Author Archives: stbmo

Queer Diaspora

The Jewish people have been in diaspora since the destruction of the Temple. This is why blood sacrifices do not happen modern Judaism. But Paul writes: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” I quote this not to say “See the Jewish people are foolish! They need to be more Christian!!”‘ In fact, I deeply sympathize with the experience of diaspora, albeit in a different manner. Insofar as Christians have destroyed queer and trans bodies, they have destroyed the temples of God and forced us into a state of diaspora.

In this case, also, returning to God’s promised land–indeed, we are only promised ourselves–involves rebuilding the temples, or reclaiming them. But this will also inform how we do theology. The Christians who are in diaspora do Christian theology much differently than those Christians who are not in diaspora. The working class/poor are alienated from their labor and from themselves, African-American bodies were stolen (so their labor could be exploited), and so many more examples could be draw. These are modes of diaspora.

Might we, then, be able to learn much more from the Jewish people (not to be conflated with the modern state of Israel) than Christians have thought since the Reformation? In a word, I find a deep, yet overlooked, value in the polydoxy of Jewish tradition. Diasporic Christians have likely already taken hold of this revelation of plurality, but perhaps those who have a temple could make a blood sacrifice of their orthodoxy upon their own altars.

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Pope Francis Is No Friend of LGBT+ People

Get Real.

The Pope has proven himself to be a master of contradiction and is definitely not a friend of the LGBT+ community, argues Tom Meadows. Credits: Bernard Bujold The Pope has proven himself to be a master of contradiction and is definitely not a friend of the LGBT+ community, argues Tom Meadows. Credits: Bernard Bujold

In an interview given to Brazilian TV in 2013 Pope Francis made this remark regarding gay people and it was met with rapturous adulation from progressives of all stripes around the world, leading the head of the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, to declare that: “Pope Francis has pressed the reset button on the Roman Catholic Church’s treatment of LGBT people”. Of course the full quote reads: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”. Note that one has to be religious, presumably Catholic, in order to qualify for not being judged. Also note that refusing to judge something is not the same as giving endorsement or support – it is, at best, neutral…

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Transdivinity

There must be a great sort of dissonance when you are convinced of some inner reality when others believe the exact opposite of you. Imagine being Jesus: maybe he was born with the knowledge of or experience of his own divinity (as coupled with his humanity), maybe he grew to discover it. But I suppose that neither of those axioms would really matter to you, oh Jesus.

You grow up, proclaiming things like “The Father and I are One” and insinuating that you–yes you!–are the divine one. You are the transcendent one. You–who was born of a woman, healed on the Sabbath, forgave sins, touched the unclean, cast out demons, and was crucified–are the one that the prophets spoke of???? And yet the tradition contradicts all these things! How dare you forgive someone’s sins! Touching the unclean? Go perform a cleansing ritual!! Atone for your sin of violating the Sabbath! Even the Muslims know that the Messiah of Israel cannot be crucified!! You blasphemer! Repent of your sin immediately! How dare you claim to transcend our clearly demarcated boundaries!!!!

Now imagine you are a trans woman. Maybe you were born having known or experienced your gender differently than people treated you; maybe you grew to discover it–5 years into life…14 years….21 years….50 years….80 years…. But, again, I suppose that these axioms might not matter all too much to you, oh Queer One.

You grow up and begin proclaiming things like “I am not a boy!!!” or insinuating that you–yes you!–are among those who cannot concede the gender everyone else imposes on them. You are the transcendent one. You–who was born with a specific set of genitalia, played sports, dressed in typical boyish garb, responding to your male name and male pronouns–are the one the tradition warns about. “God created them male and female!” they press. “A woman must not wear men’s clothing,” they insist, “nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.” So you figure, “hey, maybe I’ll start wearing women’s clothes then!” Your wit does not woo the nay-sayers of life. Do not repent. You need not cleanse yourself. Christ has not atoned for you, for you have not sinned in gender. What nonsense!

Suppose that we were once wrong about Christ–we denied him. Suppose we were wrong about trans people–we denied them as well. And look what happened.

Thank you for transcending boundaries with me.

Why evangelicals should think twice about equating modern Israel with Israel of the Bible

Ben Irwin

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The other day, I raised a question for evangelicals who think standing with Israel means supporting them no matter what. How do you reconcile a “never criticize Israel” mentality with the overwhelming witness of the biblical prophets?

If you’ve been told that unconditional support for Israel is the only “biblical” position, that the modern-day state enjoys the same kind of “most favored nation” status with God as ancient Israel did, then here’s another question. If Israel today is entitled to the covenant blessings spoken by the Old Testament, what about their covenant obligations?

The Bible never spoke of Israel’s covenant blessings apart from their obligations. It’s no use trying to have one without the other. And at least one of these obligations poses a bit of a problem for the modern state of Israel, if it is indeed the same nation as the one in the Bible.

Ancient Israel was not supposed to have…

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4 Documentaries Every Bible Geek Needs to Watch about Early Christianity

Meet the ‘Radical Brownies’ – girl scouts for the modern age

Fusion

Not all girl scouts are concerned with peddling shortbread cookies. There’s one troop of young girls in Oakland that discusses matters of racial inequality and wear brown berets in homage of radical civil rights groups.

The girls, ages 8-12, are part of the “Radical Brownies,” an edgier, younger version of the Girl Scouts where girls earn badges for completing workshops on social protests, and a beauty workshop that celebrate racial diversity.

Radical Brownies is dedicated to providing young girls of color relevant life experiences, explains the group’s co-founder Anayvette Martinez.

Martinez, a community organizer, created the Radical Brownies with Marilyn Hollinquest because “there aren’t enough spaces [for young girls of color] in our society.” The Radical Brownies of Oakland launched last month and already includes 12 girls. All the members are girls of color or mixed-race. The Radical Brownies are not affiliated with the Girl Scouts of the USA.

The founders…

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Nietzsche: Not the Cynic, But the Severely Disappointed

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The Table of Contents of Ecce Homo. Filed under “why I’m so helpful for providing visual aids”

For most people who have read any of Nietzsche’s work, it seems that they interpret him as a quintessential cynic or misanthrope. And this is a completely understandable interpretation, especially if one reads anything regarding the “Will to Power” or his thoughts on politics. Nietzsche seems to think that people are only concerned with themselves and the weak are meant to be trampled on. Or we can just look at the chapter titles of Ecce Homo for quite a profound example of his own engagement with cynicism.

In all honesty, I’m not confident in my understanding of parts of Nietzsche’s (non-)philosophy, so I won’t speak at length on them, but I think there is something to be said about the intersection between his and bell hooks’ thoughts. The notable connection is in the following two quotes:

To talk much about oneself may also be a means of concealing oneself. [1]

and

Ultimately, cynicism is the great mask of the disappointed and betrayed heart. [2]

In both quotes there is the element of hiding something. I’m not sure if Nietzsche would identify with the label “cynic” but even if not, the specter of cynicism maybe still be there for a reason. If we are following bell hooks, Nietzsche’s cynical attitude is really an attempt to distract the reader (and probably himself) from his own pain and disappointment in life.

Might there be a part of Nietzsche which he tries to suppress? Which is a simmering hope and faith in humanity that is crushed by utter indifference? Indeed, he writes:

You desire to live ‘according to Nature?’ Oh , you noble Stoics, what fraud of words! Imagine to yourselves a being like Nature, boundlessly extravagant, boundlessly indifferent, without purpose or consideration, without pity or justice, at once fruitful and barren and uncertain: imagine to yourselves indifference as a power– how could you live in accordance with such indifference? To live–is not that just endeavoring to be otherwise than this Nature? Is not living valuing, preferring, being unjust, being limited, endeavoring to be different? [3]

At this, one might say we don’t and can’t know the real Nietzsche (probably because there is none). Regardless, I think it is reasonable to contend, whether loosely or confidently, that Nietzsche’s cynicism serves to mask his own insecurities and pains.


[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, aphorism 169.

[2] bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions, xviii

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, aphorism 9.

Žižek and Sacrifice

I’m currently reading Slavoj Žižek and Boris Gunjevic’s God in Pain and I came across this passage in one of Žižek’s chapters:

The radical break introduced by Christianity consists in the fact that it is the first religion without the sacred, a religion whose unique achievement is precisely to demystify the Sacred.[1]
I really loved this quote so I decided to share it with some friends of mine here at school and most of them were either indifferent or flat-out disagreed with it (at least by itself). Of course it was a lesson in hermeneutics in itself. “What a blasphemous thing,” some might say, “to claim that Christianity considers nothing sacred!”
I hadn’t anticipated that sort of interpretation, probably because I was so excited about it. Žižek’s analysis of the Sacred is a bit different than the common idea of “something worthy of worship” or something like that. “The sacred is,” for Žižek, “a limitation of ‘ordinary’ evil…[and] nothing but the violence of humans, but ‘expulsed, externalized, hypostazied’. The sacred sacrifice to the gods is the same as an act of murder–what makes it sacred is the fact that is limits/contains violence, including murder, in ordinary life” [2]. Furthermore, sacrifice is always done with “the collective” in mind–that is, those who stage the sacrifice, the people sacrificing and typically those who the sacrifice is for. Žižek refers to the collective as a singular agent, though. “The collective” might be a hivemind or a tradition of religious narrative, saying “this is why we sacrifice, this is why we need it. Praise God.” Evil can have “enough qualifications to make sure it can be done whenever one really wants to do it” [3]. Such is the essence of sacrifice; it is the exception to the rule “do not kill.”
Christianity, thus, was/is faced with the problem of “[containing] violence without sacrificial exception, without an external limit” [4]. This is effectively solved by allowing the victim to tell their own story. Sacrifices are only sacrifices insofar as the victim is “a part” but never “a voice.” (Here, we have an interesting intersection with Derrida in that the victim is an event contained within the story.) Through the victim’s story–their narrative that is an anti-narrative–the Sacred is demystified.
All this is to say that Žižek does not simply mean sacrifice in the sense of the quasi-archaic practice of “requiring the blood of a virgin” or something like that. Sacrifice is an ideological practice, one that is found in many systems and societies today–including America. Demystification is the realization that “my social status depends on objective social processes, not on my merits” [5]. The poor and the proletariat are the bourgeoisie’s sacrifice in capitalism, for instance. Or, as another example, civilians (American or otherwise) are among those being “sacrificed” for our country’s “safety.”
At this, one might say that “sacrifice” (and thus all that is “sacred”) is a rationalization, or rather, a justification of an atrocious thing for a higher cause which involves the incorporation of abstract or delusional elements, such as “national safety” or “for the sins of the people.” Since Žižek’s conception of the “Sacred” is always told by “the collective,” Christianity effectively denounces the value of “Sacredness” by silencing the collective and allowing there to be space (whether it is the collective making room for the victim, or the victim breaking through as an event) for the victim to speak.
The “Good News” of the Gospel, then, is not some narrative justifying or explaining sacrifice or why such a sacrifice was needed, but rather that we get the opportunity to learn from the victim–that is, without overpowering them physically or narrativistically, without subduing them and insisting that they somehow conform. Nonconformity is thus never “them believing a lie,” but instead the victim’s indignation and insubordination, for they have heard the collective narrative for centuries.
_______________________________________
[1] Slavoj Žižek, “Christianity Against the Sacred” in God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse, 68.
[2] Ibid., 63.
[3] Ibid., 69.
[4] Ibid., 63.
[5] Ibid., 66.

Sauf Le Nom: A Postmodern Intervention for Heretics and Addicts of Orthodoxy (Part 3 of 3)

This is the final post of a series that I’ve been posting quasi-weekly. The first two posts can be read here and here, in chronological order.

A/theism: Where Theism and Atheism Collide

Edifying theologians, like edifying philosophers, “refuse to present themselves as having found out any objective truth,” and instead cast themselves as engaging in something largely different from and more important than making propositions of accurate representations of how things really are.[1] By this token, edifying theologians are not interested in proposing a new orthodoxy, but instead deconstructing the enterprise of orthodoxy altogether. There have been a few theological movements that cast themselves as “postmodern” and ultimately turned up insignificant because they made the mistake of complying with the system of orthodoxy and began making hard claims to accurate representations.[2]

Edifying theology opposes systematic theology by making the same hermeneutical turn Rorty makes.[3] It finds itself in juxtaposition to systematic theology simply by not being systematic and refusing to engage with the strong epistemological claims of orthodoxy. “As a matter of brute fact rather than of metaphysical necessity, there is no such thing as the ‘language of unified science.’ We have not got a language which will serve as a permanent neutral matrix for formulating all good explanatory hypotheses, and we have not the foggiest notion how to get one,” for either scientific hypotheses or for religious dogma.[4] Read the rest of this entry

Sauf Le Nom: A Postmodern Intervention for Heretics and Addicts of Orthodoxy (Part 2 of 3)

In my last post, I gave an introduction to a Rortian critique of theology. What follows is a continuation thereof.

(De)Revisionist Church History

            So often when scholars (or just Christians) talk about the nature of pre-Nicene Christianity, they typically only cite the canonical letters and epistles for a picture of what it was like, but I think that undermines the very rough start Christianity got off with and the extremely heterogeneous nature of Christianity in its first 300 years and thereafter. Granted that texts and thinkers that were posthumously anathematized are far scarcer than the canonized texts and thinkers—they still exist, even if to the chagrin of the orthodox. Read the rest of this entry