Affirming the Dignity of All

If you hang around me a lot, you will know I like to pontificate about how we must affirm the innate dignity of each person just as they are. I realise this provokes a knee-jerk reaction in some people, and, if this is you, take a deep breath and ask yourself why (or just close the tab). I have worked in and with different groups in education and ministry about what that looks like in reality – on the ground – in their contexts. This month I’ve been involved in two important formation events on this theme.

Our task, as people made in the image and likeness of God, is to overcome the persistent temptation not to love and appreciate what God has called good.

Pamela R. Lightsey, Our Lives Matter, 81.

One for senior faith leaders in a Catholic school network on recognising where our invisible or unacknowledged privileges become assumptions that we make about the Image of God (or making God in our image, if you will) and how we go about deconstructing that to the benefit of those who do not fit into the normative boxes. In other words, bringing a queer theology lens to the image of God. We want to make sure that our concepts of God are not constructed from our privilege. This was with the help of tools that I’ve noted here before, including Anthony Reddie’s Identity Circles and my songs Into Silence and Who I Am. I asked the participants “Can your students find themselves represented in the image of God you present (or unintentionally) to them?”

Why did I run this session? Because I spent years – a decade probably – rejecting a God of human boxes, categories, hierarchies, a God of patriarchy. But I did not have the language or understanding to articulate that or to conceive of God in any other way. I don’t want those I (and we in education) encounter to be pushed into this trap of limiting the God beyond names and boxes to our social constructs.

If we hope to right sexual violence in our history, if we hope to be in relationship with God today, the powerful at the center must let themselves be interrupted and named by those on the margins. We must not only recognize those who are not men, not heterosexual, not reproductive, or non-gender conforming as human; we must reconfigure what it means to be human based on their humanity.

Jacobs, Brianne. “An Alternative to Gender Complementarity: The Body as Existential Category in the Catholic Tradition.” Theological Studies 80, no. 2 (June 2019): 328–45, 345.

I also had the privilege of hosting WATAC Presents “Working Towards a LGBTQ+ Affirming Church”. This was an important conversation with two very well-informed guests about what an affirming church might look like. When we genuinely meet others as they are, we are challenged by different experiences. We will also find common ground. The experience of shared humanity despite difference (especially when we have the ‘power’ on our side of the difference) can be an enlightening source of wisdom out of which we can live. The video of the session is below – it’s worth a watch!

The experience of another narrative resonating with our experience allows us to glimpse the sacred human connection that binds us all.

Natalia Imperatori-Lee, Cuéntame, Ch 5.

For some reason (well, for at least a few, which will remain private😊) I’ve also been writing some songs about the different ways love plays out in life – in friendship, intimacy, sexuality – and in the different contexts we experience it. So maybe there’s an album of love songs (in the very loosest sense, not what you’re thinking of when I say ‘love songs’) down the track… If only I could get to Melbourne to finish the backing vocals on the songs that are almost ready!!! Oh and I’ve written a really simple rock-band-style Mass setting which I kinda like! Maybe I’ll record that one day too.

And happy pride month! Here’s to the day when we no longer need it!! Until then, keep fighting the good fight to affirm the rights and dignity of all people!!

assorted-color led lights
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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