Tag Archives: class war

Kingdom, power, glory and other distractions

“You say that I am a king.” Jesus throws that particular metaphor back on Pilate- back on the pseudo-objective, rationalist, judgemental part of ourselves, the part too cowardly to be moved by compassion and deeper visceral wisdom. Yes we do say that don’t we…we reify kingship and power and greed: patriarchy and kyriearchy in placing Jesus on side with the rulers of this world, with the fathers. Even when he criticises or replaces them he does it (in our storytelling) as a rival and a winner, as the hyper-masculine suffering body that triumphs. We have read this “truth” in this way for so many years and we have settled in this exile of Lords and Fathers. How can we sing Wisdom’s song in this desolate land? How do we differently make sense of the radical transformative action of Jesus.

I look at a greed-torn world, a “kingdom” of cowardly and wilfully blind citizens and I don’t see a “reign of Christ” in action. Not if Christ is God, is that still small voice of challenge, the call to justice, the instinct to kindness, the presence of love. Where is that in the ruling of this universe? How does the torn and poisoned earth experience Christ’s “reign”. I do not think that after two millenia of this we need to keep trotting out the same old pious Pollyanna-statements where when all else fails we are stubbornly “glad” because “Christ is king”. Religion becomes the equivalent of an ecstasy tablet, we take it to ignore reality and we feel damn good– meanwhile the oikonomia of God’s household is still in disarray. We are not taking care of our earth and our little human selves at all well.

Our so-called “king” is in exile. We are too damn racist to accept a king who sits on the earth with Indigenous people or travels in leaky boats with refugees. We are too misogynist to allow a queen within the eternal Christ/Wisdom person who walks with us and suffers with us and calls us to something simpler and truer and less glamorous than a “kingdom”. Where is the justice and kindness and simple barefoot humility that is “all” we are called to? We force this exiled, suffering Christ down onto a throne and nail a crown to his head and hail him as a human construction of oppression, as a “king”.

“Holy” we bleat, “God you are so cool”. We say “Lord. Lord, Lord, Lord” day and night and ignore the work to be done. Wisdom walks through the streets, mixes wine and talks to the “just anyones” that our church pushes out. Christ labours in the great harvest while we pour the chemicals of patriarchy and racism over everything and try to sell Christ short on infertile patented seeds of a pre-determined kingdom of euphoric nothingness. “Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals”, snuffling up to the ankle or the hand of a master, behaving obsequiously and expecting a pat for it. “Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird” self made members of a royal court, dressed in the fine threads of someone else’s labour and feeling a nauseating delusion of superiority. This is our religion at times, a lip service to the truth of the labour of God’s struggle and an profound orientation to everlasting “death”.

We have one life to love God- not to worship in a way that distances God and makes a Christmas pageant of “Him”, but in a close, intimate way that is committed to the pain of always giving birth to justice, kindness and right-relationship. We don’t work, or suffer, or achieve things “for” God, for some distant and glittering king that demands things from us. We engage in the work that God is already doing, we orient ourselves toward life and love. We follow a beloved not extol a figurehead.

I realise I am quarrelling with tradition today and even with scripture and I have not had time to do a careful analysis of those readings so I am writing from the gut. But I am no courtesan playing political games and competing for the favour of a spoilt king. At my best I am a (junior) co-worker with the tireless justice-maker Christ, at my worst I might be distracted into the sort of pretty feel-good religion of the spectator at a royal progress. If we want to say that Christ “reigns”, then we have a lot of work to do to make love the new common-sense.

My heart is mutinous at the thought of a ruling class God!

 

Holy, holy, holey

What a claim, that God calls me to speak out. I feel embarrassed to have made such a claim in light of how impossible it is for me to adopt a pious demeanour and look like a good and holy messenger of God. The things I say are not good for the church’s PR, nor are they in line with the view of God portrayed in this week’s readings. And so the temptation is either to abandon the readings altogether (since I already posted another blog post today), or to abandon the readings and look for the liberative strands within trinitarian thinking that I used to (critically) find.

But these readings are the bitter pill the church wants us to take as our rightful medicine this week. What sort of a faith is it after all if you just look away from the bits you don’t like and don’t grapple with them? So here I go in my dialogic perpetual struggle with the bits of texts the men in dresses want us to read.

I can’t actually say I relate to the first reading. I used to be able to practice spiritual contortionism enough to stay quiet in church and believe I fit in there and in those days I used to somehow contort my brain to believe that this first reading talks about ministry; that an angel will come and cleanse my lips with coal to make me pure to speak God’s word. I no longer see God’s word that way- coming out of pure lips in a pure way. I think of the Word as also being Wisdom, that wanton woman who frequents places she ought not go and I feel relief at that. She comes to me not because I am humble, or worthy or “clean” but because she loves what is human, she loves what is messy and true (please note any reference to “truth” I make may contain traces of its own demise).

She sits with sinners.

I don’t believe for a moment that my guilt is gone or my sin is blotted out or whatever and I don’t even ask it to be. How dare God just “blot out” the sins of first world, privileged, comfortable, white people while the earth is still dying and myriads are still suffering? The way I want to get rid of my sin is by God making the world better not just filling me up with the spiritual equivalent of Valium while other people suffer. And if God throws it back on me and says “your sin, you clean it up!” what then? That is certainly what I would say in God’s position.

The thing is as privileged people we are accountable and nothing can take our complicity away. The thing is as vulnerable and broken people we are not solely accountable and we may be affected by our circumstances. And only God can really hold that in balance (or at any rate I hope she can) and lead us to a better future (which entails us deconstructing and diminishing our own privilege in the cause of radical justice.

There is grave danger in those who speak for the church claiming to have their sins magically blotted out.

So here I am God, send me! Not the pure of heart (or lips). Not even particularly keen (it would actually be more convenient to only think of my career and the next holiday I could take my son on). But you call me and I love you and I will respond if you show me how. But if I have to say “Lord” and look upon thrones with militaristic mythical creatures attending some sort of even more privileged icon of the ruling class then forget it. God there is a class war on, there is a line I can’t cross even for you- now there’s heresy if you like.

So then the psalm is full of this mighty splendiferous God breaking cedars (why? is he three years old?) and making places skip about. Actually, God in this psalm sounds like the sort of scary climate disaster I have been reading about and suffering nightmares about and which looks increasingly likely in our near future. Shaking the wilderness while flashing flames of fire do you God? Are you testing a new type of bomb or something? So all of that fire and earthquake and flood but all is well because the “Lord” sits “enthroned”. It makes me wonder, in the context of that psalm whether I want the “strength” and the “peace” offered in this kind of faith.

So far…

 

the readings are like cement slabs

gaoling me in an outdated building

a church of powerful men.

 

Where is there a breath of life?

 

A shoot of green rising

between a hairbreadth crack?

 

That with the advent of life-again

might begin to crumble

my prison?

 

There’s a crack in the cement in Romans. I am not a great fan of the flesh/spirit dichotomy since a major battle of my life has been to learn not to hate and despise my flesh (that gift from God that keeps me whole and grounds me to the earth). But I didn’t receive a spirit of slavery apparently- so by implication I am allowed to disagree with tradition. I have been reading Carla Rinaldi about the child’s right to express themselves and think differently from the teacher because they are not slaves. Then if I see God as teaching, leading, guiding or parenting me I have to assume God is more enlightened than me and able to see how counter-productive it would be to silence who I am.

So that one little line is like a license to critique everything else. So if I was to cry “Abba! Father!” (which doesn’t actually come that naturally to me to begin with) it seems the reading is leading me to do that in some confidence, in a spirit almost of entitlement before God. I don’t mean to fall back into that first-world entitlement where God will do good things for me just because we have this great relationship; if God is my Dad, then I am certainly NOT Daddy’s little princess. It is more that I am entitled to have this dialogical relationship of questioning and growth with God because it is somehow in God’s interests to nurture me (the heir) and to teach me how to continue God’s work. An important note here is that any entitlement “I” or “we” have as a result of being God’s heirs is also shared by the “others” by “them” by whoever our social structures and ways of life oppress. So we will inherit God’s grace WITHIN the perpetual struggle for justice. We will inherit an accountability which it would be wise to become more ready for. Roman’s talks about suffering with the suffering Christ as the way to be glorified with the glorified Christ.

So we struggle, we suffer with the refugee Christ and with the single-mother Christ and with the rejected GLBTIQ Christ and with any place where Christ is and any work that Christ is doing or calling upon us to do. And that is where we tend to become like Nicodemus and want to ask stupid questions and deconstruct all the wrong things (don’t you see me doing that often enough) and to show our bad-tempered side when things don’t go our way.

And I really hate what Jesus says to Nicodemus in this gospel and I could become distracted by that and the awful way I was brought up to interpret it as a rejection of the supposedly obsolete bodily existence (that comes out of a female body of course) in favour of a patriarchal higher spiritual reality. It all sounds very gnostic to me and full of male privilege and I wonder if they would still all be too superior in their “spirit over flesh” ivory towers if someone (probably a woman) wasn’t being exploited to take care of their bodily needs which they scorn.

And I say this right back to you Jesus (if you ever, in fact said any of this nonsense)! What is born of flesh is flesh and damn well better have some gratefulness. What drinks its mother’s milk better not be saying it is better than its mother and you of all people should understand the sacrifice of sharing your flesh and blood to give life to another! If you were just a spirit then how did you eat and walk and talk and touch people? If you were not flesh how did they kill you?

What is spirit we know lives in flesh and its yearnings are written on the flesh and its strange and hard to understand sayings are also formed of flesh; of tongue dancing around teeth, of wind moving through vocal chord, vibrating through the living, breathing, heart-beating immediacy of FLESH. You made us of flesh and spirit when your name was Wisdom.

I am baptised but I don’t want to say I was “born again”. I came out of my beautiful, fleshy, fragile mother and I see her face now only in the mirror. I in turn pushed out three fleshly, spiritual beings and they were baptised but they did not need a rebirthing to negate my hard work. The beings of flesh and spirit that call us to accountability (especially this Reconciliation Week) that desperately call for justice in our world today don’t need us to think we are “better than” earthly demands for adequate food, housing and meaningful work.

Once again I have chosen not to allow the angel to hold the coal of blotting out to my unclean lips. I do not blot out my flesh, my material reality. I ask you God to take the person I am in reality, not some idealised image of perfection and I ask you to let me honestly and brokenly strive to follow you. And you are not my God because you sit upon a throne and are waited on by magical creatures who have little imagination when it comes to lyrics; you are my God because your place is in the struggle. As is mine.