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.

Beliefs, Christainity, Spiritual

fragile faithfulness

About a month ago, one of my favorite bloggers wrote a post outlining his beliefs. He titled it Why I am a Christian. Recently, I had a chance to spell out some of beliefs and read it in front of the people that I will be working with this summer. This summer, I will be working at Broad Street Ministries, which is Presbyterian and located in Philadelphia. I will be working with five other persons teaching youth groups the importance of being a prophetic voice in their own communities. With that in mind, here is my statement of faith:

“God, rid me of God” – Meister Eckhart

“And your skin taste much better with aging not sweet like it was back in our Sunday school.” – Manchester Orchestra

I can not understand faith without performance. Rooted in the Pentecostal tradition, I was taught that it was through spiritual gifts that God’s Spirit used us for the work of the kin-dom. Yet, this tradition lost its fruitfulness for me, since I did not desire these Pentecostal spiritual gifts. These gifts scared/scarred me as a child and made it very unlikely that I would ever want to perform them. Thus I moved onto the Baptist church which taught me that today God only speaks through Scripture. I stayed faithful to them for over 6 years, learning much about Scripture, and memorized many important verses. Yet, there came a point when  I was no longer happy with only delighting in Scripture and started to ask some critical questions that made my church uneasy. I left eventually left the Baptist church, and sought out a new community of believers.I found one that asked critical questions about Scripture, itself, and the Christian life. This, for me, was the Episcopal Church.

They gathered around the Eucharist each Sunday recognizing that each one comes to the table with different convictions and faith, yet realize that they are part of one body. This was transformational for me and liberated my past church experiences.

Since then I have been in school and majored in theology. My interests have varied from the Anabaptist ethics of John Howard Yoder, Catholic social teaching, postmodern theology, liberation theology, ancient Christianity, especially Origen, and most currently, different contextual theologies. Residue still sticks from my past ideas of theologies and must always keep them in check, since absolute certainty is always knocking at my door.

Faith then does not come easy for me. I find it hard to believe after learning  of the historical underpinnings that are part of the Church, the Judeans, and other religions. I stay true to Christianity partly because it was the tradition that I was brought up in. It has always been a home for me, although there have been times of great contention. Another reason is because of the book by Huston Smith called “The World’s Religions.” Marcus Borg paraphrasing from this book writes,

“If what you’re looking for is water, better to dig one well sixty feet deep than to dig six wells ten feet deep. By living more deeply into our own tradition as a sacrament of the sacred, we become more centered in the one to whom the tradition points and in whom we live and move and have our being.”

The last reason that I have found Christianity appealing is because I have tested God through Jesus more times than I can count and each time Jesus has been more faithful to me than I will ever be to myself. It was God who was there during my times of suffering and by my side as I dared to start a new life afterwards.

…My faith is fragile…

If I were to boil it down, my theology focuses on hope. Hope that God will take care of all when everything ends. Hope that when people suffer, God suffers alongside them. Hope that when people love, God loves alongside them. And everything in between.

Hope that God is the end all be all