Moving Among Tents: Life, Sexuality and God


Tent Talk

My reflection stems from ruminations on how we might become more in touch with ourselves by looking deep into our hearts and re-centring ourselves as LGBTQ Christians. I am basing my reflection on Matthew 17:1-8 by reading it as a particularly breath-taking story. Theologians such as Origen have explained the transfiguration story as “a pattern of the resurrection to come.”[1] Origen also saw Moses and Elijah as symbols of “the law of God and the prophets.[2] My reflection suggests that the transfiguration story can be our story as LGBTQ persons. In the crafting of this reflection, I use “life” to refer to how one goes about living every day. I use “sexuality” as a reference to the many ways in which we understand ourselves in terms of our gender and sexuality. I use “God” as a term for the diverse ways in which we understand and have a relationship with God. Furthermore, I use the analogy of tents to describe the three issues of life, sex and God, and how these issues gravitate towards, or drift apart from each other, or perhaps both.

Compartmentalisation among LGBTQ Persons

One of my favourite parts in this story is the little speech that Peter made: “Lord,” he said, “It is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17: 4). Personally, I think Peter was so overwhelmed by what happened that he started saying crazy and silly things. But more importantly, I like imagining how each tent represents a person: a tent for Jesus, a tent for Moses, a tent for Elijah. I also think of Jesus, Moses and Elijah as representing a distinct category each: Jesus as salvation, Moses as the law of God, and Elijah as the prophets through the ages. Yet, Origen tells us that “Moses, the law, and Elijah, the prophet, became one only with the Gospel of Jesus; and not, as they were formerly three, did they so abide, but the three became one.”[3] So, while these are three distinct categories of persons with three distinct forms of significance, they are deeply interrelated. Somehow, this thought leads me to wonder about the different parts of our lives: Are the categories of our lives distinct and separate, or are they interrelated?

My reflection focuses particularly on our lives as LGBTQ persons. Are the categories of life as LGBTQ persons distinct and separate, or are they interrelated? Each of us knows how difficult it can be sometimes to express ourselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans,* or any other queer identifying. We face the risk of shock, ridicule, judgement, condemnation, rejection, discrimination, anger, disappointment and even violence. Some of us continue to feel that being LGBTQ is somehow wrong, sinful or abnormal. Some of us even hold on to the idea that God disapproves of us because of our sexuality. It can be very overwhelming and difficult to allow the seemingly distinct and separate tents of life, sexuality and God to be together in the same place. Thus, we separate the different parts of our lives and put them in different tents. We compartmentalise our lives. I do not deny that this can be an important strategy, because it can help us to cope with or avoid difficult situations. What I think can be destructive is that we no longer see ourselves as a whole or a unity, when different parts of ourselves are fragmented and isolated from each other. It is easy for us to forget that there are many distinct tents in our lives, but they are all interrelated. While we move between our many tents, we need to remember that these tents are all linked to each other. It is only then that life, sexuality and God can become constructive, uplifting and enriching experiences that help us grow to become the persons that we are meant to become.

The Call to Transfigure as LGBTQ Persons

Apart from Peter’s embarrassing moment, I also enjoy trying to imagine what went through Jesus’ mind when he was transfigured. What was he thinking? Among other things, I believe Jesus may have been taken by surprise by this event. As a true human being, he must have been trying to work out what significance this event held in his life. Perhaps Jesus was also awestruck when he found himself in the presence of Moses and Elijah. Perhaps he felt encouraged and inspired in his mission to do God’s work when he heard the voice from the cloud saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17: 5). Queer theologians Brian G. Murphy and Shannon Kearns see the Transfiguration as “the moment when [Jesus] shares what he truly is with the people that are closest to him.”[4] I agree with their opinion, and I would like to add that the transfiguration is also the moment when Jesus is overjoyed at being able to better connect the dots, to link the tents of his life. Although Jesus reveals who he is to his disciples in the transfiguration, I think that what is more important is that it is the moment when he reveals who he is to himself. I do not think that Jesus got it all worked out perfectly, but I believe that his life made more sense to him when he was able to face himself in the transfiguration.

I also believe that we are called to a daily transfiguration as LGBTQ Christians. In other words, we are invited by God to connect the dots, to link the tents of our lives, and to understand deep in our hearts that parts of our lives are interrelated. We are invited to explore how our sexualities are good and integral parts of our lives. We are called to deepen our understanding of our sexualities and lives as gifts from God. In this sense, we are called to be our deepest and truest selves by being courageous and honest in the way we live out our daily lives as sexual human beings who believe in God. Even if we have to shield parts of our lives from public scrutiny at times, God still invites us to let God enter our sexualities and our lives. We don’t have to have our lives all perfectly worked out, but we do need let God challenge and permeate every aspect of our existence. In this way, we allow ourselves to be transfigured just as Jesus was transfigured. Murphy and Kearns say that the “revelation of your true self … sets you on the path towards what it is that you’re called to do.”[5] To be transfigured means that deep in our bodies, emotions and thoughts, we reveal who we are to ourselves. It means that we see the different tents of our lives as connected to each other. When we actively live out these connections, we become our truest selves before God, ourselves and each other, and we deepen the meaning and purpose of our lives.


Joseph N. Goh is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Gender, Sexuality and Theology with the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Monash University, Malaysia. He holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, CA. An ordained minister with the North American Catholic Ecumenical Church (NACEC), Goh is also a member of the Emerging Queer Asian Pacific Islander Religion Scholars (EQARS) and the editor of the Queer Asian Spirit E-Magazine (QAS E-Zine).

Copyright © 2014 Joseph N. Goh. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Origen, “Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew,” (accessed March 20, 2014)

[2] Origen, “Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew,” (accessed March 20, 2014)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Brian G. Murphy and Shannon Kearns, “Jesus Comes Out – Matthew 17:1-9,” (accessed March 15, 2014)

[5] Ibid.