Spoken word poetry puts meaning behind beliefs

While listening to it, you can sense how deep of a place it comes from. It’s passionate and moving; it ignites action; and it showcases the true power of words. 

I’ve been drawn to spoken word poetry since the first time I heard it back in high school. It’s a medium for expressing feelings and emotions in a way I’ve never experienced.

Members and allies of the LGBT community have utilized this medium to shed light on the issues most pressing to them, and it is undoubtedly the most effective mode of allowing people to feel their struggles, especially regarding religion.

We often hear debates on TV and radio over a wide array of issues. While debates allow a person to see the competition of two or more ideas, they always end in a way where one idea or set of beliefs comes out on top. 

The biggest problem with debates is that they negate the fact that the ideas and beliefs we hold come from a place close to the heart. You can use all the claims and supporting evidence you want, but that’s not enough to get to the core of your beliefs. They are unwavering, and people hold strong convictions. 

But we live in a world where everybody is always looking to change each other’s minds. It’s not impossible, but it doesn’t happen overnight either. 

The way minds are changed isn’t simply by letting other people know where you are on a particular issue but by engaging in dialogue and helping people understand where your beliefs come from. When someone can truly understand opposing viewpoints, their beliefs become much more moderate if not completely changed.

In contrast, debate is all about who can make the better argument, while dialogue is about processing and understanding someone’s point of view.

I’ve come across some amazing poets who have used their words to advocate for a broad spectrum of LGBT issues while exploring the art of spoken words poetry. There was one poet in particular whose words really struck me and took me aback in a poem titled “God is Gay.”

I came across this poem early in the semester as performed by Elliot Darrow at the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational at Barnard College in New York City.  

“God is Gay” is controversial without question, but the poem helps suggest the hypocrisy in certain denominations of the Christian faith when it comes to beliefs regarding people of the LGBT community.

Darrow’s first implication comes after he says, “[Garden of Eden] was designed by queer, I mean divine eye for the straight guy.” He goes on to say, ”A history lesson: A faggot is a bundle of sticks … But Moses came across wood on fire and saw God in it. What is a burning bush but bundles of branches on fire, isn’t it funny how faggots and God can look the same sometimes?”

He later goes on to show how the Bible possibly even says that it’s OK to have two dads by saying, “Jesus had two dads and turned out just fine/In fact, Jesus had two dads and a surrogate mother/That never had sex with either of them/Maybe Mary was a lesbian.” And ironically exposed how, “Now all the homosexual Homo sapiens/Stand more united under God’s rainbow/Than all of his denominations do around the cross.”

I think the best words to describe his poetry are shocking and provocative, but doesn’t he make a point? 

A faith founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ, a man of peace and love, who said all of God’s creations are perfect just the way they are, has been warped and skewed by contradicting biblical teachings. Some consider a handful of God’s creations abominations despite the belief that only God may pass judgment.

It can be easily argued that nothing clashes more than religion and non-traditional sexual identities. Their relationship has been a story of the oppressed versus the oppressor. Inclusion versus exclusion. 

Yet in this poem, the poet synthesizes the two. 

He brings into question how God’s most conservative followers would react if they learned that God is gay. Would they still, “holler hate speech to the hilltops/In His name?/Or do you think they would reread the scriptures/They say they swear and survive by.”

Darrow doesn’t deconstruct and point out flaws of the Christian faith or argue that one is better than the other. Yes, his words are provocative, but in the name of a fighting cause. 

In the end, he reclaims his own Christian faith. He talks about his understanding of God as perfection, protection and love. Not hate. 

In this dialogue, you understand where he’s coming from as he makes the case that the image of God that has been created by fundamentalists is warped. 

Spoken word poetry puts things in ways that make you think critically about the beliefs you hold. It fosters a forum to rise above debate and transition into a dialogue in which others try to understand people’s backgrounds and reasons of why they hold the beliefs they hold. 

If you want to change minds and attitudes, you have to provide engaging and prolonged dialogue. The performers of spoken word poetry do just that.

Matt is a sophomore in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MatthewPasquini.