Coyote, the trickster, in Death Valley

Coyote, the trickster, in Death Valley (photo by Preston Grant)

Gay people are a threat to Christianity.

The paranoid anti-gay Christians are right to fear us. We do represent a threat to their core beliefs and their way of life.

This is not because we are attacking Christianity. A quick news search finds Christians constantly attacking gay people, yet we rarely strike back, other than to point out the absurdity of our attacker’s assertions. We certainly don’t attack Christians in the streets or mobilize to take away their rights. (Telling a religious organization they cannot receive government money if they discriminate against some of our citizens is not an “attack,” it is separation of church and state.)

No, gay people don’t undermine Christianity with our words. We undermine it by our existence.

Christianity is based on a belief in one God, opposed by an evil force. There is no nuance in this worldview. Everything is right or wrong, good or evil.

Into this black and white world march the rainbow people who burst the binary and dance our songs and colors right down the church’s center aisle. Organizations, all tidy and tight, hate this kind of disruption, so they kill and oppress us. They burn us alive and take away our rights, and yet we are continually born anew into every family, culture, and religion, disrupting as we go.

We are the trickster. In the old stories the trickster doesn’t follow the regular rules or normal behavior, causing helpful disruptions to regimented systems. In mythology trickster was Mercury, Prometheus, Lilith, Loki, and Kokopeli, and in modern times we have Br’er Rabbit, Pippy Longstocking, and Bugs Bunny—all playful, subversive, and ultimately wise.

In Native American mythology, trickster is coyote. In Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World he notes coyotes are rarely trapped:

Coyotes develop their own relationship to the trap; as one naturalist has written, “it is difficult to escape the conclusion that coyotes…have a sense of humor. How else to explain, for instance, the well-known propensity of experienced coyotes to dig up traps, turn them over, and urinate or defecate on them?”

…When a coyote defecates on a trap he is neither predator nor prey, but some third thing.

I think existence of gay people is inherently funny. The structure of a joke leads us along at one level, and then shifts levels abruptly at the punch line, the distance between the two creating the humor. Society trundles along in its standard procreative ways and then BOING! the gay kid comes along, all different and challenging.

Bugs Bunny, ever provoking Mr. Fudd. (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)

Serious Elmer Fudd saw impish Bugs as a threat, the rest of us got the joke. We know how important a skillful jester can be when the king won’t listen to anybody else.

We are the unexpected answer that subverts the paradigm, the anomaly that points out the flaws in the system. We don’t fit the thinking of right/wrong, good/evil, saint/sinner because we are the border people. We synthesize the sacred and the profane together into something new and fabulous, and the establishment quakes.

People think of us in terms of sex and gender, and while we do synthesize the core masculine and feminine divide of our species in provocative ways, we are more than that. Gay people are, by our very nature, a threat to binary thinking wherever it occurs. We are born outside the binary, so how could it be otherwise?

I don’t know if the monotheistic religions can survive the challenge we represent. As post-Enlightenment secular values increase respect for each individual human being, the ability to purge society of the non-conforming decreases. Monotheists will have to try to see the spirit of God that lives within everyone, or fade into irrelevance. This is a good thing, as small-minded Christianity isn’t helping much at this point.

So I say to the Catholics and Mormons and Southern Baptists: What’s up, Doc?