By Emily Haaksma, Staff Writer
Elliot Darrow is a self-described “average white, heterosexual, Christian male.”
That quick bio doesn’t make you want to watch him competitively perform poetry?
Despite what internalized stereotypes may say, Darrow, a UNC Drama student, is a talented and engaging slam poet. His recent piece, “God is Gay,” is filling up news feeds across the country and spurring intense debates in both religious and LGBT communities.
The fast paced, controversial poem revolves around an divisive question: what if God was gay?
Darrow uses specific references to the Bible in his piece, an approach that conservative and anti-gay groups often take. This strategic move draws attention to the fact that there is a huge demographic of Christians that accept people of all sexualities.
“I’ve seen so many people… misuse the Bible to preach not necessarily hatred, but just ignorance toward people who are of other preferences,” Darrow said in a Swampland Time article. “I want to show that regardless of how someone identifies, God wants to love them, and God does love them. The best way I’ve found to do that is to use the Bible, to use teachings that I have been taught.”
“God is Gay” upsets a lot of people when they see it, which wasn’t exactly what Darrow was aiming for when he wrote the poem.
“I don’t think it’s my place to tell someone what to believe,” said Darrow when he was asked about the reactions of his audiences in an interview with the Guilfordian. His main goal with the piece was for people to set aside differences, rather than forcing his ideology onto others.
“God is not a hating entity,” said Darrow. “God is a loving entity.”
First-year and avid Quaker Emma Moreno was fascinated by the concept of “God is Gay.”
“As a Quaker, I was brought up to believe that everyone should be loved and appreciated,” said Moreno. “But I never really thought about God’s sexuality.”
“I thought the piece stirred up a lot of trouble,” said first-year Jeffrey Darion, who is an active member of Pride at Guilford.
Darion believes that mixing the topics of religion and sexual orientation can be dangerous because the potential for controversy is so high.
Jim Hood, Professor of English, argues that this aspect of slam poetry is necessary in many ways.
“The only way poetry can stay alive is if it breaks or remakes the forms that have already been in place,” said Hood.
However, Hood has some qualms about the trend of slam poetry.
“What’s always interesting about poetry,” said Hood, “is the question of how long it will last. Highly topical poetry, or any kind of art form, that is so tied to the specific moment of its historical inception can become unintelligible in a just a few years.”
Regardless of the fleeting nature of writing fashions, Darrow’s poem delves into a difficult topic that is necessary to explore. It is not every day that we get to witness someone grappling with two ends of a spectrum create a beautiful middle ground.
As Fintan O’toole, a columnist for The Irish Times, once wrote: “Poetry is language held taut by being stretched between the poles of competing desires.”
“God is Gay” is effective because it takes advantage of the strained, tenuous interactions between religion and sexual orientation.
“As a performer (Darrow) was wonderful,” said Moreno. “He felt like a preacher. There was something coming from the center of him, and pushing out to his audience, that was beyond him. He was wrestling with something much bigger than just words.”