A CHRISTIAN=I ANARCHIST
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".