Friday, July 15, 2011

Boundary Crossers (Numbers 35:1-5)

On the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho, Our God said to Moses,”Command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in from the inheritance the Israelites will posses, and provide them pastureland around their towns. Then they will have towns to live in and pastureland for their cattle, their flocks and other livestock. The pastureland you will provide to the Levites will extend outward 1500 feet from the town wall. Outside the town measure 3000 feet on the east side, 3000 feet on the south side, 3000 feet on the west side and 3000 feet on the north side, with the town in the middle. This land will be the pastureland for the towns.
Numbers 35:1-5

It appears the Levites are the queer tribe of ancient Israel. The tribe of Levi does not fit the norms held for the other Israelite clans. Levites perform ministerial duties but are not full clergy as the priests are. The Levites are not one of the twelve tribes and therefore, possessing no tribal land, live in these designated cities. 

As envisioned in the book of Numbers the odd tribe exists to provide a buffer zone between God at the center of Israelite life and the people of Israel. As such the Levites became adept at living liminal lives as professional boundary crossers.

In some ways this is where we queer people, dispersed among humanity, find ourselves. We do not neatly fit cultural categories. There are those who do not see us as fully human. Most importantly we are boundary crossers, liminal people who move easily between the energies of sexuality at the center of life and the people of the broader community.

It is little wonder that we are feared. In a time when there is still much anxiety and uneasiness around sexual matters, we who appear to toy with these energies are perceived as trouble makers.  How wonderful it is then to discover that like the Levites of old, God also recognizes our place in the community. Far from being the devil’s agents we are really God’s agents helping the broader society to understand the nuances of sexual expressions and celebrating the energies of sexuality in the midst of our communities.

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