RuPaul’s Drag Race isn’t exactly known as a show that’ll take you to church. But in a matter of weeks, one of the queens has managed to whip up an unlikely revival in the workroom.
That queen would be Latrice Royale.
Even casual references of RPDR among friends invites regurgitating RuPaul’s cheeky ‘ladyboy’ puns, shade throwing between queens, and the theatrics when queens “lip sync for your life” to avoid elimination. But something feels different this time, compared to seasons past: in some moments, I feel like I’m going to church.
A top four contender in the race to become “America’s Next Drag Superstar,” Latrice Royale has morphed into a motherly figure, moderating (or sitting back and sipping her tea) the insane cattiness between most of the queens.
In a few of her many golden moments, she recites or belts out her trademark spiritual so the queens can laugh, sing along and even have some good ‘ole church:
“Jesus is a biscuit. Let him sop you up!”
Hearing it takes me back to childhood moments singing and listening to sermons in my family’s Baptist church. When someone felt so inspired by the service or if “the spirit moved them,” they were encouraged to express it rather than repress it. A deacon praying may say, “Let the church say Amen” and the church says Amen. Or the pastor’s message hit the spot and someone sprung from their seat, raised their hand to God and shouted, “You better say it, now!”
That experience isn’t unique to me – it’s an experience every Sunday morning in black churches all across America. And it’s rooted in a tradition termed “call and response.”
It’s present in various musical and religious traditions, but especially salient in black churches. Call and response encourages congregational singing, active listening and participation from those not leading a song or chant. You can even hear “call and response” in many Negro spirituals including “Wade in the Water.” In the song, the leader might sing “Wade in the water/wade in the water children/wade in the water,” and others reply, “God’s gonna trouble the water.”
Latrice Royale’s little hymn is rooted in that very tradition. When she calls out “Jesus is a biscuit,” the other queens respond “let him sop you up!”
You see, biscuits are a baked good and even better when homemade. And with music, like baking, there’s a bit of a formula. But when whipping up some soul food, whether it be collard greens and cornbread or a soul-stirring song or inspirational statement, the cooks are known to improvise from the heart.
In that sense, “Jesus is a Biscuit” is one feast of a song. But its meaning might confuse folks unable to connect the dots between biscuits and Jesus.
Biscuits can be eaten plain, but most of us just don’t do that. We gotta have something with it – whether it’s blackberry Smucker’s, country molasses, gravy, margarine or even some bacon and eggs, the list goes on. It’s a simple little pastry, but it has a big job as a vessel to absorb and/or hold whatever you give it.
Apply that to Latrice’s song for a bit.
Consider that Christian faith invites followers to allow Jesus and his ministry to transform and take over their lives. It’s a belief that lessons on love, empathy, generosity and interdependence can absorb people and increase their wholeness.
So that would make Jesus the ‘biscuit.’ And what’s the ingredient he’s sopping up? According to the song, that would be you. But regardless of anyone’s faith tradition, that same expression can be applied as a lesson for life.
Religious faith acts as a source of higher inspiration for many, allowing belief in something greater to shape them, encourage them and fulfill them. Faith is also something very personal and even goes beyond being Christian, Muslim or tied to organized religion.
Faith can manifest into our work, our relationships, our goals and dreams and even ourselves – it’s all about allowing hope and belief to propel our evolution as individuals. If you’re passionate about your career, you have faith that you’ll perform well. If you’re passionate about relationships, you have faith that they will grow as you continue investing the time. If you’re passionate about goals and dreams, you have faith that they’ll come to fruition even when it’s hard. And if you’re passionate about individual growth, you continue having faith in yourself.
Food is a nourishing thing and so is faith of any kind. That’s the message of Latrice Royale’s song at its core.
Jesus really is a biscuit, and I let him sop me up. Writing is a biscuit and I let it sop me up. Whatever you believe in – whether it be a higher power or that one thing you’re passionate about doing – make it your biscuit and let it sop you up.
Also posted on the “In Our Words” blog. Link to piece can be found here.
Image Source: TVgasm.com