Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Psychotic God (Matthew 22:1-14 // Luke 14:15-24)

For those readers that live within the US - Happy Thanksgiving!

Then Jesus spoke to them again in parable. He said, “The kindom of heaven is like this: there was a ruler who prepared a feast for the wedding of the family’s heir; but when the ruler sent out workers to summon the invited guests, they wouldn’t come. The ruler sent other workers, telling them to say to the guests, ‘I have prepared this feast for you. My oxen and fatted cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding.’ But they took no notice; one went off to his farm, another to her business, and the rest seized the workers, attacked them brutally and killed them. The ruler was furious, and dispatched troops who destroyed those murderers and burned their town.
                “Then the ruler said to the workers, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but the guests I invited don’t deserve the honor. Go out to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find.’ The workers went out into the streets and collected everyone they met, good and bad alike, until the hall was filled with guests.
                “The ruler, however, came in to see the company at table, and noticed one guest who was not dressed for a wedding. ‘My friend,’ said the ruler, ‘why are you here without a wedding garment?’ But the guest was silent. Then the ruler said to the attendants, ‘Bind this guest hand and foot, and throw the individual out into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
                “Many are called, but few are chosen.”                                                                                         
                   Matthew 22:1-14 (Luke 14:15-24)
Angry Christ by BenjimanWhalen
I must start by echoing the reflection of Alyce M. McKenzie concerning this parable:
I vastly prefer Luke’s version of this parable… Luke (14:15-24) has a happy ending. It doesn’t include acts of violence… It doesn’t say… invited guests made light of the invitation, seized the master’s slaves, mistreated and killed them. It doesn’t tell us that the enraged king then sends troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. And it omits the lovely little story that Matthew adds to the parable (22:11-14), one that on the surface, seems to be about a psychotic king obsessed with the wedding attire of his guests.

It is precisely here – at the surface reading – that we need to begin. This parable sticks out like a sore thumb due to its shocking violence and virulent exclusion.

Queers can easily map this passage onto a psychotic God and “his” psychotic church. Having been made war upon by christianity and other religions our tendency is to identify with the inhabitants of the city or the banned wedding guest. When the full weight of angry righteousness has been set against you, you cannot help but to experience the full furious madness which accompanies it.

Whalen's Angry Christ gives visual representation to the emotional subjucation religious instutions seek to put sexual minorities under. The face of Christ comes to us full of indignation and a need for revenge. Like a pumped up jock his goal is to bully us by physicall abuse and psychological intimdation. What the church calls “cleansing,” we queers experience as a crusade of genocide. When the goal of religious leaders is to “rid the world” of sexual minorites, they speak of nothing less than total liquidation. Yes, the “surface” psychotic king of this parable maps easily upon the trans-les-bi-gay-inter-asexual experience of God the bully.

Delving deeper the shock remains. Even the efforts of mainstream interpreters to read this parable as an allegory and, thereby, turning the violence and death into “spiritual struggle” is but a poor attempt at making this passage palatable to those who want Jesus to remain meek and mild. In queer terms this in an acting up parable. It flies in our faces when we would rather ignore it. Yet there is wisdom here. Albeit a hard wisdom that causes us discomfort and requires we assess our lives in ways that may find us wanting.

The empire of God is like this: an invitation to a wedding banquet which may incite violence and even foster carnage on whole populations for such is the force of the empire. The invitation seeks out those who will respond positively and join in the banquet which is life in the empire. However, those who do not come prepared may find the party leaving them behind. I admit this last part is difficult for me. I do not ascribe to the “left behind” theory of God. I cannot fathom God leaving souls behind (to put it passively), nor tossing souls out (to put it actively).

I do believe in a God who has expectations. To exist within the Sacred realm requires I am prepared to be sacred myself. In some way and measure my living and being in the world is a blessing to others and to creation. This parable reminds us that those responding to the invitation to live in God’s empire are responding to God’s gracious call to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with the Holy (Micah 6:8).

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