Wednesday, September 28, 2011

things Christianity didn't quite invent, and theologies I don't quite have

Velveteen Rabbi recently posted a round-up of selichot posts from previous years.

In one, she wrote:
At our selichot services, we'll be using the prayer as a lead-in to a meditation around the radical idea that every single time/place we've missed the mark in our entire lives is always forgiven. Whenever I seriously think about that, it blows me away. Everything I've ever done wrong, in my relationships with other people, in my relationship with myself, in my relationship with God: all of it is forgiven. What would it mean to truly understand that, and to let all of that old baggage go?
My immediate reaction, of course, was, "Gee, that sounds familiar."

I'm also reminded of the conversation Shoshana and I once started to have about the issue of God forgiving you for sins you committed against other people.

We did John 3 at SCBC last night, and I asked what does it mean to "believe in [Jesus]" (John 3:16) and didn't get a satisfactory answer -- nor do I have one myself (though I keep going back to Borg's point about "believe" meaning "to give one's heart to" and thus I move to an emphasis on relationship rather than doctrinal assent) -- though I continue to have discomfort with the idea of Jesus being necessary to save us from God sending us to eternal damnation (which was the idea that kept coming up from the other people in the group). Yeah, I'm reminded of my telling Pr. Lisa that no, I don't have anything written down about my Christology, in large part because I don't have a coherent Christology. And I'm still trying to make sense of Borg and Crossan's book on Paul.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Beautiful Jesus"

At morning prayer this morning, we sang "Beautiful Jesus" (TNCH #44). I told Ian T. that I wasn't a big fan -- that it's a "Jesus is my boyfriend" sort of a hymn. Afterward, Ian said he'd never heard the term "Jesus is my boyfriend" but that it certainly fit, that this song sounds a lot like something you would say to your lover. I hadn't thought of it that way before, but it's true.

I said that (and that this is because/indicative that I'm a Unitarian at heart) the word that primarily comes to mind for me for this hymn is "idolatrous." I said that the phrase "Jesus is my boyfriend" usually gets used to refer to contemporary praise music, but that I thought of it in this hymn because there's stuff about the beauty of Creation, and I'm into that, but then it's, "But Jesus is better -- he's prettier and he smells better." Ian laughed and said, "You're paraphrasing, but not by much."

I said I am pro-Jesus, but because of the work Jesus did in the world... Ian concurred.

Ian said the hymn is often titled "Fairest Lord Jesus" [warning for auto-play in that link] and that makes him think White and he was glad that at least we weren't singing something with the undertones of, "Jesus is the best because he's pretty -- and he's pretty mostly because he's White."

In thinking about the "Jesus is my boyfriend" trope, I thought of my best friend's love for Jesus and Her Church -- something I very much don't have.

When my best friend says, "Jesus is my Girlfriend," there's a lot going on with Incarnation and queer theology and body theology there.

So/and I'm hesitant to totally dismiss "I personally adore the person [pun intended] of Jesus."

Though I'm still uncomfortable with the adoration/worship of Jesus.

I'm not all that interested in worship/adoration of God of the, "Here, I will tell You how awesome You are," variety, period, because I don't think God needs ego-boosts (though I do think reminding ourselves of the goodness of God can be a valuable spiritual practice).

And -- perhaps ironically for someone who professes to be really uninterested in most social justice work -- I think God is happier when we are working to do God's Will in the world, to help embody the truth that "The kin-dom of God is at hand," than when we are just singing God's praises. (When you are in love with someone, you want to love what they love, right? You want to be passionate about the things they're passionate about. You want to work with them. You don't want to spend ALL of your time gushing at/about them. At least not once you're past the NRE stage.)

religious but not spiritual

My best friend and I were talking on Saturday about last Wednesday's controversial UCC "devotional." [Edit for those who don't follow me on facebook (where I have commented in various threads, including one of my own): I have basically all of anger at this piece. /warning]

She mentioned that people have commented, "Nobody would say they were 'religious but not spiritual,'" to which she was like, "Uh..."

I said, "I am totally 'religious but not spiritual.'" I don't "experience" in worship. I have a strong commitment to Christianity, and I make a commitment to attend communal services (though I don't tend to think of this latter one as a conscious choice, such a creature of habit am I), but my commitment has always been and continues to be a primarily intellectual one.

My best friend commented that she has committed to a set of practices, including communal worship, which frequently do not result in spiritual experience, so the "spiritual but not religious" person might come across as saying, "Hey, I have spiritual experiences all the time, all by myself," which might be experienced negatively by someone for whom spiritual experiences are rare.

Whereas my reaction is more like, "Oh, that's nice for you that you so easily have these experiences which I don't have any strong desire to have" (there's an asexuality analogy here somewhere).

Monday, September 5, 2011

sekritly a social justice radical

Last Tuesday night I was at a visioning session [and yes, I would like a less ableist term for that] for a group I've been involved with for much of this year, and I repeatedly said that social justice isn't where my passion is. And just about every time I said it, I felt a little twinge like I was lying -- because fat pol and disability pol and mental health pol ... these are all issues that have become very important to me. But they're not issues where people are going to say, "Yes, I'm totally on board with that -- or at least as a good liberal I feel like I 'should' be."

And so I frequently don't speak up and advocate for these things I care about, because I am, contrary to how I may appear, frequently a risk-averse confrontation-avoidant person. (Reasons I don't self-identify as an activist.)

So I am owning the things I care about.

I care about healthy sexuality -- and about being inclusive of various manifestations of sexuality, including the asexuality spectrum, polyamory, and kink.

I care about being inclusive of a variety of gender identities and gender expressions. (In a Christian context, I want the diversity of humanity to be represented in the ways we talk about ALL persons of the Trinity, because we are ALL created in the image of God, and we are ALL part of the Body of Christ.)

I am growing to care more about the negative effects of rape culture and cultural appropriation.

I care about disability, including chronic pain and mental illness. I care about accessibility and about resisting the culture of shame in which we live. I care about models of disability other than "you are broken, and you would be happier/better if you were 'fixed.' " I care about not using language like "lame" or "crazy" as synonymous with "deficient" or "ridiculous." (See also: "mental illness as boogeyman.")

I care about Health At Every Size -- about not treating weight numbers as indicators of health.

I care about DBT -- about not using "should" language, about recognizing that we always have choices in how we respond to situations but we can't magically wish ourselves out of those situations. (This latter piece I think has a lot of utility in justice work -- about working with what we have right now, rather than solely bemoaning that we don't live in a better world.)

I want to be aware of the multiplicity of human experiences.

And I can't help analogizing that to the radical hospitality that Christians are called to.

I care about drawing the circle wider.

As someone who has visited many churches, I care about making church as hospitable as possible -- clearly articulating our choreography, offering gluten-free Bread and non-alcoholic Cup, taking cues from people about their level of comfort with touch (Passing of the Peace!), etc.

Returning to social justice as more traditionally understood, I've been thinking recently about setting the terms of the debate -- about being proactive rather than reactive. ... And I don't have a useful conclusion to this.