Sunday, January 10, 2010

Psalm 88: A Gay Mormon Psalm?

Many of the Psalms are an outpouring of the soul; anguished cries of pain, fear or loneliness; or ecstatic hymns of praise. They don't provide context or background; they don't necessarily tell us the specific, concrete events in the life of the Psalmist that inspired the verses before us on the page. It is true that traditionally, many of the Psalms are attributed to King David, and we know enough about his life to imaginatively connect certain Psalms to key events in his life. Still, part of the appeal of the Psalms is that they have been preserved without any clear historical or biographical framing, allowing them to speak directly to our struggles and triumphs, to our moments of anguish and joy. That is why they are both powerful and comforting.

I occasionally find passages in scripture -- not just in the Psalms but throughout scripture -- that seem to speak directly and specifically to me, in the very concrete contours of my life as a gay man of faith, having grown up in a community that feared and rejected me because of my gayness. Sometimes it speaks to me so specifically, it feels almost as if it had been written just for me, though I know that is not true!

Psalm 88 speaks particularly to the anguish of one who has become outcast from his community. The Psalmist, furthermore, wrestles with a sense of being rejected by God, and feelings of worthlessness and a desire to die.

verse 3 My soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.

verse 4 I am counted with them that go down to the pit; I am as a man that hath no strength (viewed by others as damned? as weak?)

verse 5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.

verse 8 Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them; I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. We gay Mormons know what it is to have been "made... an abomination unto them." And we know what it is to be "shut up" in the closet, unable to "come forth."

verse 14 Why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? What did we do to deserve this?

verse 15 I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up. How many of us have died in our youth!

verse 18 Lover and friend hast thou put far from me. How many of us have struggled, utterly alone, longing for someone to hold us!

But God does hear our cries, and he will answer our prayers.


BB said...

Thanks JGW, I love reading the psalms and this one jumped out at me. Thanks!

A Gay Mormon Boy said...

This is a very interesting close reading of something I've only glanced over multiple times. It just goes to show how the right mindset can produce brilliant results (and how those results can be shared with those in need). Thanks, Young Stranger

Maraiya said...

That's a beautiful application of the psalm.