Monday, April 6, 2009

civility and laws

A response to Scot McKnight's blog on civility (
He wrote, "I cannot understand why strong-convicted Christians, on either side of this debate by the way, refuse to act with civility. Perhaps it is because they are so passionate about this issue, so convinced it is a matter of ultimate justice or ultimate fidelity, that they think they must become strident and fight this issue to the ground until it gives up the ghost."

Rhetoric is a form of warfare (cf. Eugene Peterson's rendering of Matt. 5:23 in The Message). Our modernist educational system has taught us that it is morally acceptable to kill one another's ideas, demean one another verbally, and chop up one another's understanding; but, it is morally reprehensible and somehow baser to inflict physical harm. This is a form of gnosticism; it is a pretense that a battle fought merely in words has no consequences in heart, body, and spirit. Christians who engage in this type of warfare undermine their profession that the Holy Spirit is the only One who can change hearts, and are seeking to win wars with carnal weapons (however intellectually wrapped they may be).

#1. If we're claiming reconciliation to God and one another in Christ Jesus, OTOH, and verbally bashing people w/ the other hand, we've become law-breakers of the very law we claim to uphold.

#2. Likewise, IMHO, a gay person seeking to follow Christ who can't perceive that their sexual action physically embodies *lack* of reconciliation, and evidences ongoing alienation from the created /other/ in humanity, has elevated their body's inclination above God's creation. Whatever inclinations we have are products of our totality of laws, processing and experiences.

We're legalistic and legislative beings *because* we're embodied - mind, emotions, body, spirit bundled together inseparably. Everything, everything, everything we do, speak, think, taste and see, is affected by our subjective and individualized laws.

The human "law" according to #1 is that we can win spiritually by verbal, fleshly warfare. The human "law" according to #2 is that we're not called to conform to Christ, die to ourselves (in every area), and embody reconciliation in all our behavior toward one another, male and female, rich and poor, American, African, Asian, or European.

The only way out, we profess, is that of death and resurrection. Let's act, in all ways, on that profession, so that we may know _bodily_ what we claim intellectually.

1 comment:

  1. Thought provoking response. I agree whole heartedly with #1. And while I can understand your holding #2, I am not sure the underlying premises are true. The main underlying premise I may question is that female is actually other to male in away that a male is not an other to a male and a female is not to an other female. It seems to me that our being bodies means that we all are other. I do not deny that my wife is other than I and that our differences may have something to do with our biological sex, but our differences and otherness also seem to have nothing to do with that. My closest male friends are other than I and I have never felt a particular closeness to men simply because we have the same biological sex.
    So I think marriage as conceived as between male and female has something else than some otherness.
    Now the fall introduced so Genesis says a divide and animosity between male and female. And Christian marriage certainly should be seen as being apart of reconciliation between male and female, but not the primary form of it IMHO. So, based on the implicit lines of argument in your #2 I am not convinced that gay persons are in their sexual action physically embodying *lack* of reconciliation. I also am not currently convinced that homosexual unions embody reconciliation.

    Given that I question what appears to be a biological essentialist position, I do agree that conformity to Chris is what we are all called to and that this involves dieing to ourselves and that we are to embody reconciliation because we are bodies, and that we are to know bodily the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: Which incidentally is why I am what many would call "high church", liturgy smells bells and a writer of icons. I am just not sure that your sense of embodying all this is not bound up with cultural presuppositions that don't really have a basis in the Gospel. Of course i struggle with all this because I am unsure of where my cultural presuppositions keep me from seeing what the Gospel presents us on this question.

    Which I think especially on this question brings us to the reason for this post, that we need to in our disagreements be civil not only for the sake of being nice or kind but so that we who disagree may truly find the mind of Christ and learn from each other what that might be.