Posts Tagged ‘ LGBT ’

Exclusion: Who Really Gets Excluded?

“All paradises, all utopias are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in.” – Toni Morrison

First, I love Toni Morrison, her books, her mind.

I really like this quote from Ms Morrison. As I ponder it, I see the truth to it, universal truth. We might like to turn it around and say that paradises are defined by who is included. But once you set who is included, you’ve by necessity defined the larger group of who is excluded. I think that this is a universal human tendency, to create exclusive clubs we deem Utopian.

In light of this I have been reconsidering the parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. Jesus attends a dinner party thrown by one of the leaders of the religious elite. While at this dinner party He tells three parables about dinner parties. Parables about exclusion.

In the first he addressed self-aggrandizement, self-righteousness. People coming in were taking it upon themselves to take the places of honor at the dinner table. Promoting themselves, setting themselves above others. In this they create exclusive space, say others are less worthy than they are, “I belong here, you don’t.”

In the next Jesus tells the host that when he has these parties he should invite the poor, the destitute, the unclean, the sinners. Why? Because there is no real benefit in being exclusive, it is in inclusion that God’s blessings come.

Now that we have the context, on to the parable I really wanted to talk about. The parable of the Great Banquet:

One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, ‘Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” ’

We need to remember whom Jesus was addressing, the religious elite, those who made rules that kept people out. This is pointed out in the second parable in this narrative, the one where he tells the host he should’ve invited the poor, destitute, etc. This religious club, this exclusive utopia of society’s finest (we see this in the first parable of self-aggrandizement.) These are the people who wouldn’t associate with the other, those who other those different from them. These are the people who would assume themselves invited to the great banquet. It would never occur to this audience that the other would be invited, after all they didn’t fit the qualifications, that they had devised, for invitation.

In the parable all of the “invited” guests have refused the invitation. They have to do things that the exclusive, in-people do. They have their exclusive activities that prevent them from attending this dinner party. The other is then invited, brought in to attend the party.

This is a party for all. No one is excluded, because all are invited, included. However, the religious elite have excluded themselves. In excluding the other they exclude themselves. The very act of excluding, excludes the one who thinks they are included.

In Christianity they contend that it is the religious elite that have rejected the invitation. They even contend that Jesus was talking about the church, the gentiles who are the poor and destitute who actually attend. The church likes to see itself as the sinner invited to the party. They cannot recognize that Jesus is speaking of universal truths, just as Toni Morrison addresses in the quote above. It is our human tendency toward being exclusive that is being addressed, the religious elite and the poor are illustrative, vehicles for the greater message. While Jesus was probably not talking about Christians the application can be made. But not as they would like to think. No one wants to identify with the religious elite of the parable. Christians like to comfortably identify with the poor, outcast sinners. Yet, the more the church tries to make qualifications about who is in and who is not, the further it excludes itself from the great party. The more it insists groups of people cannot be a part of the party, the further they they are from attending themselves. Just as in their judgment they drink judgment upon themselves, in their exclusion the exclude themselves.

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I am a Heretic

I want to admit and declare that I am a heretic.

Let me take some time to explain how I see some things and I am sure you will agree with me that I am a heretic. Maybe, just maybe you’ll be one, too.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:7-9, NRSV)

6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, NRSV)

I realize that John’s Gospel can be a bit mystical, like chapter one verses one through 18 is very mystical, but I don’t think that the passages above are too mystical. In these verses Jesus tells us that He is the way to the Father, to God. He tells us that He is the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven. I think that Jesus is pretty clear that it is He that decides who gets in and who doesn’t. The gatekeeper to the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus. If you want to get to God, Jesus is the one who grants us audience. Jesus decides!

So far so good? I’m not a heretic, you say? Well, read on.

Throughout the history of the Christian church we have interpreted the Bible, we have developed theologies, created doctrines, made them dogmas. We do this to help us understand, and that is good. But, we have also created doctrines and dogmas to say who is in and who is out. There are a couple of problems with this. For one any of our doctrinal statements, nay all of our doctrinal statements fail. They fail because God cannot be contained by our understandings no matter how elaborate or complete we think they are. This is okay if we recognize this and are humble about what we believe about God and salvation. When we know that not everything we believe is right and are open to correction, growth, learning, development our doctrinal beliefs are good and guide us, hopefully, into further understanding. However, when we make our beliefs about God and salvation dogmatic essentials then we err.

Some branches of the church today have elaborate dogmatic doctrines about who is included and who is excluded. They have a collection of essential beliefs that one must accept to be a Christian. We have done this from very early in church history with the ecumenical creeds. While I think that the early creeds have guiding value in defining the church I reject them as failing as God CANNOT be contained in our creeds, doctrines, theologies, dogmas. Some of our traditions go way beyond the early creeds.

Some claim that if we do not believe that the Bible is completely inerrant in everything that we are out. I do not accept Biblical inerrancy. the difference lies in our views of what it means that scripture is inspired, God breathed. The modern inerrantists seem to hold a view that is akin to God dictating what He wanted written. This doesn’t make sense to me. I, on the other hand, believe that God revealed Godself within faith communities. These communities then struggled with how to communicate these revelations to posterity and other faith communities. Out of these struggles documents were created when someone finally began writing the results of these struggles. These were in turn combined to form the bible as it has come to us. That until the canonical councils the texts that make up the bible were works in progress, perpetual progress. Maybe we err when we did this, made everything static.

Some claim that the bible is to be taken literally. This is an impossibility.

Some will tell yo tat you have to believe in a literal 6 day creation AND reject evolution. Bullshit! The best the Bible says is God created. No where does it say how He created.

I think I’m headed somewhere with all of this, I hope so.

Here goes, I believe that God told Israel, which we must remember means to wrestle with, or to strive with God, that they are to love. Love God and everybody else. In an attempt to codify love Israel created the Law of Moses. The Decalogue and the 600+ sundry laws. These reflect a patriarchal society, the reflect the faith communities to which God revealed Godself and His instruction to love. The laws that ancient Israel created in their effort to codify God’s revelation do not necessarily reflect our society today. I think that the rabbinic tradition recognized this and allowed for many different interpretations and even for the letting go of some of the laws, yet we want to make it all static, universal in time and context.

I think that that is it, we are to love. Love each other, love those like us, not like us, love even our enemies. Love those who will not love us in return. Jesus tells us that this is what all of the law says. Isaiah tells us something very similar. Love, that’s it, that’s how we will be known. That’s how we recognize those that know and are known by Jesus and the Father, because love comes from God. Not by their cognitive assent to our sets of doctrinal statements.

See the heresy yet?

So, we have created these elaborate doctrines about who is in and who is not. Many of these doctrines have nothing to do with love. I am specifically thinking of the LGBT community. I am also reminded of how Christians, especially here in America, talk about Muslims. There are those who would usurp the authority that belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone and decide that these communities are necessarily excluded because they do not meet the requirements of their set of doctrines, which to them is the real gate, the real way.

I deny their sets of doctrines have the power of Jesus to decide who is in and who is not.

PS I am gay affirming!