#BlackLivesMatter, Beliefs, Ecology, Justice

salvation: theology and theopoetry

Someone gave me some insight once in how to read theology: theologians only answer the questions asked. Augustine answered certain questions that we’re not asking today. The same is true for Death of God theologians and many contemporary theologians do not incorporate #BlackLivesMatter or push against transphobia in their theologies.

So why do we hold onto an outdated salvation narrative, when clearly we are not asking these same questions?

Jesus would have not understood this way of thinking about salvation.

Jesus would have not understood this way of thinking about salvation.

As Americans, we have been trained to hear a particular salvation story. God created the universe, placed people in a Garden, and had a close relationship with them. They sin by not obeying God and are cast out of the Garden and into the world, away from God. Because of them, the cosmos became tainted with sin and humanity totally deprived. Consequently, we cannot do anything good, unless God does it through us. To rescue us from this plight, God becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ and dies on a cross for our sins. And with this action, God’s anger is appeased and God loves us once again. If we recognize that Christ died for us, then we are forgiven, and will live with God forever after we die.

This is a nice logical framework, if one can call it that.

When church folk start to question this narrative, they either give up Christianity or are kicked out of the church. This happened to many of my friends in undergrad.

There are theopoets, like Catherine Keller, who present us with a possible alternative formulation: Jesus as a Parable and Deconstructor. Jesus does not allow our logic to be the final and last word, but disrupts theo-logic with parables and stories that reset our way of thinking, again and again. The common salvation narrative that I described above is not found on the lips of Jesus. Jesus preached that the basileia (commonwealth or kin-dom) of God was crashing to Earth and we should be ready. Not that Adam and Eve were the first sinners or that he would die on a cross to appease the FATHER’s anger.

Dr. Keller also writes elsewhere in On the Mystery, that salvation is rooted in the word ‘salve’ meaning ‘an ointment to promote healing’ or to ‘soothe.’ If understood like this, salvation is not found away from the world, but in it. Salvation happens when relationships are mended, when prisoners are released, and racism eradicated.

Christ’s life was full of salvation moments, not just his death and resurrection.

Ethiopian Jesus healing

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Christainity, LGBTQI+, Liberation Theology, Politics

god’s promiscuous, indiscriminatory Love

Her broadened my view of incarnation. I was so fascinated with Samantha (the operating system) and the ways she fleshed her voice while interacting with Theodore. This is not your normal romcom. It pushes the limit for what it means to be in a relationship, how one can love non-bodies, and the power of love. Theodore and Samantha shared all the benefits of a relationship even fighting. When their relationship started to hit the rocks, Theodore asked Samantha how many other people she loved. Her compelling response,

“The heart is not like a box that gets filled up; it expands in size the more you love. I’m different from you. This doesn’t make me love you any less. It actually makes me love even more.”

This quote quite wonderfully sums up process theology’s doctrine of God. To get a little technical, in God’s Consequent Nature (Whitehead term, classically it’s called the Economic Trinity), God grows in love as time paces on. In a sense, God evolves with the world. Samantha, too, has intuition to react, love, and grow with Theodore and everyone else who has her as an operating system. This does not mean that God cannot be personal or that God has faults. Rather, God’s love pursues all, and by all, I do indeed mean other animals, plants, rivers, rocks, etc. as well as humanity. Laurel Schneider wrote a piece a few years ago titled “Promiscuous Incarnations.” This strongly connects with Her and, of course, V-Day with a beautiful re-interpretation of John 3:16.

“Promiscuous incarnation suggests excess and indiscrimination in divine love. It puts power and the inexorable pull of gravitational attraction in “God so loved the world.” It restores sexual bounty and openness to God, which means that it welcomes the end of racialized hierarchies that depend upon sexualized regimes of control. It dismisses purity as a divine attribute and replaces it with the cacophonous mixture of differences that constitute divine time-being” (245).

Schneider, I believe, rightly describes God’s love for the world as promiscuous. In her article, she defines promiscuity in three ways. Only two of them though define what she means when she attributes it to God, namely a third gender, and to indiscriminately love all. Schneider’s goal is to change the discourse about divinity and flesh from the commonly held idea that divinity imparts itself on flesh, i.e. it is God who works through the body that’s totally depraved. Rather the flesh/body show us the divine (233).

Body/flesh in Western culture and society is seen as a burden that we must bear. Arcade Fire sings “My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love, but my mind holds the key.” We need to shed the body to set the spirit free, which is ultimate freedom. What then if God works through the flesh, the body, that which is not spirit? Possibly then we could argue that spirit and flesh is not so different. That God is in all and beyond all. God is the More and with that is indiscriminate.

Let me end with the last paragraph from “Promiscuous Incarnations.”

“Promiscuous incarnation implies a God outside of human control and even outside of religious rules but not outside of human life and experience, not outside of human hungers and desires, not ever far away from ecstasy or grief. Somehow, if indeed the stories of Jesus are to be the way to divine incarnation, Christians can claim that God always becomes flesh for a purpose and so can be found whenever that is pursued. That purpose is radical, compassionate, promiscuous love of the world to such an extent that suffering in any person, any body, is a wound in God’s flesh, a diminishment of God’s own beloved, a gravitational pull on God to come, again. And again” (245).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

AnarchoLove

*This post was inspired by the work of Laurel Schneider at Vanderbilt University. She wrote an article, available for download, on her website titled “Promiscuous Incarnation,” which portrays God’s love for everyone and everything.  It’s a must read.

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