This essay examines what it means for queer subjects to cultivate a concern for their lives and the lives of others in the face of debilitating circumstances, when these efforts are maintained through religious practices and attachments. Taking cues from a small yet growing strand of social science research that has investigated the role of religion and “spirituality” in queer people's everyday lives, I explore how the experience of a divine presence informs queer practices of self-formation and how religious faith becomes implicated in marginalized world-making projects. Drawing on fieldwork conducted at an African American Pentecostal church led by a gay and same-gender-loving clergy, I offer a detailed study of how the gatherings and events at the church make available a mode of truth telling that activates capacities embedded in a transformative process of governing oneself and others. The essay concludes with two interconnected claims: first, rather than direct attention away from the world, religious experience helps queers of faith—many of whom are queers of color—achieve the consistency and courage they need to recalibrate their lives so that they can conduct themselves more forcefully in this world, thereby expanding their agency and capacity for flourishing in an impoverished city; second, despite queer theory's investment in secular modes of critique and analysis, the realm of the religious and the sacred provides many queers of color with a resource for developing the kind of critical attitude modernist scholars have conventionally associated with the sphere of secular thought and action.
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Niels Van Doorn; Forces of Faith: Endurance, Flourishing, and the Queer Religious Subject. GLQ 1 October 2015; 21 (4): 635–666. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-3123725
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