Open the doors and see all the people

Scott Paeth returns to the subject of the “Church for Freaks“:

What I’m trying to get at is the very old idea that the church is the community of and for the outsiders.

Open the doors and see all the people.

If Jesus came to preach to the poor, the homeless, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the colonized, then he came, most profoundly, to preach the kingdom of God to the outsiders of the world. He didn’t show up in the center of Rome to proclaim a kingdom to supplant Rome, he came to the margins, to preach a kingdom coming to be within the existing kingdoms of the world. And Jesus’ kingdom would supplant and subvert those earthly kingdoms.

… Those who do not marginalize themselves, but rather are marginalized by society are the real heart of the gospel proclamation. Folks like me may desire solidarity with them, and may work in cooperation with them, but we always have the choice to opt out, and that is a problem for any Christian who wants to stand vocationally for the outsiders, but who is him or herself in one way or another inescapably on the inside.

What Paeth is describing there reminds me of something Jarvis Cocker et. al. wrote earlier. It’s not from their album Freaks, but it gets at what he’s saying about the difference between those who have no say in their outsider status and those of us for whom it is optional, who can choose “outsider status as a sort of fashion statement.”

But still you’ll never get it right
‘Cause when you’re laid in bed at night
watching roaches climb the wall
If you call your dad he could stop it all.
You’ll never live like common people …

* * * * * * * * *

Katherine Stewart isn’t writing about the church here, but about Karl Rove and the Republican Party. But I think her assessment of them also applies to the church — and to white evangelicalism in particular — and that it underscores some of what Paeth says above:

Think back on the extraordinary nature of the debate in 2012. Never before have the culture wars been fought so forcefully on both sides. While the spectacle of Republicans declaring holy war has become old hat, this was the first election in which one of the parties explicitly endorsed same-sex marriage; this was the first election in which one party defended a woman’s right to reproductive freedom without apology or hesitation; and this season also saw the passage of a number of same-sex marriage ballot initiatives, as well as the election of the nation’s first openly lesbian senator.

Some on the right could scarcely believe that this is what America really wants. “Millions of Americans looked evil in the eye and adopted it,” wrote Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver in his post-election commentary. He has a point — except that, for the majority of Americans, the “evil” they looked in the eye was the one they rejected on November 6. Others on the right, like the Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, did get it: “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out. … It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed. An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”

This has always been part of the divide between insiders and outsiders — between “real murkans” and those people, or between real, true Christians and those icky poor, homeless, tax collectors, prostitutes and colonial subjects. Morality looks different from where “they” are sitting.

Staver doesn’t understand that at all, so he just continues to pretend that anyone who disagrees with his perspective morality must be deliberately choosing evil. As Stewart says, Mohler seems to grasp a bit more than that. He seems to appreciate that those who disagree with him on abortion and same-sex marriage aren’t choosing evil, but have a different perspective — a different framework for determining what constitutes good and evil. Mohler understands that “the entire moral landscape has changed,” but he cannot even consider the possibility that this might be a Good Thing — that the outsiders and the freaks might have something to teach us, something “we” desperately need to learn.

 

 

  • Carstonio

    While this was surprising, somehow I doubt that Bill McCartney would also acknowledge the existence of gender privilege as well as race privilege.

    http://www.salon.com/2012/11/29/will_religious_right_take_on_gop_racism/

  • Jeremy

    Regarding the first item, I see the point, but at the end of the day the same could be said of Jesus. He could have called upon legions of angels to save him from the “cockroaches crawling on the wall”. Did this limit his ability to identify with the outsiders? If so, should we bemoan the fact that we can’t do more than he did? It seems to me the line of thinking represented here is presenting an impossibility as some sort of ideal.

  • Carstonio

    What Mohler also doesn’t grasp is that government is not a moral authority. Laws allowing abortion and same-sex marriage don’t equate to endorsements. Many people are morally opposed to both and also opposed to attempts to ban them. “A different framework for determining what constitutes good and evil” gives people like Mohler too much credit, because authoritarianism is not about morality.

  • AnonaMiss

    My reading always was that he couldn’t, actually – and, indeed, that he tried: “Why have you forsaken me?”

    The sliver of personality god flaked off into a human being could call on dad, but in some cases, dad wasn’t willing to come to his rescue.

  • Jessica_R

    Seems as good as anyplace to get this ball rolling. Are the Slacktivites interested in doing another pass the hat for Heifer International? (https://secure1.heifer.org/gift-catalog/?msource=KIK1K122942&gclid=CLyw6KON9bMCFYuZ4Aod3SMAyA

    Last year the Slacktivist community was able to send a sheep, a goat, yes a pig, and a hive of bees. It was a lot of fun and I’m super proud of you guys for doing it. I figure I’ll keep donations open to Dec. 21 and send them in on the 23rd. If you’d like to send donations to me to bundle together paypal is janinthepan at gmail dot com.

    Thanks as always, and thank you so much for your generosity last year. 

  • ReverendRef

    If Jesus came to preach to the poor, the homeless, the tax collectors,
    the prostitutes, the colonized, then he came, most profoundly, to preach
    the kingdom of God to the outsiders of the world. He didn’t show up in
    the center of Rome to proclaim a kingdom to supplant Rome, he came to
    the margins, to preach a kingdom coming to be within the existing kingdoms of the world. And Jesus’ kingdom would supplant and subvert those earthly kingdoms.

    This is exactly what I’ve been trying to get across to the people of my parish.  In some cases, people got it from Day One.  In some cases, I’ve had people discuss their concerns with me but ultimately decide that love and inclusion should be the order of the day.  And in some cases, people have either left altogether or have stayed but withdrawn their financial support.

    It’s that last one that most concerns me.  Glad they’re still here; maybe they will change their minds eventually.  Annoyed about the financial thing because, dammit, I’m still in charge of the “business.”  And that decrease in pledges means a very negative budget.

    So, yeah, currently going through an internal struggle on whether or not I need to stay and weather the storm, or if I need to decide that the perpetual stress of a negative budget is worth the hassle.

    As is often said here, it’s complicated.

  • Hexep

    I would almost convert back to your religion in order to be a part of your flock, Rev.  Not quite, but almost.  You have gotten me closer to that than anyone else, even Fred.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    If I could send money without converting, I’d be okay with that.

  • Jeremy

    I’m not sure I’d call that statement “trying”. Second, “sliver of personality”? If “the fullness of God [dwelt] bodily” in Christ that seems an odd way to state it.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Staver doesn’t understand that at all, so he just continues to pretend that anyone who disagrees with his perspective morality must be deliberately choosing evil.

    Since it’s Left Behind Friday Eve, I’ll point out that Tsion ben JewishGuy uses precisely this argument when talking about why some people never convert, even during the Tribulation: it’s because they just love sinning so darned much.

    Which is awfully strange coming from a man who has been a Christian for less than four years.  So, right before Tsion converted to Christianity, he was a Jew because he just loved sinning so much?

    We either love sinning and thus choose evil, or we’re too dense to get that homophobia and misogyny are really love…they just don’t look anything like love.

    Sorta the conservative version of Evil Or Stupid.

  • AnonymousSam

    Delve into Mohler and certain other conservatives’ theology and you’ll find that they do equate authoritarianism and morality, though. Their explanation for God’s morality tends to hinge around the assumption that because God is God, morality is whatever he defines it to be.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I’m reasonably sure conversion isn’t required. Unless you meant converting to PayPal, which I can totally understand (damn service won’t  let me join because an account is linked to my email addy, but won’t give me the login info linked to my addy either).

  • Mary Kaye

    There’s an account on the Web by one of the people who founded Scum of the Earth Church’s Seattle branch.  He writes about ministering to street kids and finding that they were being kicked out of churches because of their clothing or jewelry.  Let me see if I can link it:

    Scum of the Earth

    I walk by one of their locations nearly every day but have not met the people, so I don’t know if what they do lives up to what they say, but I like what they say.

  • Lori

    My reading always was that he couldn’t, actually – and, indeed, that he tried: “Why have you forsaken me?”   

    I don’t think that question necessarily means that Jesus couldn’t have called the whole thing off. The fact that God the father supposedly couldn’t be in contact with Jesus when he was carrying all the sins of the world, and that Jesus was acutely aware of that “turning away”, doesn’t mean that the angels couldn’t have heard him if he’d called for an evac.

  • Lori

    I should be able to chip in at least a few bucks this year, since unlike last year I’m actually working. Can I vote in favor of buying someone a llama? I love llamas. I can’t personally have one (I so totally would if I could), but I’m all in favor of sending one to a needy family who, lets face it, will make better use of it than I could.

  • Tricksterson

    Gotta love ‘em just for the name.  Love ‘em x 10 for what’s behind the name.

  • ReverendRef

     Thanks, and I appreciate that.

  • ReverendRef

     At the risk of sounding . . . weird . . . I’d be okay with that, too.

  • Anton_Mates

    Presumably anomalous activity in the planet’s ionosphere would prevent them from transporting him off-planet.  That’s the usual excuse.

  • Jessica_R

    I love llamas too, if we raise enough we will send one. Thanks for helping! 

    Again, if you’d like to paypal me the funds to bundle together to send address is janinthepan at gmail dot com. 

  • LMM22

    The fact that God the father supposedly couldn’t be in contact with Jesus when he was carrying all the sins of the world, and that Jesus was acutely aware of that “turning away”, doesn’t mean that the angels couldn’t have heard him if he’d called for an evac.

    Theology has always been a bit of a mess there.

    IMHO, there are two approaches to ‘lowering’ yourself. One is to declare that you can get yourself out, so therefore everyone else should be able to, too. The other is to realize that, if this is how hard it is now, try doing this all the time without your privileges.

    (See also: Food stamp challenges, being homeless for a weekend, etc.)

  • Lori

    In fairness there’s really no way to be crucified all the time. That’s pretty much a one shot for humans. I think in the particular case under discussion the sacrifice is greater if he could have gotten out of it at any time, but made the free choice to go through with it than if he was unable to say no.

  • Barry_D

     Jessica, please contact me at:

    b
    decicco
    2001
    at
    yahoo
    dot
    com

  • http://www.seven-sigma.com/ Jeff Dickey

    What resonates with me about that is an idea I read ages ago, that the whole walls-of-Jerusalem-come-tumbling-down imagery was a metaphor; the idea that the Jews weren’t some outside, invading force, but a community that grew up within, and eventually supplanted, the Canaanites of Jerusalem. Else, for instance, why name your city after your previous foes’ god?

    The Jews of Jesus’ time would have been more familiar with that history (one way or the other), so the idea of a “Kingdom of God” growing up within and eventually supplanting Rome and the other kingdoms was something they would, should have seen as a clear and present threat. That’s the only way the Jewish establishment’s persecution of Jesus ever made any sense to me at all. Take that away, and he’s just a rabble-rouser, a “freak among freaks” not worth the effort (from their perspective).

  • http://www.seven-sigma.com/ Jeff Dickey

    What resonates with me about that is an idea I read ages ago, that the whole walls-of-Jerusalem-come-tumbling-down imagery was a metaphor; the idea that the Jews weren’t some outside, invading force, but a community that grew up within, and eventually supplanted, the Canaanites of Jerusalem. Else, for instance, why name your city after your previous foes’ god?

    The Jews of Jesus’ time would have been more familiar with that history (one way or the other), so the idea of a “Kingdom of God” growing up within and eventually supplanting Rome and the other kingdoms was something they would, should have seen as a clear and present threat. That’s the only way the Jewish establishment’s persecution of Jesus ever made any sense to me at all. Take that away, and he’s just a rabble-rouser, a “freak among freaks” not worth the effort (from their perspective).

  • http://www.seven-sigma.com/ Jeff Dickey

    Likewise. And, in my case, leaving the fold hasn’t diminished my interest in study and (attempts at) understanding. Not so much for “how do I go back,” as “how much do I really understand about where I’ve been and, therefore, why I’ve chosen to go where I’ve chosen to go?”

  • http://www.seven-sigma.com/ Jeff Dickey

    Which argues that human authoritarianism should be viewed as one of the higher forms of idolatry. An authoritarian, by mistaking his whim for what is good and right, is fairly explicitly equating himself to that aspect of God.

  • ReverendRef

     What resonates with me about that is an idea I read ages ago, that the
    whole walls-of-Jerusalem-come-tumbling-down imagery was a metaphor; the
    idea that the Jews weren’t some outside, invading force, but a community
    that grew up within, and eventually supplanted, the Canaanites of
    Jerusalem.

    I remember something about this being presented in an OT class in seminary.  I, of course, grew up with the notion that the Israelites  came from another territory into Egypt, were eventually enslaved, and then wandered around until crossing over into the Promised Land.

    But this other hypothesis says something like they were already there and grew up inside Canaa as a rebellion movement. 

    I don’t have the specifics of that (as I recall, it was a side discussion that I didn’t take many notes on), and would have to do some digging to find our more.  But, yeah, there might be something to the “revolution from within” line of thinking.


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