Bible, Faith, Liberation Theology

jean 3:!6 an exitjesus

I had Jean 3:!6* memorized before I entered second grade. 20 years later, I still hold it dear, but in a much different way. Early in my faith, I thought praying Jean 3:!6 was the first and most important step in salvation. I would pray this verse nearly every Sunday. It was paradoxically comforting and stirred up fear within me (like was this right verse? or was I saying it in the correct word order?).

For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Child, so that everyone who has faith in the Child may not perish but may have life eternal.

/Of course, this translation is my more inclusive translation. Until I was a teen, I only read the King James Version./

I’ve been annoyed lately by the blatant eisegesis done to this verse. Last week, a pastor said Jean 3:!6 was the whole Gospel: God loved the world and sent his son to be sacrificed for it. Also, I heard another pastor say that Jean 3:!6 is the most important verse for the cross. Yet, JEAN 3:!6 NEVER MENTIONS THE CROSS AS A WAY TO SALVATION! But because Christians have read it as such for many years, the cross has become the stick in our own eye (Matt. 7:1-5).

Jean 3:!6, when applying exitjesus**, seems to render the incarnation as the most important scene in the history of salvation. It is not Christ hanging on the cross in agony, saying few words, and bleeding profusely. It is a God who incarnated in the world to teach, heal, exorcise, pray, and set the captives free. Let’s not shove Jesus on the cross, just because his message is too difficult. And churches need to stop placing cross where it is not. It’s a disservice to the Bible and to congregations!

love one another

“Love One Another” by Laura James

*Writing and thinking Jean 3:!6 instead of John 3:16 helped me to set aside some of my own theological baggage and see it anew.

** I’ve heard more than one pastor say exegesis (the process of digging into a text) is exitjesus (destroying anything christological or theological about a text). I’m not trying to do that here though. 🙂 It’s also just ridiculous to think learning more about the Bible strips it of theology.

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Christainity, culture, Philosophy

reflecting on natural law and culture

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I recently thought of the meaning of ‘natural,’ but it’s been consuming my thoughts. I guess most recently it was hearing arguments against same-sex relationships. Some claim God made humanity to naturally fit together, one with a vagina and the other with a penis. They just work. Conversely, as I and other proponents of queerness recognize, among other things, that the rest of the animal kin-dom does not abide by this female/male sexual relationships, like giraffes. Bill Nye was asked this question recently and his answer is spot on.

Historically, Thomas Aquinas popularized ‘natural law’ in the 13th century. It has two main parts:

1) everything has a place in the hierarchy of the universe with God governing over all.

2) there are actions that lead to the common good of humanity and the world. If one does not follow such actions they are sinning or going against natural law.

Natural law has persons of color viewed lower in the social hierarchy. Womyn were cast under men as lesser. As well, higher on the ladder of privilege were those in the religious life. Natural law gave rights to patriarchy, slavery, and other oppressive forces.

Here’s an example from Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles,

“for men of outstanding intelligence naturally take command, while those who are less intelligent but of more robust physique, seem intended by nature to act as servants;”

Thus, it’s only natural for the privileged to be the master while the strong not as smart ones be their slave…

Duns Scotus, a contemporary of Aquinas, used natural law to claim that slavery should be abolished. Although, he does not follow his own logic to completion. Since he also wrote, “But nevertheless, once they have been established [slavery], they have to be observed.”1 This was in relation to slavery in Paul’s time. While every person and generation has certain cultural blinders, certainly Aquinas and Scotus could not understand certain emancipatory politics.

I argue and believe nothing is natural, but everything is cultural. With the Pope’s recent visit to a country I deeply love, Bolivia, he ate and drank coca. Coca is used to make cocaine, but in plant form is used to alleviate nausea from the high altitudes and helps the los campesinos have energy to make it through the workday. When I arrived in Bolivia several years ago, my first beverage was coca tea, which eased my stomach. I became angered reading some of the Twitter reactions to the Pope eating and drinking coca. They thought the Pope was getting high. Ridiculous! Anyway, coca in Bolivia is culturally bound and still very misunderstood in the States.

The other night I had dinner with a friend and a comment she made has stuck with me. I shared how I’ve moved up the East Coast for school and have lived in different cities almost every summer since 2009. I asked her if she’s been to the East Coast. She shot back, “Just because I haven’t been anywhere but Michigan, doesn’t mean that I’m not cultured.” In shock, I nodded my head in a more rapid pace than I normally do. In a way, I’ve been a curator and collector of cultures, yet continue to relish in my past cultural habits. I still listen to ska and grunge music on occasion and wear a black shirt almost every day. As well, I continue to have at least one piercing and watch cartoons. The fact we live in a globalized society doesn’t change much of it. My friend calling me out was certainly helpful in making me reflect my own cultural bias.

douglas coupland

black flag theology includes the theologies of postmodern, political, feminist, queer, and liberationist. To understand nothing as natural means we create structures and cultures. Oppression is not natural and therefore does not need to exist. Changing structures, i.e. white supremacy, is not an easy task, but is not impossible.

1 Foucault, Douglass, Fanon, and Scotus in Dialogue: On Social Construction and Freedom by Cynthia R. Nielsen, pg. 129.

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Christainity, Justice, Liberation Theology

oppression and the interconnectedness of all things

A conversation aroused in my house about a week ago after my roommate watched the film, Bidder 70. She brought up that we can get comfortable marching in protests, joining in on sit-ins, and supporting boycotts. Tim DeChristopher, Bidder 70, took creative risks to slow down the process of oil and natural gas fracking that was going to take over some beautiful and untouched land in Utah. DeChristopher’s activity had him in conflict with the US government and after nearly two years in prison, he was released two months ago. Found in a similar situation are three non-violent anti-nuclear weapon protestors in Nevada. Their charges have been escalating from violations to breaking federal laws. Thus changing their prison sentences from 6 months to more than 15 years! Empires throughout the centuries have used tactics like this, cutting off the head of leaders, to put fear into others who have the same concerns for justice. Catherine Keller authored a beautiful text titled On the Mystery in which she describes uses of power in this way:

We are radically interdependent, we are unbearably vulnerable to each other. We are in each other’s power. But power does not mean dominance. Power is manifest concretely in the flow of influence, the flow of me into your experience, of you into mine, by which we consciously and unconsciously affect each other. We may define power as the energy of influence: so it can be human or inhuman, benign or destructive. Power is that process whereby causal influence has effect: whereby any being has its effect on another (80).

interconnected

If power is neither inherently good or bad as Keller points out, how can we use our “energy of influence” to encourage good social and political change while those currently with more power use it for the sake of dominance and control? This question stumps me, but I do know that it must come from the bottom up rather than from the top. Those on the bottom struggle with what sociologists name interlocking oppressions. These oppressions look slightly different depending on what culture your located, but these are the people who have no power of influence because their voices are squashed by the powerful.

In the US, WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) males still make up the majority of the rich and powerful. The breakdown of categories or traits that are dependent on oppression and power include:  race, nationality, sexuality, gender, disability, and class. Of course, there can be several more factors that influence oppression, but these are much more systemic and prevalent ones in the US. Although, sociologists, rightly focus, on human persons in society, other oppressions exist beyond the person. These include the way that we treat animals, our earth-dwelling-fellows, and the Earth herself.

If Keller is right about the interconnectedness of all things, then this must be true for how we treat the Earth and other creatures. According to those who follow the changing climate of the Earth, those who will be most affected by melting ice and expanding oceans will not be the those in the US or China, but third world countries who do not aid in global warming. The ill effects of us overusing the Earth’s resources does not directly effect us, but “the least of these.” If this interrelatedness is found in oppressive structures then its opposite should be true. Mainly that structures of justice helps to lift up society in whatever way it is performed.  Thus, if we start constructing a new path for justice where the Earth is treated with dignity and respect, then may be we can treat others in the same way. Leonardo Boff, a liberation theologian, poses an interesting connexion in Francis of Assissi: A Model for Human Liberation in the form of a story of Franciscan Spirituality.

On one occasion, Brother Bonaventure, the gardener of the friary at the Portiuncula, climbing Mount Subasio with a brother from a faraway country, was asked what Franciscan spirituality is. Brother Bonaventure, a simple and very spiritual man, in a sweet voice made more so by his Umbrian accent, responded: “Franciscan spirituality is Saint Francis. And who is Saint Francis? It is enough to utter his name and everyone knows who he is. Saint Francis was a man of God. And because he was a man of God, he always lived what is essential. And so he was simple, courteous, and gentle with everyone, just like God.”

Later in the afternoon, Brother Bonaventure and a new brother walk out in a nearby field.

The brother from the faraway country discovers some mulberries, green and ripe, and he tastes them. “Why do you take the green mulberries, Brother?” interrupts Brother Bonaventure. “Don’t you see that they suffer? Would you cut someone down in the prime of life? Only when they are older do they offer themselves gladly for our enjoyment” (3).

Our culture is not simple. We have layers upon layers of technology, myths perpetuated to keep our conscience clear. We’re over-militarized and undereducated.  We cannot undo many of the mistakes that we have made here and around the world, but we can move forward to make sure that they never happen again. We can make sure that people are treated fairly at work in terms of wages and hours. That everyone should be treated with the great kindness and love. The Earth should not be polluted for items that are unnecessary anyway! We don’t need fracked water for the sake of job creation! Everything is interconnected! Let’s start acting like it.

Interconnected

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