Christianity, Homosexuals, and the Emergent Church

I wanted to direct readers to a recent debate I’ve been having with some folks on the emergent church. I criticize “postmodern Christians” who attempt to overcome the liberal/evangelical divide by offering some third way. Ultimately, I believe the emergent church is a failure because it values tolerance, conversation, and unity over justice. I try to make the case that liberation theology (not process theology or some pseudo-Derridean theology) should be the future of the church. I also make the controversial claim that Christians who support LGBT rights should formally break ties with fellow Christians who oppress and deny LGBT peoples membership to the church. One reader found this rather upsetting because apparently Christ preached peace not division, which would explain Christ’s statement in Luke 12:51: Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. Here are my latest comments in response to those who found my position offensive:

I’m annoyed that people, who responded to my comment, are aghast that I would consider breaking ties with Christians who oppose LGBT rights an actual option. What’s the greater injustice: denying the admission of LGBT members into the body of Christ or denouncing and parting ways with Christians who actively persecute them? I’m sorry, but I don’t see it as a sin to break unity in the face of injustice. King once said, at the end of his life, to Belafonte that he worried he was integrating African Americans into a burning house. I don’t want the church to be on fire, but it is undoubtedly ablaze with the fires of injustice as long as it denies Christians (gay/straight/bisexual) access to the eucharist. We need to be careful here, and I don’t see pseudo-unity as being preferable to injustice. There are things that merit division. The American church was obviously divided over racial issues, and I doubt many of us would explicitly condone the white supremacy that haunted (and continues to haunt) the American church. We condemn that oppression, yet we’d rather maintain solidarity with fellow Christians who demonstrably deny the teachings of Christ by oppressing LGBT peoples?

I’m curious to hear people’s feedback or others reactions to these comments. This whole fad of post-evangelicalism is fascinating and bizarre to me in many ways. Ultimately, I worry that its counter-identification with evangelicals ultimately over-determines the movement.

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50 Responses to “Christianity, Homosexuals, and the Emergent Church”

  1. Troy Says:

    100% agreed. If you’re restricting a universal message based on identity markers, then you have a fundamentally different (and antagonistic) message. Unity is impossible at that site.

  2. Aric Says:

    I think when we start to muse on the notion of solidarity and who we should or should not keep it with, we open a very large barrel of worms.

    The problem here is that first you have to go about defining what keeping “solidarity” means – Does this mean that Christians who oppose LGBT peoples should be considered non-Christian? Does this mean that you don’t want to be affiliated with them? In what WAY do you not want to be affiliated with them? I think the whole idea of “breaking ties” with someone who shares a fundamental identity characteristic with you is very convoluted. A very simple way to understand this is through the lens of nationalism: There are many stigmas, labels, connotations that are stamped on us as an individual belonging to a specific nation. “American” has a thousand negative connotations that I’m sure we’d love to “sever ties” with – but we find it an impossibility (unless we plan on changing citizenship). I know this seems so simple an observation as to be annoying, but I can’t imagine a better way to frame it. Being a “Christian” is a kind of identity, identity is multifaceted – and what’s fundamental to it is a kind of theological structure that transcends a slew of individual preferences.

    Now, I think what you’re getting at is that ‘oppression’ is one of those few “individual preferences” that separates the Christian’s from the non/un-Christians. If one is an ‘oppressor’ or one who ‘hates’, then one is not a Christian by definition (or certainly not the kind of Christian you want to affiliate yourself with). But perhaps we can look at this theologically: Just as Jesus ate with the prostitutes and tax-collectors, are Christians not then called to eat with gay-bashing republicans and ‘oppressors?’ I think what’s interesting about this train of thought is that you can imagine that in some conservative evangelical blog right now, someone might be saying, “Are we not called to eat with the liberal-minded ‘progressive’ sinners?” Again, I think we find solidarity multi-faceted; perfect ideological union with another mind is impossible, yet this does not keep us from loving in the midst of division. Though you clearly make a moral/ethical division between yourself and your evangelical counter parts, it is also possible to extend love in an ultimate sense – in fact, you might say that the love extended to your ‘enemies’ is exactly the kind of love that Jesus had called his disciples to enact.

    I guess what I’m saying in short is – it doesn’t matter who you label “Christians” or not, (perhaps) what makes YOU a Christian is exactly that “transcendent identifier” I was speaking about earlier, namely, love. I know that sounds as kitschy as all get out, but that’s my two cents.

  3. Jeremy Says:

    I appreciate your theoretical discussion of solidarity, although I was mostly thinking about the ordination and admission of homosexuals into the church. Many mainline churches (e.g. the Presbyterian mainline church this May) decided to officially remove barriers that blocked LGBT peoples from becoming members of the clergy. I know many Christians were upset because it caused great division in many PC(USA) churches, and I’m sure there were a fair number of Presbyterians who left the church because they disagreed. The blog comment I made is also targeted at Christians who are attempting to inhabit some theological third space that is neither liberal or conservative. They tend to value inclusions, openness, and conversation and reject these various divisions that currently unite the church. They were especially rejecting of this notion that breaking ties with Christians who oppose LGBT people would somehow fundamentally violate the body of Christ. My position is that there are certain theopolitical issues that require division, decisions, and ultimately separation.

    Regarding what Jesus would do, obviously nobody knows. However, my example of him running out tax collectors who were exploiting the Temple also applies. Does that mean Christians should absolutely reject all contact with individuals they disagree with ideologically? No. However, I would argue that Christians have a duty to formally sever ties with individuals who are fundamentally misrepresenting the gospel and using it to make LGBT people hate themselves. It’s no surprise that teen suicide rates are so high amongst Christian LGBT youth, given the way certain churches portray God’s views of homosexuals.

    Finally, your focus on love is interesting, and I am not sure how to answer it. However, my question is what is the function of hate and rage in the context of love and justice? I think there’s a place for rage and anger directed towards these Christians. I could offer up some sentimental version of love, but my personal feelings are not all that important. I could try to police the feelings of others reminding them that Jesus (introduce superego pressure) would love the very individuals he actively opposed. I don’t doubt that this is a Christian notion, but I’m skeptical of the way people understand this idea. It sometimes leads into simple moralizing that is unhelpful. Also, it is used to minimize the indignation of others and to diminish the radicality of individuals who are trying to fight injustice.

  4. Jeremy Says:

    I think what’s interesting about this train of thought is that you can imagine that in some conservative evangelical blog right now, someone might be saying, “Are we not called to eat with the liberal-minded ‘progressive’ sinners?”

    Actually, I can’t imagine that being said. Even so, let’s imagine that this was an issue. I worry that we fall into a false equivalence here. Both positions are equally exclusive, and shouldn’t we try to emerge beyond left and right? However, the position I’m advocating is true, which is no small difference.

    Finally, I thought a bit more about this whole Jesus question. OK, so Jesus associated with those who were hated (tax collectors, etc.). Yet he didn’t make them part of his inner circle (e.g. Matthew was called out from sin (tax collecting) to become an apostle). Hence, Jesus would not allow these individuals to go about representing the gospel because they were betraying it with their actions.

  5. Adam Kotsko Says:

    As always, the “third way” is effectively right-wing — it’s more important to spare the feelings of the bigots than to have real solidarity with those they’re harming. In this context, it sounds like the emergent church is an elaborate con, trying to keep LGBT Christians affiliated with organizations that will never accept them.

  6. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I should also say that I have long since passed the point where I have any patience with people who “struggle” with the issue of whether to accept LGBT Christians. “But there are a few ambiguous Bible passages that bigots quote a lot, so we have to take that into account!” Yeah, go fuck yourself. Because you are lukewarm, I spit you out of my mouth.

  7. Adam Kotsko Says:

    And before someone comes in and concern trolls me about how I’m not likely to convince anyone with that poor attitude: if they are more concerned with my mean words than with the real suffering and marginalization of LGBT Christians, then I don’t see what grounds there could even conceivably be for convincing them no matter how nice I am, because clearly they don’t really give a fuck about LGBT Christians at all. All they care about is their “holy quest to be above reproach,” and that’s always going to mean sucking up to the more powerful and, at the very least, averting their eyes when the powerful decide to beat up on someone.

  8. Phil A. Buster Says:

    Clearly you haven’t read or understood or accepted in any serious fashion the writings of King or liberation theology. Both are just as much about liberating the oppressors as the oppressed. Saying go fuck yourself (or, Jeremy’s more mild, “breaking”) is to be just as bigoted, self-indulged and violent as the bigots. From the standpoint of both liberation theology and King’s nonviolence: it is a symptom of the same disease. Go ahead, pride yourself in your trendy ass, intellectual hipsterism. In my view, the difference between the shit on this blog and the shit Tony Jones and the emergent church profess is marginal. It’s all “let’s be cool by reading a bunch of edgy, obscure, dense thinkers and then dump on everyone who doesn’t get it” And then, “let’s go deny the very message we supposedly endorse because, deep down, what we care about is the conservative impulse of being right and powerful…” Fuck that. This is lame. Truly. I’d go home if I were you and say to yourself “Man, I’m a total fuckin douchbag loser” Make sure you have a fair trade microbrew in your hand.

  9. Lee M. (@thinking_reed) Says:

    I’m not expert on liberation theology (or anything, really), but I don’t understand why process theology and liberation theology are mutually exclusive. If anything, process thought (as represented by Cobb, Suchocki, Keller, etc.) seems to have imbibed quite a bit of liberation theology. So I’m not sure why Christians would necessarily have to choose between those two perspectives.

  10. Jeremy Says:

    I didn’t mean to imply that process and liberation theology are mutually exclusive. I do think many process theologians have tried to combine the two.

    Saying go fuck yourself (or, Jeremy’s more mild, “breaking”) is to be just as bigoted, self-indulged and violent as the bigots.

    Honestly, this makes no sense to me.

  11. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Phil A. Buster: Go fuck yourself.

  12. Phil A. Buster Says:

    I already did. twice. and it was nice. At least I have the integrity to do so when I recognize the sham of my existence. You, sir, are still under the illusion that your bullshit means something.

  13. Adam Kotsko Says:

    “If you see someone attempting to commit a murder and you use force to stop them, aren’t you just as violent as the attempted murderer? Aren’t you being hypocritical?”

    “If you see someone bullying another person verbally and call them a bully, aren’t you just as guilty of verbal abuse as they are? Aren’t you a hypocrite?”

    That’s basically the level of insight you’ve offered today, Phil.

  14. Jeremy Says:

    Phil’s reaction to my post seem to be rather overblown, especially all of his fantasies about my personal life. Either way, I appreciate that he fully embraces the position I am opposing, as I think he demonstrates its manifest stupidity. Namely, the assumption that it’s just as morally evil to hate the oppressed as it to hate the oppressor. That is so obviously idiotic that I don’t think I need to make any full response to it. I also think Phil makes a major mistake when he acts like liberation theology is synonymous with King’s theology of nonviolence. Cone’s initial work certainly embraced some of the critiques of nonviolence that leaders of the Black Power movement advanced.

  15. Adam Kotsko Says:

    The really offensive thing isn’t that LGBT Christians are constantly marginalized and denigrated, to the point where young gay Christians are disproportionately likely to kill themselves — no, the real issue we need to worry about is that Jeremy and I hold an opinion that we think is true, and of which we think the opposite is wrong and harmful. What arrogant bastards we are!

  16. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Oh yeah, and we’ve read Derrida. We think we’re so much better than everyone!!!

  17. Jared Hatcher Says:

    Isn’t it a matter of perspective or even personality? Perhaps the Emerging types value unity and longsuffering with the bigoted christians out there and long for justice in that way; by changing the system from within. Jeremy and Adam, I get your reluctance to participate in (what may look like) an elaborate con – because that is usually my position on things like that. But perhaps we don’t own the rights to the word ‘justice’, and their interpretation and outworking of that word may look different to ours. Does that make it any less just? Perhaps they’re struggling with it, or they’re trying to find a genuine way to be Christian while being just – what does that look like?
    I know we like to think we have the answer, and maybe we have our answer, but do we have theirs? If we believe we do, we could (like Phil discretely point out) that we ourselves may become the oppressors. I’m not saying that we’re being oppressive by standing against injustice, but by deciding that we have a better way and using that knowledge to formally separate ourselves from the weaker members of our community (the weaker being the bigots in this case).
    Although I lean more towards the separation route, I respect those who see it differently (even if I judge some of them to be wussing out or giving in).

  18. Adam Kotsko Says:

    How could we possibly be running the risk of oppression by saying “I no longer wish to be formally affiliated with a church body that is guilty of ongoing injustice and shows no inclination to change”? What slippery slope does that put us on? I guess in an extremely abstract and formal sense we’re guilty of “excluding” — but if anything, aren’t we just voluntarily excluding ourselves, in solidarity with those the church body is actively excluding?

    I think that “false symmetry” arguments are much, much more dangerous and insidious than straightforwardly taking a stand. If someone doesn’t care enough about the issue of full inclusion for LGBT Christians to refuse to be part of a church body that isn’t working toward that full inclusion, then I can only conclude that their priority is to remain on good terms with the oppressors.

  19. Phil A. Buster Says:

    “Jeremy and I hold an opinion that we think is true,” fuck me, it’s Jerry Fuckin Falwell. See, we’re all conservatives deep down, aren’t we.

    “I also think Phil makes a major mistake when he acts like liberation theology is synonymous with King’s theology of nonviolence.” – I never equated liberation theology with King’s nonviolence. You yourself enlisted them in the same breath in your post. I’m just talking about the basic commitment of liberation theology that liberation is just as much for the oppressors as it is for the oppressed as a parallel with King’s statements in several of his addresses. You can’t truly hold that, it seems, while saying “Fuck the oppressors.” Truth be told, I think King’s nonviolence is superior to, at least, Cone’s version of liberation theology. But either fuckin way.

    “Oh yeah, and we’ve read Derrida. We think we’re so much better than everyone!!!” – hehehehe

    “The really offensive thing isn’t that LGBT Christians are constantly marginalized and denigrated, to the point where young gay Christians are disproportionately likely to kill themselves — no, the real issue we need to worry about is that Jeremy and I hold an opinion that we think is true, and of which we think the opposite is wrong and harmful. What arrogant bastards we are!” – I never said anything that would indicate you are WORSE than those who marginalize and denigrate. I merely pointed out that you are no better because you’re involved in the same egoism.

    Chill out yaw. I had no idea yaw took this shit so seriously.

  20. Adam Kotsko Says:

    “I came out of nowhere and started personally insulting people — and they reacted negatively! Who could’ve predicted?”

    You are contributing nothing of any value. I politely request that you stop commenting on this thread.

  21. Trevor Owen Jones Says:

    A fair trade microbrew?

  22. Adam Kotsko Says:

    In the theology blogosphere, beer conquers all. That’s why I try to avoid having beers with people — I don’t want to be forced to like them just because of the magic of hops.

  23. Jeremy Says:

    Chill out yaw. I had no idea yaw took this shit so seriously.

    Honestly, it’s me and Adam who need to chill out? Your response to my post was to call me “bigoted, self-indulged, violent, attempting to be cool, and a fuckin douchbag loser”.

    One last thing, it’s not conservative to think you’re right. Do we think scientists are conservative for using research to argue to support their claims? I love how you (just like everyone) also think your position is right, but somehow my position in unthinkably violent. My favorite part of this exchange is that your hysterical and immature response only lends credence to my position and highlights just how indefensible your position is. It’s almost as if I paid you to make the alternative position appear as intellectually bankrupt as possible.

  24. Trevor Owen Jones Says:

    Adam — awesome.

  25. jdavidcharles Says:

    Homophobic and heterosexist persons who identify as Christians, when coupled with the inevitable social privilege and power that implies, fundamentally cannot be “liberated” from anything. What are we supposed to be liberating them from??? It’s not a question of us as sort of autonomous agents having to kiss ass to some PC construct of how language ought to be used or how I ought to treat people; it’s a question of the way power-relations–i.e. privilege and oppression–are mapped out socially, and what that does to people. If we can even imagine “liberating” the heterosexist Christian with the asymmetric hording of power and privilege, who moves about and has access and extends into the social world in a completely different way than the lgbtq Christian, I don’t know how we can imagine this charitably *except* as sketched by Jeremy (and Adam).

    We need to re-map how power-relations exist in the “Christian community” (whatever that is) at large–this requires, well, either forcibly removing the power (which would put us in a position of power–say by killing all heterosexist Christians) from those who have it, or creating a new space with new more just and charitable relations. I think the latter seems more “liberating” for heterosexist assholes, personally. Also sex-workers in 1st century Israel don’t really seem comparable to heterosexist Christians–last I checked sex-workers didn’t exactly have tons of privilege and yeah heterosexual Christians tend to. Maybe the pharisees would be a more apt comparison for heterosexist Christians–you know, with the power and social privilege and all. The Christ of the gospels kinda treated them a lil different.

    OH yeah and btdubbs we take this shit seriously because heterosexist homophobic Christians are still stoning lgbtq Christians in parts of the world, because homosexuality is a crime in multiple countries, because in the US only 21 states ban harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace (it’s even worse for transgender individuals–who face more employment and housing discrimination LEGALLY than any other marginalized group). So yeah. It’s fucking serious shit.

    PS–thinking about getting “I should also say that I have long since passed the point where I have any patience with people who “struggle” with the issue of whether to accept LGBT Christians. ‘But there are a few ambiguous Bible passages that bigots quote a lot, so we have to take that into account!’ Yeah, go fuck yourself. Because you are lukewarm, I spit you out of my mouth” tatooed on my chest.

  26. jdavidcharles Says:

    Don’t worry though–I’ll cite and annotate properly.

  27. david cl driedger Says:

    Jeremy, I don’t know the history of the PCUSA decision. How do you reflect on those who maintained allegiance with an unjust expression to see it come to its present fruition? Mennonite Church Canada is outlining a four year process in which it will decide whether it will ‘speak something new’ (as a denomination) on the topic of human sexuality. Part of my tension is with the conference trying to create an ‘openness’ to this process which is supposed to put people’s guards down that the Spirit might ‘surprise’ us with new insight. I know it has taken me ten long years of largely incremental change to now see myself as having a qualitatively different perspective and approach. When I look back on that process though it was almost as though from the very beginning I knew what I wanted to change it just took a long time for it to become embedded.
    In any event I intend to walk along with Mennonite Church Canada over the next four years (or at least that is plan). I am learning however to make smaller though significant breaks with thinking and actions within that context.

  28. Brennan Breed Says:

    Is Phil A. Buster just Adam in disguise? Because you couldn’t parody Citizen Zeus any better than that.

  29. Adam Kotsko Says:

    You have slandered me.

  30. Aric Says:

    Jeremy –

    I went to bed last night (I live on the West coast) after leaving my comment and woke up to the Phil A. Buster show, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The best part of wakin’ up – is Buster in your… blog.

    This is a really long and potentially boring reply, so please forgive me ahead of time, else a tl;dr will do.

    First, thank you for specifying what you meant by solidarity – I had at irking feeling it was something as concrete as admission/ordination – but it sounded as if you were implying ostracizing all ‘oppressive Christians’ from your sphere of social contact, which it seems is not the case.

    Concerning the issue of admission/ordination I think there is one more point of empathy to be had with these groups of people (and the individuals that comprise them), and this empathy is NOT to the ideological exclusivity that Adam has defined, i.e,”straightforwardly taking a stand”. I agree with Adam that when we play semantic games in order to falsely dichotomize moral ideologies we miss the point that taking a position is the first step towards non-selfishness; abstraction without participation is mere intellectual masturbation.

    To the point – I think in this discussion it is easy to overlook the REASON these ‘oppressors’ have for not administering eucharist/admission/ordination. For a good majority of the people who will outright deny these privileges to LGBT folk, they are doing it with a conflicted heart; their reason is primarily theological, not personal – it is not fueled by a vendetta against ‘these sub-human peoples’ rather, it is fueled by the angst to ‘do what is right according to (the bible/the Church/objective moral law etc). It can be easy to overlook these theological motivators (which can actually be a burden to people who feel it necessary to submit themselves to them) when we are convinced that despite the motive, the outcome is ‘oppressive’.

    I think, from a ‘Christian’ perspective (one that assumes an ontological hierarchy), we must see the Church as an institution like no other institution as it different by kind and not degree. It is not like a corporation, only the greatest corporation, it is the difference between the natural and the supernatural. As such, its adherents are indeed called to reflect the spiritual reality of sin/righteousness by denying eucharist to anyone who remains in sin, not to socially reject them, but to maintain a certain spiritual identity. Here circle back to the notion of identity:

    There is a overwhelmingly tragic identity epidemic in the modern world that leads to the equivocation of “self-worth” and things like “ordination”, which is (or should be) primarily a non-secular office. It’s terribly unfortunate that theological constructs (church member, priest etc) are conflated with ideas like lovability, respectability, and value. This reveals a few things: 1: That we are creatures who require some measure of social validation in order to survive healthily (hence the tragic suicide rates) 2: That religious ‘identifiers’ seem to of primary importance for a majority of people and 3: That there is an intrinsic human understanding that if we do not belong in certain social categories, then we are excluded from the love, respect and care available to the members who ARE in such categories. It is this third revelation that is most disturbing and contrary to one of the proclamations of Christ, to love thy ‘enemy’.

    So then, the theological explanation for not allowing LGBT people into the church cannot be equivocated with something like the issue of, say, women’s suffrage, because though the nation of America comprises both men and women, the Church cannot be comprised of both orthodox and heterodox. A heretic must be placed outside; not outside in terms of care, respect, dialogue, friendship etc. but because the rejection of certain beliefs is essential in maintaining the integrity of the “Holy Identity” of the Church itself (note that this logic can exist even in Protestant thinking). In brief: The logic here is that “sin” is an ontological category that is distinct from any form of secular affiliation, and as the Church is of the only KIND of institution capable of dealing with it, by definition the Church must deny communion (but not community) to said ‘sinner’.

    Now, I’m not necessarily saying that this is the “right” perspective, and I know this opens up a bigger discussion about things precisely like the notion of “ontological hierarchy” and “the definition of sin” – I’m just trying to show that the reason for exclusivity here is necessary for maintaining identity according to a certain philosophical perspective. I’m also trying to say that such exclusivity should never exclude the extension of love, which by definition transcends any form of affiliation.

    Perhaps we should have mercy on the poor souls who feel they must deny the eucharist to ‘practicing’ LGBT peoples; it is possible that they are as inwardly at war as you are at war with them. Perhaps we should not have mercy on the oppressive souls who deny people secular rights (which are any form of respect that is not immediately concerned with the other-wordly), maybe it is these who we truly should stand against.

  31. Jeremy Says:

    I really have to disagree with a lot of things you say here. First, I make no presumptions about the motivation behind why Christians feel they must deny LGBT members full recognition in the church. You paint them as tragic figures who are horribly upset that they are forced to exclude LGBT people whom they presumably love, according to your account. While I doubt this represents the average believer, my interest is not in motivation. Also, that’s not the primary rhetoric we hear in the public from those Christians who are against LGBT rights. Again, although I’m training to be psychologist, I’ll resist analyzing what’s “really going on” here, Also, if we reversed the perpsective, I doubt LGBT folks would give a damn what causes people to exclude them. It’s really not important in terms of its material impact. The distinction means nothing.

    The rest of the stuff you say about ontological hiearchy and sin does not interest me and I would disagree with your romantic descriptions. I don’t know why you felt the need to explain the logic of the church. I fully understand it, and I obviously disagree with the theological, Biblical, and ontological reasons that ground the church’s position. You portray the church as passive, when we all know it has been an active agent in bringing hell down on LGBT folks.

    Perhaps we should have mercy on the poor souls who feel they must deny the eucharist to ‘practicing’ LGBT peoples

    No, we should fight them. Why is everyone’s default these days to moralize? For God’s sake, we have to fight them theoretically, politically, Biblically, etc. Your distinction between sacred/secular is also unhelpful. Although the impact is virtually indistinguishable in both the secular and sacred spheres, we are supposed to extend infinite grace to the body of Christ. Why?

  32. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Maybe we should also have a little more sympathy for the torturers who feel bad about what they’re doing but just love their country so much

  33. Jeremy Says:

    Adam, I’m reminded of your recent post on race. The great sin I seem to be committing is calling out Christians who oppress LGBT folks. Condeming this (voluntary) position is somehow more evil and sadistic than actual exclusion itself.

  34. Phil A. Buster Says:

    By virtue of your social location, you are a torturer. And that’s been my fucking point all along. You can’t be a member of the academy and talk about restructuring social relations. It’s hard for me to distinguish this from the pompousness of the Episcopal Church’s inclusivity, which is basically a bunch of super rich, culturally privileged and elitist folks who think they relived the civil rights movement by voting for Bush redivivus (Obama) and are being radical and sacrificial by being inclusive. Pfff. You know what most of those douchebag losers care about: being cooler than the conservatives. They don’t care about LGBT people because for them its more about pissing off the right, consolidating powe,r and them assuaging their guilt for being as capitalistic as Newt Gingrich.

  35. Aric Says:

    As I mentioned earlier, I think this is complicated because there are different kinds of exclusion. I focus on this sacred/secular distinction because I can’t help seeing the eucharist as a primarily sacred meal, setting it apart from all other kinds of meals.

    The church has indeed been an active agent in bringing down hell on people, but I cannot agree with your definition of “bringing down hell” if what that means is denial of the eucharist. If you mean the kind of slandering, cruel, social-rejection that is completely obvious, then I agree with you – and I believe that this is precisely what is worthy to fight against.

    But it is difficult for me to see the eucharist as anything other than a very “sacred” thing, which has very sacred prerequisites for admission.

    I think I agree with you for the most part, I think. My whole digression was more or less to try and show that the eucharist is something very different than any other kind of thing. Am I missing your point in doing this kind of thinking?

    Also, I apologize for implying you were presumptuous of the motivations of the exclusivity of some Christians. I only wanted to consider that not all Christians (though it may well be that a majority of them) are self-entitled bigots.

  36. Jeremy Says:

    So you think the eucharist is sacred, which would by definition exclude LGBT members from partaking? I understand the theology of the eucharist, but somehow we have to keep it from being contaminated by LGBT folks? I don’t really know what your point is. You’re telling me you disagree or agree with that statement.

  37. christopher Says:

    In actuality, yaw be Neonazi White Supremacists with ties to the Army of God and Christian Identity movements because yaw said “fuck y’all” to group of people within “the Church” who say “fuck y’all” to everyone who disagrees with them. Oh, and they must be Neonazi Whit Supremacists with ties to Army of God and Christian Identity. Makes a whole lot of fuckin’ sense, yaw. Oh, and Godin’s Law. There, we be over, yaw elitists who think Christianity should actually be about people rather than propositions. Have I sufficiently insulted everyone enough to end the shitty part of the conversation?

  38. Jeremy Says:

    I’d ask that everyone would stop engaging that aspect of the conversation, otherwise I will shut down the comment seciton. I’m obviously not going to extend a conversation with someone who calls me a torturer.

  39. Aric Says:

    And Adam, I think you bring up a very good point with the whole torture analogy. It makes me re-think the implications of this kind of thought.

    These people who are torturing do indeed subscribe to an ideology – a kind of “belief” in some big Other at some level. For me, though, this has always been more tragic than infuriating.

    Maybe that’s why I feel like the odd one out in this particular discussion: My first impulse is empathy rather than anger, probably because I understand what it is like to be driven by certain kinds of ideology, as I grew up in a very emotionally confusing evangelical environment.

    As someone first moved by empathy (for better or worse), my first thought is also what it means to appropriate this message of ‘love for enemies’ for those who we have defined as enemy. Where my empathy finally dissipates is when I learn that an individual is not driven by ideology, but rather shallow, emotional, selfish motivators that give no thought to any subject but the self.

  40. Collin Says:

    I dont think I am adding anything of note, but here is this,

    Aric, all your shit was very well said. I think I agree with your points the most.

    If we are talking about people in the church who oppress anyone, especially our LGBT brothers and sisters, then responsive action of some kind is necessary. After all Jesus was a man of action (though also a badass speaker in his own right). He was out doing shit and doing it big. An important part of this is what we mean by breaking or severing ties. I think it is imperative that not all ties are severed. If we are the ones acting in truth, we have a duty to share that with bigoted evangelicals or whoever, yeah like Jesus eating with tax collectors or whatever. If we mean disassociating with the oppressors in the church setting, I think that could be wise. Paul says shit like that in regard to getting poison out of the body…and as Aric said “deny communion (but not community)” Aric also made a good point about how not all these “oppressors” are motivated by hate or the desire to oppress for its own sake, which I know we are all aware of, but it still must be kept in mind. The sort of people that deny rights to LGBT peeps that are conflicted and do so because they think it is biblical, could benefit from continued communication. They have to be shown that what they were taught was horseshit. If it was. And I dont know. So let the title of Minister of Reeducation for Unchristian Bigots fall to someone a little more knowledgeable.

    Whatever the actions, it must be done in love. What does that mean practically? Would expelling such bigots from a church where they are the minority be unethical or immoral or ultimately counterproductive? Do we need to bail from our churches if such bigots are in the majority? Maybe. Any decisions would necessitate a lot of prayer and care in their making. Whatever the path, taking care of the oppressed comes first, I think. Then we can worry about taking care of the oppressors. Maybe if they see a part of the body with real unity and love with a diverse population walking like Christ, maybe they will think twice about the effects of their lack of love. Hopefully anyway.

  41. Ben B Says:

    Aric,

    I am curious about your faith tradition/ theology of the eucharist. I am one of those annoying episcopalians. So for me, to deny someone the eucharist would be to deny that person the outward and visable sign of inward grace. In other words it would most certainly be “bringing down hell.” It is as literally “bringing down hell” on someone as ritual and symbols can be. And I am not glbt, but I suspect that ritual exclusion from God’s grace would be considered cruel and social-rejection.

  42. Aric Says:

    Jeremy –

    I do think the eucharist, by definition, is sacred. But from what I understand, one reason one is not administered the Eucharist is because he/she is in a state of mortal sin – you know, the whole “…Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood… Let a man examine himself…” injunction. I’m not here to proclaim the correct understanding of this passage, only to claim that the Church has interpreted this as “If you’re in mortal sin, you cannot partake.”

    So then, one who is engaged in ‘homosexual behavior” (or any other kind of mortal sin) is barred from the partaking of the eucharist, because the Church deems homosexuality as sinful for a number of theological reasons.
    It is precisely these theological reasons that make the Church something different than a secular institution, which is why I bothered delineating the whole sacred/secular problem.

    I think what you’re saying is that homosexuality is not inherently ‘sinful’, and therefore it is right to break ties with any form of ‘Christianity’ that considers it such. I was simply trying to point in making such a move, you become, according to the Church, a heretic (and this word contains NO pejorative sense whatsoever, simply as a theological classification).

    All my blathering on love as a ‘transcendent’ quality was to show that just because the Church recognizes an individual as heretical, it does not recognize them as sub-human, un-lovable, or what have you. “Heretic” and “Orthodox” have nothing to do with (although it sadly often does) the way that individuals are treated on a societal level. You’re right in noting that that’s not the way it plays out in our day-to-day lives, that ‘sinners’ and ‘heretics’ are treated like shit. This is precisely what is infuriating to me, and this is what I think we should fight against.

  43. Aric Says:

    Ben, I think I might be one of those ass-hole “quasi-Catholics” that Adam mentioned in a post two or so years ago. I hesitate to consider myself one however, because I don’t intend on remaining non-Catholic; It seems impossible for me (for a number of reasons) to continue as a Protestant with any kind of intellectual integrity. I have recently become obsessed with continental philosophy/critical theory, and stumbled across this blog after reading Zizek on Chesterton and Hegel. I’m a very inwardly confused and angst-ridden individual at the moment.

    But despite my affiliation, as my last post indicated, my conception of the Eucharist is thoroughly Orthodox. Again, I’m not claiming that the Orthodox perception of the Eucharist is “right” in an objective sense, but for me it is a helpful starting point for creating a dialectical conversation about these kinds of issues.

  44. Jeremy Says:

    Aric, I think you are being a bit naive about how serious it is to withhold the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. It’s obivously a big deal. What drives the Catholic Church to do this or what are the individual motive of Catholics? Who the fuck knows. It lacks credible Biblical/theological justification, in my opinion. Again, it does not matter whether or not individual Catholics consider LGBT folks subhuman or revolting. The motives are between them and God. I have never been trying to police morals here, instead I’m talking about political positions. Also, saying that the word “heretic” connotes technically no negative meaning is a bit ridiculous. The history of that word obviously carries a particular meaning that goes beyond simply theological designation. Being called a heretic was often life or death in the past, and in this situation heaven or hell. The Catholic Church isn’t saying you’re subhuman, just that you aren’t fit for heaven! I fail to see the difference.

    What I find confusing is that you keep saying you are not saying that this is the correct interpretation of the Eucharist. Obviously, you must think it is right if you want to join the Church. I don’t think anybody is going to claim that you are some bigot, but I don’t understand why the Church gets a free pass here. You must think it’s the correct interpretation, which is fine. Just own that position.

  45. Aric Says:

    Jeremy, first I completely agree and understand the the world ‘heretic’ has extremely negative connotations. That fact, in and of itself, is part of what I want to war and fight against. I believe that ‘heretic’ should be a strictly theological term with no political implications – a term in an Augustinian sense that would pertain only to the “City of God” but not in the “Worldly City”. I know this is farfetched (really, I understand it seems absurd), but I believe it something worth fighting for. Orthodoxy and heterodoxy should have no material/political repercussions.

    And I concede that my understanding of the Eucharist is Catholic, and I will own that. Apologies if it seemed I was beating around the bush, but my point wasn’t to establish MY position, rather, to shed light on and have empathy on the brute fact that the eucharist is a phenomenon that is understood differently by different people, and therefore the disallowance or admittance of isn’t necessarily indicative of any universal individual or political motivation.

    I also think you’re right that I do not fully appreciate the seriousness of the eucharist; I myself have never partaken. However, I think part of the reason I haven’t partaken is because I do indeed fear and respect the doctrines and dogmas surrounding it. I guess that if I do not appreciate the seriousness of it, I at least take it very seriously.

    I respectfully disagree with your opinion that the Church does not have credible theological justifications for its position on the Eucharist, but that is another discussion altogether. I’ll say briefly that if the Church is in and of itself a sacred institution, its justifications on sacred matters seem to be self-justifable. Mind you, I am not claiming its justifications for ‘non-sacred’ things cannot be self-justifiable, only that which pertain to its own sacred rituals.

    Finally, you say,

    “The Catholic Church isn’t saying you’re subhuman, just that you aren’t fit for heaven! I fail to see the difference.”

    …and to this I can only say two things. One, that I do not think the Church presumes to know with any certainty those who are in heaven or hell and, two, that I think the real notion of sub-human is one who is neither fit for heaven nor hell; a sub-human is just that – a non-soul, one who’s freedom and choice is unimportant. A sub-human is someone who is not to be listened to, not to be given dignity. I think that if one is to believe in hell, one must believe it is a place that people only exist in precisely because God does take them seriously, God does indeed give each individual dignity. The Catholic Church says that everyone is fit for both heaven and hell, and in so doing the Church gives all people equal dignity.

    However, my soul wars against the idea that justice, love, salvation and all of these concepts of sacrality are as binary we’d like them to be. In other words, I can never say with certainty, “Those who are LGBT and partake of the Eucharist profane it and themselves, and are condemned” because I simply cannot and will not claim to judge internal motives, psychology, and understanding of another individual. Therefore, I cannot make any outright political statements regarding the matter, because politics is not the business of the Church, I am here only concerned with the sacrality of the ritual as understood from the Catholic perspective.

    Anyway, thank you for the discussion thus far. Here’s hoping that clears at least one or two things up.

  46. Jeremy Says:

    I don’t doubt you take the Eucharist seriously, all I mean to say was that it is a big deal.

    Obviously, we disagree about homosexuals and the Eucharist. You keep saying the word sacred, which I find a bit confusing. I think my presentation of your argument (or the church’s) is that homosexuals (whose actions are by definition sinful) are going to contaminate the holy Eucharist, which is only intended for heterosexuals is a clearer and blunter way of communicating your message, no?

    Alright, well you’ve introduced your own beliefs regarding Heaven and Hell, but I wasn’t referring to your nuanced position. To say that the church respects the dignity while denying these people access to Eucharist seems a bit contradictory. I mean the amount of nuance you have to introduce speaks to the apparent weakness of your position. The Catholic Church seems to have a pretty strong view of how others obtain salvation, although it might not be able to declare (beyond a shadow or doubt) whether or not person X is going to hell.

    because politics is not the business of the Church,

    Your view of the church and theology seems to lack a historical foundation. Maybe politics should not be the business of the church, but the Catholic Church has made poltiics its business, historically speaking. This whole notion that theology shouldn’t be corrupted by politics is just impossible (and I don’t even think it’s ideal). The history of theology is the history of people and power. It’s not as it ecumenical councils happened in heaven.

    I think that if one is to believe in hell, one must believe it is a place that people only exist in precisely because God does take them seriously, God does indeed give each individual dignity

    This sort of thing drives me crazy. God respects us so much that God is willing to send us to eternity in Hell separate from all goodness! I’m so glad I didn’t go into theology professionally.

  47. Aric Says:

    I love this stuff. I’d like to respond to your points, just not tonight, school work beckons me at the moment. Thanks again for engaging in this with me up to this point – I really think this is an important discussion.

  48. tripp fuller Says:

    Hey jeremy
    Thanks for linkage & conversation

    The post was by an online friend so I thought I would say that I am much closer to your opinion. I think most third way stuff sucks and I have no interest in being part of any church that isn’t welcoming and embracing of all people. I have given a hard time to many post-evangelical emergent types about this issues and their positioning about it For myself I just won’t attend, work at, or raise my son in a church without a culture that finds excluding homosexuals repulsive. I guess while that is essential for myself I can see partnering with other Christians for other activities where we can agree. Namely the big justice issues…Economism, Ecological Crisis, and War. If my convictions and advocacy for my gay friends means they can’t work or talk to me I loose no sleep. I do (via Badiou) find identity politics a bad way to frame the issue because you end up with free-market loving & war-mongering ‘progressives’ who score their progressive cred without calling into question the general oppressing structure.

    I also agree that liberation theology is essential to the future of any church that still has Jesus in it. I think every Process theologian I know agrees with that sentiment. We just had a big Process\Liberation theology conference here at Claremont & an ongoing partnership between theologians from both theological schools. I am gonna post the audio soon so you can judge for yourself.
    Rock on

  49. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I’m going to make an executive decision and close comments.

  50. R.O. Flyer Says:

    I am so angry with you for making me read this comment thread.


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