Queer Scripture Reflections: Loving Leviticus by Rev. Aaron Decker

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Sometimes I think something is wrong with me. Considering my queerness, perhaps serving the Church is a mistake. This institution has hurt me and our whole community. Why be part of this religion? Yet we come in droves.

I suspect we do not have much choice. The calling is sufficiently profound to be inescapable. We can resist it, avoid it, reject it… and still end up in its midst. If traditional ministry won’t accept us, we find something even more complicated and irresistible. Here we stand; we can do no other.

I wonder if ancient Aaron felt the same. God proclaimed him chief priest over Israel and his descendants forever. How must it have been to be the first ordained, blood ritually smeared on his ear and thumb and toe? What fear when he crossed into the curtain-covered confines of the Holy of Holies, entering the physical space of God’s presence to cleanse it from the defilement that imperfect humanity made accrue?

“Will this kill me?” And crossed the boundary anyway.

So many rules. Aaron understood skin rashes, discerning necrosis to ward off death enfleshed. He learned which foods sustained life, and lead to death, or trafficked in death, or looked like death. He performed rituals to remove the stain of death from the community so life could spring forth anew.

This is what Leviticus is about. The world contains fearful boundaries. The most dangerous separates the normal, profane world and the holiness of God. Or another way, it is the line between death and life. Humanity is caught up in death; God is the source of life. God’s holiness radiates outward from his home in the temple, making Israel (and all humanity in turn) holy and alive. “You will be holy, just as I your God am holy”: not a command but a proclamation! And so Israel’s priests navigate the boundaries with care to ensure that the entire universe does not fall off the edge.

Aaron’s descendants became priests because they were created in his lineage. Sex and gender minorities become priests because we are created to embody boundaries. Society demarcates male and female; we live in the space between. Love is defined narrowly; our existence transgresses the definition. We experience death in the mundaneness of life and find life in the playfulness the world thinks is death.

So many read Leviticus and condemn. But queer folx are the living embodiment of Leviticus-life. We navigate profanity and holiness so the profane world may be holy, just as the God we love is holy. It is our vocation. It is inescapable.

Almost as inescapable as the queerest boundary crossing in all eternity: Holiness become flesh, death become life, crucifixion become resurrection, drowned in Baptism and risen again in Jesus, our dearly and queerly beloved, love-transgressing, highest high priest.

The Rev. Aaron Decker (he/him) identifies as a word-sexual, story-romantic, bilingual-positive cis-nerd. He serves as a theological educator with ELCA Global Mission, working to build a Lutheran seminary in South America, where he lives with his cat, Moses.

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