Our final writer for 2018 was the wonderful Grace de Morgan, who reflected here on the intersection of faith, politics, and friendship in her new play Quite Drunk, Very Jesus-y.
A week out from doing this play development, I’m feeling quite nauseous. Postal
votes have gone out and my Facebook feed is flooded with impassioned status
updates entreating people to vote yes. I’m a proud ‘Yes’ voter. I’m also a
Christian. And while I have many friends of faith who are in a similar position
and view same-sex marriage as a clear social justice issue, I suspect many of the
people I went to my Anglican youth group with do not feel the same.
In my experience, these friends are not bad people. My understanding is that
they are trying to do what they think God would want. And for many that means
standing up for marriage (…even though Jesus himself did not seem that
concerned with the whole notion, let alone a historically specific ideal of it). My
concern is that these same friends do not realise they are sharing the same side
as the people who repeatedly called my gay friend a ‘faggot’ throughout high
school, the same people who spat on another while he exited Stonewall, the same
people who catcalled my lesbian friends when they held hands in the street. I
know these friends would never condone these actions, but – with or without
intention – their ‘No’ vote helps foster an environment where homophobia can
continue to exist and be downplayed.
Had the postal vote been rolled out when I was 19, I’m not sure I would have
voted ‘Yes’ either. My world was smaller and I had not yet met three of my
favourite people — I had not made chaotic theatre with him yet; we had not
drunk bad organic wine while watching ‘Black Books’ at 1AM yet; she had not yet
given me the best advice of my life while I cried over a boy who didn’t and would
never love me back.
I had not yet heard their coming out stories, how certain families had to ‘get used
to’ the idea while others flat out rejected those they claimed to love. I had not yet
heard stories of internalised shame, of not wanting to draw attention to
themselves out of fear, of praying the gay away.
In the words of comedian/actor Hannah Gadsby, “Children aren’t meant to be
shamed.” However, my teenage understanding of faith compelled me to hold
church values above all else, to think that by sticking to specific principles I
would shine like a city on a hill and thus be a ‘good Christian witness’. Yet now as
an adult I stand away from that tradition, in a more contextual and progressive
understanding of the Bible. It is now – more than ever – that I feel compelled and
in awe of the Jesus of the New Testament. It’s this figure that I have faith in, the
man who was friends with sex workers, lepers and tax collectors over the rich,
religious and respectable. It’s this faith that compels me to actively advocate that
we not shame people for being who they are, to love others as I myself hope to be
I don’t claim to know what is in God’s heart of hearts, but I do not think a god of
compassion would want any queer people to be contemplating taking their own
lives rather than love the people they love. And if that sounds extreme, it’s
because it is. According to statistics by LGBTI Health, LGTBI people are five times
more likely to attempt suicide over the general population. In young people aged
16 to 27, that is 16% of LGTBI young people in comparison to 3.2% of the
‘Quite Drunk, Very Jesus-y’ is the play I wish my 19 year old self could have seen.
Despite not coming from a Christian family, I started going to an Anglican youth
group when I was 13 or 14, mainly so I had an excuse to be around my beautiful,
Jesus-loving sister. Smash cut to years later, after countless Bible studies, church
camps and Sunday nights of praise & worship. What I had was a greater
understanding of the Christian faith, some very good friends, a tonne of great
memories, but also a lot of questions about the conservative Anglican culture and
where faith and culture deviated. I was a naturally outspoken girl with a curious
mind and for a very long time I felt deep shame about that. (And to be honest, I
still do sometimes.)
I wouldn’t wish needless shame on anyone. It is a light-killing, energy-sapping
parasite that claims to do good while depleting you from the inside. If I was
anxious about being kind of weird and opinionated, I can only imagine the self-
loathing of faithful friends who had ‘fallen away’ more visibly.
I’m lucky (even blessed?) that I’ve maintained friendships from those youth
group years, that I don’t live in an echo chamber, that I’ve only had to unlearn a
quarter of what I was taught. However throughout time, as our lives have taken
different directions, many of those close friends and I have had to navigate
whether we’re just friends because we have history or because there’s
The thing is, I am my politics. But I am my friendships too. And when those
things don’t connect like snug puzzle pieces, there’s a cognitive dissonance that
requires resolving. This play is my dramatisation of that wrestle, an aspirational
thought experiment on what would need to happen for those friendships to
flourish, a story about friends whose politics are different, but who claim to have
the same faith.
So, long story short, that’s what ‘Quite Drunk, Very Jesus-y’ is about. (That and
getting drunk with your best friends on your 30 th while dancing to Fat Man
Grace De Morgan is a freelance writer and playwright. She is currently doing a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship and is under commission with Penguin Random House. She has written for ATYP, Bondi Feast, Good News Week, Junkee,news.com.au, Old Fitz Theatre, Playwriting Australia, Seizure, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Roast. You can find more of her work at gracedemorgan.com.