by Alyse Knorr
Easter is about new beginnings and fresh starts. This Easter, take a fresh look at the New Testament with these amazing passages from the gospels, all of which take on special weight when viewed through a queer lens. You’ll find enough discussion of love, justice, and forgiveness in here to reflect on the whole rest of the year. So celebrate your identity—and the identity of your family members!—with a little bit of scripture.
1. The Beautitudes (Matthew 5:2-11)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
It would be hard not to start with this classic list of blessings delivered by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. The lyrical beauty and deep sense of mystery in these verses make them a powerful source of comfort for suffering people. These are great ones to commit to memory and recite to yourself in times of trouble. My favorite part? “Blessed are those who are persecuted.” Ka-pow!
Bonus: Matthew 5:14-16, the verses just after the Beautitudes, are also from the Sermon on the Mount, and they also rule:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
To me, these verses are about being yourself proudly and openly, no matter what—a powerful message for any LGBTQIA person. Plus, they inspired a pretty awesome song.
2. Anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34)
“Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, LGBTQ people are three times more likely to experience a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression. When anxiety rears its ugly head for me, I like to turn to the Psalms and to this famous passage from Matthew. Prayer, scripture reading, and scripture memorization can be meditation aids to help you find calm. And this passage is a great start.
Bonus: Another great passage about anxiety is Matthew 7:23-27, the scene in which Jesus and his disciples are all on a boat together and the disciples are totally freaking out about a big storm. Jesus tells them all they need to use faith to quell their anxiety, and then, in a beautiful metaphor to emphasize this idea, the storm suddenly calms.
3. Not judging others (Matthew 7:1-5)
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
This great passage, repeated again later on in Luke, feels super applicable when it comes to LGBTQIA issues. We’re used to feeling judged by others who have no right to judge us. But we have to stay vigilant so that we don’t in turn do the same thing ourselves. It’s that “turn the other cheek” thing all over again! Don’t meet ugliness with ugliness—meet it with compassion.
4. The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12)
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Are you noticing a pattern here? Turn the other cheek, don’t judge those who judge you, and treat others the way you would like to be treated—not necessarily the way they are treating you. These practices can help you deal with day-to-day homophobia, micro-aggressions, and persecution in a way that not only puts more positive energy out into the universe, but also fills you up with positive energy to replace the bad.
5. Love Thy Neighbor (Mark 12:31)
“‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
We’ve gone over loving your enemies, but it’s worth noting that Christianity is all about loving everyone—your friends, your enemies, and strangers you’ve never even met. When we think of love, it’s usually as a very powerful, profound feeling we only experience for our closest friends and family. The radical message of this passage is that we should love everyone. Every single person.
This kind of love takes an extremely open heart, something Borg writes about at length. For instance, he argues that “[t]he opening of the heart is the purpose of spirituality, of both our collective and individual practices….An open heart, compassion, and a passion for justice go together. An open heart feels the suffering and pain of the world and responds to it. Compassion and a passion for justice are the ethical impulse and imperative that go with an open heart.” Can you imagine what the world would look like if everyone loved everyone—if everyone’s hearts were this open? Holy smokes.
You’ll notice, too, that Borg points out how love and justice go hand in hand; according to Borg, justice is the “social form of love.” “To take the God of love and justice seriously,” Borg writes, “means to take justice seriously and to be aware that prolonged injustice has consequences.” Am I the only one who gets chills thinking about that idea?
6. Life vs. Afterlife (Mark 12:27)
“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
This quote is one of my favorite statements attributed to Jesus. One of the biggest misconceptions of Christianity is that it’s all about doing good to get into heaven. In fact, Jesus was much more of a “social prophet” (in Borg’s words) focused on making day to day life on earth better for living people. As humans, we all have to do our best to make our world a better place before we leave it.
7. Radical inclusion (John 6:70-71)
“Then Jesus replied, ‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’ (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)”
Jesus didn’t just preach a message about loving your enemies—he practiced that concept, too. He let Judas hang around with him even though, according to this passage, he knew the guy would eventually betray him and become responsible for Jesus’s own death! And it wasn’t just frienemies that Jesus hung out with—he also hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes, among others. Borg writes that Jesus’s message “subverted the sharp social boundaries of his day. Its most visible public activity was its inclusive meal practice, often targeted by Jesus’ critics. He ate with the marginalized and outcasts. It was eating together as a simultaneously religious and political act done in the name of the Kingdom of God. The meal practice of Jesus affirmed that bread and inclusivity…is the Kingdom of God.”
8. Haters gonna hate (John 7:6-7).
“Therefore Jesus told [his disciples], ‘My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil.’”
Lots of people follow Jesus’s teachings today, so it can be easy to forget how feared and even hated he was during his own time for the progressive ideas he taught about love, inclusion, and acceptance. He was simply way ahead of his time. Many LGBTQIA people have felt this way before—it’s comforting to know we’re in very good company.
For further reading, I highly recommend the works of Marcus Borg and/or The Queer Bible Commentary. You can also look up a Metropolitan Community Church near you, where you might find an LGBQIA Bible study. The United Church has many other great resources here. Good luck, and happy Easter!
Alyse Knorr is the author of two books of poems, Copper Mother (Switchback Books, forthcoming 2015) and Annotated Glass (Furniture Press Books, 2013), as well as the chapbook Alternates (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Caketrain, ZYZZYVA, Drunken Boat, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, among others. She received her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. She is a co-founder and co-editor of Gazing Grain Press, an inclusive feminist press, and teaches English at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
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