"To approach the Other in conversation is to welcome his expression, in which at each instant he overflows the idea a thought would carry away from it. It is therefore to receive from the Other beyond the capacity of the I, which means exactly: to have the idea of infinity." -- Levinas
Jesus loves gay people.
OK, so we know the Church has had a bum rap in how its dealt with "others" (you know, how it responds to the outsiders). However, my claim is maybe the critique from without is founded in the fact that the Church fears outsiders. It fears change. But Jesus has something to say about "others." About those who have their own group identification. Those who don't need the same label. Those whom he loves just as much. Is this not what is implied when he says that they are "for us." For implies an allegiance. There is intention behind this specific phrase. Let's unpack this a bit more....
There is this peculiar conversation between the Rabbi Jesus and his disciples in the Book of Mark. I can almost taste the intrigue falling from their lips as John, like young children, came running to "tell" on this "other" disciple who was casting out demons in Jesus name. (OK, so what is a demon if not an inversion of the sacred? One need the backdrop of the sacred to define the profane. The existence of the profane relies upon a foundation of the sacred. They are intertwined. Demons and Angels need one another.)
The attempt to remove a demon is not simply an attempt to remove the profane, it also removes the need for the sacred. If there is no profane, then there is no sacred. I think some background information on this particular verse in discussion will help us to understand why this idea of the "other" scares the "hell" out of John. Most of the New Testament is a midrash (Jewish commentary) on the Old Testament. I think this is important to remember. In that light, take note of the following:
Mark returns to the same portion of Numbers for this story. The man casting out demons outside of Jesus' retinue, intimidating poor John, is based directly on Eldad and Medad, members of the seventy elders who stayed in the camp when the rest followed Moses to the Tent of Meaning to receive prophetic inspiration (Numbers 11:24-30). John is a renamed Joshua who protested that "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp," i.e., "not following us" (Mark 9:38).
Jesus is depicted as being fully as broad-minded as Moses, happy to acknowledge the work of God where ever he hears of it." (IMPORTANT!!!!!)
Unfortunately, this is where Christianity (historically/currently) has gone wrong. They demonize "others." They turn them into monsters. They make the sacred (are we not all humans?) profane. The issue of homosexuality is not simply a Christian/theological issue; it's a social one, an issue of "otherness." But notice here the more important point: They were "other" to Jesus' little group of disciples. Outside the club. They didn't have the secret handshake. And Jesus tells John/the disciples to leave them alone because they are for us. To stop being narcisstic. Good theological advice.
This whole notion of otherness is something we struggle with as humans. We like similarity. We like what we know. What is comfortable. Otherness upsets us. It unmoors us from the universe. Distracts us from the illusion of peace we cling to so tightly. It demands our gaze while stealing our sense of control. The other is to be feared, hated and reviled. Well, at least that is what we're told.
That we have a responsibility to domesticate "monsters" -- to not embrace someone if they are not like us. This is the problem with most documentaries that take place on foreign soil. The "foreigners" tend to be someone the documentarist does not engage with, but only reports on. Their grief, happiness, affluence and other things should only be experienced from a distance preserving a subconscious level of disgust between us and the other. Which is also the same failure in the current state of multiculturalism as expressed by the Liberal Left. "If you label me, you negate me," or "Only know me on my terms," and the list goes on.
Isn't this the same disgust that is shown toward the LGBTQ community today, moreso by conservative Christianity but, as shown above, also by the liberal left? That somehow the gay community must meet certain requirements before they are recognized as full-fledged human beings. Isn't that what is at stake here? Not their souls, but their humanity. When one or many beings of the same species attempts to abuse power of another group or individual, is not the implication that those people are not fit to be part of the same group set? That certain theological paradigms have a right to dictate the value of another human being based on verses in a collection of sacred letters, poems, histories and hymns?
As an advocate, I would like to offer that maybe one of the most revolutionary responses toward religious bigotry isn't retaliation, but apathy. That the gay community does not need the validation of a theo-critical esoteric religiosity, and rather than depending upon a system for validation, come to see that they are already validated. Already accepted. Already "in." To me, this is the embrace of other; not to embrace to consume (to make them like us) -- but to simply be embraced as they are. To sit and dream of a new society together where these labels are simply part of our historic pastime (this is not to negate the importance of the past/struggle -- but to dream, includes the nightmares).
I think I can dream of this kind society; I think Martin Luther King Jr. was on to something. Don't you?
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