Beliefs, LGBTQI+, Politics

radical theology and the lgbtqi+ community (part two): jesus, st. paul, and difference

On Sunday mornings before going to church, I browse the internet, reading friend’s statuses on Facebook, and cruise through Reddit. One particular morning, I stumbled onto John MacArthur, who is a pastor on the West Coast and an astute Calvinist. During the month of May, he preached a series on homosexuality and the Scriptures. Under my own discretion, I watched the video concerning St. Paul in First Corinthians 6:9-10. His translation the English Standard Version read as follows,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

These verses cause me great uneasiness.They give the hard and fast formula for whose in and whose out. In contrast, when I read the Gospels, I read of a Jesus who believes that “those who are sick,” and the “least of these,” will be in the kin-dom of God. Yet, I wonder if we are misreading these verses, and that they are standing before us naked without a context.  What if practicing adultery, thievery, greed, drunkenness, homosexuality,  and being a swindler posit that you are part of the wealthy and the ruling class? What if St. Paul is saying that these statuses and attributes are an ongoing problem with the rich and it is causing much distress for other people, especially the poor among them?

As noted, St. Paul wrote that it is men who practice the act of homosexuality and not women. (Although, chapter one of Romans speaks of woman with woman in idolatrous worship ceremonies.) To put this in context, around the first century, a graphic mural depicting a man sitting down and a young boy bending over could be found in the middle of ancient villages. The boy was probably one of the man’s slaves and he of course was having sex with him. Thus, men having sex with little boys demonstrates a power dynamic, and was considered homosexuality. If then, this was a norm for the ancient world, grown men raping boys, then I too would be against this type of homosexuality! Thus, when priests who do the same thing, we stand angrily against such acts.

Maybe we could then change a bit of First Corinthians 6:9-10 to contextualize it.

Or do you not know that the those ignoring way of God will not inherit the kin-dom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually limitless ones who hurt others , nor those placing a nation, money, or work above God, nor those who are dishonest with their partners and find other ones while still in the relationship, nor men or wo/men who abuse children and find it pleasurable, nor those who steal, not for the sake of need, but out of luxury for themselves, nor those who have too much and are not willing to let it go, nor those who find substances more important than relationships, nor people who want to change the system to only benefit themselves, nor people who trick the poor into giving them money or goods will inherit the kin-dom of God.

For John Dominic Corssan, Marcus Borg, and John Caputo, God’s kin-dom should be more like the reign of God rather than a futurist place. The common notion that when Jesus states that the “kin-dom of God is like,” he is referring to the future time and place. A problem arises though, the parables that Jesus was sharing was not for the sake of the future, but of the present. This kind of thinking can be found everywhere in the U.S. One finds that the way that they are suppose to live from St. Paul rather than how the kin-dom looks to Jesus.

Of course, it is harder to follow a bunch of parables rather than St. Paul’s direct ethical statements. Yet, the Christian faith is not, and I repeat is not about ethical charges for how to live one’s life. The church seems to be all about that though. We like to judge others and create policies that harm people that we do not like or think that they are doing wrong. The kin-dom of God is like a party thrown for people who are born August, and everyone is invited, some will say that they are busy, many poor, homeless, crippled, depressed people can’t get out of bed, anarchists living down by the railroad tracks, some people with jobs will come on their lunch breaks, and others will ignore the invite altogether. Yes, the party will be uncomfortable, you will have to talk with people who are in different classes, political stances, emotional states! Yet, that is the kin-dom! The kin-dom is difference, lots of difference! We celebrate God by celebrating difference! In the U.S., we want to be a united, hegemonic people. The eleventh chapter of Genesis shows us what the ancients believed about God and hegemony.

This relates to the LGBTQI+ community by once again (from part one of this series) showing that context with the Scriptural text is a must! Second, that a Christian community survives not through hegemony, but through anxiety, un-comfortableness, and difference. The kin-dom of God is one that is vibrant and full of lives. Unless the Christian community starts to embrace the otherness of different people accepting them as apart of the kin-dom, we will not be able to thrive now or in the future.

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Anarchism, Christainity, Homelessness

moving mountains in the kin-dom

The summer staff eats dinner together every night. We talk about the evening program and our days with the groups. There comes a breaking point where laughter erupts and the conversation devolves into mindless rumble. Last week, this laughter evolved into playful criticism towards me. I lead the music for the evening program and I am not ashamed to say I pick songs that are indie. You know, songs from bands that no one has ever heard of or songs originally sung in different languages? The staff complained of hearing the same songs each week, although the youth love the songs that I play and every week sing with a different group. They called me a pseudo-hipster, which infuriated me and I proceeded in pretending to throw things and destroy the office.
One song that I adore is a Spanish worship song titled Montaña by Salvador. The lyrics are thus:
If you have faith like a seed of a mustard
That’s what the Lord has said
If you have faith like a seed of a mustard
That’s what the Lord has said
You can say to the mountain move away move away
You can say to the mountain move away move away
And the mountain will move away move away move away
And the mountain will move away move away move away

It takes the group at least two go arounds to really get into this song. Once this happens, the energy in the sanctuary is incomparable to other songs throughout the week. Youth, as well as adults, love it. I have come up with a few theories about this passionate energy. The youth are first filled with vigor, as they sing a song different from in their own churches. Second, the melody is catchy and resonates; they cannot help but jump around during the chorus. There are other responses, but I am going to focus on the fact that the youth are expecting/experiencing the kin-dom of God, where the world will be turned upside down. This is why they  jump in joyous presumption that God is participating with them in creating something new.

Post-modern philosopher and theologian, John Caputo, crafted the book “The Weakness of God,” which I have been devouring this week. Caputo
summarizes the dichotomy between the world’s kingdoms and God’s kin-dom, writing,
“The kingdom that Jesus called for was a kingdom ironically, one that was itself mocking the business-as-usual of the powers that be, one in which a divine madness reigned, even as it was, from the point of view of the Roman Empire, of the Brutality of the world, simple foolishness, outright stupidity” (15).
The kin-dom that we are expecting is one of reversals. The youth groups observe reversals of cultural normalcy through urban gardens, Narcotics Anonymous Meetings, in small neighborhood churches reaching out into their communities through play. Explosions of reality occur at every location, most of it concrete and tangible with the senses. For example, when the youth uproot weeds that choke vegetables and herbs, they smell soil, manure, and hay; soil slips in their fingernails, and sweat drips from their forehead. This contradicts the common pattern they are used to, such as going to fast food restaurants, standing on hard tile, receiving food wrapped in paper, and drinking sodas with unknown ingredients.Eruptions of the kin-dom gives hope to the hopeless. They force one to reconsider the way they have been living. One can see the mountains move before their very eyes, if not now, soon with the coming kin-dom. The role of imagination appears in the middle of kin-dom and reality. Imagination lends one to think of a different reality where the impossible is possible, where the food deserts in north Philadelphia become places of lush gardens of vegetables and orchards of fruit, where people are treated with respect rather than contempt.

Yet, it is much too simple to be cynical about reality, to allow the kingdom of the world to dictate our actions. For this reason, communities of believers must be the imaginative voices in their towns. A group of people where their imagination is intricate in their prayer life is those who practice the Ignatian Spirituality. One is asked to imagine scenes in their minds when praying, e.g. biblical scene of Mary and Elizabeth meeting while both are pregnant and John the Baptizer kicking in the womb while being near Jesus. These kind of imaginative practices must bleed into the very life in how we perform everyday. The imagination and the kin-dom to come should be intertwined and seek this new world, while trying our best to create something in the present.

Gustave Dore, known for paintings of biblical stories, painted this beautiful picture titled “Voyage to the Moon.” It speaks to imagination and going to a realm of impossibilities.

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