Video of a slam poetry performance by a twenty-year-old University of North Carolina drama student is going viral, with nearly 70,000 views on YouTube. The controversial title and message of his poem: “God is gay.”
Elliot Darrow identifies as a straight male and says his identity as an “out Christian” drives his writing. Like many Christian millennials, Darrow does not currently attend church—“more due to the chaos that is college than anything else,” he says—but he grew up Presbyterian in the Carrboro-Chapel Hill area. Social issues comprise the core of his poetry portfolio, and the viral piece was one of his first to directly address his faith.
Darrow says the idea began eighteen months ago when he wondered, what if God were gay? “I personally believe that God is not a sexual being, but at the same time, to make a statement, what if He were, was all in attempt to show people that even God, who we all see as infallible, still has human traits, such as sexuality, or loves people of a specific gender or identity,” Darrow says.
He then examined Biblical passages to explore how the church should view the gay community. “I’ve seen so many people, in my mind, misuse the Bible to preach not necessarily hatred, but just ignorance toward people who are of other preferences,” he says. “I want to show that regardless of how someone identifies, God wants to love them, and God does love them. The best way I’ve found to do that is to use the Bible, to use teachings that I have been taught.”
The poem is a dynamic work of gay liberation theology. Darrow use Bible passages to challenge conventional views about God: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth / and it wasn’t just good, it was fabulous” and “Keep in mind Jesus had two dads and turned out just fine / In fact, Jesus had two dads and a surrogate mother / That never had sex with either of them / Maybe Mary was a lesbian.”
The most powerful moment comes when Darrow interprets the classic Biblical story of Moses and the burning bush. In the book of Exodus, Moses is watching sheep in the desert when he sees a bush on fire but not burning up. Then an angel speaks to him from inside the flame and tells him to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. God then liberates the people, whom society subjugated, from oppression. Here’s how Darrow sees the passage:
“A history lesson: A faggot is a bundle of sticks / Originally used as kindling for fires that engulfed gays / When they were burned at the stake, people were firewood / But Moses came across wood on fire and saw God in it / What is a burning bush but bundles of branches / On fire, isn’t it funny how faggots and God can look the same sometimes?”
Darrow hopes that Biblical messages like his can counter anti-gay groups like Westboro Baptist Church. One of his own greatest influences, he says, is the pastor emeritus of his home church, Rev. Haywood Holderness of Westminster Presbyterian in Durham. Even as a young child, Darrow remembers listening to Holderness’ sermons and taking to heart his repeated message that God is a loving being. “I’ve always had such a loving relationship with the church,” he says. “All people should be afforded that, regardless of their orientation, their creed, gender.”
Full text of the poem:
What if I told you God is gay?
Do you think belligerent bible-belters
Would still holler hate speech to the hilltops
In His name?
Or do you think they would reread the scriptures
They say they swear and survive by
See, I’ve been reading the Bible again lately
And I think I’ve taken a leaf from their holy book,
Picking passages for my purpose
Which is in short
To let you know it’s very possible God is gay.
I mean think about the book of Genesis
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
And it wasn’t just good, it was fabulous.
I mean what else is our planet but the pinnacle
Of exterior design, and I don’t mean to generalize
But it certainly seems like that the Garden of Eden
Was designed by queer, I mean divine eye for the straight guy
But some Christians would go as far as to call
God’s creations abominations
Heretics calling themselves faithful
When their faith is full of belief that only God may pass judgment
Matthew 7:1 Judge and you too shall be judged
Luke 6: 37 Condemn not and you shall not be condemned
Fred Phelps 2006: You’re going to hell! God hates fags!
A history lesson: A faggot is a bundle of sticks
Originally used as kindling for fires that engulfed gays
When they were burned at the stake, people were firewood
But Moses came across wood on fire and saw God in it,
What is a burning bush but bundles of branches
On fire, isn’t it funny how faggots and God can look the same sometimes?
Keep in mind Jesus had two dads and turned out just fine
In fact, Jesus had two dads and a surrogate mother
That never had sex with either of them,
Maybe Mary was a lesbian
And I remember the prayer going
“Hail Mary, full of grace”
Not full of sin,
“Pray for us sinners”
For we have become blinded by bigotry.
And forgotten that God gave us the rainbow
As a promise that we will never be flooded again
Either with rain or ignorance
And now all the homosexual Homo sapiens
Stand more united under God’s rainbow
Than all of his denominations do around the cross.
I was brought up believing that my Savior loved us all
And never had to specify “no homo”
But if you have hate in your heart
Say it don’t pray it
Don’t teach it and for the love of God don’t preach it
Because I am tired of these fire and brimstone sermons
Slinging slurs when they’re not firing brimstones
From voices that should be filled with love and praise
Instead of raised with hate and rage
I am a Christian, and I believe in saying the Christian thing.
Which used to sound like “Love thy neighbor as thyself”
But now sounds more like hate at the top of your picket signs
The closest thing to God being “Hell, is waiting for you”
They’re passing out damnation pamphlets
Filled with out-of-context Bible verses
Trying to define God
When his meaning is clear.
He is acceptance, He is pride, He is humility, He is just,
God is perfection, God is protection, God is love,
But most importantly
God is gay