Friday, 24 December 2010

Put Christ Back Into Christianity: The Body of Christ

Absolutely fundamental to the Christian religion is the belief that God, as the second person of the Trinity, took on human form and became man. Jesus Christ, whose incarnation we celebrate at this time, was fully divine - and also fully human.
I want to stress here that word "incarnation", not just the nativity, so familiar from Christmas cards and Nativity plays. Yes, like all other humans he began life as an infant - but he lived and ministered as a man, a real man, fully human, with all that entails. We celebrate the incarnation explicitly at Christmas, but also constantly in the life of the Church, and especially in the Mass. At the consecration, we hear the words, "This is my body", and on receiving communion, "Body of Christ", to which we reply, "Amen". But like so much in tradition, this response has shifted subtly over the millenia.The original response carried rather more punch.

In the early church, when the presbyter administered the holy communion to the faithful, saying "Corpus Christi", the body of Christ, the response was not "Amen", as we now have it, but "I am". Do you see how radical that is? You -I- we- are the body of God, in our humanity.
-Fr Bernard Lynch, in From Queer to Eternity

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Put Christ Back Into Christianity (2): His Exclusion From Church Teaching on Sexuality.

A remarkable feature of the CDF's core document on homosexuality is the almost total absence of any reference to the words or example of Jesus Christ.  The CDF "Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" is the almost total absence of any reference to the example or words of Jesus Christ, on whom the Christian message is based. In the letter's 18 paragraphs, there is precisely one specific reference to Jesus, right in the final paragraph, and it has nothing whatever to do with the Church's sexual ethics.

The Lord Jesus promised, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" (Jn. 8:32).

A fine recommendation, and one I heartily endorse. Whether the document itself includes too much truth, is another matter entirely.

Put Christ Back Into Christianity: Robert Goss' Queer Theology Renewing Christianity

In her account of the historical development of gay and lesbian/ queer theology, Elisabeth Stuart says that the weakness of both the gay liberationist and the feminist/lesbian approaches is that by working from the basis of real life experience of gays and lesbians, they are not easily accessible by others who do not share than experience. They also, she says, have in practice placed so much emphasis on ethics and relationships that questions of the divine seem to fade into the background: their work barely qualifies as “theology” at all.
This is not an accusation that one could make against Robert Goss, a former Jesuit turned AIDS activist. In his writing, he places God, and in particular the person of Jesus Christ, firmly at the centre of his work. In marked contrast with both the earlier gay and lesbian theologians and the orthodox Catholic theologians of the Vatican, Goss’ theology is built on Christology.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

This Christmas, Let Us Put Christ Back Into Christianity

At this time of year, we are accustomed to numerous pleas to "Put Christ back into Christmas". These are entirely appropriate. The commercial binge and festive eating and drinking have nothing to do with the religious celebration of the Nativity. To the extent that secular jollity has crowded out the story of Christ, we do indeed need to put Christ back into Christmas. (However, I do not deplore the secular celebrations alongside - in the  northern winter, they are a welcome antidote to the cold and dark, and were a part of the established seasonal calendar long before the religious festival commandeered some of their features).

There is also a more important aspect of putting Christ back into Christmas: reinstating the place of Christ the man, not just the infant Jesus. Celebrate the incarnation, not just the nativity. As we do so, let us recall the full implications of Christ's humanity, and of his words and actions as we have them in the Gospels, not as they have been distorted, sanitized and abused by centuries of theological and popular overlay to support human agendas.

For this last week of Advent, I want to explore Christmas as a time to reflect on the Incarnation, and it's implications.  I will be looking at the remarkable absence of Christ's words or example in the CDF teaching on sexuality, and on homosexuality in particular. In contrast, I will consider Robert Goss's emphasis on Christology as a turning point in the development of gay and lesbian theology towards queer theology, and the Christological models of sin and grace proposed by Patrick Chen. I will reflect on the unavoidable fact of Christ's real, physical male body. Together with Rev Cindi Love, I will ask "Would Christ Discriminate"?

Finally, I will conclude with an appeal to bring Christ back into Christianity at the most basic, personal level - by developing a strong personal relationship, growing in spirituality, by "Taking a Chance on God."
The first instalment, on the near exclusion of Christ from the CDF writing on human sexuality, I hope to publish later today. The rest, and possibly more, will follow at intervals during the week.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Penitential Walk, Repenting for Past Homophobia.

Slowly, the message is getting through. It is not homoeroticism that is sinful and contrary to the Gospels, but homophobia and prejudice. In some cases the movement is dramatic, manifested in dramatic decisions that impact on entire denominations - but sometimes, the movement is purely personal, directly affecting only one or two lives.
Symon Hill is one of those in the latter category, who once actively opposed LGBT inclusion in church. Over the years, he has modified his views, and is now appalled by his former actions. He is quite clear that it was the influence of misguided religious teaching that influenced his homophobia in the first place - he had no problem with with homosexuality or bisexuality before he became a Christian, but thereafter modified his earlier open-mindedness to "fit in" more easily.
However, after grappling with the subject with prayer, and scripture study, he found what many others have done, who have approached the subject with an open mind, and sufficient effort in study - it is not homoeroticism that is sinful, but homophobia:

I had no problem with homosexuality or bisexuality before I became a Christian. But I chose to support a narrow homophobic position, partly out of a desire to fit in at the church I had joined. I stifled doubts about the flimsiness of the arguments used to back up hostility to same-sex relationships. Although that church played an important role in guiding me towards Christ, I am now convinced they were severely mistaken about sexuality.
I have struggled for years with issues of sexuality – through prayer, reflection, personal experience and of course through reading the Bible. And I have come to the conclusion that it is not homosexuality, but homophobia, that is sinful and contrary to the Gospel of Christ.
My homophobia caused direct harm to several people. My support for policies that excluded gay, lesbian and bisexual people from churches contributed to the harm caused to many others.
-from Ekklesia

Friday, 10 December 2010

Coming out as Grace: Patrick Chen, on the "Out Christ"

In the second instalment of his long essay on Christology, sin and grace at "Jesus in Love Blog", the theologian Patrick Chen discusses Christ's incarnation as God "coming out" to the world. This is an idea I first came across in Chris Glaser's "Coming out As Sacrament", and which Chen takes as his starting point:
The Out Christ arises out of the reality that God reveals Godself most fully in the person of Jesus Christ.  In other words, God “comes out of the closet” in the person of Jesus Christ; it is only through the incarnation, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we understand the true nature of God (for example, God’s solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed).  Indeed, the notion of the Out Christ as the revelation of God is supported by Jesus Christ’s description in the Fourth Gospel as the logos or Word of God. 
Chris Glaser, the gay theologian and Metropolitan Community Church minister, has written about the Out Christ in his book Coming Out as Sacrament.  In that book, Glaser describes Jesus Christ as nothing less than God’s very own coming out to humanity:  “The story of the New Testament is that God comes out of the closet of heaven and out of the religious system of time to reveal Godself in the person of Jesus the Christ.”
“Sermon on the Mount” (from Ecce Homo) by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A Conservative, Christian Case for Gay Adoption.

The core element in this argument is familiar: adoption by same sex couples should be permitted, "because the best interests of the child" means the best parents available - not some theoretical, ideal myth. Sometimes the best available just happen to be gay or lesbian. What is different about this is that the argument comes from a declared conservative Christian, who makes no secret of her belief that homosexuality is a sin. But, she makes clear, as we are all sinners, her personal belief about the parents is no reason to act against the welfare of their children, to withhold standard courtesies and neighbourliness from the parents.

This argument needs to get through to all those (including too many Catholic bishops) who can see the issue of gay adoption only as a set of rules, and not as specific situations with real people. Fortunately though, this is happening. In the near future, I suspect, this response will be so mainstream as to be unremarkable.

From Blogher :
As a conservative Christian mom, I get looks whenever presumed "offensive" topics come into play. For instance, the "2 Gay Dad" issue. I like two shows with two gay dads and I also have a few gay friends who eventually will want to adopt. There's this assumption I will be outraged and come flying out with my Bible to protest. I assure you, I am not waiting in the shadows ready to pop out with my judgments. Quite the contrary.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Pope Benedict, on "Homosexuals".

When I wrote earlier about Benedict and gay priests, I was responding to some commentary by Andrew Brown, without access to the complete book from which he was quoting. Now that I have my own copy, I have found that my post inappropriately combined two independent responses by the pope to two different questions by his interviewer: one question on homosexuality, and one on gay priests.
I now revisit my original post to disentangle them into the two separate issues that they are, and expand on my original thoughts.
(The complete question and answer I reproduce at the end of this post. Later, I will revisit the section specifically on gay priests).
On homosexuality, Seewald's question referred to the Catechism statement on "compassion, respect and sensitivity", and its counterpart on "grave depravity" and "intrinsically disordered". Seewald asked if these statements were contradictory.
I responded yesterday to Brown's extracts from the pope's response, noting in particular his complete misrepresentation of evolution as ordered to heterosexuality, and his entirely mistaken belief that "deep-seated homosexual inclinations" are a trial. I will say no more on these. Instead, I want to pick up on some other themes, identified in the French Jonathan & David press release:

Proclaiming himself the interpreter of God, he claims that homosexuality "is opposed to the essence of what God originally intended," without knowing whether it is innate or acquired (p. 200). If by any chance, homosexuality was innate, how could God create some of his creatures in a condition so contrary to his will?
Indeed. It's time for Benedict and his advisors to leave their theological ivory towers and enter the real world of human experience.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Does Benedict Oppose Gay Priests?

Andrew Brown thinks so, based on the relevant passage in Seewald's book. I hesitate to comment with any conviction until I have read the full passage myself, but the published extracts are disturbing and important. Up to now, there have been some signs of a more rational approach to homosexuality under this papacy, but some of these views strike me as just wackadoodle. Benedict is widely acclaimed as a great and subtle theologian, but he could do with some lessons in basic facts of gender and sexuality.

For example:
We could say, if we wanted to put it like this, that evolution has brought forth sexuality for the purpose of reproducing the species.