Abandoning the religion and politics of exclusion

Speaking of human need to figure out which group is “in” and which group is “out” – even to the extent of being willing to kill the “out” group members in a vain attempt to maintain social cohesion…

See this article linked below that describes the arc of biblical revelation in terms of God’s constant call that we must learn to love one another just as God loves us.

Simon Barrow writes:

“In identifying his critics’ hypocrisy, in other words, Jesus was attacking a form of religion which neatly categorized people as good or bad according to whether they were in ‘the right group’ and did or believed ‘the right things’. What he says, again and again, in his healings and in his arguments with the religious authorities, is this: ‘You think God loves you more than these scruffy types – like my followers – who are rendered impure by your increasingly pernickety interpretations of the Law. You couldn’t be more wrong. What you are doing is usurping God, who actually loves us like a perfect parent and therefore wants the best for us all. In fact you’ve got it so wrong, that even prostitutes, whose very existence breaks every rule in the book, are entering God’s realm before you are!’ That’s in St Matthew’s account, by the way. One wonders how it might play out in our contemporary ‘Anglican wars’, and other wrangles among the churches that claim to be Jesus’ body today.

What becomes clear the more we immerse ourselves in these awkward (for us) Gospel narratives is that the way and the life and the truth that is Jesus, in his embodiment of God’s uncontainable love, challenges every method of a priori exclusion we human beings try to set up against one another – especially when it employs a ‘religious’ label. Instead, Jesus invites people into a new community where we recognize each other not as competitors for God’s love, but as fellow citizens in a realm of unfathomable generosity made possible by the kind of love which is truly dispossessing – it doesn’t operate from some secret self-interest, like ours often does. Rather, its redemptive quality is so amazing, so divine, that it even enables us to treat the enemy as a friend.

Elias Chacour, the Melkite Catholic archbishop, has put it like this with regard to one modern example of how Christ’s love could transform us. Palestinians and Jews, he says, presently see each other mostly as a threat that must be contained or eliminated. That is why conflict often seems the only logic. This will only change when the different parties can see each other, instead, as two wounded peoples loved equally and unsparingly by God. In that way they will be able to look each other properly in the eye. And then, instead of wanting to kill, they will want to cry over the hurt they have caused each other. Because by recognizing the wounds of the other, rather than first finding fault, we find ourselves in the presence (whether we name him or not) of the crucified and risen Jesus who makes this possible in his body.”

“Who are you to criticize the servant of another?” (Rom 14:4)

Read the full article here.

Compare this idea to the language of a conservative Episcopalian who writes of the need the orthodox have in the Episcopal Church to withdraw from possible contagion by liberal believers:

“If there was one word spoken more by +MacPherson than any other last night it was some form of the word “differentiate.” Though the Bishop made clear that he was not necessarily calling for us to separate from TEC (in terms of a formal withdrawal), he was clearly advocating that we find ways to make ourselves different, distinct and separate from the agenda being pursued by TEC and The General Convention.

Though I am okay with the concept of patience and not feeling an urgent rush to attempt any sort of formal withdrawal from TEC, I do think it very important to be sure that we do not let ourselves get caught up in rhetoric and merely talk the talk of differentiation. We must walk the walk of differentiation so that what people around us see when they watch us walk is clearly recognizable as church men and church women carrying high the cross of Christ crucified as we unashamedly proclaim to the world our belief in Christ as the Son of the living God and as the only means to salvation and eternal life with God, the Father.

For me, the time has come for orthodox Anglican Episcopalians to be very clear that we have eaten all the fudge that we are going to eat. We do not want our bishops or other church leaders to “throw us a bone” now and then that has the aroma of Christian orthodoxy about it; no, what we want, what we need and what we must have, is the full Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ: we can accept no less. We want and we need for the leader of our Anglican Communion to be clear and straightforward in stating what it is that makes us Anglican Christians and how it is that the world is to recognize us. We, and the world, need to understand why it makes a difference for us to be members of the Anglican Communion and, importantly, to be in communion with the See of Canterbury. What we need from the Archbishop of Canterbury is for his yes to be yes, and for his no to be no.”

From here.

(H/T to Kendall Harmon for the second link)

I find the call for the full body and blood of Christ on the part of the second writer to be rather ironic – especially given a Girardian understanding of the meaning of those words.

Author: Nicholas Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...