Jesus then told them a parable in these words: “There was a rich farmer who had a good harvest.
“’What will I do?’ the farmer mused. ‘I have no place to store my harvest. I know! I’ll pull down my grain bins and build larger ones. All grain and goods will go there. Then I’ll say to myself: You have blessings in reserve for many years to come. Relax! Eat, drink and be merry!”
“But God said to the farmer, ‘You fool! This very night your soul will be required of you. To whom will all your accumulated wealth go?’
“This is the way it works with people who accumulate riches for themselves, but are not rich in God.”
|by Raphael Perez|
“Eat, drink and be merry” is a slogan used by many people over the ages. Queer folk have no exclusive claim to it, yet we tend to wear it on our sleeves as a proud badge of resistance to an uptight society. As a protest against a sex-negative church (or temple, or mosque, or other expression), Jesus might approve. “Eat, drink and be merry” is helpful and life affirming when confronting attitudes of deprivation, rejection, and fear of pleasure. As in Perez's painting queer folks celebrate their hearts desires and the celebration itself becomes a strategy for resisting those who would constrict our hearts.
The use of the slogan in this parable though is not an act of resistance. It is not spoken from the underbelly of life. Rather, it is spoken by one who has enough and then some: “Tear down what’s too small and build bigger!” In today’s lingo this farmer is part of the 1%. He has and has more. Now after all his hard work, securing his life, he can “Relax! Eat, drink and be merry.” This slogan on the lips of the farmer smacks of one disconnected from the broader community.
“This very night,” the parable goes, “your soul will be required of you.”
Typically we understand this ominous aside as meaning the farmer will die. The Greek word here is psyche. The farmer has lost something in his inner being as he sets undisturbed, believing his wealth has brought security when all along decisions concerning his wealth has cost him his wellbeing.
“Eat, drink and be merry” when spoken by those in power reeks of arrogance, ignorance, and hubris. The farmer has lost his soul/psyche and believes he is living life.
Here queer guidance informs our sisters and brothers who believe security comes from conspicuous possessions. “Eat, drink and be merry” when used as a strategy of resistance helps us to celebrate life even when others work to deny us life. “Eat, drink and be merry” helps us find security in our network of friends and family who join us in our merrymaking. “Eat, drink and be merry” when used as a strategy of resistance helps us to understand that the Lord of the dance joins us in our little jigs of joy in the face of sorrow.
The farmer who lost his psyche can never know the true import of what it means to “eat, drink and be merry.” For him it means to “relax” in his position of dominance. For us it means to resist what is dominant. To live a fulfilled life in the presence of all our detractors who want us to be miserable.
When we resist we share our wealth with all – queer and straight alike – who are derided. For the wealth we share is eating, drinking, and merrymaking in the midst of circumstances which seek to deny us this very hope.