There is a lot of political jargon being touted in the name of family values. Secularism, it is feared, is undermining the institution of the family.
Why do we refer to it as, "the family"? To many, "the family" conjures up a picture of a mom, a dad, and kids. This, it is claimed, is the pattern for the most basic of human social relations. It rests upon an oath of sexual fidelity and the responsibility that comes with the offspring of this sexual relationship. It most often begins with a sexual attraction, proceeded by a courtship to determine personal compatibility beyond the sexual to the intellectual and spiritual and non sexual physical aspects of personhood. The relationship then becomes an embrace of the entire person: the hopes, dreams, aspirations, talents, as well as the faults, weaknesses and challenges of the other. The ideal family is a community that nurtures and helps each member achieve their fullest potential in every area of their personhood, and in every area of society and the world. But it also must be outwardly focused, willing to bring strangers and those who look and act very different from its biological members into the midst of familial embrace, or it will breed self centered, fearful and socially awkward youth.
The family is, to many Christians, the central social entity. It is conceived as a unit of both the church and the national community. But I'd like to push back a little on this notion. Does God define family within the framework of this biological relation? Is this the central focus of Christian social identity? Is it possible to enlarge our definition and shift our emphasis without neglecting the lesser, biological relationship?
Abraham was given the promise that he would be the father of many nations. Yet the apostle Paul revealed that the promise was fulfilled by the faithfulness of Jesus, and is extended to all peoples through adoption into God's family through faith in Jesus. In order to give the most glory to God, the promise was fulfilled outside of human fertility, man's virility or decision, male power or ego, so that no one could boast. This was also the fulfillment of the protoevangelion, that the Seed of the Woman would crush the serpent's head. It was foreshadowed in the miraculous births of barren women: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Samson's mother, and Elizabeth, with the Virgin Mary being the archetype. The antitype was reached when the creative Spirit was poured out onto all flesh, making "...children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." As it is written in the prophets, "Sing, O barren woman....because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband." And "let not any eunuch complain, 'I am only a dry tree.' For this is what the Lord says: 'To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters...". And, "I will say to those called 'Not my people,' 'You are my people; and they will say, 'You are my God.'"
And this prophetic theme John the Baptist continues in the Gospels, "I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham." And Jesus,"Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." And, "Do not call anyone on earth 'father', for you have one Father and he is in heaven." More radically, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters- yes, even his own life- he cannot be my disciple."
This revolution is continued in the apostles' exhortations, "From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in this present form is passing away."
I believe this strong language is to drive home the radical restructuring of the whole cosmos with the risen Christ at it's center, holding all things together by the word of his mouth, manifested in the witness of his people. When we are baptized, we cross over to this new way of being human, not defined with the way we look when we are first born, not defined by the usual way the world defines us, sexes us, categorizes us. This second birth supplants the old identity, redefining all existence in a way that relates to and is defined by Jesus. "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers."
With this new, eternal identity, then, we must approach our biological, transient relationships as of secondary importance, but bringing the energy of the risen Christ to bear upon them. They are not meaningless, but are infused with new meaning, as we take every opportunity to model the love of Jesus to one another. But at the fringes is where new creation takes place, prodding us to reassess where our true identity lies, pushing us to embrace the 'other', enabling us to be surprised when new things take place that we could never have thought possible. It is a place where we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that we will, each one of us for our own selves, give an account for everything said and done. Let our politics as God's family be worthy of this gospel.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Photo by Rosart Maurice (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
you were killed outside the camp
with the Unclean:
lepers with rotting flesh, bleeding vaginas openly shamed, penises that oozed, anuses that discharged, the burning gehenna of community waste and blood drained sacrifices, the half formed Quasimodos, the eunuchs, the monsters, the dry bones, the goats with the sins of the people pressed into their heads
the ones even God first hated...but loved afterwards
Is this the far, far better thing you go to
fed to starving crowds
who thirsted for blood and ripped your flesh like bread
who proclaimed their superior cleanness loudly in the streets
their family values and social values and spiritual values and national values
systems, parties, processes, ideologies, orders, powers, laws
gods that are no-gods, lines drawn in imaginations between mine and yours, things that are no-things, yet possessed with unreal reality?
What happened to the good news,
the fulfillment of hope, of rescue
of crumbs falling from tables that vastly outnumbered the original loaves in quantity
of the newest wine from stale water that vastly outdid the old wine in quality?
(Moses brought water from a rock, and that was enough. You brought wine from water, because enough would not do. It was the time for extravagant feasting.)
Messiah had come!
but was not recognized
the way of peace not known, not wanted
mountains did not bow, nor were valleys lifted
the paths were not made level and the lame were made to trip and fall and not be healed.
as you cried out with the godforsaken
you became a thing that good people turned away from in disgust
and wrinkled noses in contempt
Posted by Sara at 11:25 AM
Thursday, April 5, 2012
It was said long ago that there was a king named Melchizedek. "Without father or mother, without genealogy..."(Hebrrews 7:3). Hence "Mel" became my father's favorite name for the stray dogs he adopted, which were of uncertain parentage. And Melchizedek represented a holy order for those priests born outside of the ordinary way. As Isaiah wrote once, "Sing, O barren woman....because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband." And John writes of "...children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." So Abraham becomes the father of many nations in a very unexpected way. By the Spirit, not the flesh. The whole ancient patriarchal system was overturned. And life could once again spring from outside the pre-programmed systems of control, where destinies were determined by a look at the genitals: circumcised, or not; male, or not.
Today I exercised my own "high priesthood" in my home and farm, as my housemates and farmmates often do towards me. Today I buried Braveheart. This kitten, probably predestined by some defect to die, which the mother could tell, though she and I and my daughters worked together restore it, struggled for two days to hang on to life. I held the newborn creature in my hands, warming it, and was awed by the inner strength. Here was life! It was brief, and yet, so full. We had to try. Watching, feeding it a drop at a time, cleaning it.
"You are a priest forever". I say to Braveheart's grave. A sacrament of the Creator's eternal gift of life that shows us the way to love. And I go about my life, and try to remember to carry on this priesthood of foundlings, we who have been brought into the glorious basileia of God by the second Adam, but first born back from among the dead. We bury the dead- the dogs, chickens and cats- and bless the profane, making it holy. Even shit is holy, composted and returned to earth to bless the trees and flowering herbs, the grains and vines, the making of bread and wine for the Lord's own table, where it is again blessed and made holy in the unending continuum of priesthoodness. So holy, that children skip and run after receiving. And babies babble the Gospel anew to bereaved widows.
Posted by Sara at 12:51 PM