Walter Brueggemann on American Consumerism, Militarism, Neighborliness and LGBT People

A Facebook friend (FBF) recently shared this article from On Faith, an interview with theologian Walter Brueggemann. As the interview demonstrates, Prof. Brueggemann — one of the most influential Old Testament scholars in the U.S. — is pretty clear about how much of contemporary American culture is out of sync with an accurate understanding of the message of Scripture and the Gospel of Jesus.  I suspect there are many who would be afflicted by his words, calling to mind that old adage that one of the purposes of the Gospel is “to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.50.22 AMI particularly find Prof. Bureggemann’s notion of neighborliness on point, especially living in a part of the country where so very, very many people live in “gated and guarded communities,” neighborhoods where entry is limited only to residents. This map (from Gated Communities: Are you in or out? Naples Daily News, July 26, 2013) shows how much of the area in this part of SW Florida is “off limits” to neighbors outside the gate.

On another issue, I was particular edified to read Prof. Brueggemann’s response to the first of two questions about LGBTQ people and how many who claim to be Christian treat them. Here’s what was asked, and Brueggeman’s first words in response.

You talked about the poor and healthcare. What about the LGBTQ community, especially when people use the Old Testament to argue against that community?

The discussion needs to start with what it means to be made in the image of God [emphasis added]. The confession of Christian faith is that all of God’s human creatures are made in the image of God. That means that they are to be treated with dignity, offered maintenance and security, as is necessary.

Brueggemann claims that the starting point of this discussion must be the recognition that LGBTQ people are made in the image of God. That understanding is the very reason for the title of this blog. If we are not able to see in ourselves and others a reflection of the Divine, then what possible hope is there for dealing well with any of the myriad problems this generation or any generation faces? If we can’t see the presence of God in every person — especially those whom we so readily label as “other” — then how can Christians claim to be followers of the One who came to lead all people to God?

After briefly dispatching with concerns about what some of the various texts of Scripture supposedly say about homosexuality, Brueggemann’s concluding words are worth repeating:

The texts that are determinative are those that talk about the love of God that has been shown to us in Jesus. We can’t compromise that.

 

True Courage

ChiSonoIoEven while there are many hopeful signs about the Church moving forward on the subject of God’s gay daughters and sons, there are some who still call for an expansion of “ministries” that ask LGBT Catholics to be less than who they are. One of these is called “Courage,” and Fr. Roger Landry’s commentary in the Boston Pilot’s online forum, Echoes, pronounces the virtues, nay necessity, of this organization for LGBT Catholics.  Here, in part, is my comment to the contrary. 

I have to agree with Ann Marie Rosa, while simultaneously taking great exception to Fr. Landry’s commentary.

What I find most strikingly off target with the tone and substance of his comments is the underlying assumption that God’s LGBT sons and daughters are somehow distinct from “the Church” and “Catholics.” Gay and lesbian persons are in every parish, every Catholic community, every diocese around the globe. Indeed, we are in many (most?) seminaries, rectories, convents and houses of religious men and women. Gay and lesbian Catholics are not so much looking to be welcomed by the Church, for indeed, we ARE the Church — just as sure as is every other person who embraces his/her baptism and seeks to live the Gospel with faithfulness and integrity.

What we are looking for, however, is an experience of Church that reflects the famous (and hopefully prophetic) words of the Holy Father. You will recall that Pope Francis was asked a question in the summer of 2013 about a “gay lobby” at the Vatican. After addressing that point in particular, Francis went on to say that, “if a person is gay and is eagerly searching for God, then who am I to judge them?” Fr. Landry, however, seems all too willing to go where the Holy Father chose not to. And so, rather than listening to the lived experience of God’s gay sons and daughters; rather than walking with us in faith through the joys and struggles of our lives; rather than listening to how we understand our unions to be both unitive and procreative; and rather than think that perhaps — just perhaps — his own judgment about the morality of our lives might be flawed, Fr. Landry instead pronounces judgment and prescribes what he thinks he knows is best for all God’s gay children.

I believe the Holy Spirit was at work in this most recent synod as it made history in addressing an issue hitherto swept under the rug. I pray fervently that the same Spirit will continue to soften the hearts of all those who stand in judgment of God’s gay children. All of us are created in God’s image and likeness. The diversity of human sexuality is only one of the many beautiful and glorious ways in which that divine image shines through humanity. May the work of the Spirit allow that diversity to shine even more brightly in the years to come.

“…so unlike Jesus and the God he loved…”

WeepingJesusToday many would say that Christians have become major purveyors of exclusion, guilt, and shame for too many of its own people, and surely for the other religions, instead of absorbing shame, healing guilt, and living in solidarity with human suffering as Jesus did so clearly on the cross. No wonder so many no longer take us seriously. We are so unlike Jesus and the God he loved. Jesus was totally inclusive in his entire public life, and yet we created an exclusionary religion in his name. It makes no sense.

from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation: Whoever Told You That You Were Naked (Nov.9 2013)

Christianity really is this simple!

I’m always pleased when a pope emphasizes the name of this blog — and its significance.

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this [person] is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.” [emphases added]

from: Pope at Mass: Culture of encounter is the foundation of peace (Vatican Radio)

Richard Rohr: Patriotism as the False Sacred

Today’s meditation from Richard Rohr probably sounds like blasphemy to millions of American fundamentalists, especially those who believe in that oh-so-not-Christian idea of “American Exceptionalism.”

“Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9) was proclaimed by the early church, as their most concise creedal statement. No one ever told me this was a political and subversive statement, until I learned a bit of Bible history. To say “Jesus is Lord!” was testing and provoking the Roman pledge of allegiance that every Roman citizen had to proclaim when they raised their hand to the imperial insignia and shouted, “Caesar is Lord!” Early Christians were quite aware that their “citizenship” was in a new universal kingdom, announced by Jesus (Philippians 3:20), and that the kingdoms of this world were not their primary loyalty systems. How did we manage to lose that? And what price have we paid for it? (More)