Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009. Third Sunday in Lent

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Exodus 20:1-17

We do well to reflect long and hard on any rules under which we live, whether or not the rules are voluntary.

The Ten Commandments constitute Moses’ short list. They appeared in the Lectionary as recently as October 5, 2008. See my suggestion on that date about an innovative way to discover what is at stake in them.

Compare Moses’ big ten with Micah’s big three: :

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"
(Micah 6:8)

Compare Jesus’ reduction to two definitive commandments:

A lawyer asked, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" And Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments, hang all the law and prophets.

It’s easy to be glib about short lists. In On These Two Hang I reflect on how demanding Jesus' short list is.

What rules or advice about sex has purchase among Christians in 2009?

Perhaps “Thou shalt not commit adultery” does not resonate with some modern readers because we do not share the context in which it was written. Wives then were property, and the commandment mainly protected the man’s property rights to his wife. It was never meant to apply equally to her rights in him.

Adultery today is used almost synonymously with fornication. Not so then. Moses’ Big 10 do not condemn fornication nor say anything about it.

Many priests tell me that in pre-marital counseling they have not encountered anyone, anyone who is a virgin. What credibility do pastors have if condemning sex outside marriage is their starting point?

“Sex should always be mutually consensual, and the couple have an obligation to protect against producing an unwanted third party”: for over four decades thus counseled a friend who taught at a prominent Friends School.

“Do not have sex with anyone whom you do not respect, and do not have sex with anyone who does not respect you”: thus counseled my father-in-law in the early 1960s when his son reached puberty and had clearly grown up gay.

What would you add? What would you take away?

“Mr. Crew, Mr. Crew, I know it’s late but I must talk with you,” the young boy said at my door to my apartment.

“What may I do for you?” I asked as I pointed him to a chair.

“I have just had sex with my roommate!” he said, clearly aghast.

“Did you enjoy it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said and broke out in heavy weeping, afraid for his life. When he had calmed, I asked,

“Did your roommate enjoy it?”

The boy looked at me dumbfounded.

“But, but, but…. I don’t know!”

“Well, aren’t you talking to the wrong person?”

That conversation occurred in 1963. The young man did not grow up gay; nor did I assume that he would. I felt it important to encourage the boy to find his own values, not to impose upon him a set someone had prescribed.

It is quite common for a kid to think he’s the only one who has ever had such an experience, and equally common for him to think his entire destiny has been fixed forever based on the experience. I encouraged him to be less anxious, more reflective, and more humble. He had just joined the human race a bit more fully, and he was not alone. Why not rejoice?

How would you have counseled him?

The student surprised me when he showed up thirty-six years later when Ernest and I renewed our vows on our 25th anniversary in 1999. He remembered his trauma decades earlier, and he was grateful that I treated him with respect.

Psalm 19

Click here to hear Hayden's Heavens are Telling on harmonicas with spectacular pictures from the Hubble telescope.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

My colleagues at Rutgers like me but some have a hard time wondering why I would waste any time on the church. One who‘s more direct and blunt than most, said, “Louie, you have a good mind. Most religious people can’t stand gay people, and religion provides the major force for keeping our customs and laws in the Dark Ages. Why would you lend them any credibility? How can you possibly believe their nonsense?” And he is straight.

My lbgt colleagues and friends are sometimes more shrill. Many of those have been cut off from their families by the doctrines to which their families still cling. All have seen families kick out their sons, but show up after the son has died to throw out the son’s lover of decades and take home the loot just for themselves.

One major gay scholar who is a friend was badly burned in his youth by the Anglican Church of Canada, and he’s been especially careful to document Anglican participation in the persecution of gays. See his reproduction of The Trying and Pilloring of the Vere Street Club, to which I pointed in my comments about Micah (above).

I stand convicted. The church does indeed have an horrendous record to this very day in underwriting the persecution of gays. Arthur Dong’s striking documentary Licensed to Kill profiles several men on death row for murdering gays, and almost all of them, even the marginally literate, at some time of another voluntarily refer to the Bible as part of their imprimatur.

I am not an outsider to the faith of the church, simply doing time here to reform it. I am an insider to the faith of the church, here because I believe eternal life to be at stake. The holy texts (only about 6 'bible bullets' actually) suffer badly in captivity to heterosexism, but heterosexists must hold themselves accountable for voluntarily submitting to hate-filled readings.

The message about the cross to us who are being saved is the power of God.

John 2:13-22

Early on the Bishop of Atlanta summoned me for discipline for “disturbing the peace and good order of the church” through my ministry founding Integrity. See The Peace of Christ is Not for Gays in Christianity & Crisis 37.9-10 (1977): 140- 144.

A few priests took his actions as permission to insult me, especially when they were off camera. At a diocesan convention at Christ Church in Macon, the person in charge of exhibit areas, placed me alone in the basement away from any of the traffic, and when I calmly requested a move, he yelled at me. Later in the day I overheard him bragging to a colleague that he had put me in my place.

On the same occasion, the convention dinner was held at a local country club that did not allow black people except as servants, and the diocese bragged that it had made special arrangements for my parish and the few others who had black delegates. We were isolated, and almost no one had anything to do with us.

Today’s text gave me much comfort in those troubled times. It was easy to imagine overturning the tables of the other exhibitors at the parish, or rearranging the tables at the banquet so that the last would be first and the first would be last. I did not act out my fantasies, however. After all, I am an English professor and a Southern gentlemen. But God got to hear the first draft of my prayers!

Years later the bishop repented and we became close friends for the rest of his life. Recalling the earlier struggle, at the 1994 General Convention, the bishop told hundred’s gathered to hear me preach, that I had treated him very gently, but that I had scared him mightily. "Louie, you were merely claiming that God loves you just as much as God loves me. And God does."

See also

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