The following is an excerpt of my book in progress. The section preceding this can be found here.
I hear my own grating voice in the accusations of the priest.
You greedy, money-grubbing humans. Malcontent miscreants. What delights did the fruit offer you that you did not already possess? Be content with the status quo. Do not desire what you were not ordained to touch. Shame. Shame. Shame.
I don’t know quite how to extricate myself from this myth, nor am I sure that I want to. Divine rejection is an earth-trembling drama that borders the erotic, and often strays into its territory. The recitation of the story can evoke an orgasmic catharsis of pain enmeshed with pleasure.
I am not trying to be crass, but to be honest about how the language of god gets tangled up with desire, belonging, and sexuality.
My eyes wander through the rooms of my adolescent psyche and look at the Christian teen girl magazines and books I read back then. Brio Magazine and Christian courtship books made one thing very clear: God was my first love, my true husband.
But satisfaction, bodily belonging, was a dream deferred. In a masochistic sort of irony, God was the giver of all gifts, but no gift would satisfy like the gift of himself.
God the Ultimate Provider/Bread-Winner/Husband might one day provide a human husband, but this good and godly man would disappoint me if I relied on him to sate my deepest longings. Sexual desire, intimacy, longing--these were not bad exactly, just paltry compared compared to infinite divine joy.
I see this divine-human performance as kind of iconoclastic pornography. It thrives in evangelical purity culture by fetishizing the idea of absence and imagelessness. Purity culture likes its god formless and void.
The absence is fraught with both pain and pleasure. The return of God is anticipated with both joy and fear.
Pulled in the currents of purity culture, it wasn’t just the divine body that we pushed away with dread, but our own. The fear of being caught up in desire produced a loathing of our own bodies for wanting to touch what we’d been told we shouldn’t want.
But we did long.
So we learned that porneia was best as graphe, writing. We developed a supra-visual way of talking about desire that flung God in between everything because we didn’t have the guts to say ‘I.’
There it is, beloved. I say it now, and weep for the shame of it, for the scandal I never wanted to be.
I thirst. I hunger. I long to feel naked and unashamed.
A woman’s body is vile. It is the sin for which there is no pardon. I cannot wash away the stain of my flesh. And so I hide in the abstraction of a disemboweled god because I can’t bear my flesh.
No more. I want all to be laid bare. I want this woman’s body--this white, cisgender woman’s body--to know itself. I want to reckon with it unafraid, to read the symbols poured into it and the symbols pouring out of it. I want this body to know its power and where its weight moves in the global map of bodies.
I am a comprised of many parts like the Scorpion People, the Lamassu, the Cherubim. I want to know each facet of my liminal body.
Forever in the dark about my sin--that was the story of my childhood. Humans were bad apples and I was no exception. But the cause of the rot or what I could do about it, I never knew. No solutions, just general shame mixed with bits of hope that one day this world and this desperate body would pass away.
But now, now I refuse to grope around in the dark. Let the body be known. Let the disparate stories written in my skin be told. Let the names be read aloud in the assembly. I want no more to do with abstract sins and invisible offenses.
Catch me up in the stories of our days, the histories of race, gender, class, religion, and politics. I will not lament my body, only the stories inscribed on my blood that have enslaved other bodies and denied them the right to be bodies unashamed. I want no more of the sordid, colorblind privilege of a general, unspecific “sin nature.”
There is nothing natural about racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. These stories are made. These global traumas are of human manufacture. I refuse to believe that fear of the body--and the terror of particular bodies cultivated by the myths of white supremacy--are the final or most powerful stories.
And to say I refuse is to say I desire. I imagine. I dream of a world where the global body is not afraid to know itself, in all its composite parts. I long for a body that will not waste away with amnesia for fear of confronting the invisible myths that sustain it.
Expose my stories, undo me. Let the world be written anew.