Christianity is hemorrhaging parishioners. In the United States, the number of people leaving the faith has been increasing for decades and shows little sign of abating. The trend has been dubbed the “nones” — the growing population of Americans who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.”
The reasons for the exodus are myriad, but one reason most people can agree on is that the church has failed to keep up with the times. Between 2015 and 2019, the percentage of 15- to 17-year-olds who said they identified as “non-heterosexual” rose from 8.3% to 11.7%, and three years later, upwards of 30% of schoolchildren now identify as somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. As society has become more accepting of LGBTQ people, the Church has largely remained opposed to this inevitable new culture and its colorful practitioners.
The future is queer, and the Church is dead — unless it adapts
There is a small but quickly growing group of fabulous pastors working hard trying to reform and revive the dying faith. They are the drag queen pastors, and they are using their unique perspective and dramatic flair to create inclusive churches that welcome all people — regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The trend started in Fort Washington Collegiate Church, Manhattan, where Assistant Minister James Admans (they/them) ministered in drag under the stage name Marge Johnson.
But at this point, Marge is far from the only person to take up the mantle of pastoring while in drag. Christian houses of worship across the states are dispensing with dry old white men reading dry old texts — and instead firing up the engines of faith with a colorful new pastor breed that includes drag queens, lesbians, and even radical queers.
It hasn’t happened without some growing pains. Indiana pastor Craig Duke of Newburgh United Methodist Church was fired after he performed in drag, even though he hadn’t yet taken the performance to the altar.
A necessary circus
You probably already guessed it: drag queen pastors are not your typical ministers. They often wear outrageous outfits, heavy makeup and towering heels. They use their flamboyant style to attract attention to the Christian churches’ message of love and inclusion. This is part of why the Church has been afraid of drag queens — feeling that they are too flamboyant and outrageous for a sacred space of worship.
But many point out that this is hypocrisy. Christians have never previously been opposed to using “circus” to attract the masses. Just look at the joyous Black churches across the south and their boisterous Black gospel sessions. In fact, people argue that the Church should be using more spectacle to attract people, not less.
Christian opposition to drag queens is likely rooted in plain old homophobia, and fear of anything that challenges traditional gender norms. But many drag queen pastors would argue that they are actually affirming traditional gender roles. They are even taking on the role of the “mother” in the Church — a role that has been traditionally been filled by women.
Fierce advocates for the core Christian message
Even the most hardcore Christians tend to admit that as society evolves, the Church must also evolve. This includes our evolution toward LGBTQ ideology and the fundamental queering of identity we are now seeing the start of. Drag queens are the perfect pastors for a new era of Christianity. They are unafraid to challenge norms and push boundaries. They are fierce advocates for social justice. And, importantly, we all agree they certainly know how to put on a good show.
The time has come for the Church to embrace the beauty and power of LGBTQ. If it waits much longer, there may not be a church left to reform.
Drag queens can help the Church to remember that Christianity is about love, acceptance, and inclusion. They can help us to see that the gospel is good news for all people, no matter who they are or what they look like.
So let us raise our voices in praise of the drag queens who are helping to save Christianity. Hallelujah! Keep your eyes peeled for drag queen pastors coming to your town, and join their services. Hint: she’s probably the one with the most glitter — and the biggest heart.
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