Flipping Tables

When I was younger there was one Bible story that was often mysteriously passed over during our youth study group. In fact, I never remember it being spoken about. Which is a shame because it is the story that I have clung onto in the past year as I have been coming to grips with realising that a lot of what I was taught was, to quote my partner, ‘absolutely bonkers’ and quite harmful. It’s the story of Jesus rushing into the Temple grounds and angrily flipping the tables of those using the area to make deals and sell their wares as they abuse what the Temple is supposed to reflect. Looking back, it’s not at all a shock that I don’t remember this being spoken about much…what conservative church would want to encourage their young people to challenge the status quo of how a religious institution functions?! My church liked to tell us that anger was bad, that it was harmful, that we should accept without question and that challenging leaders would lead you on the path to eternal damnation. Anger was reserved for the middle-aged white men who would shout about the dangers of queer people and women in ministry. Anger was not for the quiet, outcast girl who diligently turned up every week to soak up everything told to her by these men. But, guess what. I am angry. I’m fuming. I boil over with rage at the injustice and cruelty and inhumanity of how the Anglican Church treats queer people - people like me. And I reckon I am right to be.


Six months ago I woke up to the first snow of the year and the news that ‘Church of England bishops refuse to back gay marriage’ (BBC). I spent that morning at a friend’s house screaming and shouting and crying and feeling angry. So, so angry. I slipped into a depressive episode. Every morning I would wake up knowing that the church, that I love and am a part of, refused to recognise my relationship. They doubted the love, joy, happiness, kindness, patience and beauty in my relationship. They saw it as evil, harmful, dangerous, selfish, a rejection of God. Over the next few weeks I was given multiple ‘loving shoves’ to ask for help, and I finally accepted the care that I had started to think I did not deserve. But I am still angry.


Learning how to feel and use my anger has been an adventure over these last few months. Sometimes you need to scream expletives at the top of your lungs or rant to a vicar you’ve never met down the phone. But that can be exhausting. It can render you feeling futile and as if nothing you’re doing is actually making any difference. In March 2020 my youth group started a study on the Book of Habakkuk, that period of time was mostly overshadowed by *everything going on* so I couldn’t even tell you the basic premise of what happens in that text. However one verse stuck out to me: ‘Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my saviour’. And it is this verse that has helped me to temper my desire to overturn tables (and, occasionally, to yell at a Bishop)


Jesus flipping the tables was an obvious display of anger, but I reckon you could see anger being a motivation for a lot of what Jesus did in his time on earth. You can’t tell me that his anger at how certain people were treated didn’t encourage him to be friends with tax collectors and sex workers. ‘Let the little children come to me’ has always come across as being said with defiance towards the disciples trying to stop the crowd of mothers. In Mark’s Gospel he is described as ‘indignant’ when he sees the illness of a leper. He rebukes Peter’s violence towards the Roman guards in the Garden of Gethsemane. But none of this anger results in him ‘making a scene’. No, in these instances Jesus shows his anger at situations by sitting with people, talking with people, teaching people, healing and caring for people. Anger can set the world right but big public acts aren’t the only way of using your anger. Performing small acts of resistance have been how I have used my anger at the situation towards the results of the LLF process. Turning up to church holding my partner’s hand, reading queer theology books whilst sat in the sun, helping friends through hard times, working hard at my degree. All of these things have been done, in some part, in anger towards the Church and what they continue to tell me I am. The action that is most defiant has been being joyful in the queerness I have been blessed with and thankful for the community I have found. Joy at who I have been made to be. Joy at the relationship I get to have with God. Joy at feeling more and more engulfed in God’s love. This joy is an act of resistance against the institution that continues to tell me I can pick my queerness or my faith, against the people who have such a small view of the possibilities of God, against those who want me to be sad and scared and small. I will not be that, anymore. My anger will not permit it and my joy will not allow it. Receiving Communion, praying, singing, thinking and talking about faith, laughing in church, feeling safe with God. These are my versions of flipping tables.


So, go and flip some tables. Or, if you’d rather, go and be quietly joyful in God’s presence. I think that is what Jesus would do.