Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Homosexuality, Marriage, and the Bachelor

So I owe much of this blog to my friend Luke in pointing this out for me. And I am really not making all this up on my own. Rather and I am piecing together what I have already been taught.

Recently there have been many, many, many blogs and articles about homosexuality and marriage. Recently, North Carolina passed a bill preventing the lawful marriage of homosexual couples. This was heralded as a great victory towards protecting the sanctity of marriage.

However, in addition to the bill there was a pastor who came out saying that homosexuals should be confined behind electric fences. You get the impression some Christians really hate the homosexual community.

Yet, always taking a step back from issue and all the anger, what about the larger issue of the sanctity of marriage? Of love? Or even humanity in general? All these questions circulate in this discussion which is often too narrowly approached.

There is a popular TV show called the Bachelor (and its counterpart the Bachelorette) wherein one single bachelor (or bachelorette) is brought 25 single counterparts of the opposite gender to choose a suitable mate. This show is shot on location at some of the most exotic locations around the world where men and women compete openly to attract the attention of the one single person of the opposite gender. Furthermore, for a certain number of weeks a televised audience views petty arguments between the crop of single men or women, confessions of love after a few days, and sweeping romantic gestures financed by the studio.

This being said, the show disregards that emotions are being manipulated on purpose and the featured character gets to play 25 women in full view of the entire world. If the sanctity of marriage involves the courtship between one man and women, what about this wildly successful show?

The Bachelor is not the worst. A few years back there was a show called Married By America. In this gem, six single men and women were matched up by online vote by the American audience. In fact, the first time these couples met were the night they got married on the live season premier. This show merely tries to recreate the popularity of the Bachelor by heightening the shock factor and continually redefining the ability to instrumentalize humans for profit. Furthemore, with all these reality TV shows the rise in Drive through Wedding chapels, the Hollywood Circus Wheel of marriages, and an almost half divorce rate amongst couples in and out of the Church, one begins to wonder weather homosexual marriage is the thing destroying the sanctity of marriage? Or of love? Or of the human person? Maybe its the rest of us.  

And onto another issue of desire/love and the human person. This is the central issue pertaining to the question of homosexuality. And Christians need to find better ways than electric fences to talk about homosexuality.

The means to address the homosexual question is the Eucharist (borrowed from Hauerwas). In this central Church practice, one encounters love (paschal mystery), desire (in the form of eating slaking hunger), and the human person (the re-appropriation of all material reality). Thus, the continual taking of the Eucharist means both a physical training and an ontological shift in the ways Christians view these matters. Furthermore, we learn what desire/love is in the mystery of the Eucharist. There we eat, learning the importance that material substances plays in the natural functioning of the human body but also how those material substances are a gift meant to be cherished.

These gifts enhance the community and enrich the gathering. It enriches by way of giving the community the tools to love/desire in a fallen world. For as we train our appetite at the table, we learn how our love/desire contributes to our Christian life. Furthermore, it means recognizing the quest for virtue in other humans/material beings who struggle like the rest of us. The question is learning how our particular desires contribute to our witness (individually and corporately) and which ones need to be trained in light of the Eucharist.

And this meal only has weight because it has the power of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and consists of the Trinitarian Drama where the therapy of the Triune dance wears of the edges of our shattered desires and love. Simply put, the Eucharist is a practice of the Trinitarian love.

In this respect, anger towards our fellow human (such as electric fences) needs attention as much as our sexual appetite. However, I do not offer any answers on who is right or wrong on this discussion. I rather challenge a serious look at the Eucharist as a means of recovery of conversation and re-evaluation of all desire under the Triune Economy.

Chuck Norris, Pentecost, and Christian Conviction.

So I really do like Chuck Norris jokes. I really can't help it, they are funny. That being said, the man recently caused me to think about some issues in the Church these days.

Recently the man himself (the Chuck) was cast in the sequel to the 1980s and 90s action star packed film 'The Expendables". I will admit, I saw the first one, but out of morbid curiosity. (I will probably see the second one for the same reason) The first movie possessed the depth of a soap dish, but the action of every war combined. The real draw of this movie however was the bringing together of all the famous action stars of the 80s and 90s. The film included Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, Jason Stathom, etc. However, in the sequel they literally went to the extreme and found every old action star and threw them in a feature film (i.e. Van Damme, Norris, etc). This is where Norris comes in.

I assume with all the recent buzz around the Chuck Norris jokes Stallone and producers wanted Norris in the film. However, Norris being a publicly (and published I might add) professed Christian had a problem with the script, namely the amount of cussing. If you saw the first Expendables you might know what Norris was referring to. He quickly responded saying that if he was to be apart of the movie they must limit the amount of swearing in the film. The Christian world was impressed and he got his way.

This being said, looking at the broader outlook of the movie, is cussing the thing to be upset about? In the first movie, hundreds if not at least a thousand people die in variou bloody skirmishes. I imagine with the increasing star pool, the Expendables 2 will have the same amount of death if not more. I appreciate the stance of Norris, but what does it say when a Christian seems to care more about the display of cursing rather than the extreme violence in such a movie. For some reason, it seems we have become more comfortable with violence as a way of life, than swear words.

When examining the Biblical Witness, we might note that the emphasis is quite the opposite. Granted I imagine Jesus would not have been happy having those who followed him being vulgar, but I believe the gospel narrative is more pointed about killing and violence. Everything from the beatitudes, to the Garden of Gethsemene, to even the cross suggests that the Christian life is not one that promotes violence. The core of this Christian story lies just in that incendiary moment where the Son of God peacefully offers up his life for all. Thus a Christian should take for granted the life of all, because Christ certainly does. Maybe we are taking the wrong things for granted when this becomes the norm.

This past week was Pentecost. However, it was also Memorial Day. I had a friend at a Church in another state tell me that the ratio for prayer requests for the latter vastly outweighed the former. (Namely 5:0) After exploring a few other friends who are pastors/leaders in congregations the result is the same. This leads me to believe that the Norris is not the only one to take the wrong thing for granted. My friend told me of two particular things said consistently. 1.) We should be grateful to those who sacrificed so we can come in here. 2.) I pray that the young people can learn the importance of Memorial Day.

Granted, I do not think we should disregard those who have died in our midst. But we are grossly mistaken if we think that America is the reason we can gather. In fact, the Church gathered for centuries before it was legal and that time is possibly the golden period of Christianity. Furthermore, and onto the second, I am much more concerned that our congregations feel more pedagogical about Memorial Day than Pentecost. The fact that I could get a better discussion to the question "What is the importance of the 2nd amendment?" than I could to the question "What is our responsibility to the story in Acts 2?" scares me. The Church is always a place where we should take the RIGHT things for granted. Such as mourning death, not celebrating violence and remembering where ultimate peace comes from The Cross, not Chuck Norris.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Politics and Fragile Society: A plea for pacifism.

Politics represents a curse for modern society.

According to Hannah Arendt, society suffers from its own laborious violence. Simply put, humanity in its beginnings housed families who worked to sustain basic, intimate functions needed for survival. (i.e. growing crops, making shelter, etc) However, whenever the families and communities became mobilized into a society their work became a matter of political importance. Furthermore, political use of people and their labor involved classifying the worth or goodness of a person based on their public performance of certain labors for the benefit of the whole. Basically people were instrumentalized based of their worth to the polis.

Granted I assume that it is not wrong for people to live socially, to work for the good of others. However, when a polis can define a person without intrinsic worth it means people are mechanized, recycled, and then ultimately discarded. The goodness of a person according to their worth must include the acknowledge that there is nothing special about labor. As previously mentioned, labor is a natural part of human existence post-Fall. Thus, a person is capable of work done by another.

This cycle wherein people can be easily recycled makes violence the central narrative of political authority. The constitution may claim for equality of all sentient beings, but in practice the dispensability of individuals is normative. This thought then names the struggle at the base of War, Capital Punishment, Poverty, Political Division, and Other Linguistic Forms of Violence.

As Christians, violence is unacceptable. The beatitudes for many show the central emphasis on peace as the first act of Christian response. However, this is an uneasy notion for Christians. The world seems to deny the possibility, but what does it say to at once say 'Jesus is Lord' and 'If you want peace prepare for war.' If one thinks about these two statements, they do not match.

Killing people and discarding them because of their use or non-use for a polis is violent in a way unintelligible to the Christian faith. Violence with respect to either means choosing to deny the worth of an individual. Furthermore, rights based politics makes a rebuttal seemingly absurd. But eventually the Christian must admit violence is incompatible with the faith.  

However, what does this mean for the protection of the innocence. As a Pacifist, I acknowledge that I do not know what I would do if I had the opportunity to protect the innocent. But violence for the sake of political peace and protection of the innocence results more in the death of innocence than their protection. Christ's victory represents the definition of peace. The Christian Politic must reckon with this mystery that the peace of the Christian Story of a man who was confronted with the choice to either continue his mission peacefully or to raise a sword. It was impossible for Christ to continue his mission without the cost of his life, but even stil he kept loving. This ability to love to the point of death for the hostile people is largely unmatched in history, but it is the essential Christian political confession.

Thus the Peaceful life of Jesus stretches what modern humanity thinks possible. And certainly not easy, but one which is meant to be followed. The world is on the fragile edge of destroying itself because it cannot sustain peace due to the fear of difference. Politics claims the ability to solve this problem, but Christ actually has.