Queer Pentecost on Late Night TV
We were a number of months into the pandemic when a clip of a late-night show caught my eye. “You have to see this!” my feeds echoed. Scraping the bottom of the well of all my reserves that were being used up keeping our queer little family safe and alive in a time of global pandemic and racial justice reawakening while also starting a new job I wearily clicked through looking for a moment of distraction or levity. And then I watched as Alanis Morrisette relived every meeting I had been trying to have over Zoom for the last months on national late night television—holding her small child she performed her song “Ablaze” being interrupted to have to explain what she was doing, having her equipment tugged at, and still delivering a powerful performance. The delivery of the song was enough to win me over and give me a moment of feeling seen but the song itself is what has kept it on my playlist for these many months that have followed. You see, the song is an oath to her children. It sings to them lifting up that which makes them uniquely glorious and says “I see you; I love you” and it is a naming of the commitment as their parent to keep the fire in their eye ablaze.
This song speaks to me, particularly as a queer mom of a young child. It’s a reminder that even in these times and with so much out of my control it is my duty to this precious human being to kindle the light in her eyes. To help her understand her inherent worth and dignity and to kindle a flame within her that sees and fights for the recognition of that same worth and dignity in others.
But this is not just a song about parenting. Moving through this month of pride and having just celebrated Pentecost what better time to be reminded that we are called into community through God’s love with the express responsibility to keep the fire in each other’s eyes ablaze. Ablaze with the promise that we are all made in the image of God, imago Dei, and beloved of God. Ablaze with the promise that the unique gifts and stories of our lives are welcome and necessary here in this time and place. Ablaze with a fire to continue to be a part of the difficult and essential work of dismantling White supremacy culture within our church and our world. Ablaze with the fire and promise of righteous anger on which pride began. Ablaze with the audacious hope that all might flourish.
Dr. Melissa James (she/her) is a Minister of Word and Service (Deacon) in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). She currently serves the Unitarian Universalist Association as a congregational consultant for the Pacific Western Region and teaches at the University of San Diego in Sociology and Gender Studies. She lives in La Mesa, CA with her wife and 4-year-old daughter.