difference would it make if she sits down to write theology without underwear?
–Marcella Althaus-Reid, Indecent Theology
I fell in love with Stained Gallery on Instagram. That building, that space, and how it’s used embodies the intersection of faith and culture. The former Fort McPherson military base chapel turned art gallery represents the meshing of the sacred and the secular. It is a depiction of how we live our lives.
Most of us have been trained to compartmentalize our spiritual life and keep it away from our secular, everyday life. Sure, we’re told to pray every day and to carry God with us daily, but we also like to separate God from our work commutes where we blast trap music, our late nights in the clubs, and our sex and masturbation session. But if God is omnipresence, isn’t God present in all of these moments?
We like to treat our relationship with God like a sectional plate (shout out to Whitney for the simile), but in reality, our relationship with God is like the messy Thanksgiving plates
we yall (I stayed in bed all day) just devoured. The juice runs everywhere. The greens intermingle with the mac and cheese. It all touches and mixes, and that is okay.
For most of my life I’ve been accused of either being too spiritual or too secular (sexual to be exact), and for a long time I wrestled with that. I struggled with making my embedded theology (what I had been taught from childhood about God, sex, and culture) fit with who I was as a person. God and my spirituality have always been an integral part of who I am, but so have my love of music, culture, and sex. I can’t separate either from myself because it’s all essential to who I am as a person, and I don’t think that’s sinful to a loving and liberating God.
I grew up in a pretty conservative religious tradition, so it wasn’t until I read the words of Marcella Maria Althaus-Reid, a theologian known for her work in liberation, feminist, and queer theology, that I truly felt seen and liberated.
“There are those who go to gay bars and salsa clubs with rosaries in their pockets, and who make camp chapels of their living rooms. Others enter churches with love letters hidden in their bags, because their need for God and their need for love refuse to fit into different compartments.”
–Marcella Althaus-Reid, The Queer God
“ISSA ME!!!” I wrote in the margins. This was me. Always taking God into places I was taught God didn’t belong. Night clubs. Trap music singalongs. My bedroom. God was in all those places with me. God is in all those places with us all. That is the gift I wanted to give guests at my 38th birthday party when I chose Stained Gallery as the venue. I wanted to give them a visual of what it looked like when the sacred and the secular intersect.
What I didn’t notice when I did my walk-through of the facility was that the communion table was still in the art gallery. All throughout the day, while decorating and throughout the party, I kept meditating on the words written across that table: Do this in remembrance of me. “This is what God wants for us,” I thought, “to be happy, free, and caring for others.”
What we were doing — creating a safe space where all were welcomed, where all were safe, where all were free, where all were cared for — that is what God has called us to do in remembrance of Christ.
When I shared my initial reflections on social media, Courtney got it. “I purposely didn’t take a bunch of pictures because I am trying to just be present,” she replied, “but I had a whole religious experience. I kept thinking, ‘Damn! So many people would be mad about the DJ using the communion table, but this is life, this is freedom, this is deliverance. This is everything that table promises.”
We drank Hennessy and tequila and danced to our favorite songs in an old chapel surrounded by Christian symbols and beautiful artwork, and it was holy. We saw the sacred in the secular, and God was in that place.
I’m grateful for a God who is present in all places. I’m grateful for people who respect God’s sacred presence in the secular. And I’m grateful for friends who reflect God’s love back to me.
Oh, and I wrote this whole piece while not wearing panties. Thanks, Marcella, for giving this woman permission to be free in God.
Cheers to Chapter 38!