In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth.
Out of a formless void, through the waters of creation, the Great Cosmic Artist crafted a work of Divine Art. On the fabric of Space and Time, Divinity painted Sacred constellations and Holy galaxies. Through arduous sleepless nights, a spectrum of self portraits appeared in the universe. Out of nothingness, isolation and emptiness came a Queerly bedazzled Campy garment of Love.
Out of nothingness came a world of detail. Out of isolation came a universe of diverse life. And out of emptiness came the beauty of humanity: Humanity made in the image of God, the Imago Dei. From Adam and Eve to you and me, we are all a part of the continual creation and holy artistry.
In the Queer Community, especially within the World of Drag, there is a rich history of Campiness. This is an intentional and individual over-the-topness meant to provoke strong emotions or reactions. Camp is a way of walking the earth that seizes attention and awe while delivering unspoken political or social messages.
Campiness is a drag queen minister traveling the country to preach from a pulpit. Campiness is Lady GaGa wearing a meat dress to an awards show. Campiness is The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and the The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
It is a mode of art that walks the tightrope of absurdity and opulence — balancing between too much and not enough. It often leaves an individual speechless, in fits of laughter, or in a state of wanting more.
The campiness of Creation
If you know what to look for, campiness can be found everywhere. It is timeless and it is boundaryless.
It can even be found within Creation.
You see, Campiness is Creation. Creation is Campiness.
God is a Holy Seamstress of Camp Couture.
“In the beginning…”, “Let there be light…”, “It was good…”, “Be fruitful and multiply…”
These are but a few campy messages and ostentatious statements found in the first version of creation. It is important to note that there are multiple accounts of the beginning, and though tradition has declared the author to be Moses, leading scholars claim it to have been written between the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E., long after the time that “Moses” was said to exist.
Does this take away from the art conveyed to us through scripture? Or does it allow for space, space where the breath of imagination and creation can work and move within us?
I do not at all believe Scripture to be literal. This campy queen writing this believes wholeheartedly in science and reason. That said, there is insurmountable poetic power and wisdom dwelling in the pages of these stories.
We are shown the Weaver of the Universe claiming space for their art, modeling love through breathing life, showing defiance by challenging the status quo, and embracing chaos through crafting of the laws of physics.
God Created Heaven and Earth and all that lay in between. God Created Water and Land but also marshes and beaches. God created Day and Night, and God created a holy transition between the two. God created a sacred spectrum in all of creation.
Oftentimes, these spectrums go unspoken or unaddressed because of their power. The mere existence of difference, in-betweens, and none-of-the-aboves within the Story of Genesis threatens the historic and exclusionary dichotomies of the Church. This is to say, God’s very first work of art is politically charged.
From the first act of creation, a message was cast: You may try to define me, but you shall never succeed.
You may try to define me, but you shall never succeed.
That is a message of Creation. That is a message of Campy Rebellion.
Humanity as cosmic couture
There is one other word that is used within the world of drag: Couture.
This word is born from the queerly dominated fashion industry. It describes individual garments designed for specific people for specific times and for specific circumstances. It is the opposite of mass production.
Most of what Drag artists wear is couture. This is because we as artists are not a one-size-fits-all embodiment. Mass-produced clothing rarely fits us physically or metaphorically. This is the same with Divinity. And with Humanity.
It was on the Fifth and Sixth days of Creation that the Divine gazed down upon the waters of the universe, saw themself reflected back, and manifested humanity as an abstract non-carbon-copy-self-portrait of holy representation. Divinity breathed a life of evolving renditions into human history. No two creations are ever the same. No two can be placed in the same box. No two can be defined by the same words.
You may try to define me, but you shall never succeed.
Just as we will never be able to define God, we will never be able to define each other. We are the Imago Dei. We are a Campy Rebellion. We are Cosmic Couture. We are God’s Greatest Creations.
We are a part of a Sacred Spectrum. Our genders, sexualities, identities are deemed very good by the breath of divinity which exists within us.
Finding meaning in community
Yes, we are works of art as individuals, good and enough simply by existing; but, like any Art Installation, any Gallery Wall, any symphony orchestra, it is through togetherness, through uplifting our outrageous and holy differences, that deeper meanings can be found.
It is in community that the painful chaos of life can be felt as peace. It is in community that the marginalized can gather as one. It is in community that the Day and the Night, the Light and the Dark, the Absurd and Mundane, can coexist for the betterment of the world.
It is in community that we are meant to live.
No… It is in an equitable community, one where we give reparation for harm, one where we seek justice for the oppressed, one where we experience liberation from the shackles of racism, sexism, homophobia, and all other -isms, that we are meant to thrive.
In the beginning God Created Heaven and Earth…
What is it that we are creating today? What will our children learn to create tomorrow?
Will we create moments that uplift the spectrum of beauty that exist within those different from us?
Will we create change within institutions that cause harm?
Will we create a campy kin-dom of collective misfits and outcasts: Of ourselves and of each other?
Will we create? Will we love? Will we honor the Imago Dei of one another?
Ms. Penny Cost (She/Her/Hers) is not your average church-lady! She (as her real life counterpart Isaac Simmons) is the first Drag Queen in the world to become a Certified Candidate for Ordained Ministry within the United Methodist Church. As an unapologetically Queer Drag Queen, her eye-catching ministry has earned her the title of “The Drag Evangelist” due to her ability to reach, empower and celebrate LGBTQIA+ People. She has preached to congregations from Alabama to California and has been featured by NPR, Sojourners Magazine and Religion News Service. Her drag is rooted in a unique reclamation and reconstruction of faith which aims to show all people as whole-ly and holy made!