CW: homophobic theology
“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” —Romans 13:11-14 NRSV
When I was given this passage to reflect on, I had a hard time writing about something that was positive. As I was reading the verses surrounding this passage, I remembered that our administration used this chapter of Romans to justify the cruel and inhumane family separations happening on our southern border. Some translations have listed “sexual immoralities” and the use of this phrase has been used to shame individuals, especially women, queer folks, and those with different sexual ethics. Also, any passage mentioning “salvation” reminds me of the exclusive yet intrusive nature of many Christian groups.
I think the salvation here is not something that we receive after we die. I do not think it is living in some golden kingdom in the clouds. Rather, I think of salvation as now and the future. It is the urgent hope that the Advent season is all about. Whenever churches advertise the advent season, hope is one of the buzzwords that appear in large, red and green letters.
While hope brings this sense of optimism that something better will happen, it also brings a sense of naiveté. It brings that “thoughts and prayers” vibe we get from conservative politicians and pastors after another mass shooting reaches the media spotlights. It brings a sense of frustration that comes with just waiting as opposed to something tangible changing.
But I think it is appropriate to have hope, as long as we aim to do something moving forward. I remember after the presidential election in 2016, one of my pastors was reflecting on how true hope for something better comes with action. I describe the hope I see here as urgent hope.
Things need to get better.
Families fleeing violence in their home countries are being mercilessly separated and torn apart at the border. Influential mega-churches are continuing to gaslight and shame LGBTQIA+ folks. Rising sea levels and global temperatures are threatening our planet and our next generation. The list goes on. So much is at stake. We must be attentive.
Counting in the small victories, PAAC is a good example of this urgent hope. Many of us feel isolated and alienated at the church and spiritual spaces we are or used to be a part of. Many of us have not been in a spiritual community for a long time and have found refuge here. For me, as a bisexual Chinese American Christian, I felt stuck in a subliminal space between the conservative Asian American Christian spaces that informed me and my more progressive white friend groups.
Prior to PAAC, most of my spiritual formation came from Asian American Christian groups that I gravitated towards. But I felt isolated and lonely; I felt that I had to tone down my queer, politically vocal self. When I was processing and learning more about my sexuality in college, I felt stabbed when individuals in my Christian groups would either outright condemn LGBTQ+ identities as sinful or consider sexuality a secondary or tertiary theological concern.
PAAC was that urgent hope, that urgent haven, for me to feel safer as a queer and as a Christian.
But our sense of urgent hope should transform within PAAC and go beyond as well. In order for PAAC to be a safe haven for ALL progressive Asian American Christians, we need to continue to assess whose voices are amplified and whose are not. We need to address the allosexual, gender binary, East Asian normativity that tends to permeate Asian American spaces.
We must as a community also live out our urgency for hope by speaking out to the larger, mainstream society. PAAC has embodied that through speaking out against John MacArthur’s “Social Justice and the Gospel,” the UMC’s vote in February, and to Bethel’s conversion therapy program. We have also vocally sided with the protestors in Hong Kong.
But on an individual level, we as PAAC members should live out our urgent hope through voting and contacting elected officials or encouraging others to do so. Vote in 2020, but also remember to pay attention to the Democratic primaries and to the impeachment inquiry. This sort of involvement is what I think about when I think of the Advent principle of hope.
What are you urgently hoping for? What are things you are adding or doing in your life for you to get closer to that urgent hope? What are things in your life that you think are preventing you from accessing this hope?
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