Content Warning: this piece contains discussions of CSA, reader's discretion is advised.
Dymphna was fourteen-years old the day she was beheaded and reincarnated into a teenage martyr. I was twelve.
Facing me was my grandmother who kneeled on our apartment’s threshold like a true human-sinner, petrified into a seven-daggered Mary. Mater Dolorosa (Luke 2:35). Elsewhere, my grandfather was racing upward the bridge threatening to sink his van into the deep blue, perhaps, in his eyes, his own sea of glass glowing with fire (Revelation 4:6).
Years passed and saw my own Heaven turn into Hell– insomniac nights of skygazing the changing dyes. Daylight hours, our telephone would receive calls from Belize and our computer inbox would be occupied with messages from California: everyone knew God’s mysterious plan, and everyone gave themselves the right to condemn in fury (Romans 8:34). When my grandfather was finally jailed for child abuse, everyone honored themselves as divine painters who could transmute scarlet sins into white wool (Isaiah 1:18).
To my family, I had a duty of resistance, to resist the Devil (James 4:7)– the Devil being my tricked mind rather than the hand striking my other tear-stained cheek. I had to submit to God and take on His role of the forgiver. I was twelve, expected to do God’s good without God’s wrath (Romans 12:19). Give God-like love without the God-like conditions. Much like Dymphna, I became a patroness––a home––for sins not mine.
A concept of Ada Isasi-Díaz’s Mujerista Theology is the “appropriation of The Bible.” In her essay La Palabra de Dios en Nosotros, Isasi-Díaz argues that Catholic Latinas do not depend on the physicality of The Bible for our spiritual journeys due to The Bible’s inaccessibility. In Nuestro Proyecto Histórico, Isasi-Diaz elaborates on the subject of dismantling authoritative structures and those who utilize them: which includes The Bible and The Church, an institution with an ongoing history of unreported sexual abuse.
When survivors search for answers within their place-of-worship, we become vulnerable to––what I refer to as–– exploited exegesis. Exploited exegesis benefits the guilty and we, as a result, inherit their guilt.
I have had church figures carefully select verses to pave a forgiving road for my grandfather while I had to curate my own journey–– and I did. We have the power to pick apart divine imagery, ancestral teachings, and the human stories of heavenly figures to translate our struggles into tools of survival until it becomes a threat to the Church, the father’s, our fathers–– that we, marginalized people of a cisheteropatriarchy, seek no solace in their interpretations anymore; no longer the victims of their guides.
Alas, liberated without fear of rejection from God.
An authentic relationship with God requires alienating the self-assigned messengers who stand between. It requires trusting ourselves to own our beliefs, for God is a stronghold for the oppressed (Psalm 9:9) whose presence transmits through the warmth of a sun-reflected stained glass window–– not the blue-eyed brochure staring back at us nor the classock-adorned sinner.
Joan of Arc was nineteen years old when she was smoldered as a witch, caught a glimpse of Hell, and loitered amongst the ashes before reincarnating into an armored saint. I am a twenty-year old queer with a pocket knife and a rosary.
I guard (Proverbs 2:11) my sexuality from ridicule, misunderstandings, and violence. I refuse my sex to be dissected as blueprints of the great design by outsiders again. I fight to be free from fear without evildoers piercing my hands and feet (Psalm 22:16) onto a fence in Colorado; but, like in Joan’s case, the blurred, androgyne lines will eventually become more poignant as the layers of protection shed until they’re merely cloaks for a sword (Luke 22:36).
The anger of human does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20), but I have weaponized my gritted teeth and fists, anyways. I rage to grieve over the hurt of sin. I rage to cry over evil. I rage to show compassion towards my being; but, most of all, I rage for vengeance–– for protection. In my anger, I do sin (Ephesians 4:26), and until I am permitted to God’s wrath, I have no interest in possessing God’s mercy nor exchange my sinner right to selfishness.
I queer the Holy Bible–– a historically oppressive tool itself–– with a pair of scissors and glue in order to manifest my own sacrosanctity. For many of us, our hope still lies within a religion we have made our bed––a traumatic past and a radical present––in, and with that, I believe we have the power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt us. (Luke 10:19).
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