I who may well be...

Musings from the perspective of a human being who may well be not locatable completely within the usual categories of male or female or gay or straight or transsexual or intersexed or exploiter or exploited or supplier or consumer or performer or spectator.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A CHRISTIAN=I ANARCHIST

As a social justice campaigner, I like hanging out with other people committed to the cause of ... well, humanity, I guess. I never imagined I'd find that at the local church. But, there we are, a very small congregation of special people, like Jesus, outcasts and rebels and heroes, many of us expelled from other churches by the same sort of hypocrites who beset the Christ, sharing communion and appreciation for what we have, and appreciation for what we are, and what we are worth as human beings.

I was invited to this church after having a few articles published in the local newspaper (South Sydney Herald) they produce as an act of social outreach/ consciousness raising. I was becoming more and more concerned by the right wing hijacking of Christianity to justify their pro-war anti-gay anti-women agendas, which by my reading of the Gospels is antithetical to the teachings and examples of Jesus. I had not been at church since I'd been a child, and I was curious to see what the sort of intelligent adults who made the local newspaper made of Christianity. I was also keen to meet one of the ministers of this church, Dorothy McCrae-McMahon, who has been one of my heroes since she controversially came out as a lesbian while in a high position in the Uniting Church.

That was about six months ago, and since then I have only missed a few Sundays, and even then I knew my congregation were cheering me on in absentia while I was "on a mission" at the concentration camps at Baxter and Villawood. It's really good to be accepted, queer, barefoot and colourful, by this warm congregation that includes a virtuosa opera singer, a gay couple with their two kids, a few local "characters", a hard-working Labor Party hack, and little old ladies with somewhat amazing histories. (Some of those little old ladies came along to support me performing slightly nude at an avant-garde cabaret night, and appreciated what I was doing in terms of gender illusion and illusion shattering, without being obsessed by perceptions of prurience. My mother, on the other hand, when I said some ladies from church had come along to my show, snorted "I wonder what they would've made of THAT!!")

Unlike the authoritarian mode many churches are bound in, the Uniting Church leave it up to each individual to assess the truth of the Bible themselves. This seems to me more in line with Jesus exhortations not to caught up in legalistic detail, but to follow the spirit, to love one another and not obsess about how much of what herb is allowable. (see, for example, Matthew 23:23 - "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.")

Whether or not Jesus actually existed as an historical figure who said all the things attributed to him in the records made fifty or more years after the event is irrelevant. In Jesus I find an inspirational hero, like Bhudda or Superman, and I embrace their values of universal compassion and being true to oneself at all costs. And I get a lot out of being with other people who also find those values inspirational. And I really, really like the singing.

I find it particularly ironic that Christianity is being used to justify "family values", when Jesus is so dismissive of mindless loyalty to his family of origin, and not even remotely supportive of marriage. ( A couple of quick examples: Matthew 10:35 - "For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law." Matthew 10:37 - "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." , and Luke 20:35 - "But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage", and my favourite on Jesus total lack of support for heterosexist supremacy: Matthew 19:10-12 "His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."

And who are the "eunuchs"? Some suggest it is people whose sexual behaviour does not cause offspring, so may include gay folk and infertile intersex people. I suspect it is simply about people who do not see their potential or actual partners as "other", as objects to be manipulated or owned. And the kingdom of heaven is not just some place we go to when we die. Jesus makes it clear (to me) that his teachings are about the here and now, and heaven is a way of living here and now, as, sadly, for many, hell is.

My Jesus is the anarchist who kicks over the money changers tables in the temples, who denounces the pharisees, lawyers and hypocrites, who says that love is all that matters, and demands acceptance for all of humanity. He preaches against the violence of the state, which in the end crucified him, but truth cannot be destroyed. (How can Bush or Howard claim to lead Christian cultures into war? Ah, clearly the hypocrisy Jesus preached against was not limited to his time!) You may have noticed that the title of this article observes that "I ANARCHIST" is an anagram of "A CHRISTIAN".

Anyway, you can find me any Sunday morning (demos permitting), 10am, at the Uniting Church in Raglan St Waterloo (just up the hill from Pitt St). Come as you are, and sing a song with me. And remember, not all Christians are rabid Papists who quote the Old Testament to bash poofters while conveniently ignoring the bits about not wearing mixed fabrics or what price to charge for your slave's children. Some are nice nuns who believe in the prince of peace, and some are queer anarchists more likely to be chanting "Om Namah Shiva" than saying "Grace".

2 Comments:

  • At 22 April, 2005 11:47, Blogger Octobriana (Oz) said…

    The Unity Church is a bit like that too. I went there for a while when I first moved to New South Wales. However, as a "confirmed pagan" (and not a Christian) I found it hypocrital to continue to do so.

    The Bible quotes are cool. Did you know that Cybele, goddess of the Roman eunuchs, the Gallae, is mentioned in the Bible? It's new testament I think, and refers to her as an "Abomination".

    Christian attitudes to pagans and eunuchs have never been good. Check out The First Missionary War for details.

     
  • At 25 December, 2006 06:23, Blogger Truthseeker said…

    You know, Mathew verses 4 to 12 are the most profound writings in the New Testament. Recently, main line churches have reluctantly admitted that Jesus was a eunuch on the basis of these writings.



    Let’s try to put it all in perspective.



    4: And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
    5: And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?



    Here Jesus establishes the obligation for all men to marry and be faithful to one wife. Hopefully we are all in agreement on this. This is important as you will see later because marriage is not optional for a man. This is also stated in The Old Testament.

    It is also important to take note of verse 5 as it is key to understanding this part of the Bible.



    9: And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.



    This reaffirms the requirement of monogamy, and monogamy is as difficult for man to accept today as it was then.


    10: His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.



    The disciples find this rule a little hard to swallow. It is time for Jesus to lay out the alternative to marriage.


    11: But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.



    Jesus gives them an option. In this option he says that there are those that cannot accept this rule (to marry a woman and be monogamous). It is important to note here that he does not say “will not”, “would rather not”, “don’t have to”, but he said “cannot”. This would imply that he was referring to people incapable (mentally, physically, or both) of living by the rules of men. This is a very important distinction. These people are exempted from the rules of marriage, indeed from the rules of men, because in the eyes of God they are not men. There are rules in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that do not allow men to “be together” sexually, and prohibit men from being effeminate, and these rules are correct. However, these rules only apply to “men”, and eunuchs were not considered to be men in those days. Therefore if we want to refer to the bible for moral direction, we must be careful how we apply these rules.



    12: For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb:



    The important thing to remember at this point is that Jesus is only allowing two possible states for a grown male. He is either married, or he is a Eunuch. More importantly, he can only be a Eunuch if he is incapable of being married to a woman. “so born from their mother's womb” has to refer to anyone who from the day he was born would never be able to consummate a relationship with a woman, for whatever reason. A truly gay man is incapable of consistently performing his male duties with a woman any more than the average heterosexual man could have sex with another man. The equipment only works when the brain is in synch, and the brain controls the equipment. The equipment does not work when the individual is disgusted with the act. Therefore, by default, a gay man falls into this category. The church interprets this (verse 12) to mean hermaphrodites (people who have indeterminate physical sexual gender).To some extent they may be correct. One would not truly know that he was gay until he reached puberty (at least he could not be 100 per cent sure). Therefore we could not declare a homosexual a eunuch at birth, even though technically they will never be attracted to women. Nevertheless they are born to not be in a relationship with a woman, and so you say this phrase applies to them as well.



    and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men:



    This category I think everyone agrees upon. These are males that were physically castrated by other men, and are obviously incapable of consummating a relationship with a woman.



    and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.



    The church interprets this as celibacy. Although being a physical eunuch made celibacy a likely state, a man who is attracted to women and remains celibate can not claim to be a eunuch. Jesus rule was explicit---if you are physically and mentally capable of consummating a relationship with a woman, you were required to do so(remember verse 5 that I said was the key to understanding these words of Jesus). It is much more likely that this rule applies to a man who when he reaches puberty, realizes that he is not attracted to women, and declares himself a eunuch so as not to be in violation of verse 5 which requires him to marry a woman. Without this declaration he would be in violation of verse 5, so he does this “ for the kingdom of heaven's sake”.





    Repeat-----5: And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?





    Voluntary celibacy was not an option for a man with a normal sex drive and working equipment. The only way a heterosexual man (with a normal sexual drive) could achieve this category would be to actually have him self castrated. The only way for a homosexual man to achieve the status of eunuch was to at least declare him self to be incapable of being with a woman. A man with no interest in sexual relations with a woman could do without castration. This is consistent with Jewish Law which required a man to be married by the age of eighteen.

    This was the great mistake made by the Church---they misinterpreted this as a simple requirement of celibacy. They did this for a good reason. Eunuchs were at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They appeared to be either slaves, (quite often the slaves of women), or ministers of the church. Jesus routinely made himself less than he could have been. Pride and ego were not a part of what he believed in. He was the opposite. Is it any wonder the church tried desperately to paint a different picture of Jesus, one that was more in line with mans own nature?



    He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.



    Most people think that this sentence refers back to the rules concerning eunuchs. It actually refers back to that key verse 5 that requires a man to be married. It is once again saying that anyone able to be married must be married, and also includes a reference to the alternative (eunuch). These words of Christ are not ambiguous at all. They answer so many questions and do so in a literally perfect and complete way. This is what we should expect from a divinely inspired source. It is all there, but we can not see it because it is not the picture we want of Jesus or his Apostles (John the Baptist definitely was a eunuch as well).



    This is a literal translation that makes sense in every way and even satisfies Jewish Law. It also satisfies the laws about “not lying” in that it is not asking homosexuals to pretend to be what they aren’t (to live a lie). It takes away the need to hate. It confirms that gay men are born this way (Jesus just told us this, and science has recently proven it). It also addresses all references in the bible to homosexuality--- eunuchs were not considered men, so rules applying to two men would not apply to eunuchs. The Aramaic translation (the language of Jesus) of eunuch is: ---Castrated Male, faithful believer. Faithful believers they were indeed, because in relinquishing their manhood they moved from the top to the bottom of the social hierarchy. There was no great lineup to become a eunuch. Think about it----the real sin was not to come out of the closet---the real sin was to stay in the closet and live a lie.

     

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