Monday, May 17, 2021

Revelation

In my adolescent years, Evangelical pastors taught me to give my unconditional support to Israel. They said it was biblical, based entirely on an interpretation of the last book of the bible. Revelation. They quoted verses saying that the nation of Israel must be re-established before Jesus comes back to re-make the world. They said Israel’s borders must be defended at all costs. When I started studying the sacred text for myself, I learned that their interpretation of Revelation was a revisionist “end times” reading strategy invented by white men who divided the history of the world into “dispensations” that they made up. Our current chapter, they said, was all about getting people saved for eternity. Social justice, they said, was irrelevant. Because Jesus was coming back soon. This biblical reading strategy is a racket. It has justified death and destruction in Palestine for the past 75 years. All in the name of God and Christ.

The painful irony is that Revelation was written by and for vulnerable and persecuted people who were experiencing their end times in the first century. Revelation is apocalyptic literature, utilizing metaphor and hyperbole to “reveal” reality, to pull the curtain back on power. Speaking in code, it incessantly critiques Caesar and Rome. Revelation, read in context, is a script that empowers folks of faith and conscience to struggle in solidarity with oppressed people—like Palestinians—and to stand up to imperial powers that cloak dehumanizing violence with their charades about “self-defense.” Supporting a country unconditionally and anti-intellectually by simply quoting the bible is not biblical. It is blasphemous. It is the exact opposite of everything Jesus taught and lived.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Diverse-and-Deeply-Held Convictions

Last week, Saddleback Church finally ordained women pastors for the first time. It’s obviously a step in the right direction. While many of us are muttering “it’s about time,” fundamentalist friends lament that Saddleback is caving to the culture. Churches that still do not ordain women all say that they are just following “what the bible says.” The problem (for these churches) is that the bible speaks with different voices when it comes to gender and sexuality. Every patriarchal “women must be quiet and submissive” is countered with a prophetic “there is no longer male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” 
 
What I want to know is (A.) what took Saddleback so long, (B.) why now and (C.) if they are ordaining women, why not LGBTQA+ folx too? I’m pretty sure the answer to A, B and C is “because the bible.” But here’s the thing that us Christians must confess: the bible itself contains diverse-and-deeply held convictions and we all bring our own diverse-and-deeply held convictions to the bible. The cringe-worthy colonizing history of Christianity, especially on this continent, has taught us that powerful people consistently bring their prejudice and patriarchy to the sacred text—and then justify it by finding it somewhere on its pages. People are perpetually prone to use the bible like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support instead of illumination. Christianity desperately needs accountability. Love must be our litmus test.