The Queerness of Christian Theology

Long before I had theoretical or historical knowledge to fully articulate my idea, I always found many aspects of Christian theology to be either contradictory or unusual when recognizing the broader context. Let me explain with a specific example. Lots of thoughts below that some will find uncomfortable but that have been on my mind for years. 

Christian theology says that the Church is the bride of Christ. This is a very queer aspect of this theology. (This is not to be confused with Queer Theology, which would be completely different.)

The Church, according to dominant Christian theology, consist of people who have been saved or “born again.” These people are men and women.

Thus, things get interesting. Even more interesting when all of the history and biology and relevant social constructions are factored in.

Specifically, if the Church consist of men and women and the Church is the bride of Christ, who is deemed to be male, we have a situation where the ultimate result is all kinds of blurring and bending of ethical, gender, and sexual mores.  

For example, this theology has Christ, the son of the Christian God, marrying a group that consist of both men and women. Here we have manifestations of same-sex marriage, the feminization of men, polygamy, and/or polyamory.

Additionally, aspects of Christian theology hold that marriages are dissolved in heaven and that everyone is brother and sister. So the result, in some ways, is people who were married, become brother and sister (including any offspring they had as humans), and then marry Jesus. In addition to the above, here we have some kind of incestial relationship resulting, added to the fact that Christian theology says that we are all children of God/Jesus and therefore, brothers with Jesus/God. 

The above are all ways in which this theology is very queer – weird, abnormal, and depends on a blurring of what is considered normal and what is followed elsewhere. 

Of course, there are social constructions involved every step when looking at history and science. We know that marriage is always changing and is brand new, historically, when considered millions and billions of years. We also know that the categories of “male” and “female” are irrelevant and inaccurate when science is recognized.  

The above also helps show how problematic any theology is because it depends on applying socially constructed concepts and ideas based on knowledge available in a specific time and place to all times and all places, including those beyond this planet. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda



Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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37 replies

  1. An interesting look at this. Thank you for sharing

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  2. And you can add to that the strange fact that Holy Communion can be seen as cannibalism if the claim that the bread and the wine are the actual body and blood of Christ is taken to be true. However, I think that the idea of the church as the “bride of Christ” is meant in the context of the church as an institution, not the church as a collection of men and women. In the Catholic tradition (and theology), the “church” has a separate meaning and existence that’s not dependent on who its members are, be they men, women, or prairie dogs. Go figure!

    Another reaction to your comments: to say that “the categories of “male” and “female” are irrelevant and inaccurate when science is recognized,” is an over-reach. There are theories and interpretations that would support this statement, but there are long-standing paradigms that affirm the reality of those categories. I doubt we’ll know anytime soon.

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    • Hello there!
      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      Communion is absolutely a form of ritualized cannibalism.

      And yes, even if we look at the Church as an institution, “marrying” an institution is very queer itself.

      Re: the categories of “male” and “female” – for sure lots of debate, for sure controversial, but this is something I have read a great deal about and have passionate feelings about – non-essentlists research for decades has pointed to the countless ways in which our two categories of sex are invalid.

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  3. Things/expressions in the Bible are often analogies in a man’s attempt to get across the Christian relationships with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. When the Bible says the church (both men and women) are the Bride of Christ, it merely means that Christ loves His church (defined as a “body of believers” regardless of Catholic/Protestant or denomination–just believers) it merely means that Christ loves (agape love) his followers AS a bridegroom loves his bride. When we get to heaven, our souls will meld with the entity of God (a little like Dr.Spock’s mind-meld maybe LOL) and their will be no sexes in heaven. If a man and his first wife go to heaven when they die and they have had second Christian soulmates on earth, all four will meld into the presence of God. No one will wonder will I be with my first love or my second. To label sisters and brothers in Christ as incestious is just silly.

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  4. Something I found interesting in this article was how you pointed out different ways that Christians have taken some things in religion such as how men can only be priests in the Catholic Church or how the man is the head of the family because it fits the narrative that the patriarchy has put into place. When you look at different aspects of it such as the queerness of the church being the bride of Christ, it can fit a different narrative for someone else if need be but that isn’t what is considered to be factual. Just like history, everything in religion today that is told as fact fits the narrative that the people privileged enough to be shaping the writing of history want.

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  5. I would have to agree to disagree on this subject. Much of religion is just full of analogies and hidden meanings. I believe since the bible was translated over and over for so many centuries that some of the contexts weren’t properly added for whatever reasons. In my opinion I do not believe that since Christ sanctifies the marriage that he is somehow related into a polygamous marriage with him marrying couple. That seems to be strained a little to far to justify what you’re trying to point out. However, I find it very interesting that I was taught that marriage and other earthly aspects are thrown out when entering the kingdom of heaven. As a middle schooler I questioned this heavily but was never given a full answer. Almost as if they didn’t want to believe it themselves. It must stem from the whole belief that women essentially came from Adam and that we’re all related from them. Since we’re all related in some way or form we all become “brothers and sisters.”

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  6. It’s funny how many contradictions there are in the bible yet people refuse to see beyond. I think any text is up for interpretation, no matter how “holy” it is.

    -Thalia Trinidad

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  7. This brings up a very interesting point of view that i had never personally thought about. I think that religion as a whole is extremely difficult to discuss because it tends to be very inconsistent. Many focus on certain aspects of the Bible, but ignore others. They pick and choose what it is they want for people to know. It is a debate that can go back and fourth for a very longtime, and really there is no right answer. Things tend to contradict each other, which makes it difficult for one to know what to believe.

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  8. Very interesting topic, especially being raised into a Christian Family. I never took into consideration the contradictions in which the Bible implies. For 20 years I only had knowledge of us all being gods children, not realizing we’re marrying a brother or sister!

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  9. These are very interesting thoughts Dr. Pegoda, I never thought about how contradicting the Bible is. I always knew the Bible had hidden messages, but as for the conflicting topic of incest in the bible – it amazes me. If Christianity really believes we are all brothers and sisters then that would mean they endorse incestual relationships. It is interesting how Christians make the argument that God prohibits homosexual relationships yet this does not recognize the weird unusual relationships spoken in the bible.

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    • Although the text can be taken as conflicting, I do believe that a lot of what is said such as we are all brother and sister and the marital relationships that will take place can also be seen as metaphorical in some aspects. Not everything is meant to be taken literally and it is up for interpretation of the reader.

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  10. Queer, with the connotation of weird or abnormal would describe this situation, from my point of view. However, queer, in regards to the LGBTQ community doesn’t fit quite the same. Perhaps that literal look at the text was what happened but I infer that the metaphorical use of marriage was the intended message. Perhaps “marriage to jesus” was an allusion towards the deep bond a heteronormative marriage may bring. An allusion to a deep love, and if placed in the lord, offered transcendence. Or maybe not, who knows!

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  11. The Bible, in my own personal experience and studies, is full of contradictions. On the note of polygamy/polyamory, christian couples who marry and acknowlege god as an active participant in their relationship miiight fall under polyamorous? But if thats true wouldn’t /all/ seemingly monogamous relationships in which one or both partners consult some form of personified higher being fall under polyamorous? The invisible addition to an otherwise monogamous couple could be explained as a poly relationship. The sexism blatantly exhibited in the Bible (as well as most other older religious texts) creates a powerful and alienating disconnect. It is warped and used to justify the power constructs and opression within the patriarchal/cishet institution. I’ve often tried to discuss inconsistencies and contradictions within the bible with religious folks and I always leave the conversation exasperated and exhausted. I was recently told that since I date women I am going to hell because I’m destroying the family god intended me to have. When I asked him why it was so bad he said (yes i was mansplained this as well- cherry on top) man and woman were created to procreate and any sexual activity (he automatically assumed sexual activity even though I identify as ace) outside of procreation was evil. So I posed the query- if he and his wife were to use protection or a form of birth control- was that evil? He said no, because god “understood what they were doing was right” At that point I extracted myself from the conversation but it serves as a good example of the flawed logic and exceptionalism christians tend to apply when faced with any “flaws” in the bible. The idea of a higher being and purpose may be helpful and comforting to some but in my experience institutionalized religion is always corrupt in some way and more damaging than helpful. I try to avoid it as a whole.

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  12. I like the contradictions brought up in this piece, as I’ve always thought religion was full of holes and contradictions. It’s made even more interesting when you take into account the idea that religion itself is a social construct (I’m aware not everyone believes this, but I always have), even though it’s been around seemingly forever, it’s been an ever changing entity throughout history and continues to be an ever changing thing.

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  13. As somebody that grew up going to several different churches and religious schools, I’ve eventually just begun to shrug at religion and not take it in such a literal sense. I don’t feel like there’s exactly one right way to interpret the readings — unless it’s something from the Old Testament like “don’t eat animals with cloven hooves” but even then, we don’t really have to follow that anymore — and to simply go along with the ideas of the messages. Still, a good article! Definitely not a way that I’ve thought of interpreting the text before.

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  14. I also think about christian implications of queerness are very interesting. The very story of Adam and Eve is a perfect example. With only two people to procreate obviously their offspring would have to incestuously reproduce. I also think it’s interesting how god is an “All-being, all-seeing person” yet the one thing he cannot be is female or of color. It is also interesting how you bring up the essentialism, i started thinking of that as soon as i began the article. Placing these ideas that may seem queer to us into labels such as cannibalism, polyamory etc., has different implications today than it did in that time period, if any.

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  15. This is an interesting take but in my opinion a far reach. As a student in Dr. Pegoda’s class I feel safe assuming that he is open to metaphorical interpretations of the Bible. I feel that if we can interpret the Bible metaphorically we can and should also interpret the naming of Church structures, the Christian pantheon and such metaphorically as well. In this situation, I don’t think that the Church is literally the Bride of a priest of clergyman. If we were going to interpret it literally like that we might as well say that the Church itself doesnt represent the people, rather it is actually the building and that Jesus and the clergy have married stones and wood. Rather, the Church symbolizes its membership, doctrines, institutions, teachings etc, and the marriage is also symbolic. I don’t think that when this idea was constructed that Jesus or the clergy or whoever was marrying the Church was thought to be a sexual partner for everything and everyone contained in the Church but that it meant that in the same way that in that time a man might labor for his wife and family, these people labored for the church. The same way that in that time someone may have derived joy from looking in their spouses eyes or other intimacies, these people derived that pleasure from their Churchly duties. Allegedly. Furthermore, it should be noted that the idea of being married to the Church only came about because clergy werent allowed to marry so that they didnt reproduce and demand inheritance for their offspring. Lastly, to suppose that people becoming brothers and sisters indicates incest is also a stretch. That just means that we’ll be less hostile towards each other and look out for each other like family.

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  16. Strange for sure. I think this further contributes to the ambiguity of the Bible. As Rain mentioned, by chance the text wasn’t meant to be interpreted in a literal fashion, but rather more metaphorically. Or, maybe it was meant to be interpreted that way, and thinking of it metaphorically is just our attempt to make sense out of what is confusing.

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  17. I’m in absolute love with this blog because I have always been one to challenge the stereotypical Christian “beliefs” that people of the church try and battle me with. It’s helpful to know that not only are there people with the same mindset as me, but that there are so many different examples I can use to show my point and help another understand the battle I face everyday. One I use is that the bible was written many centuries ago, and obviously times have changed, people have evolved, things that weren’t allowed in 1590 are allowed in 2017. However, the Bible hasn’t adapted and been re-written to every single new century/generation/etc. So how do we expect to follow the “rules” of a book thats older than the society we live in.

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  18. I have never actually heard of church being referred to as the bride of Jesus. I am not sure, but I believe the church would argue that they aren’t speaking literally. I am not surprised by all this, because religion can be very contradictory. People also have a history of picking and choosing which aspects of religion they want to follow, and which aspects they want to ignore for the time being.

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  19. Interesting. I had heard the phrase about the church being the bride of Christ before and it has always seemed odd to me. Even as I child I found it to be a silly phrase. Maybe this stems from the high regard placed upon marriage as a holy union. Many Christians teach their children that we all come from Adam and Eve (despite how those same people treat others), so to them becoming brothers and sisters in heaven may not seem so off. These ideas are contradictory to the lessons taught on earth. I found this thread incredibly interesting and consider it to be a great example of the contradictory lessons within Christianity.

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  20. I always found it strange how specific and demanding the church was with who and how you love. It never made sense that if we were created in God’s image with our own free will, that we should be limited in how we feel something like love which is supposed to be a good or positive feeling.

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  21. I grew in a Catholic household and was always told how we were all children of God. When I was younger and would attend Sunday school I asked my teacher if this meant we were all brothers and sisters and were blood related. My teacher said no and was very taken back by my question and sort of offended by me asking this. So, hearing the sort of analogies made by Christianity always surprises me because from what I know the bible was created through men not God. This is why I personally decide to not identify with a church as many of the comments made are contradictory.

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  22. Although I do not like to argue the ideas of church and religion, or the way I interpret it versus the way anyone else interprets it. However, I do see how you are comparing Christian theology and queerness. Just as a YouTube blogger mentioned once, the theory of everyone being slightly queer in one way or another.

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  23. Although I am a catholic, I have to agree with you on one thing that Bible is one of the most confusing thing in the world. There are many ways to interpret it. Somehow people tend to ignore many aspects of the Bible that are opposite to their action. But, I’m pretty sure that the Bible does not teach us to become hostile against a particular group of people. It’s sad to see many people use it as a weapon to fight against queerness.

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  24. It’s funny how I just finished reading the packet about marriage, and I learn that the Catholic church is a bride. The institution itself, married to God. Interesting. It makes sense, though; the church is unified to God. Although, WHY the term “bride” is used confuses me. That really genders God. And I thought God was supposed to be genderless? I’m not familiar with Christianity, so I’m confused. Perhaps followers back then used a gender neutral pronoun for God. But modern times refuses to use “they/ze/” etc. It doesn’t seem like a big deal…but it is. Oh, the patriarchy. ~

    The idea that humans are God’s children is something I knew (as a kid) had to do with spirituality than our bodies. I can see why it seems like incest, that people marry and make babies. But it could also be the wording of today. Christianity had different meanings back then. Maybe that’s why baptisms exist? To cleanse the baby from the incest relationship their parents are in!

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  25. I would have to agree that, even as a Christian, this concept has always struck me as weird or hard to understand. Within Christianity and the Bible there are contradictions and items I have not agreed with. However, I have always thought of it as the church is joined to be one with Jesus just like a man and a woman are joined to be one in marriage. I’m not so sure that marriage would be dissolved in Heaven because a Christian Wedding is “in the eyes of God” so I feel God would still see that.

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  26. Growing up in a non-denominational christian church we focused on strictly what the bible is saying. I till’ this day am still confused. The fact that if i viewed a scripture one way it wasn’t “correct” because obviously their’s only one meaning to a verse. I’m not religious, and my faith is based off what I was told not really what i took the time to learn for myself, which is why i’m conflicted and just live daily according to human common courtesy principles. Mainly believing that if i’m good i this universe, the universe will also be good to me. This article put a lot into perspective as to how many things in the bible are contradicting. I don’t know about poly word being spoken about in lectures, so I’m excited to learn something new!

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  27. I like how you brought up the social construction and the roles of male and female. When you brought up the statement of queerness with the quote “Christian theology says that the Church is the bride of Christ” it had me thinking. I never thought of that the way you did which was really interesting.

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  28. I am fairly new of theology so even reading this could be confusing. I am so lost while it is all being absorbed to me. It feels like one big math problem. So reading this confused me to be honest. But, leads me to believe that anyone can get confused. It’s like if this cancels one then the other one cancels the other. Then what is it?

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  29. This was such an interesting read! I really enjoyed breaking this apart as someone who considers themselves religious and am very curious about this topic! Im in left in awe and truly speechless!

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  30. This blog was pretty interesting. I was little weirded out because you made a pretty good point about how in heaven marriage is thrown out and “we are brothers and sisters” If it is like that then would that make incest relationships just as frowned upon to those who are conservative religious followers who think same sex marriage is so bad? There’s a little contradiction there but its up for a broad open discussion.

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  31. Very interesting! As a non religious individual I’ve never given much tought into the contradiction the Bible gives before taking the class, much less queerness of Christian Theology. I work at a church and the older very very religious people are completely against any queerness, even when a boy and another boy or girls hold hands is unacceptable to them so this is definitely an article I would advise others to read. Good article!

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