Searched and known: An autoethno-theological reflection on the sexual body and creation in relation to Psalm 139

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Abstract

As a gay-identifying, “mostly Christian”1 Malaysian academic, ordained minister and theologian who resides in Malaysia, my perceptions and articulations of seeking communion with God are often subjected to great upheavals. My daily life in a country that frequently displays sociocultural and religio-political disapprovals of queer2 persons further exacerbates the situation. The Malaysian Penal Code and Syariah (Islamic) laws in Malaysia criminalize oral and anal sex, thus continuously sweeping in currents of fear and dread among queer Malaysians, chiefly men who identify as gay or bisexual, and mak nyahs or male-to-female transgender persons.3 Such religio-legal laws find allies in numerous mainstream Christian churches in the country that condemn same-sex practices.4 Thus, my reflections on creation and the sexual body in relation to Psalm 139—which I interpret as a psalm that celebrates creation—are framed by this climate of precariousness and vulnerability. My reflection also engages with the complications that are present in my daily encounters with the multiple facets of my “humanness” as a sexual person. In quotidian realities, I constantly experience my “personhood [as] an evolving process of becoming,”5 as being far more impermanent, contingent, and fluid than a unified whole. Similarly—and consequently—my experiences of God often lie outside stable conventions and predictability. In the pathways of attempting to experience myself as “my own self,” or as Yong Ting Jin puts it, as a “subject self in the experienced reality,”6 I find myself steeped in a cognizance of my ongoing fragmentation and equivocality. Yet, I feel an unleashing of ironic self-assurance that my unstable and impermanent self-evolution is a necessary, constitutive reality of my interminable existence. My corporeal, intellectual, and spiritual experiences that converge and impact my life journeys in subtle yet disruptive ways leave me in a state that is mired with perplexity and confusion, yet I am convinced that these convolutions are constitutive of this becoming. My self-evolution—my ongoing createdness—leads me to ponder on the particularities of this very createdness: What does it mean for me to be a creation of God? Furthermore, if I am indeed created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27), in what ways are my multifaceted realities inherited from my creator? As a man who is emotionally, physically, and intellectually attracted to other men, in what ways can my sexuality be seen as a godly inheritance, a reflection of the divine, when the prevailing thought in my country is that I am deviant, aberrant, and sinful? Borrowing from the words of Marcella Althaus-Reid, I seek to understand how I am created in “relat[ion] to loving arts of intimacy”7 as a man who is capable of connection with other men on various levels. Furthermore, if God saw all that God had made and found it very good (Gen. 1:31), I do not only ask how I reflect this goodness. Rather, I find myself poring over how I actually embody this creative engineering of God of which I am the consequence, albeit an unfinished consequence. In pursuing theological insights on queer sexuality and permitting sexuality to inform theology, I acquiesce to the role of a gatal and miang theologian. In colloquial Bahasa Melayu,8 gatal literally means “itchy,” while miang refers to a sexual pervert. Both terms point to someone who is cheeky, sexually indecent, sexually active, who has a high sexual drive and possesses a high libido. By admission, I am a theologian with an itch for locating God in the nether regions, in perverted spaces that are frowned upon as improper, indecent, and unworthy of the sacred by those who see sexuality and faith as discrete, unrelated realities, or who would permit sexuality and faith to converge only in strict heteronormative contexts. I am not engaging in random and gratuitous erotic articulations for shock value within this theological discussion. Rather, the goal of my reflection in this article is to construct theo-biblical visions of my sexual createdness as a gay-identifying man of faith. In the ensuing sections, I briefly discuss my use of an autoethno-theological approach, or the integration of autoethnographic, and queer theological and scriptural strategies. I will then employ this integrated approach in the theological meaning-making of my sexual experiences in relation to notions of creator, created, and creation as portrayed in Psalm 139.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-500
Number of pages16
JournalCrossCurrents
Volume66
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

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