Friday, October 24, 2014

The Sacred Imprint of Sexual and Gender Diversity (Matthew 22:15-22)

LGBTQIA folk have been "occupied" for countless centuries as we are the objects of the imposition of the wills of Caesar and the Church

     Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap (Jesus) by what He said. They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know that You are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You defer to no one, for You don't show partiality. Tell us, therefore, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
     But perceiving their malice, Jesus said, "Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the tax." So they brought Him a denarius. "Whose image and inscription is this?" He asked them.
     "Caesar's," they said to Him.
     Then He said to them, "Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away.
Matthew 22:15-22



     Our queer ears perk up when we hear that religious and political leaders (the Pharisees and the Herodians) were seeking to trap Jesus. We are rather familiar with religio-political traps. The plight of sexual and gender minorities in contemporary Africa is festooned with such traps. The history of other societies are not any better. When we hear these words we need to understand that Jesus is being targeted just as we are often targeted.

     The ruse of entrapment is a question about taxes. This question is not neutral or an invitation to a general conversation of the role of government in the life of its citizenry. No, this question is laden with the deepest repugnance of Judea. For it is not a question about taxes. Rather, it is a question about corroborating with the occupying forces of a foreign government. Occupation is the brutal attitude still inherited from colonialism. It means we come in and impose on you our will. LGBTQIA folk have been "occupied" for countless centuries as we are the objects of the imposition of the wills of Caesar and the Church (as well as synagogues, mosque, and other religious expressions).

     Jesus asks for a coin and returns the question put to him by asking a question of those gathered. "Whose image is this." When a person of the Jewish faith begins to talk about images we know that this is not a simple question about portraiture and likeness. Israel has been enjoined by God to never make a likeness of the divinity for fear the likeness will be worshiped in place of the true God. So it is then that Jesus seems to tip his hand. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar."

     Then Jesus presses on, "… and give to God the things that are God." This is the part of the answer which leave us amazed. While the coin in imprinted with the image of Caesar, according to Genesis 1:26-31 our lives are imprinted with the image of God. By contrasting the two, Jesus draws our attention to what Caesar demands of us and what God provides for us. Where Caesar demands a pound of flesh, God provides love. Where Caesar demeans and institutionalizes discrimination, God provides dignity and value. Where Caesar seeks to rob us to further his gain, God sustains us to further our gain. 

     Queer folk dance with a nasty and ugly Caesar. The collaboration between religion and politics in our time to delay equality, to deny dignity to our loving, to question our humanity in the light of our sexual expressions continues to buttress the attitude of occupation of our loving and our living. Jesus calls us to ignore Caesar and remember who imprinted us to begin with. An imprint that bears in us the mark of sexual and gender diversity.