Saturday, April 7, 2007

Pharisees and Samaritans: An Extended Metaphor on Christian Theocracy

Today's post is a part of the Blogswarm Against Theocracy.

More information about importance of separation of church and state can also be found at

"Now I'm not looking for absolution,
forgiveness for the things I do,
But before you come to any conclusions,
try walking in my shoes."
Depeche Mode

I've mentioned before that my pet peeve is Biblical literalists who don't read their Bible. Or at least, they don't read it closely. So, today, I would like to point out the absurdity of Christian Theocracy. I remember being taught the Golden Rule as a small child in Sunday class. "In everything do to others as you would have them do unto you; for this is the law and prophets." Matthew 7:12 (NRSV)

I'll begin with a brief exegesis on this simple statement of Jesus. "This is the law and prophets." I read this has meaning that the concept of treating others as you yourself would wish to be treated is muy importante. J.C. wants the disciples to know that if they get nothing else out of the law and prophets they should get this message. Now, what is this message. It's simple and phrased elsewhere in the Bible as "Love your neighbor as yourself." My reading here is three-fold. First, recognize that you are fully human, loved by God, and created in God's image. Second, recognize that your neighbor, who might be a nasty Samaritan who worships God differently, is also fully human, loved by God, and created in God's image image. Next, consider your actions toward neighbor and treat your neighbor in the same manner that you would treat yourself as a child of God. Your actions should be motivated by love and guided by respect.

Theocrats, as best I can tell given that I'm not psychic, are not motivated by love, nor are they guided by respect. They are motivated by fear. Fear that their neighbor, our metaphorical nasty Samaritan who either worships God in a different way or who doesn't believe in God, will suddenly be in a position of control over them and will force them to abandon their way of worshiping God. Their response is to attempt to gain power quickly, claim that their way of worshiping God is the only way, and then force the nasty Samaritan to worship God as they worship. The theocrats are following a rule that reads like this: In everything do to others as you fear they will do unto you.

And, if they claim that the Bible guides them to act as they do, they have quite obviously missed the point. They skimmed the sections of the New Testament where J.C. tells people to treat others as they would be treated. They missed the parable of our Samaritan neighbor wherein it only the man who worships God differently who is actually doing the will of God. (Luke 10: 29-33) They forgot that Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well there will be a time when the different ways humans have concocted to worship God will mean nothing and spirit of the worship will be the only thing that matters. Instead, they have focused on the details of the law, convinced their way is the only way, and have forgotten that the Samaritan of today -- the feminist, the gay, the atheist, etc. etc. -- is also the beloved child of God. Thus, to be a Christian Theocrat is, quite simply, nonsense.

Note: I want to add that I do not believe it is absurd for a Christian to believe that the metaphorical Samaritan is sinning according to his or her beliefs, only that is absurd for the Christian to insist that he or she has the right to impose his or her beliefs on the Samaritan when he or she would not want the Samaritans beliefs imposed on him or her.

Friday, April 6, 2007

St. Mary of Egypt

While conversing with my aunt today about college and the paper I'm writing on the deconstruction of gender in early Christianity, I stumbled over a happy recognition that a point made in class on Wednesday brings together an illustration of the subject I'm discussing in my paper and my favorite subject iconography. *does the happy dance*

I mentioned that I planned to focus on eunuchs and cross-dressing women in my paper and used St. Mary of Egypt as an example of a cross-dressing woman ascetic. I then rambled for a moment about how I thought that it was quite interesting that out of several female saints who cross-dressed that only St. Mary of Egypt's iconography has preserved that aspect of her life, and even furthers it by portraying her without breasts to indicate that she through ascetic practices had become a spiritual male. St. Thecla, St. Pelagia -- not so much, they're both in women's clothing in the icons I found on a quick Google search. So, I wonder, what factors were different in case of St. Mary's iconography?

Icon of St. Mary Egypt pulled from here. (They also have a rather lovely one of St. Mary Magdalen.)

An Open Letter of to Cathey's Creek

Dear Cathey's Creek Church of Christ,

Please construct an official website. While I'm highly amused and delighted to be getting not only hits but readers (nothing like readers to keep the rambler going!) as a result of a google search for Cathey's Creek Church of Christ pulling up this blog as the first link, I'm also a disturbed. Mostly because, simply for informational purposes, I'm not sure that people wanting to know about Cathey's Creek should be directed to my ruminations.

Sincerely yours,


P.S. Ya'll have surpassed "pet skunk stories" and "bellevue baptist troubles" as the number one search pulling up this site. Congrats!

Also, to anyone who's stumbled by looking for Cathey's Creek: Howdy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Boredom and Facebook: What a Dangerous Combination!

Well, I gave into the creeping temptation and entered another discussion on the Church of Christ facebook group. I should probably be shot before I do something else.

In my defense, I entered on a good note. Someone started a topic on homosexuality and the correct Christian response to it. I found it a delightful surprise that the majority of response were quite nuanced. Anyway, since I had just been delighted by the interaction of Pepperdine and Soulforce I posted a link to the Soulforce blog entry and an article from Pepperdine's campus newspaper.

And then the warm, fuzzy feelings dissolved. Not in response to my original posting, which hasn't received a direct response. And then my snarkiness crawled out of the darkness. Bad Metra!

Anyhoo, its reopened my meditation on the difference between theological statements with which I disagree and flat-out bad theology, so maybe some use will emerge and I can try to further refine the difference between the two things.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Chocolate Jesus Inspired me to have a Chocolate Chip Cookie

A exhibit of a scuplture of Jesus in chocolate has been canceled after protests.

I think it's a kinda cool idea. But then I'm a blasphemying heretic who will burn in hell. What's rather interesting to me is that no one objects because Jesus is constructed out of a food item here. (That, of course, really wouldn't make much sense. Jesus is represented as bread or saltine crackers sans salt every Sunday across the gold.) The opposition is to Jesus being portrayed as naked during the crucifixion. Since, you know, Roman didn't strip people down before crucifying them, and we don't have accounts in the canonical gospels of soldiers dividing up J.C.'s clothing. I really don't see that as disrespectful.

And here's J.C. in chocolate. I stole the image from this news article.

Edit: I think it's supposed to be a comment on the commercialization of Easter. Chocolate bunny meets risen savior? If this is the case, it points out a phenomenom that I would think would be more offensive that a sculpture of Jesus in chocolate.

Also, the occupants of the friendly local Russian table point out that Eucharist/communion practices differ in several important ways, particularly that bread doesn't take the form of J.C. and not all Christians believe that the bread becomes the literal flesh of Christ. Legitimate points for pondering pleasure.

Restoration Movement on Speed, Baby!

I've been spending a lot of time this year studying early Christianity. I wasn't really intentional, but it just happened. Last semester I took a class on Early Christian Literature, and read a lot of Church Fathers on a lot of different subjects. It was good class. Not my favorite, but a good class.

This semester, I'm in a class, quite by accident as it was the only 300 level RS class that would fit into my schedule with the title, The Redeemed Body. We've been looking, in far greater depth than the class at the ways early Christianity viewed the body, particularly through the lenses of martyrdom and asceticism. Great class in a number of ways. Particularly now that we're done reading about horrible, terrible ways to die and have moved on to ascetics. (After two semesters of this I have monks coming out of my ears and am contemplating running away a becoming a nun.)

It seems to be that in early Christianity (pre-Constantine) the body was often a tool for protesting the dominant society and the material world. Social constructions, such as the family, the city, or even gender, were deconstructed and even mocked through practices of martyrdom and asceticism. Perpetua breaks off all ties with her family in order to become a martyr -- even abandoning her infant sin. Thecla cross-dresses, along with a host of other women. Eunuchs become a symbol, a physical manifestations of the rejection a binary gender scheme. The original state of humankind, as created in God's image, and the state to which humans are returned to in the coming kingdom of God is an ungendered state. Male and female ascetics developed relationships with one another that were outside of the structure of socially approved relationships. Friendships based on mutual respect and affection. Concerns that we would now label social justice broke down socio-economic hierachy as ascetics from the upper-classes vowed themselves to poverty and worked with their own hands.

And of course, I think to myself, maybe this is what we need today. A radical, anti-societal Christianity to counter those who want to believe that Jesus came to reinforce social hierarchy. **cough, Focus on the Family, cough** Lets restore early Christianity, in all of its beautiful chaos!

Because I'm basically a Restoration Movement thinker at heart: Screw creeds and church hierarchies! I just want early Christianity and not the fourth century, sanitanized, domesticated, legalized Christianity of Biblical literacy.

Edit: Yeah, so that last word should be literalism. So, I might ought to type these suckers in a word processor with a spell check.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Sesame Street Quiz

You Are Bert

Extremely serious and a little eccentric, people find you loveable - even if you don't love them!

You are usually feeling: Logical - you rarely let your emotions rule you

You are famous for: Being smart, a total neat freak, and maybe just a little evil

How you life your life: With passion, even if your odd passions (like bottle caps and pigeons) are baffling to others