Between Sword and Surrender: Finding New Narratives for Christian Belonging Open Access

de Silva, Christopher (Spring 2022)

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Between Sword and Surrender:

Finding New Narratives for Christian Belonging

By Christopher A. de Silva


Religious circles ought to heal not harm. Studies show that religious communities may have the capacity to protect from LGBTQ exclusion that turns some young members to suicide ideation. Yet, paradoxically, another study shows that one of the top three reasons Americans leave religion is the unwelcome of LGBTQ community members by faith communities. Where in the arc of this narrative does a faith community’s welcome and belonging narrative exist? Can the church be a better safe space?

This project challenges church leaders, especially college campus ministers, to consider deconstructing binary markers, and subverting hurtful, heteronormative narratives that keep from discovering the intersections of faith, gender and sexual identities. It questions what it means to truly extend welcome and embody radical Christian hospitality on a Catholic university campus. A series of interviews with undergraduate students interrogates the university’s campus ministry mission statement of “belong, believe, become,” and the ways in which Christian leaders encourage or fail to encourage Christian belonging.

With reference to poetic narrative that describes the experience of a student that identifies both as gender non-binary and practicing Catholic, this essay investigates clichéd narratives found in liturgical and musical worship frames. It hopes to find alternate narratives that create a more authentic prayer space for genderqueer belonging, one that is adaptive and generative. It discerns a Christian space for full LGBTQ inclusion. This essay invites church leaders to consider a liminal space of tension to imagine new ways to tell of restoring trust, of rekindling relationships, and rethinking ritual, religious narratives to rebuild spaces of inclusive ministry.

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