Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jesus’ Foot Fetish (Luke 7:40-43)

In answer to the Pharisee’s thoughts Jesus said, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
                “Tell me, Teacher,” (Simon) said.
                “Two people owed money to a creditor. One owed the creditor the equivalent of two years’ wages; the other, two months’ wages. Both were unable to pay, so the creditor wrote off both debts. Which of them was more grateful to the money-lender?”
                Simon answered, “I suppose the one who owed more.”
                Jesus said, “You are right.”
Luke 7:40-43

Foot Fetish by Joe Ded
This parable arises out of a teachable moment. Jesus is at supper with Simon, a religious leader. During their evening together a woman “with a low reputation” (a sex worker?) washed Jesus feet with oil, tears, and kisses, and dried his feet with her hair. All of you with a foot fetish understand that this was a highly charged erotic act. Ded's portrait betrays the sensuality of the supple foot. No sex may have occurred but intimate sensuality was shared. Understandably Simon was upset.

If we are to honestly engage this text we must wonder with Simon just what Jesus was grateful for. I know some consider it a heresy to suggest that Jesus may have had an erotic response to the foot bath. Unfortunately the church has done a pretty good job of divesting the embodied Christ of his flesh, and therefore, his sexuality. That is except to hurriedly confirm Jesus as the “straight savior.” The church has been vigorous to maintain a heterosexual – though asexual – Christ.
In answer to Simon’s and our unspoken thought, Jesus relates this parable of gratitude, forgiveness, and love.
The parable assumes a simple truth: our sense of gratitude and love is proportionate to our sense of debt. I love my wife. I love her with all my being in part because she has forgiven me when for me to ask for forgiveness would have been an affront to her. Our mixed-orientation-marriage still hangs in there due in some measure to a love born out of forgiveness and gratitude.
The debtor forgiven the larger debt has a keener understanding of the “price” of forgiveness. We delude ourselves if we believe forgiveness does not cost us. It does. Forgiveness does not necessarily cost the forgiven, although gratitude should be forthcoming. Forgiveness cost the one extending it. In our parable forgiveness cost the money-lender economic security. For Jesus, the incident cost him his reputation (see v. 49). For my wife, forgiveness cost her some self-perception around her own sense of respect and marriage security.
As queer people of faith we are also called to forgive. I know that for me I am reluctant to pay the price. The bullying of les-bi-gay-trans-intersex-asexual people has left too many of us damaged, broken, and dead. What on earth could I possibly gain with the price of forgiving our haters?
This is where I need to be sensitive to the other assumption of this parable: forgiveness brings about reconciliation. At the end of this episode when Jesus says to the woman “Go in peace,” he is saying she is reconciled to God and can know God as fully as he himself knows God. When my wife and I forgive each other we are restored to a mutually supportive relationship.
If queers and straights are ever to be reconciled we need to take notice of what both sides will be giving up. Queers will need to give up our sense of persecution; straights will need to relinquish their superior judgment. Both sides will need to walk away from a sense of self-righteousness, and, in imitation of the Sacred, play footsy with each other.

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