¡Vete a la verga! Or, Notes on a Queer Chicano Theology and Ethics of Rage

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I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest; but trouble comes.

Job 3:26

I. I’m angry. I’m pissed off. I’m enraged. And while I am not interested in attempting to justify why anger and rage are appropriate responses, I ask myself: How do we think theologically through, from, and against our rage? In the wake of the announcement of Donald Trump as the projected winner of the 2016 Presidential Election, I felt an impulsive response come over my body. I think about all the things that a Trump victory implies in relation to race, class, religion, ability, sexuality, and gender, and rage is what it continuously comes to the foreground of how I begin thinking when I try to make sense of it—or fail to.

II. “Rage,” while synonymous with “anger,” is derived from the Medieval Latin rabia, meaning also “madness” and “insanity.” “Madness” and “insanity” gesture toward a feeling of not being in the right state of mind: to be beside oneself. These terms describe an emotional and psychic dislocation that orients the body toward something other-worldly. Rabia is where the English term “rabies” also comes from. The term, in this way, describes that which is animalistic and contagious to those around us. As such, rage is an affective encounter with one’s own thinking about their surroundings and the world that is being constructed around them—I cannot think of a better way of describing what it is that I do as a theologian. Rage pushes us to think about how our bodies connect in relationship to other bodies. Our relationship to other bodies, the position of our own in that relationship, and which bodies we value as sacred and worth protecting, is, after all, at the very heart of what characterizes Christian ethics. The election of Trump has called into question the very relationship my body as a queer person, a person of color, a child of an immigrant, and an academic, has with other bodies in this country. I am filled with rage by as I think about the ways in which the rhetoric and ideas espoused by Trump mark certain bodies, like mine, determinedly marginal.

III. Feelings of rage are part of our Christian heritage as bodies in this space we call the kin-dom of God. Make no mistake, Job was enraged. Often we want to describe Job as persevering and patient—he overcame the obstacles and trials God put in his way in order to be declared as righteous. But, really, Job got angry at God, and rightfully so. His life became a living hell, and yet, we are quick to disregard his pain and anger. The expectation is even made of us to sit “patiently” and let at least four years of a fascist leader pass us by. However, what if expressing rage is an act of our faith? Rage allows us to call our relationships into questions, much in the way that Job questions his own relationship to God and the morality of God’s actions. The idea that we are allowed to suffer, but not demand answers for that suffering would do a disservice to our role as thinkers and good citizens to one another. Job is declared righteous through his anger. Job curses the day he was born, curses at God, and clearly states that he not in acceptance of the things that are happening to him. It is not okay that he was forced into the suffering he had to endure and he lets it be known. What can we learn from Job’s rage? We have an ethical responsibility to call out suffering and demand an explanation for the injustices being carried out against the ourselves and the bodies of our neighbors.

IV. We have a common insult in Mexican Spanish slang, ¡Vete a la verga!, meaning, loosely, “Go to hell!” or “Go f*ck yourself!” Literally translated to, however, as “Go to the penis!” I invoke this insult not just for mere provocation, but as a call for how we think through rage in all its variations of meaning and translation. It is a call to go to the site of intersectional discourses that account for race and sexuality. On one level, the unique Mexicanness of the expression is a demand to rethink our relationship to our neighbors South of the border. How do we account for the harm being done and may continue to be done under the veil of racism and imperialism? What is our role as theologians and scholars of religion? On another level, the sexualized nature of the insulting expression necessitates that we think through a sexual lens about our relationship to one another—to think about the trauma imposed upon bodies that resist the normative trajectories of sexuality. ¡Vete a la verga!: a call to go to… the borderlands, the unspeakable places, the dirty places. To think through the bodies of outsiders and dissidents is to do the work of Christian theology and ethics. To be dissatisfied with the suffering and trauma that festers at the center of the rhetoric of leaders like Trump is to do the work of theology and ethics.

V. Rage is a reevaluation of our relationships. It is an affective encounter with one another to foster a sense of community and belonging—one that creates a collective imaginary on the belief that justice needs to be done. How do we do the work of rage? It begins with the belief that suffering needs to end and that all bodies should be loved and are deserving of grace. The work to be done is to go to those spaces and think alongside. That is, to let the madness of our rage take us out of our own states of mind to be beside our neighbors in their suffering to do the work of justice of love.

Vincent D. Cervantes is a queer Chicano theologian, speaker, and writer. He has been an international voice speaking on issues that impact LGBT, queer, Latin@/Chican@ communities. His story as an ex-gay survivor has been shared among Details Magazine, The Tyra Banks Show, and others. He has authored several publications and presents on the intersections of theology, race, and sexuality. He is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California.

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