Why do I relate to the figure of Satan? Why, in my deconstruction, has the figure of Satan emerged as the far more sympathetic, heroic, and interesting character? I can go on and on about post-modernist reframings of classic stories (if Gregory Maguire can do it with the Wicked Witch of the West why can’t I do it with Satan?) but, none of that really gets to the heart of it. I think, for me, it all goes back to being gay.
Growing up in a conservative pocket of the Presbyterian church, where we both spoke in tongues and read John Calvin, homosexuality was seen as a particularly horrific manifestation of the brokenness of creation. One theologian I read – I can’t remember who – described same sex attraction as a sort of unwinding or uncreating of the intended order of the world. Reality was broken by human sin, and my orientation was a direct, irreversible manifestation of that fact.
When it eventually became apparent that I couldn’t change, I was left living out the Old Testament prohibition against men with “crushed stones” from entering the Temple of God, but in a much more subtle, metaphysical sense. I could not experience the fullness of God’s intended order in this life because my sexuality was broken, “crushed”, as it were, and my sexual lens was a hallucination. No matter how kind, generous, or welcoming my Christian friends were, that never erased the horrific consequences of their theology.
In other words, my deep sexual desires and impulses were in themselves profane, blasphemous, and contrary to God. I have always been an abomination, no matter how hard I worked to be otherwise. Is it any wonder, then, that Satan is the more appealing figure to me, now? The father of all abominations and outsiders, the father of those who dare to challenge, question, and rebel?
In popular culture children of Satan are often portrayed as having a deep, self-destroying hatred of holy objects. Crucifixes, churches, bibles and priests all send the infernal into a triggered conniption. That’s true, but not true for the reasons popular mythology put forth.
The damned are eviscerated by religious symbolism because it was under that symbolism that we were raped, abused, tortured into another orientation, scalded by good intentions. Those of us outside the traditional kingdom of God are tortured by the presence of holy icons and talismans not because we are so very evil, but because the religious systems of abuse are. I still love church, Christianity, and the Bible, but too many of the Church’s symbols and practices send me into a tailspin. They just hurt too much.
I therefore claim blasphemy and Satan, not as the icon for all that is evil, but as an unapologetic embrace of being outsider. It’s the acknowledgement that it isn’t I who was wrong, but the Church.
If this strikes my fellow Christian readers as horrifically heartbreaking and tragic, my only answer is, “good.” It is heartbreaking. It breaks my heart, too, but identifying with Satan and claiming my status as abomination to systems of power with no apology is an act of healing and empowerment for me. My only hope is that the church will get their act together, and not just their act – their theology, too. Because it’s theology, truly, where the problem lies. It’s the theology that is broken, and if the church has any hope of not making more children of Satan, the theology itself must change. As Douglas Lain pointed out in his book Bash Bash Revolution, “people want to fix the world without changing it.”
Too many Christians want to fix the problem of how LGBT people have been treated without changing the theology. I hope it happens; but I’m not holding my breath.
And in the meantime, in addition to Jesus, I have Satan.