Friday, June 24, 2011

Sick Religion (Genesis 22:9-13)

                When they arrived at the place God had pointed out, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged wood on it. Then he tied up his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill the child.
                But the angel of God called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!”
                “Here I am!” he replied.
                “Do not raise your hand against the boy!” the angel said. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how deeply you revere God, since you did not refuse me your son, your only child.”
                Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. He went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his child.                                                   
Genesis 22:9-13

Abraham and Sarah wrote the book on sexual ruse. Abraham passed Sarah off as his sister to escape a ruler's covetousness of her beauty not once, but twice (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-28). With God's help, the couple lived to tell the tale both times. Later Sarah hatched a plan to ensure an heir. With her blessings and insistence, Abraham had sex with Hagar, Sarah's house slave. Nine months later Abraham had a bouncing baby boy on his knee. Even through as old as dirt, Abraham and Sarah still enjoyed sex play and Sarah also birthed a bouncing baby boy named Isaac. Hagar, no an embarrassment, found herself and her son left in the desert to die. With God's help, Hagar and her son Ishmael live to tell the tale.

Besides dabbling in sexual subterfuge, Abraham also dabbled in the Sacred. Along the way, he got the idea that an appropriate laudable sacrifice to God would be Isaac, his son by Sarah. It comes as no surprise, after all, he had already sought to sacrifice both Hagar and Ishmael.

It is a sick religion to sacrifice your children to God, yet that is the experience of many a queer person. Our families of origin often sacrifice us in the name of the twin idols of heterosexism and homophobia. Like Hagar and Ishmael, we are left to die of exposure. Worse, like Isaac, we are led by lies and half-truths to the altar of our own deaths.

Once again God stops the silliness of blind devotion and calms the soul of misdirected passions. Those involved live to tell the tale. Isaac was saved. But I am not sure he and Abraham were ever restored as father and son. How can you trust a parent who is crazy enough to appease the Sacred with your blood?

Queer persons know intimately the distinction between being tolerated and being celebrated within our families. We know the humiliation of leaving portions of our lives outside family gatherings so as not to upset others. We know rupture. We know the difficulty of sleep as we lie awake at night wondering why atonement is made with our blood.

It is a shame that the Holy could rescue Isaac, but was unable to touch the mind and heart of Abraham. Indeed, Isaac would have inherited something far more meaningful than hers and flocks, if the Sacred was more fully loved rather than feared by Abraham and Sarah.

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