1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and clarity of vision

A friend of mine has a parishioner who is struggling with the notion of how queer inclusivity reconciles with biblical teachings.  The verses particularly in question are 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.

This is one of the seven-or-so Bible quotes that gets frequently trotted out in order to condemn gay folks on the cheap.  It’s particularly convenient for the nay-gay-sayers because, like Lev. 18:22, it seems so uncomplicated: here is a list of people who are sinners, condemned, officially blocked by God (and/or Paul) from getting into heaven.  Clearly, this thinking goes, whatever Paul meant when he included the words “sodomites” and “male prostitutes” on this list, is the same as our understanding of the queer folks in our midst today.

So when my friend asked me my thoughts on it, I first cracked open my exegetical resources, then read the passage in its broader context.  I read about how these verses — especially in view of Paul generally and 1 Corinthians particularly — are about behaviors which demonstrate greed and excess, and which result in breach and division within the community.  Reading in this light, it does not seem at all convincing that Paul’s inclusion of the words “sodomites” and “male prostitutes” amounts to God’s categorical rejection of all people in same sex relationships.

But then a couple days later, I woke up thinking about this text, and for some reason, thought immediately of a second verse:

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

To me, these words from Jesus are a fundamental aspect of Christian posture and priority.  When it comes to judging the evils of others, I need to be sure that I’m know what I’m looking at.  When I endeavor to say “God sez…” I need to make damned sure that I know what I’m talking about.  Maybe I should devote more time and energy into my own spiritual well-being, before attacking that of someone else.  And at the end of it all, I think it behooves Christians to construct arguments about who’s in and who’s out with more than just a small handful of references that work best when stripped from their original context.

First the log…then the speck.

The offense inherent in staking a claim

If you like this sort of thing, I’m engaged in an interesting dialogue on this thread with donniedarko, an orthodox Roman Catholic.  One of the questions it is raising for me is, to what extent do I bear the responsibility for my words which offend others?

On the one hand, on this post the other day, I initially referred to Glenn Beck as a “misty-eyed, Mormon moron.”  I subsequently removed the word “Mormon” because upon rereading it, I thought it could read as an attack on the Church of Latter Day Saints, and I don’t want to do that.  The potential for causing accidental offense seemed like a valid enough reason to change my initial rant post.

On the other hand, one of the things that donniedarko is upset about is that I am invoking the name of Jesus to defend gay people.  donniedarko also takes grave exception to my use of the word “McEucharist” (in a not-specifically Catholic context, but the offense is felt no matter what, simply because of the sacredness of the Eucharist).  Now, I don’t want to needlessly cause donniedarko offense, but at the same time, I am not about to censor my blog according to the sensibilities of Roman Catholicism.

In the meantime, what’s a peacemaker like me to do?

On Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck has a pretty sweet gig.  It must be nice not to be beholden to the truth.

This was going to be a post refuting some of the latest utter nonsense spewed forth by Glenn Beck, but writing that felt kind of like being sprayed in the face with seawater for an hour, then constructing an argument about how one particular mouthful tastes bad.  There’s just so much of it coming at you, all at once, that ducking out of the way might be a better form of resistance than deploying the tools of accuracy and logic.

My stepfather likes to say, “Never wrestle with a pig.  You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.”  Indeed.  I’d look like an idiot trying to fact-check Glenn Beck.  (Or, for that matter, a three year old.  Or a Golden Retriever.)

I’m not saying the man himself isn’t intelligent.  I have no idea whether he’s a fool or a liar, and I’m not sure it really matters.  What matters is that he commands an audience of millions of viewers, and he is beholden only to their viewership.  He is not beholden to truth, reason, or fairness, but rather to the numbers.  And truth, reason, and fairness are only useful insofar as captivate the masses and deliver the numbers, and can be dispensed with if they don’t.

It is lamentable that Glenn Beck’s viewers go along with his ride.  He bears the moral guilt for his careless and shameful information manipulation.  But what about the rest of us?  For those of us who understand that good theology is liberating, and who care about social justice because that is the work of God, we owe it to ourselves and our neighbors not to allow Glenn Beck to twist our faith into a tool to advance his conspiracy theories.

Glenn Beck is free to deny that Jesus cares about social justice if he wants to.  (I don’t know what Bible he’s reading, but hey, this is America.)  But Jesus is undeniably a liberator.  God always calls us to greater justice and mercy.  And not even a misty-eyed moron spewing seawater can overpower the reality of God.

An offensive depiction of Jesus?

Interesting problem with one of the icons in a Catholic church in Oklahoma.  Their main crucifix is in the style of a San Damiano cross, which depicts Christ with a distended stomach.  In this instance, a bunch of people are seeing a huge erection instead.  Some have even left the church over it.

The poor artist, an orthodox Catholic, sounds really torn up about it, and will alter the icon.  According to a fellow artist, sounds like it’s a problem of contrast when the art is viewed from a ways back – something which would have been very difficult to see upon painting it up close.

Regardless: does it seem crazy to anyone else that many are more easily offended by the notion of Jesus having an erection than of Jesus’ death by crucifixion?

Warr Acres Crucifix

The Warr Acres Crucifix, in the San Damiano style

San Damiano Crucifix

A traditional San Damiano Crucifix

Just thinking out loud

Jesus created a church out of the most marginalized people in society, while opposing to the end the entrenched civic and religious structures that would eventually collude to kill him. We find Jesus today, as with yesterday, among the most marginalized people in our midst. And for those of us who find ourselves among the most powerful civic and religious structures should never assume that the just God of the powerless is smiling down in assent to whatever we do.

Where does Jesus show up today? Who’s with him? And what is he saying to me, in the face of all of my squandered privilege?

Speak, Holy One!! I am listening as best I am able, but I do not often hear your voice over the calamity of my life.

Our world is careening into chaos, there is brokenness and suffering wherever people abide, and the most compelling religious discourse throughout America is whether or not two dudes can get married?? What utter fools we are.

Speak, Holy One!! I cannot say if we are listening, but we need your living Word.

When did the church of the “least of these” get fancy projector screens and glorious organs and gorgeous pianos and professional bands and huge gymnasiums and spacious parking lots and unnatural waterfalls and ornate plates and solid silver chalices and individually packaged McEucharists and high pulpits and low taxes? But more importantly, did we give up anything in return?

Speak…!!

Good things in small packages

I know I was touched by God Incarnate this morning.  It was awesome.

Today we had a special healing service after the two usual ones at church.  There was laying on of hands, anointing with oil and some good praying and music.  I played and sang a couple chants on piano.  It was free-flowing and simple, leisurely yet concise.  It was rather unlike our usual weekly white Protestant fare, in which church is a more individual endeavor (though not nearly as personal).

Since I was playing piano, I did not go forward to be anointed with oil during the healing service, but I wanted to be anointed afterward.  Those who had helped officiate (a pastor and a few ‘Ministers of Care’) were scattered about the room,  so I turned to the closest other person, a short, cute kid certainly no more than 4 years old.  I called him over and said, “I didn’t get any oil for my head during the service.  Would you help me?”  He nodded.

I picked up one of the bowls of oil and handed it to him, kneeling down to his level.  He dipped his left index finger into the oil and slowly, deliberately traced it down my forehead – then across, in order to complete the cross.

His mom then came over and helped him say a prayer for me.  She told me he really likes church.  I told her, maybe he’ll end up getting stuck here too.  I hope someday, particularly if he does end up going into ministry, I can find him and tell him this story.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”  I’ve been exploring the idea that Jesus is, among other things, an ongoing, at-any-moment manifestation of God Incarnate, one who shows up in others (and maybe even me? Whoa…) from time to time.  Today, I’m convinced that Jesus showed up personally to me and blessed me at the hands of this awesome little kid.  Thanks, Ethan!

Since you brought it up, Governor…

Gov. Palin is throwing around the line that Sen. Obama has been “palling around with terrorists.”  This is in reference to two facts:  (1) Obama sat on the board of a charity with former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers and (2) Ayers once donated $200 bucks to a former campaign of Obama’s.

“Palling around with terrorists” indeed.  That’s shameful.

Remember when we were being told that there was a “working relationship” between Iraq and al Qaeda?  One that, well, never materialized?  Interesting how some of the same Bushies are now working for Palin.  Maybe tha’s where this is coming from.

Nonetheless, if guilt-by-association is the governor’s game, that’s fine by me:

So tell me why again does Palin think she has any moral ground to stand on?  This brings to my mind a certain Christian teaching (Mat 7:1-5):

[Jesus said,] “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”

The Gospels According to…Wordle?

Wordle is a site that enables one to create text-based art, where the size of each word is proportionate to the number of times it appears in the text.  Very cool.

Matthew:

Mark:

Luke:

John:

(Thanks, Wordle!)

Through the eyes of the Canaanite Woman

Matthew 15:21-28, the story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman, is one of the more troubling passages of the Bible for me:

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

It wouldn’t surprise me if it was merely the disciples who responded to this woman without hospitality.  These warm friends of Jesus were so often mistaken when it came to bringing others into the fold.  But Jesus’ own words (insults!) and actions here seem very out of step with much of the rest of Jesus’ approach towards those on the margins.  In preparing for this reflection, I really felt compelled to try and listen to the forgotten voice of this courageous and tenacious woman, based on what is described in the text. Unfortunately, her own words and experience are unfortunately left up to our guesswork at this point, so what follows is my own guess as to what this might have looked like… Read the rest of this entry »

The way, the truth, and the life

As I’ve hinted at previously, I am doing CPE at a home for the elderly, serving in the capacity as Chaplain Intern.  The Chaplain Interns take turns creating the morning chapel services, and last week, I attempted something very ambitious for a non-fundamentalist Christian:  I decided to preach on John 14:1-7.

The Word of the Lord:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.”

What follows is my reflection on this text (delivered 7/7/08).

Read the rest of this entry »