Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Empire of the Sacred (Matthew 13:3b-9 // Mark 4:3-8; Luke 8:5-18)

One day, a farmer went out sowing seed. Some of the seed landed on a footpath, where birds came and ate it up. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. This seed sprouted at once since the soil had no depth, but the sun rose and scorched it, it withered away for lack of roots. Again, some of it landed on good soil, and yielded a crop thirty, sixty, even a hundred time what was sown.
Matthew 13:3b-9 (Mark 4:3-8; Luke 8:5-18)

Hitler in Color @
It can be hard for queer folk to here this simple parable of seeds and soil. Typically we are cast as the inhospitable ground with the kingdom (or better empire) of God rejecting us or being choked out by the weeds of our “queerness.” The conformist tradition makes it clear that the realm of the Sacred is hetro-centric and only straight people enjoy the bounty of this terrain.

However, such understanding of the kingdom has missed what it is all about. Today we have smoothed out and made palatable to people of democracies the radical notion of God’s realm. The translation above drops the idea of kingdom all together and substitute the notion of a “kin"-dom, a place where we gather because of kinship ties and common ground. Jesus was much more radical. In the face of the Roman occupation and of stubborn religious hegemony Jesus declared the Empire of God - a bulwark of justice and liberation amidst the injustice and oppression of his time.

The picture above of Nazi Germany reminds us what a bully empire is like. Jesus reminds us what an extravagant, sacred, transforming empire is like. In light of Jesus’ appropriation of “empire language” we could turn the parable around and argue that it is the heteropatriarchic kingdom which rejects, chokes, and pollutes as it seeks to repress erotic energies which it fears.

You may pause and ask – how did sexuality, sexual orientation, and sexual identities become connected to the realm of God? The parable speaks only of seeds and soil. Jesus does not seem to have made any explicit connection between one’s sexual status and the Empire, and you would be correct. The writer of Matthew’s gospel on the other hand seems thrilled to tell us that prostitute and eunuchs (i.e. sexual minorities), along with those of the sexual majority, comprise the kingdom (Mt 19:12; 21:31). We’ll return to Matthew’s thought in a moment.

For now let’s consider Jesus’ insight that the dawning of God’s Empire will not necessarily be the inauguration of a spiritual utopia which is one of the dynamics this parable highlights. The kingdom will be rejected, choked out, become a passing fad. Only among a few will the realm take hold and prove transformative. In spite of the odds Jesus encourages those who encounter the dawning of the Sacred to spread the word.

Here’s the rub – why should we, who self-identify as queer, spread the word of a kingdom which traditionally opposes us? Back to Matthew’s thought: the Empire of God opposes all injustice including heterosexism. The dawning of the realm brings its promise of wholeness, belonging, victory, presence, and pardon to queer people just as much as to straight people caught in their own matrix of fear and loathing.

Following the seed metaphor – the Empire takes root in our very being. The opportunity to encounter the God who opens up renewed life is given to queer persons as well. Healing, understanding, and compassion are for us too. As is challenge, expectations, and disappointments – less we ignore the experience of the One who spoke this parable.

As queer people of faith, let us claim our stake in the Empire of the Sacred with all of its promises, excitement, and trepidation.

No comments:

Post a Comment