Friday, January 27, 2012

Fairies Welcomed (2 Chronicles 36:22-23)

In the first year of the ruler Cyrus of Persia, Adonai –fulfilling the word spoken through Jeremiah – inspired the ruler to issue a proclamation in writing throughout the land. It was written, “This is the proclamation of Cyrus, ruler of Persia: Adonai of heaven gave me all the realms of the world, and God has appointed me to build a temple for God in Jerusalem in Judah. Whoever among you belongs to God’s people, may Adonai be with you! You can go home again.”
2 Chronicles 36:22-23

The place where the mortal and the eternal comingle is sacred space. It is the place of coming together between we who spend life and the One who is the source of life. Its contours are shaped by promise and potential. Sacred space is where I emerge from my self-concern and realize the presence of Another who informs my life with tenderness and challenge. Once sacred space is formed it is a loss to move out of it and back into the realm of isolated, singular existence.

For those who celebrate the source of life in Christ, the promise of sacred space is explicit upon his lips: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst” (Mt 18:20). The emphasis falling on community as the needful ingredient for the formation of space: two or three gathered.

The Chronicler ends the Tanak, or Jewish scriptures, with a call to create sacred space. Here the space is identified with the Temple in Jerusalem. What defines this space is not simply the location but also the call to be community with one another.

The call is to band together and to travel out of the lands of dislocation. To travel home where who we are and what we are were birthed and nurtured. The call to sacred space is the call to move from exclusion to acceptance, from fragmentation to wholeness, from the margins to the center.

The New Revised Standard Version renders the closing sentiment: “Whoever is among you, let them go up!”

We who are queer, faggots, sissies, dykes, freaks - if we are ever to feel that we belong we must go up. If there is to be a proper sacred space, an appropriate meeting of Creator and creature we must go up. Without us humanity is incomplete. Any effort in building a house of God will suffer and the house will never be whole. We are a part of the two or three.

Let us throw our lot in with all of humanity. Let us go up and add our sensibilities, our experiences, our hopes and dreams to the great house of God. Let us be a part of this world with its joys and delights as well as its insults and rejection.

We have been called. We are needed. Let us go up!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sexually Offensive (2 Peter 3:14)

So beloved, while waiting for this (the second coming), make every effort to be found at peace and without stain or defilement in God’s sight.
                                                                                           2 Peter 3:14

The first half of this verse is very comforting. I am used to waiting. The concern for Christ’s second coming in this letter is a concern for the fulfillment of all the community is hoping for. My personal hopes will be fulfilled once justice has swung its long arm to include those who fall under the umbrella of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identities. My hope will be fulfilled when our struggle for equality may be seen as a quaint footnote to history.

So I know about waiting, longing, working for the inclusive community. How my heart burns for the time when broadmindedness is the norm and harmony characterizes our relationships with our family, friends, and neighbors. Yes, the first half of the verse brings me comfort. It finds me where I’m at and speaks to my situation.

The second half of the verse is a bit more difficult. It does not comfort, but rather inflicts. The long arguments between the opening salutation of 2 Peter and its closing exhortations are not friendly to queers. For sure sexual expression itself is not the content. Rather it is how those who disagree with the author of this book are portrayed as sexually offensive people (2:4-10). In short this letter understands sexual wrong doing as proof of wrong thinking.

This has been a tortured argument through the ages that is still with us. In a nutshell the argument declares that a sexual proclivity in one area of life corrupts all other areas of life. The basis of the present argument against allowing same-gender marriages is that sexual “perversion” in one form of marriage will corrupt (i.e. lead to wrong thinking) in all marriages.

It is hard for me to appropriate any guidance the second portion of the verse may give. I can only hear that portion as part of an old and worn out debate tactic – “paint your opponents as sexual perverts.” However, if I can understand the invitation to "remain without stain and defilement" as resisting the temptation to use the same tactic on my opponents, then indeed, I will be found in peace by the God I seek to serve.

In the end, I return to the first half of the verse while waiting for the sexual perversion argument to be unmasked for the shallow and base attack that it is. Yet my waiting is not passive. I wait with an acerbic grin on my face knowing that the line of argument in this text of the bible will someday be unmasked by the very Christ it seeks to glorify.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Screwed By God? (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Our God’s favor is not exhausted,
                   nor has God’s compassion failed.
                They rise up anew each morning,
                   so great is God’s faithfulness.
                “Our God is all I have,” I cry.
                   “So I will wait in patience.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

For me, the scriptures can be summed up in three words: “God is faithful.” This seems to be the testimony of the many voices that speak in holy script. Lamentations, the great counter-testimony, even affirms that God is trustworthy. Yet, it must be noticed that Lamentations’ affirmation is neither glib nor hollow.

As the name of this book indicates we are in the midst of a collection of sorrowful songs. According to The Inclusive Scriptures, the Hebrew name for this work, ‘√™kah, is a cry of anguish akin to us wailing a frustrated “aaugh!” Jerusalem is in deep mourning for her destruction. “A city, how desolate you lie, you who once swarmed with crowds!” (1:1).

The voice raised here is from one who has experienced the full weight of God set against her, “I am the one who has known grief under the rod of the Most High’s anger” (3:1). Certainly queer folk find ourselves among these words, as time after time we are told that we are an abomination in the eyes of the Sacred.

We have had to bear the full burden of being sexual sinners in the hands of an angry church. Our experience is like that of the lamenter, “God lies in wait for me like a bear or like a lion prowling its prey, forcing me to the ground and leaving me in anguish” (3:10-11). Crushed and demoralized we feel defenseless against judgmental religion.

The sorrowful song lifts up the cry of those who have felt, to use the vernacular, screwed by God. Those who have experienced affliction and desolation, those torn to pieces in the name of the Holy and who feel that “Everybody laughs at me” (3:14a). Lonely we are when taunted by others and abandoned by the Sacred.

If God is faithful it is in anger towards queers. An anger in which there is no mercy or hope of tenderness. At least this is what some expressions of religion want us to think. A simplistic God is faithful to reward the “good,” and to punish the “bad.”

Lamentations moves us beyond this simplicity, for it is the one being “punished” who sings the songs of lament. While the relationship between Jerusalem and the Sacred has been strained and tried, it has not been broken.

In the midst of her sorrow the lamenter affirms the faithfulness of the Sacred. Tenderness, compassion, grace are the images that define God for the lamenter. Which is why even in the midst of the jeering of others the lamenter turns to God as “all I have.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bad PRIDE/Good PRIDE (2 John vv. 5-6)

Now I would make this request of you – but it is not as if I were writing you some new commandment; rather, it is a commandment we have had from the start: let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to the commandments; and as you have heard from the beginning, the commandment is the way in which you should walk.                                                      
                                2 John vv. 5-6

Religion has taken it on the chin – and rightfully so – when it becomes a cold task master, interested only in subservient obedience to human ambition. The task master is a far cry from the link to God and the fullness of life that is the promise of religious experience.

We queers have certainly been caught in the lashing whips of religion-as-a-task-master. Apparently we are among those beyond the pal of fullness of life through the redemptive and healing actions of the Sacred.

2 John lifts up for us a way to discern between wise religion that links us to the God of mercy and foolish religion that is only a projection of anger and self-loathing onto others. Do the “commandments” or teachings of our religion lead us to love? If they do then our path is wise. If the commandments do not then our path is but an illusion and we are fools.

The Sacred has no vested interest in any faith that is cruel and life-denying. Specifically in the christian tradition God has no need for a cross that is still used to crucify others upon. Those who utilize the cross for this purpose have misunderstood what it means for Jesus to have suffered once and for all. Such misunderstanding has lead many a good person into foolish attitudes of contempt and scorn for those they deem unworthy of divine love.

This text of 2 John stands against such foolish thinking. Love does not block people from the presence of the Holy. Rather, love invites us into the presence of God. The commandment to love is the beginning. It is love which directs us out of our own self-limiting concerns to the broader and deeper dynamics of creation.

Foolish faith is narcissistic. Foolish faith is the cult of the individual gaining access to God by force of personality. But what good is an assertive persona if you are limited to gazing upon yourself and all the world falls away? How boring. How sad. How lonely.

In contrast wise faith results in a compassion that calls us into the midst of relationships with all the associated risks. There is pain, there is sorrow, there is loss, yet there is also connection, love, fulfillment, and joy.

2 John asks, are we foolish or wise? Are we gazing upon ourselves or upon the whole world? Does our path lead to self-absorption (bad Pride) or to love (good Pride)?