Archives for August 2015
Text: Mark 7:1-8
Growing up I had one favorite outfit that I wanted to wear every day, and if you look at most of my pictures from 5th grade though early junior high school you will see me in this outfit. The ensemble consisted of a light blue tank top trimmed in dark blue, a pair of nicely faded blue jeans and my white high-top converse tennis shoes. It was this outfit that I felt most comfortable in, clothes that felt like me. The tank top was not like girls’ tank tops today. Comparing to the world of adolescent fashion today, my 1970’s tank top covered more than a long sleeve t-shirt covers today. My jeans had just enough flare at the bottom to be cool but not draw too much attention like bell-bottom jeans did. And of course, since their debut, white high-top converse have never not been in style. I loved my outfit, especially the dark piping around the arms and collar of that tank top.
There was only one problem with my preferred uniform. It was the source of daily arguments with my mother. Although I would stay up late to wash my clothes so they would not smell after the fourth straight day of wearing them, my commitment to cleanliness was not enough to satisfy my mother. Taking away the clean argument, she would insist that they looked ragged. Many days she would lament, “Why do I even bother buying you good clothes?” I stayed strong and committed through the lamenting. But then she would push the button she knew to push, “You look like a boy in those clothes.” Truth is, I kind of wanted to look like a boy, but I didn’t want her saying that. It hit too close to my identity questions. [Read more…]
“There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts—before this, and after this.” This quote is taken from the 1998 American supernatural thriller film, Fallen, starring Denzel Washington. The film is about an ancient and diabolic spiritual being, Azazel, who is supernaturally condemned to eternally transmigrate at will between unwitting and susceptible human souls who act as hosts for possession. On rare occasions, Azazel’s spiritual transmigration is blocked by an unreceptive human host who appears to be immune. These rare exceptions become special targets for Azazel’s sustained spiritual stalking through subtler means. The plot takes viewers through a series of transmigrations, and while I don’t want to spoil the ending for those of you who might rush from here today and watch the movie, I will simply say that if you have a yellowish-orange cat at home, beware. While the film had a respectable cast, Denzel Washington, John Goodman and Donald Sutherland, by most critics, it was deemed a theatrical failure, earning only $25.2 million at the box office.
While movie reviewers may have reasoned it a failure, this one line spoken by one of the films main characters, John Hobbes, may very well be its redemption, at least in my opinion. Notwithstanding the original context, anyone who has lived much life at all knows the truth of this statement. Life marks us with defining moments and from those moments we, in turn, mark life. From our childhood, we might mark life from the moment before our parents divorced, or after. Or, before we moved because of a dad’s job transfer, or after. Some of us mark our lives with “before I came out and after I came out.” Before children and after children. Or as one of my friends will often say, “Before Prozac and after Prozac.” Some among us may mark life’s defining moment as “before the death of my spouse and after the death of my spouse.” Not all the moments that mark our lives are traumatic. Some are joyful. Like, “before I fell in love and after I fell in love, before I got my dream job and after I got my dream job, before I started exercising and after I started exercising.” All of these are defining moments that mark our lives—moments when we realize that nothing will ever be the same again. These defining moments recount the history of our lives. Which brings me to our text this morning. [Read more…]
Post author Brian Crisp is former chairman of Pullen’s Missions & Outreach Council. He studies Hebrew Bible and Theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School and has been a guest on our pulpit.
Over the past several days two volatile news stories have had a common cynosure: the Bible. In the middle of a preliminary presidential campaign that has been harsh toward immigrants and negligent of African-American citizens, Donald Trump proclaimed in an Alabama football stadium that the Bible is his favorite book. “We take the Bible all the way,” Trump told the crowd. A few days later, a fraction of the entering freshmen class at Duke University refused to read Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic novel Fun Home due to personal Christian beliefs. Brian Grasso, incoming freshmen, penned an editorial in the Washington Post explaining, “But in the Bible, Jesus forbids his followers from exposing themselves to anything pornographic.”
As a person of faith who spends ample time reading the Bible for academic and spiritual endeavors, I am distressed that the Bible is continually used for political pandering to gain votes and for personal justification for bigotry and ignorance. My first question to those who continue to flaunt the Bible as an excuse for recoil from people and retreat from working for healthy communities is simple: “Have you read the book?”
The Hebrew Bible and New Testament are simultaneously beautifully crafted, continually compelling, and absolutely horrific. Together, their pages do not offer simple answers, but engage readers in a story of people trying to understand, commune, and covenant with The Divine. Many times a reader leaves the stories with enveloping questions that propel a deeper search into an ethics of faith that is meant to construct a community that is welcoming and caring for all. ALL. These stories are messy as the love for community is not approached without equal justice.
It is such Justice-Love, the term used by famed theologian Carter Heyward, that sent Moses to talk back to Pharaoh about the atrocities of slavery. Divine Justice-Love is seen when Esther boldly approaches the king and saves the annihilation of Jewish people. Jesus himself promoted an ethic of Divine Justice, which means that he was, at times, relentless, biting with his words and physical with his actions. Jesus spat, cursed, flipped over tables, and chased people with a whip.
Although these actions are, at times, questionable and puzzling, they invite us to examine the motives for such behavior. The Bible tells us of women and men who stand up to the privileges of the powerful on behalf of those who are being silenced, persecuted and destroyed by such entitlement. The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Romans had their cruelties called out by Deborah, Elijah, Isaiah, Jesus and Paul. These prophets stood up and talked back on behalf of those who’d been silenced.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Grasso are flexing the hurtful muscles of the American Empire drenched in the privilege of White Heteronormative Class experience. Mr. Trump wants to build a wall along the Mexican border while deporting many people who have built their lives contributing to the economy and culture of the United States. He has taken to using the term “anchor babies” to belittle and dehumanize immigrant families. Mr. Grasso equated the lives of LGBTQIA people with pornography in his editorial published in one of the world’s largest news sources. This continues to label non-heteronormative human sexuality as perverse and unacceptable. Now both men have married their entitlement and their hatred to the Judeo-Christian tradition with a simple mention of the Bible. Such actions continue to happen at the expense of African-Americans, Latinos, Queer people, working class brothers and sisters, women, and children; they are paying for such antics with their lives.
If abhorrent, sexually-explicit material is such a concern for Mr. Grasso, then he should refrain from reading the biblical texts themselves, as they contain incest, rape, masturbation, penis mutilation, polygamy and prostitution. If Mr. Trump’s favorite book is the Bible then he has avoided those passages that promote hospitality to the stranger, feeding the poor and taking care of the children. Equally, he has erroneously missed that the walls of Jericho violently tumbled. I have read these stories, and I hear their repeated call to stand up for those who are paying for others’ privilege with the economy of their lives. I stand up and remember that many prophets such as Ezekiel, Jesus, Dorothy Day and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew Divine Love was equally filled with Divine Justice. I stand up and talk back.
So, again I ask directly, “Have you read the book?”
Our annual Sunday in the Park is September 13 at 11:15 a.m. While you experience a wonderful outdoor worship service, the Education Council will prepare our delicious meal. Due to construction, we will return to Fletcher Park near Broughton for this year’s Sunday in the Park. Join us!
Please bring a ready-to-eat dish that serves 6-8, in a cooler if needed. Label container and lid. No serving utensils needed. Dress casually. Consider sunscreen and insect repellent. Bring lawn chairs, blankets and whatever you need to be comfortable outdoors. The rain plan is worship in Pullen sanctuary at 11 a.m. and no picnic.
Please note that there is a race that begins at 2 p.m. that day. Preparation and post-race activities will close Hillsborough and Edenton Streets from 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. from West to Glenwood (West and Glenwood will be open). From 2-4:40 p.m., Hillsborough from West to the Morgan Street roundabout will be closed. This should not seriously impact access to Fletcher Park, but please note these road closures and times if they affect your route to our special activities in the park.