Every Friday I’m posting links to things I’ve read this week that I think you might find interesting too, next week I want to start sharing some links readers of the site are finding interesting…If you read something you think should be featured here submit it here, starting your message LINK LIST SUGGESTION.
and while we are on mental health issues and theology, I watched this short interview with John Swinton which focuses around theological reflections on dementia, who was my undergrad prof at Aberdeen. His responses to these questions reminded me how formative my short time with him was for my own thinking;
Do you know how a fox gets rid of its fleas? The fox goes along the hedgerow, and collects little bits of sheep’s wool. Then he makes it all into a ball of wool, which he holds in his mouth. Then he goes to the stream, and slowly, slowly, walks down into the water. He lowers himself right down into the water, with the ball of wool in his mouth, until at last he is totally submerged; then he lets go, and ball of wool floats away downstream, carrying all the fleas with it. The fox emerges, clean. In this image, Jesus is the ball of wool. The spotless Lamb allows the evil of the whole world to be concentrated on himself. He doesn’t keep it in circulation by reacting with violence; nor does he escape into the ineffective innocence of quietism. He takes the weight of the world’s evil upon himself, so that the world may emerge, clean.” (N.T. Wright, Following Jesus, p.48)
More recently I’ve been trying to take more seriously the implications of the incarnation, that we can know something of God through our embodiedness, both because we are made in the image of God, and God came into the image of us in the Christ. So, I found this post on embodiedness very interesting as it pushes back the late Pope John Paul II’s account of a theology of the body.
In one of the most interesting group discussion I’ve been in on the subject of pastoring those with same-sex attraction, the issue of gender identity and intersex (a condition previously named hermaphradite) came up. Although this seems like a very marginal ethical issues for Christians to deal with, when the issue of intersex was brought up, it was cited as an occurance in 1 in every few hundred births to some extent (I don’t have any citation for that, so take it with as much weight as that implies), but certainly this story, has caught imagination. Those leading this discussion mentioned that their advice for discipling those with same-sex attraction was to first be asking if the person being discipled is aware of the sex they were born, and to receive a chromosome test if they are not.
This ambiguous quote of Jesus in Matthew should guide something of our thinking towards this issue;
For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others–and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
It seems to me that circumcision poses genuine problems for any intersex theology. As I have observed before, the biblical narrative foregrounds the reproductive organs of many of its characters in a pronounced way—it is frequently a tale of circumcised foreskins and opened wombs. The sign of the covenant is placed upon the male sex organ. Unless we adopt a Marcionite approach, we must reckon with the peculiar significance that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ gave to the male sex organ in circumcision. This poses problems for any position that wishes to negate the theological significance of sexual—and gender—difference and its relation to reproduction—even when we acknowledge that things have changed in the New Covenant. If the difference between the sexes and between persons with ambiguous and entirely unambiguous sexual characteristics is a matter of indifference, why did God institute a primary covenant ritual that was so overtly sexually differentiating? Such questions often expose or provoke huge theological divergences.
On the incarnation:
The suggestion that we should imagine an intersex Jesus—or a black Jesus, a queer Jesus, an English Jesus, etc.—strikes me as a theologically problematic potential obscuring of the particularity of the incarnation (different attempts theologically to justify such images fare differently in terms of their obscuring potential). As we are reminded in the Feast of the Circumcision, Christ came to earth in the fullness of time as a Jewish male, born as the male seed of a woman, under the Law, the son of David, and the heir of a particular lineage. The Jewish male body was the bearer of unique covenant meaning and Christ bore that meaning. This claim will obviously raise unsettling (and important) questions for many in other areas, but I believe other theological resources are available to us to answer such questions. The body in which Jesus came to us is not a matter of theological indifference.
Finally, as I have spoken with people on the issue of same-sex attraction in the Church one of the most pressing issues that arises shortly after theological cannons have be shot are, how do we deal pastorally with this. If we are to call people to abstinence then we need to radically re-evaluation our wholesale adoption of privatistic individualism which manifests in loyalty to nuclear family and little more lest we leave people in hellish isolation who don’t have options to procreate.
The idea of a celibate, chaste, single life is scorned today not only because of the myth that one can only live a fulfilled, fully human life within the context of a sexually intimate relationship. Perhaps more fundamentally, if less openly acknowledged, this seems a terrible choice for those who are single, gay or straight, because it is a call to loneliness.
then a quote from the book itself on the position of the author;
There is a divine ‘Yes’ to marriage and sexual intimacy between a man and a woman, premised on their bodily difference that seemed to gesture toward (albeit faintly) the transcendent difference of Creator from creature. But that ‘Yes’ also seemed to disclose a corresponding ‘No’ to sexual intimacy in any other context. (p. 18)
then again from the review summarising the book;
The first part begins by talking about the eclipse of the idea of friendship in a sexualized culture.where any deeply affectionate and caring relationship between human beings is concluded to be sexual, something especially difficult for the gay celibate Christian for whom a deep non-sexual friendship may be a lifeline.
After existentialism writes this on the protestant and catholic aesthetic, which I thought was intriguing difference and lead us into some thoughts about music in the church;
As is often said, the Catholic aesthetic is visual and material; the Protestant aesthetic is verbal and aural. Even Catholic novelists — in a verbal medium — are basically imaginative (image-making) in their orientation. Tolkien is an obvious example.
Protestants do preaching; Catholics do cathedrals. Both proclaim the gospel. It is only the small-minded Protestant who cannot admit the deficiency in the Protestant aesthetic; it is only the small-minded Catholic who cannot admit the deficiency in the Catholic aesthetic.
So, in a review of Ancient Christian Worship at Jesus Creed this week, music came up with regard to its practise in the early church;
What struck me was that teaching and admonishing in all wisdom through the recitation/singing of psalms, through hymns, and through songs from the Spirit. That is, singing is catechesis; singing is a form of teaching. Church music is not ornamental, it is not entertainment, and it is not aesthetics. It is didactic to the core.
Communal singing was a metaphor for unity and fellowship, but it indicates the church fellowship singing as a choir together. Performative singing was yet to come.
I’m a huge fan of contemporary worship music. I don’t even apologise for it, despite the scorn respectable middle-aged men are supposed to pour on it…the sheer power of music to move us, lift us, and catch us up in dancing, singing, joy-filled praise, when combined with thoughtful and God-exalting content, is such a gift that it would be churlish to sneer at it. So I’m not the guy who sits tutting with his arms folded when the Newday Big Top is bouncing to That’s Why We Move Like This; I’m right at the front, bouncing with them.
For those for whom it “does” the least, baptism is emphasized the most; for those for whom it “does” the most, it is emphasizes the least. That’s an overstatement: baptists don’t think baptism “does” much (it’s a symbol, not a sacrament; it’s real essence is faith that precedes the water) while infant baptizers think baptism “does” much but often don’t emphasize it enough.
Finally, like last week I’m pointing over to Skye Jethani’s blog, but this time a Guest post, a letter to the dones – a term used by sociologists to describe those done with Church, but not with Jesus. Here are a few quotes but, its well worth reading the whole thing here
When I was baptized, I did not know I was uniting myself to a chronically ill patient on life support. She is the church, and she is so, so sick. She has Alzheimer’s; she doesn’t remember who she is. She has leprosy; sometimes she doesn’t feel her own pain. I am not the only one who sees her illnesses.
But the church is not unique. If we stay with any community long enough, we will find the same bitter taste in our mouths. Every institution, every workplace, and every family has the same shortcoming—people. The church is the medicine for our arrogance and our narcissism. Spend enough time with the unlovely, and you discover you are one of them. Only when we realize our own sickness can we begin to be healed.
Enjoy the weekend..
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