On The Practice of Undoing


Sirens. So many sirens. I remember a youth pastor once encouraged our group to pray every time we heard sirens. To pray for the safety and health of those in need of those ambulances, police, or fire trucks. To pray for the workers and volunteers. To pray for loved ones and families of the injured who have no idea what might have happened at that second. To pray for those whose worlds may be torn apart at the seams.


As I scramble to “write” (I put it in quotation marks because it’s nowhere near the kind of writing I wish I would be able to do compared to the actual students in the seminar) a final paper on performativity, drag theory, and the clergy robe, I feel grateful. This past semester I gorged on so much feminist and queer theory it unearthed a subterranean hunger for this kind of language. I remember reading “Auntie Judy,” (as one student loved to call her) during my undergrad for my English major and a critical theory class. But that was the last of it.

So, fell in love with Undoing Gender, which apparently was less rigorously philosophical than her other works (I struggled with some of it – so dense – needed more than a week to read it), but it clearly had a spiritual component to it, and that opened up so much for me.

“Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something. If this seems so clearly the case with grief, it is only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. It may be that one wants to, or does, but it may also be that despite one’s best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, by the feel, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel. And so when we speak about my sexuality or my gender, as we do (and as we must), we mean something complicated by it. Neither of these is precisely a possession, but both are to be understood as modes of being dispossessed, ways of being for another, or, indeed, by virtue of another.” 
― Judith Butler 

This is more than about the dismantling of gender and sexuality norms. It’s a recognition that the more layers I mine in the Other, and into myself, I see how less intact I am as an individual. I see the brokenness in the wider community. I see the fragile webs between people. Pull one thread and the whole thing – what I think I know about life, humanity, God – it falls apart. At the very least, I realize that all our best efforts to categorize people, categorize ourselves and our interests and ambitions, our convictions about our most profound selves is kind of futile. And, maybe even detrimental.


I long for undoing. Not just raw honesty or transparency or all the buzz words of an authentic Christianity that has emerged in the last decade or so. Undoing. The exquisite work of undoing that strips away the neat lines and clear edges around who I think I am. The cleansing kind of undoing that rips those dragon scales off so I can dive into that glorious, delicious baptism again and again. The poignant kind of undoing that in the end helps me to experience a different kind of wholeness, one that sees the brokenness as a much more rooted integrity, one that sees openness as pragmatic and necessary, one that sees weakness as strength.

There’s creative work in the dismantling and deconstructing – in the fragments. I love the fragments. God can actually work with fragments and do something amazing.

“The bad thing about falling into pieces is that it hurts. The good thing about it is that once you’re lying there in shards you’ve got nothing left to protect, and so have no reason not to be honest.” -David James Duncan

One thought on “On The Practice of Undoing

  • May 9, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    work when we

    -ments bringing
    in the shards:
    love the frag-

    neat lines and
    clear edges

Comments are closed.