The world has always been obsessed with sex and violence - usually inextricably linked together, as power and dominance at a personal, social, national and international level. That's a big proposition, but just glance at the papers any day and you see it right in front of you.
And the church? Surely different? Not at all!
The recent flurry of interest in the Anglican Primates' meeting - with the Scottish Episcopal Primus attending, a few months after the church amended its canon on marriage - is all about sex and violence! The visceral response to same sex marriage, which is less to do with the nature of marriage and more to do with perceived physical aspects of (male) homosexuality is right at the heart of church (and human...) fascination with sex. There are some who debate on theology, on the nature of sacramental covenanted partnerships, on reading of scripture: but in most human beings there is a sexual response that fascinates and attracts or repels (or both).
Jesus did not teach much about sex. He didn't, as far as we can ascertain, ever have sex or even express an interest in it. He was unusual, in someone who ended up (maybe inadvertently) spinning off a religion, in not tightly defining sexual behaviour, as Judiasm, Islam etc. all do. So Jesus' teaching treats sex as a secondary issue. But the church has always had a fascination and obsession.
But violence? Surely there isn't actual violence in the Anglican Primates applying 'consequences' to the SEC? Any judicial process is based on violence, explicitly or at least implied. To have the power to limit someone's participation IS power. And that is the thin end of the wedge that ends with imprisonment, chemical castration and execution. The Primates' meeting is NOT judicial - that's what ++Justin has said - but is rather a group of people with shared responsibility who gather to talk and listen. But there is an undercurrent of desire in some quarters for judicial punishment for those Christians who have 'transgressed' in sexuality. That's certainly what the media are looking for...
Jesus did not teach much about violence. When he did, it was passive and pacifist. Turning the other cheek. Going the extra mile. He did not fight. He went, eventually, willingly to a dreadful, violent death. Jesus was only ever a victim of violence. And changed the world by that willingness.
The world is driven by sex and violence. Jesus was not. In fact, he was so NOT driven by sex and violence that he changed the world forever, saving all humanity from their brokenness, sinfulness, their darkness.
The church is in the world, and the obsessions of the world run through it like marbling. We have structures and rules and membership and punishments with veiled violence (the gloriously entitled SEC Canon 26: "On the Repelling from Holy Communion"...) But the grace and salvation of Christ Jesus can transform even something as fragile and provisional as his people and his church...
(with major idea acknowledgement to David Martin, "Ruin and Restoration", 2016)
Who would true valour sing?
5 days ago