Louis van der Riet, Process Coordinator
The season of Lent is an invitation to move with Christ into suffering, darkness, pain and loss. These 40 days leading up to Easter recall Christ’s time in the wilderness and a deep embrace of the human condition.
Globally, this darkness has become immanent in the recent international conflicts, but also in the ongoing effects of our ecological crisis and the lingering loss caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In many faith communities, LGBTQI+ people also remain forced into the wilderness of exclusion and alienation. Given these contexts, what good news does this season of Lent hold?
For those who live alongside oppression, violence and exclusion – as many LGBTQI+ Christians in Africa do – the invitation of Lent may seem like re-wounding. In the path of descent, the goodness, truth and beauty of the gospel can seem somewhat closeted. However, rather than dwelling in our suffering, Lent is a time to rediscover the accompaniment of Christ in and through our suffering, making such experiences our primary teachers. No other season in the liturgical calendar captures this paradox of how pain and suffering can be good news as these weeks leading up to Easter.
In the expansive sense of its use, to queer is to enter into destabilisation, disruption, and even disorientation. Lent is queer because it can allow us the space to destabilise our false securities, presenting us with an invitation to detach ourselves from what has become routine or commonplace in our lives. This could include fasting from the ways in which gender and sexuality shape our way of being in the world, reminding us to let go of both the inferiority and superiority with which we have been conditioned. This would mean not over-identifying with any descriptor or construct used to put our identity into words.
Lent is also the ideal time of the year to learn about what it means to be an ally to LGBTQI+ people. Allyship and being a co-conspirator is about disrupting and dismantling existing power structures; empowering others by giving power away.
The Lenten path of descent therefore captures the essence of the transformation that IAM advocates for. In continuing to work towards the full recognition, celebration and participation of LGBTIQ+ people in faith communities, we need the queerness that Lent brings to the good news of resurrection and human flourishing.
The promise and the invitation of Lent is the transformation of our innermost being – there where we carry our hope. In this way, a season of disorientation can become the very birthplace of resurrection. May we share our embodied knowledge of Christ’s accompaniment in these times, making Lent a queer invitation for faith leaders to dismantle patriarchal religious structures, question power discourse, and to reimagine spaces, so that those forced into the wilderness may also flourish.