Grace in Glitter: Baptized Into Drag


This is the first article in a regular column that will explore the spiritual and religious lives of drag artists around the world. This profile features Rev. Sam Lundquist, a pastor at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, CA.

I took my first footsteps into seminary and drag around the same time (though I only wore heels to one).

For months as I got myself ready for my first classes, I was also singing and dancing in a few clubs in San Francisco. Every night was thrilling, exhilarating, soul-filling. I felt alive being surrounded by lights and movement and music and creativity—and the community.

But it was always in “boy costumes.”

Meanwhile, one of my best friends was diving head first into drag. He’d done it years before but began to make it more and more a part of his life. Every weekend it seemed, he’d invite me to some new event and asked me to get all dolled up with him.

Eventually, I stuck my toes into that sparkly water. A little eyeshadow here, a little glitter there… Until he finally dragged me on stage to perform with him—fittingly a number from The Book of Mormon called “Baptize Me.” And from the first moment I stepped on that stage, I discovered that there is grace in that glitter. I felt alive and free in ways I never had before.

And so, my drag dabbling began and Joann Fabrixxx was born.

As of this moment, I wouldn’t dare call myself a drag queen, not even a princess. I’m a mere hobbyist, a casual participant. Drag dabbler seems to describe me best.

Much of that, I chalk up to time and energy. As seminary progressed, my schedule became packed with coursework, papers, and projects. Now as a pastor, I have a whole new slate of activities, events, and responsibilities. I still try to perform occasionally (like my first drag queen Bible story hour coming up this month!), but my time is very limited. So, a dabbler I remain.

But even just dabbling has given me a chance to immerse myself in the power of drag. I’ve experienced performances that have challenged me and opened my heart. I’ve marveled at the creativity and imagination of artists who are also some of the most grounded and compassionate people I’ve ever encountered. I’ve rested in the embrace of an accepting and encouraging community.

This column will invite you to experience a taste of that. Each article will offer a glimpse into the lives of drag performers from all over the world. You’ll hear their stories, discover their spiritual lives, and share in their wisdom. I can’t wait for you to meet them.

My hope is that you’ll discover what drag has taught me: that our world is—or at least can be—more than it seems.

We are more than our everyday selves.

We are more than our hair, makeup, clothes, and shoes.

We are more than all of the expectations, assumptions, and scripts that this world hands to us.

Through the performance art of extravagance, drag invites us to a space of joyful protest that says we can still dance in the midst of pain, still laugh in the depths of injustice, and still shine in the shadows of suffering.

For me, drag opened a window to a new kind of world, and as drag and my spiritual journey have intermingled, I’ve come to believe that the ministry of Jesus opened up that same window.

His community gathered those who were outcast, less-than, boxed-in, and beaten down into a new space of freedom.

His parables turned the world on its head and continue to invite us to swim inside a new story of what our world could be.

His compassion crossed every social boundary imaginable to reveal the joy we can discover through difference and diversity.

Through a ministry of extravagant grace, Jesus calls each of us to witness God’s unstoppable Spirit dancing through our broken world and to join in that beautiful party.

But perhaps most of all, Jesus proclaims—just as drag does—that we are more than what we seem. Shining at the center of every human being is the brilliant image of God, a light that reminds us always, “You are beloved. You are sacred. You are more than enough.”

Sam Lundquist is the Associate Pastor at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. He is dedicated to reimagining Christian worship & community and making the city more connected, creative, and caring.

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