Put Christ Back Into Christianity: The Body of Christ

Absolutely fundamental to the Christian religion is the belief that God, as the second person of the Trinity, took on human form and became man. Jesus Christ, whose incarnation we celebrate at this time, was fully divine – and also fully human.

I want to stress here that word “incarnation”, not just the nativity, so familiar from Christmas cards and Nativity plays. Yes, like all other humans he began life as an infant – but he lived and ministered as a man, a real man, fully human, with all that entails. We celebrate the incarnation explicitly at Christmas, but also constantly in the life of the Church, and especially in the Mass. At the consecration, we hear the words, “This is my body”, and on receiving communion, “Body of Christ”, to which we reply, “Amen”. But like so much in tradition, this response has shifted subtly over the millenia.The original response carried rather more punch.

In the early church, when the presbyter administered the holy communion to the faithful, saying “Corpus Christi”, the body of Christ, the response was not “Amen”, as we now have it, but “I am”. Do you see how radical that is? You -I- we- are the body of God, in our humanity.

Fr Bernard Lynch, in From Queer to Eternity


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Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion (Pt 7): We will be judged on how we have loved

Many of the passengers on the 9/11 flights, when told they were going to die, phoned their families to say that they loved them. In former times, we might have thought that a better response would have been to beg God for forgiveness of their sins. I prefer the first, and I dare to think that God would, too.

If God is love, and if sex is loving, then sex between two people of different or the same gender can only be looked upon lovingly by God. The real sin would be to live without ever having had this contact with another human being.

With this observation, Fr O’Sullivan makes the important point that above all, God is a god of love. “God is love”, I was firmly taught in Catholic school, and the Gospel tells us that love is the most important commandment.

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Put Christ Into Christianity: Robert Goss’ Queer Theology – Renewing Christianity

In her account of the historical development of gay and lesbian/ queer theology, Elisabeth Stuart says that the weakness of both the gay liberationist and the feminist/lesbian approaches is that by working from the basis of real life experience of gays and lesbians, they are not easily accessible by others who do not share than experience. They also, she says, have in practice placed so much emphasis on ethics and relationships that questions of the divine seem to fade into the background: their work barely qualifies as “theology” at all.

This is not an accusation that one could make against Robert Goss, a former Jesuit turned AIDS activist. In his writing, he places God, and in particular the person of Jesus Christ, firmly at the centre of his work. In marked contrast with both the earlier gay and lesbian theologians and the orthodox Catholic theologians of the Vatican, Goss’ theology is built on Christology.

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This Christmas, Let Us Put Christ Back Into Christianity

At this time of year, we are accustomed to numerous pleas to “Put Christ back into Christmas”. These are entirely appropriate. The commercial binge and festive eating and drinking have nothing to do with the religious celebration of the Nativity. To the extent that secular jollity has crowded out the story of Christ, we do indeed need to put Christ back into Christmas. (However, I do not deplore the secular celebrations alongside – in the  northern winter, they are a welcome antidote to the cold and dark, and were a part of the established seasonal calendar long before the religious festival commandeered some of their features).

There is also a more important aspect of putting Christ back into Christmas: reinstating the place of Christ the man, not just the infant Jesus. Celebrate the incarnation, not just the nativity. As we do so, let us recall the full implications of Christ’s humanity, and of his words and actions as we have them in the Gospels, not as they have been distorted, sanitized and abused by centuries of theological and popular overlay to support human agendas.

For this last week of Advent, I want to explore Christmas as a time to reflect on the Incarnation, and it’s implications.  I will be looking at the remarkable absence of Christ’s words or example in the CDF teaching on sexuality, and on homosexuality in particular. In contrast, I will consider Robert Goss’s emphasis on Christology as a turning point in the development of gay and lesbian theology towards queer theology, and the Christological models of sin and grace proposed by Patrick Chen. I will reflect on the unavoidable fact of Christ’s real, physical male body. Together with Rev Cindi Love, I will ask “Would Christ Discriminate”?

Finally, I will conclude with an appeal to bring Christ back into Christianity at the most basic, personal level – by developing a strong personal relationship, growing in spirituality, by “Taking a Chance on God.”

The first instalment, on the near exclusion of Christ from the CDF writing on human sexuality, I hope to publish later today. The rest, and possibly more, will follow at intervals during the week.

 

Patrick Chen, on Christ the Liberator

When Jesus began his teaching ministry in the Temple, he chose as his text the passage from Isaiah,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed

This can be viewed, in modern political jargon, as his “keynote address” – and it is about liberating the oppressed, not about imposing narrow religious rules on sexual activities. For all queer Christians, who so often feel we are on the receiving end of supposedly religion-based attacks for our transgression of the rules, it is important that we remember this.

The theologian Patrick Chen elaborates on Christ as liberator in the third part of his Christological reflection on sin and grace for LGBT Christians:

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Coming out as Grace: Patrick Chen, on the “Out Christ”

In the second instalment of his long essay on Christology, sin and grace at “Jesus in Love Blog”, the theologian Patrick Chen discusses Christ’s incarnation as God “coming out” to the world. This is an idea I first came across in Chris Glaser’s “Coming out As Sacrament“, and which Chen takes as his starting point:

The Out Christ arises out of the reality that God reveals Godself most fully in the person of Jesus Christ.  In other words, God “comes out of the closet” in the person of Jesus Christ; it is only through the incarnation, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we understand the true nature of God (for example, God’s solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed).  Indeed, the notion of the Out Christ as the revelation of God is supported by Jesus Christ’s description in the Fourth Gospel as the logos or Word of God.

Chris Glaser, the gay theologian and Metropolitan Community Church minister, has written about the Out Christ in his book Coming Out as Sacrament.  In that book, Glaser describes Jesus Christ as nothing less than God’s very own coming out to humanity:  “The story of the New Testament is that God comes out of the closet of heaven and out of the religious system of time to reveal Godself in the person of Jesus the Christ.”

“Sermon on the Mount” (from Ecce Homo) by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin

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Building a Welcoming Church: Use Our Stories

After a few posts and some readers’ responses on the idea of a “welcoming church”, I thought it worth sharing a reflection on how to go beyond simply paying lip service to the idea, to creating truly welcoming parishes.

This is from the newsletter of Fortunate Families, a Catholic organisation for the families of lesbians and gay men. From my own experience in some parishes, I fully endorse Vicki’s observation that once you have discerned an “open or positive feel” for a specific person inside the congregation, it is perfectly feasible to share with them some details of your personal story. I have always found that the response has been explicitly welcoming, and has eased the way for further sharing later – either at a deeper level with the same person, or in a similar way with others. Judging the appropriate person time and context however, can be tricky. This is, in Vicki’s word, an act of real “discernment”, and not to be rushed. Some people will find it near impossible at any time, many people will find it impossible in specific parishes, but not in others. Still the general approach should be strongly encouraged – the more people there are doing so, the easier it will be for those who follow.

Using Our Stories to Build a More Welcoming Church

By Ron Ohmann

Rev. Vicki Wunsch, an ordained UCC minister – but still a “Catholic at heart” (her adopted daughter was refused baptism because of Vicki’s samesex partnership) – conducted an inspiring workshop on “Strategic Storytelling” at the Fortunate Families gathering Saturday, Oct. 23rd. Her basic premise was that with all the media politics regarding GLBT issues surrounding denominational churchgoers, the most effective way to change attitudes is the organic one of individuals with personal stories engaging others who may share those concerns or at least are willing to listen. Vicki suggested that once you have discerned an open or positive feel for a person, a deliberately planned, well-crafted, and gracefully-delivered story of you as a GLBT person or your loved one’s experience offers the best chance for sharing and integration. It’s about bypassing the cultural barriers of separation and opening hearts and minds in faith communities and society at large.   The story’s telling should be short (3-5 min), sincere, credible, and candid, with emphasis on the positive.  Touch on key specifics to give meaning with minimal detail.  Stay upbeat and avoid painting the portrait of a victim, either yourself or your loved one.  Likewise, avoid stark value judgments which may trigger a negative response.  Finally, let go of any ego tendency or ego demeanor.  As Jesus showed us in telling his stories (parables) in the Gospels, humility and the soft-sell usually work best.