Thursday, January 23, 2014

Drama and Cycles (Judges 3:7-11)

Because the Isrelites forgot Adoni their God and worshiped the ba'als and the asherahs, Our God's anger so flared up against them that they were allowed to fall int the hands of Cushan-rishathaim, ruler of Aram Naharaim, who enslavwed them for eight years.
     But the anguished cries and moans of the people brought Adoni to relent and raise up for them a liberator, Othniel ben-Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of Our God came upon Othniel so powerfully that he became Israels first "sofet" (judge-deliverer-savior-champion) with the power to call for war. And into Othniel's hands Adoni delivered Cushan-rishathaim, ruler of Aram, and the land was at peace for forty years. Then Othniel ben-Kenaz died.
Judges 3:7-11

The book of Judges is fixated on a spiritual cycle which is the cause of self-oppression. The people of God will accomodate their identity to the point of forgetting who and whose they are. This accomodating and forgetting will cause them to be oppressed. At some point they will remember whose they are and cry out. God will hear their cry and raise up a savior-champion to deliver them from their oppressors. Unfortunately what the savior-champion cannot do is to deliver them from thier attitudes and behavior patterns which will repeat the cycle all over again.

Like the ancient Israelites we are enmeshed in cyclical events - recurring activities at regular or predicatiable intervals. There are cosmic events which affect the earth that seems to recur at regular spacing - the most intriguing being an astroid cycle which can be a game changer for life on earth. There are earthly cycles that we particiapte in such as the changing of the seasons. There are cultural cycles we enjoy such as sports seasons and holidays. The church itself has a grand cycle that takes us from Advent to Reign of Christ Sunday. 

Cycles can be good as they unconciously clue us in and even affect our moods. Some cycles of course can be dangerous. I personally don't want to be around if another game changing asteroid crashes to earth.  These are cycles outside of us. Cycles that are not within our control. I am just as hopeless in affecting the beginning and ending of sports seasons as I am in affecting an asteroid. I am caught up in these cycles and am born along by them.

Then there are those cycles of our own making. Ones that we do have control over because they exist within us. They are born of habit and attitude and behavior. They make us predictable and are the basis of all psychological profiling, whether done by a criminalogist, children knowing how their parents will react in particular situations, or even us knowing what pisses off our partner/spouses.

Like the Isralites, you and I have friends (or in some cases we are the friends) who are so enmeshed in the cycle of their/our life which is the cause of self-oppression. Often in this situation only an intervention from the outside - that is the involvment of someone beyond the cycle - can help them/us. That is we need a savior-champion to help break the cycle. In the book of Judges the savior-champion is raised up by God. In the symbolism of christianity we say God works incarnately, that is God works through people to help people. Othniel is one of those people. He has a history already as part of the people of God (told in the book of Joshua) and answers the call to champion his people.

I think one of the cyclicl patterns queer people get caught up in is our drama - the anxiety, fear, frustration, and exhilaration experienced as we leave our closets. No one comes out without some form of drama. In some cases the drama is light as friends and families give support and detractors are far and few between. In other cases the drama is more intense where negative attitudes leads to abandonement by family, the loss of friends, and even acts of violence. How we handle this drama, whether light or heavy, creates certain atttitudes and behaviors that repeat themselves.

The truth be known we need help in our drama, otherwise they remain unresolved and assert themselves when least expected. The Sacred, we find out is in our healing, or boldness, or whatever it is that resolves the cycle of your drama. This comes as no surprise to queer people of faith. I think what is more amazing is that God's presence is through our "champion" - family member, friend, buddy, lover, therapist - the one person who understands and helps us as we come out and emerge into the larger world. For those who are christians we also identify this one as Jesus the Christ, but I do not think you have to be christian for God to raise up a champion in your life.

The painting above by Suassuna speaks of cycles which lead to new beginnings, new births, new hopes. I think a similar thing happens when God-incarnate champions our lives. A new future opens up - as we find out with Othniel that future can be one of peace within ourselves and among our neighbors.

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