Thursday, September 5, 2013

Casting Stones at Ourselves (John 7:6a-8)

Jesus simply bent down and started tracing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in their questioning, Jesus straightened up and said to them, "Let the person among you who is without sin throw the first stone at her." Then he bent down again and wrote on the ground.

Christ Writes in the Dust by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
The couple was caught in the act of adultery. This must be understood, or what follows will not be wonderful. The couple was caught in mid act. He was humping. She was grunting. He was disappointing a wife and children. She was flaunting her sexuality.

The crowd catches the unfortunately indiscreet couple. The man, it seems, stepped out of the picture rather quickly. The sexualized woman caught in the midst of an erotic moan, is brought before Jesus for condemnation.

We - gender and sexually diverse people - stand with the woman, our sister. Confused. Frustrated. Anxious. Angry. The target of religious ridicule and humiliation we are trotted out so that others may feel good about themselves; trotted out so that righteousness may be reinforced. While we may not have been caught - as queers we're more apt to parade our sexuality - we are still trotted out as a modern sign of what happens when a society fails to honor God. 

It seems that Jesus would have something to say here. Something to add to the crowds growing frenzy of piety and religious anger. We have in her - in us - the very throbbing of rebellion against God by those who cannot, or choose not to curtail their sexuality. "This one has been caught in the act. Join us, Jesus, in her public demise. Call us to cast our stones. Look we already have them in hand!"

Now, it is comforting to understand the crowd as "them," those aligned against us. But that would violate the intention of the text. The crowd is also you and I. The passage calls us to ponder our own righteous anger and the stones in our own hands. The harshest critique of this blog came from a fellow queer. Someone who did not want that type of behavior, from those type of men and women, associated with their own expression of queerness. 

It would be nice to say that all judgmental attitudes belong to "them." However, we must own - I must own - my personal participation in the crowd. Which is why Jesus' scribbling on the ground  frustrates me. "Come on Jesus, this one has been caught in the very act of gay bashing. Let's tosh a few stones as the right is on our side, and right makes might!"

Jesus scribbles on, refusing to become a part of the uproar and flurry. Even as sex juices are running down the girls legs, Jesus refuses to become a part of the crowd. I am stumped. I want the Sacred to join me in my anger.  I want to be blessed in my attitude of judgement. I want to be sanctioned to throw my stone.

Jesus has just taken all that away, and left me with the stark reality that even though a part of the crowd, I am her. Taking Hicks-Jenkins portrait as a cue, it means the stones hidden behind the men's backs, the rope placed around the woman's neck are stones I hide from myself, rope I attach to myself. A haunting reminder that until our detractors are also liberated from the binding and tortures of homophobia, we will always be caught up in a crowd, angry at an "other."

So - do we throw the first stone? Jesus never denies that it is our right. Or do we recognize in "them" the same faults that exist in us and work for wholeness of the full human community?

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