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JACKIE HILL PERRY CANNOT SEPARATE HERSELF FROM THE ANTAGONIZING NATURE OF THE CHURCH

Jackie Hill Perry Cannot Separate Herself From The Antagonizing Nature of The Church

Jackie Hill Perry somehow thinks that she is separate from the anti-Black, anti-fat, colonialist nature of the Church. She is not.

Days ago, an accomplished poet by the name of Jackie Hill Perry was invited to discuss her relationship to the Church and her sexuality by KevOnStage—a popular YouTube personality. The hour-long conversation between the two of them can be wrapped up in one word: deliverance. This is a word Perry would never use, and in fact an ideology she seems to actively war against, but the basis for the theological framework she uses that allows her to believe that she can be “functionally heterosexual” is only made possible through that word.

In the Christian context, “deliverance” is the idea that once someone is “born again”—otherwise meaning to have accepted Jesus as Lord in order to be saved from hell and given eternal life through God—they have committed themselves to walking a path separate from sin. It’s the idea that one can come to God gay and become straight; that one can come to God a “pothead” and become someone who no longer craves a blunt. To this, Jackie says no. It is her belief that one never abandons their “sinfulness,” but that their commitment to God must be greater than their temptation. She is right that those feelings never go away. Where she falters, or where she starts to fail, is with the belief that these things are “sinful” in the first place. She never needs to use the word “deliverance” to explain her theology because the utility of Jesus is predicated on the existence of “deliverance from sin” which is foundational to the Christian religion. If there is sin, there must be deliverance; if there is a usefulness for Jesus, there must be sin.

We saw this on full display a few years ago through the viral video where Andrew Caldwell shouts the words: “I’m not gay no more, I am delivert! I don’t like mens no more, I said I like women.” And while this was and continues to be a funny moment, it’s the perfect story to place in juxtaposition to Jackie’s.

Jackie Hill Perry is dangerous in a way that Andrew Caldwell is not because while Andrew makes a mockery—which is perhaps an inadvertent critique—of the idea of deliverance, Jackie attempts to legitimize it through an elementary reckoning with desire/ability and abstinence. To Jackie, she can be “functionally heterosexual” while she’s attracted to women because of her commitment to the logics that reduce/dismiss bisexuality, asexuality, and other forms of queerness. But more than that, Andrew and Jackie both commit to suppressing the parts of themselves truest to them, and that they enjoy the most, because at the core of Christianity is anti-fatness and a culture of purity—whereby I mean desirability—which instructs people to abstain from/deny themselves of the things they want.

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Part of the underpinnings of Christianity, alongside anti-Blackness and colonialism, is anti-fatness. Calls to abstain from sex and to otherwise be “delivered from (sexual) sin” exist because calls to fast and to do away with “gluttony” exist. Purity demands that one denies their desire, and that denial stems in part from anti-fatness which is built into the (im)moral fabric of Christianity. It is for this reason that, despite her unwillingness to name it as such, Jackie’s theology is one still rooted in and cannot be separated from the idea of deliverance. As stated by Sabrina Strings in Fearing The Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia, the Protestant Church leaned heavily on identifying “overeating” as ungodly as to punish fat Africans who they read as “greedy.” It was this that created anti-fatness as a coherent ideology, and it’s this ideology that produces the need for one to suppress or abstain from the things they want.

This is to say that abolishing the structures that permit/make room for/necessitate anti-fatness would in many ways free even thin people from the idea that they ever need to deny their desires. This would make clear that concepts like “greed(iness)” and “overconsumption” are the cages that breed abstinence as a prerequisite for the right to live; that for one to be free, they must be Thin—even if only in politic. As a politic, Thinness requires one to be eager about scarcity; it demands that one consume less, desire less, rather than make the demand that we end a World where what one desires would leave others without.

It is no more greedy for any consenting adults to be with each other than it is for a person to get a third plate. We must feed ourselves. We don’t need language like “junk food” any more than we need language like “abstinence”; we don’t need language like “cheat days” any more than we need language like “deliverance”; we don’t need language like “gluttony” any more than we need language like “sin.” And it is dangerous to teach people that something worth serving would actively command them to “deny their flesh” or otherwise not be exactly who they are.

For this, I think Jackie Hill Perry is very dangerous. She has built an entire career and platform on the idea that she is different from the rest of the Church. She believes that by recognizing that her desire for women never disappeared, and that by suppressing those desires as to appear more like God, she is somehow separate from the antagonizing nature of the Church. She isn’t. They are two sides of the same coin, and the coin is anti-Blackness, anti-fatness, colonialism. At the heart of it all, she still hates bisexuality. At the root, she is still committed to a life of turmoil—and teaching that this type of life is righteous—all for a faulty promise that one day she’ll wear a white robe and walk streets paved in gold; this is the supposed ultimate reward for one’s “purity,” abstinence, and denial of desire.

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So many people would be better off, not only for others but for themselves, if they would turn away from Christianity. I am of the belief that Christianity—and religion as a whole—has to be abolished. I don’t think it is possible to be Christian and not embrace these parts of it because these are the tenets of Christianity; without them, Christianity has no foundation. Otherwise, you’re just a person who has some values that are central to the community around you, and not necessarily the morals and ethics of the religion assigned to them. Jackie and all others like Jackie must learn to first love Blackness and to love the Freedom of Fatness if they are ever going to unlearn cis/heterosexist logics that produce this theology. 

This is to say: we must abolish Christianity and we must abolish anti-fatness if we ever hope to live without producing more people like Jackie. Because this theology impacts more than just the individual in the same ways that anti-Blackness does. Abolition now. Without it, more queer lives are harmed by religions committed to the undoing of queerness.

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Da’Shaun Harrison is a nonbinary abolitionist and organizer in Atlanta, GA. They write and speak publicly on race, sexuality, gender, class, religion, disabilities, fatness, and the intersection at which they all meet. Harrison is the author of the forthcoming book, “Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness,” which is expected to be published in July 2021. Their portfolio and other work can be found on their site: dashaunharrison.com.

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