From Sin to Amazing Grace
August 1, 2012 by Sharon Groves, Director, Religion and Faith Program
Rev. Dr. Patrick Cheng, a leading scholar on LGBT issues and faith will be joining on August 5th 15 lucky students, leading theologians, scholars and activists for the third year of HRC’s Summer Institute for Religious and Theological Study. He will serve as a resident mentor and scholar encouraging and supporting the next generations of students in bringing their ideas about sexuality, religion, theology, race and identity into the wider arena. Cheng comes to this year’s Summer Institute with a new book and I wanted to make sure HRC readers new about it.
From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ explores the theological concept of sin which has a history of being used as a weapon against LGBT people by the religious right. Too many people within the LGBT community have been wounded by traditional conceptualizations of sin, and therefore LGBT theologies tend to focus more on God’s unconditional grace than the harsher concept of sin. However, as Cheng develops in his latest book, sin is not a concept that should be thrown out but instead embraced by LGBT people of faith. Cheng re-conceptualizes sin and grace, shifting from a crime-based model of sin to a Christ-centered model. Sin is re-imagined as exploitation, apathy, shame, and isolation; while grace is portrayed as mutuality, activism, pride, and interdependence. Cheng notes, “How can we adequately describe and critique this world of ours that is filled with violence, terrorism, economic inequity, and sexual exploitation without sin-talk?”
Cheng’s take on the doctrine of sin challenges LGBT people to challenge oppressive structures and inequality. He reminds us that sin is central to queer theology because it describes those instances in which we fail to fight oppression and wrongdoing in the world around us. It is a model of sin that proclaims LGBT activism & advocacy as a manifestation of God’s grace.
Patrick Cheng’s work has been praised by many prominent theologians, including HRC Religion Council member & co-author of A La Familia, Miguel A. De La Torre, claims that “Cheng provides our hurting community with a healing theology; an accessible Christology which celebrates an open and affirming Christianity desperately needed by most of our churches.” From Sin to Amazing Grace is a welcome new and challenging perspective on how the theological concepts of sin and grace can be reclaimed by LGBT people of faith.
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