An Offensive God

Drag artiste Queenie Aotearoa dances a tribute
at the death of fellow
artiste Shane in St Matthew's this week.

Today we have become timid in our imaging of God. We think it is radical and risqué to even call God ‘Her’. Our images of God as loving and inclusive do not do justice to the God Jesus painted who is offensive to the keepers of the status quo, religious or secular. Indeed the concepts of God as transforming love or divine energy unless earthed in risky imagery and stories are a diluted insipid version of the offensive God Jesus was shoving into the faces
of his opponents.

We also need to rethink our vision of inclusive love - not that tolerance, justice, and understanding between peoples, races, religions, genders and orientations is an unworthy goal. Yet the vision often has an underlying premise of us the powerful letting the powerless in, or us the powerless wanting the powerful to invite us in. To use the image of an all-inclusive dining table with us all sitting around together, we need to ask where this table is located, and who has set the menu.

Or put another way, where and with whom is this offensive God? Remember the parable of the lost sheep, and the one after it with God as a sweeping woman. This God leaves the 99 well-feed and respectable church and business leaders, and goes AWOL. This God of Jesus doesn’t do normal, or expected, or civilised.

This God could be found on the banks of the Brisbane River three weeks ago when a group of gay friends grieving a young man’s death threw high heels into the water. God threw one of Hers in too.

This God was blowing raspberries at the back of a meeting of the ruling council of the Northern Irish Free Presbyterian Church when they ousted this week their founder Ian Paisley for his tolerance of Gay Pride marches. She also danced for joy that such a dogged hardliner as Paisley could change, albeit a little.

Will we turn and face this offensive God overcoming the objections of grumblers, and the grumbling inside ourselves?


Hell Just Froze Over!

Sometimes a piece of news really stuns you. The following article by Tony Grew [pinknews.co.uk] on Sept 10th had that effect on me. I have reproduced the first part of it below. It is also a wonderfully hopeful article. If such a persistent and vicious hardliner as Ian Paisley can show tolerance then anything might be possible.

Ian Paisley, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, is to step down from the leadership of a church he founded 56 years ago.The veteran politician has come under pressure from members of the Free Presbyterian Church over gay rights issues. The fundamentalist Christian sect has been outraged that Mr Paisley and other members of his Democratic Unionist Party have ignored their objections to government financial support for Pride marches. Mr Paisley, 81, became the head of Northern Ireland’s devolved administration in May, after decades of opposition to power-sharing with the province’s minority Catholic population. Before the administration had taken office a Free Presbyterian preacher demanded that a new government minister block a grant to Pride, calling it a "celebration of sodomy."


Families, Unity, and Growing Up

One of the pervasive metaphors in the Anglican Church is that of a diocesan family with a daddy in charge. Occasionally these days there is a mummy in charge, but not at present in this country.

I have been at a national Anglican three-day conference on hermeneutics. I am suspicious that the family metaphor is driving the agenda. There seems to be a desire that we discover and name [via study of the Bible] our familial connections, and find some central points of agreement while acknowledging our many peripheral points of disagreement. Unity then lives on despite the diversity. It is a grand modernist scheme that has prevailed in Anglicanism for many decades.

As one born within the post-modern meta-narrative my problem with this scheme is that the children have grown up. Their relationship to daddy and each other has changed. They don’t need the daddy like they did before. They don’t heed the daddy like they did before. Daddy is welcome to his views, but they don’t have to coincide with theirs. Daddy hasn’t the power he used to. Some children regress into modernism, and some daddies encourage it. But more and more we are all growing up, accepting that we live in a plural world and joining together periodically for various issues.

Likewise the adult children now have an adult relationship with their siblings. Sometimes they get on well, finding commonalities and supporting each other. Sometimes they don’t, travelling different paths and finding very little in common. The latter experience is not a sign of failure or of dysfunction. Indeed it can be a sign of maturity.

I have mostly grown beyond the desire to try and convert evangelical Anglicans to my views on life, faith, and homosexuality. I recognize they have chosen a different path. I will publicly state my views and expect them to state theirs. If a daddy bishop aligns with an opposite viewpoint to me then of course I will publicly disagree. But I won’t expect to mute the bishop, nor do I expect him to try to mute me.

The phrase “the Anglican view” is so broad on many issues as to be almost meaningless. It makes as about as much sense as saying “a Christian view” or a “New Zealand view”. In the postmodern world we know that all views are conditionally shaped and relative, even if we believe in absolute truths and eschatological justification.

I’ve heard what I’m articulating described as ‘each sitting in our small corners’. Well in my schema there are no corners. We are part of an interconnected global network with free and fast information. We are making choices all the time. We are joining hands with friends and yesterday’s enemies on today’s issue, and finding a different set of hands to bond with on tomorrow’s. We are trying to follow the impulses of the living Christ in building a world of justice, joy, and peace.

Family reunions are okay, especially when family trusts and the like have to be dealt with. It’s good to catch up with each other. But we need to be cautious about trying to create or present ourselves as a unified family when it is nobody’s reality.

So let’s get on with the justice, joy, and peace, wherever we are.