Friday, September 28, 2007

Me and Jesus (and Christ): Episode 7

When I speak of Christ I don’t think of a Second Person of the Trinity, at least not as old theologians did, and some still do; instead I think, I feel, about a spirit of anointing, what the Greek word Christ refers to, about a spirit of blessing that is so powerful in its revolutionary vulnerable way, power-with not power-over, cooperation not competition and content and conquest... that this spirit could not be silenced and destroyed by evil and death, but lived on and grew in community more life affirming.

I think of Christ as a parable itself, and believe it is stronger, theologically for it.

Ron Robinson

It's funny how things turn around. After years of trying to reject Christ and follow Jesus, right now I find myself turning more to Christ. Jesus was a historical fallible person. I cannot follow him in a mechanical way. For example was Jesus, maybe just a little bit, racist, sexist, homophobic? There are all kinds of historical arguments we could have about this, but I think we have to admit that its quite likely he was somewhat prejudiced, as he was influenced by the world around him.

So let's just say that Jesus was homophobic, does that mean that I can't be a follower of him as a bi man? Well if following means agreeing with everything he said and thought then I can't be a follower. But if following means following the Christ spirit that Jesus imperfectly incarnated then I can.

Jesus himself followed the Christ, the Spirit of Liberation moving in him, and as a human being incarnated the Christ imperfectly. So Jesus himself may not have followed the full implications of living in the Christ Spirit. He may not have personally seen that what he was saying and living would lead to a religious community not definied by race and culture. He may not have personally seen that the type of religion he was advocating could go beyond Judaism, but his followers, who were also following the Christ Spirit did see this, after his death.

So the question cannot be 'What would Jesus do?' The question has to be, 'What would I do, if I incarnated the Christ as much as Jesus did?' Jesus provides a model for being a Christ, but that does not mean we have to mechanically copy Jesus' life and action.

So right now, I feel like I don't want to follow Jesus, I want to follow Christ, I want to be a Christ. That is becoming for me what it might mean to be a Christian.

That's where I am right now, anyway.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Language of Reverends

This is something I've been mulling over recently, and the preaching of Bill Darlison (might take a while to load, but worth listening to, as always) has prompted me to say it out loud.

Bill says, 'Clergy titles are wonderfully ironic in the light of Christ's teaching.... this is all ballony!... Even Unitarians are not free from it. Why do we covert the title Reverend? We really should have nothing to do with this stuff.'

I've got to say I agree with him. Titles are awkward things for all of us I think. Are women Miss, Ms, Mrs - why do they have to be anything? Why does it matter to anyone what anyone's marital status is? Is there actually any function to any title, other than for people to think that they are better than others?

But in the religious life especially I am suspicious of titles. I'm increasingly Anabaptist these days and think that the testimony of equality is deeply important. That's not to say that there isn't a place for leadership. But leaders are not inherently more holy than others, and the title Reverend for me suggests they are. I think one of the fruits of a genuine spirituality is humility.

One of the greatest temptations on the spiritual path is pride in spiritual achievement. That's why Jesus spoke about it so much. It's very easy to get big headed as a preacher. I'm very guilty of that myself. I don't need any more encouragement, I don't need to be called reverend by anyone. That's spiritual unhealthy for those called reverend and those who aren't. Calling someone Reverend gives away too much of your sacred worth, being called Reverend gives you the thought that you are worth more than others. Both deny a sense of equality, a sense of inherent worth, divine incarnation in all of us.

I'm not actually sure I'm allowed to not be a Reverend as a minister, and I honestly haven't spoke about it to many people. Mainly because its difficult to say without sounding like you're insulting other ministers. But I think I'm going to try. I don't want to be reverenced. Reverence yourself.

Here's a bit more history and theology about this if you want.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

How far we've come

Did anyone else catch the 50 year old interview with John Wolfenden on BBC 4? Tuesday is the 50th anniversary of the Wolfenden Report which recommended the decriminalisation of male homosexuality. The report's recommendations weren't followed until 10 years later though.

It's fascinating and scary to see the language in which the conversations took place. The assumptions behind the conversations are just amazing. The conversation were along the lines of,'We're not saying we morally agree with this perversion, only that we don't think this perversion should be illegal when other perversions aren't.'

That wasn't that long ago. Lest we forget.

Me and Jesus: Episode 6

Sometimes Jesus can feel like an abusive spouse. He says the most lovely things sometimes, and other times he says the most horrible things. And I struggle with what is central and what is peripheral, what is permanent, and what is transient, whether there is enough there to keep me in the relationship and whether I can find a way to ignore (or deal in some way) with the rest.

If I took my analogy seriously then I should be saying to myself: Get out! Get out of that abusive relationship and don't look back! And so many of us, so many of us Unitarians have done exactly that: liberated ourselves from an abusive religious relationship. And it hurts so much to look back because it was difficult, and now we're free. And we only want to talk about it to say how glad we are to be rid of it, and to make insulting comments to Jesus to keep him at arms length.

But as much as Jesus (and/or the tradition) hurts me, it also hurts me when someone makes those snide comments. 'Hey, that's my man!' I wanna say. It hurts when someone insults someone you love. Though I'm not sure it's Jesus I'm in love with, but maybe the Christic spirit that Jesus imperfectly incarnated.

If I am to be a Christian, it will always be an ambivalent Christian, because it's often a hard and hurtful journey.