Flirting God

Flirting God

I see you, Peeking out at me From that foreboding cloud… And, by the way, That perfume is not fair Especially since you change it every day And now you smell like autumn leaves And misty air. And do not blink at me Through limbs that throw their shadows on my wall (However will my work get done?) Or whisper in such husky tones Before you say goodnight And lay your fingers lightly on my eyes. Have you not researched my life? And therefore know I’m hardly nice to be around? How can you claim me as your friend, And look at me in silence with those starry eyes? Stop tempting me to fall in love with you! You know I’ve failed your every test! My wickedness gets scorched to ashes In the noontime of your focused lens My cherished fears are all escaping from my grasp, And now I’m looking forward to that leap into your arms! So catch me, if you can! –Joe LaGuardia...

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Subduing and Dominating

Subduing and Dominating

Scripture: Genesis 1:27-31 and 2:7, 15, 18-19, 21-22. As those who study Scripture know, there are two accounts of creation in the Book of Genesis.  In the one that appears in chapter 1, “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.  God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.  Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.’  God also said; ‘See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.” And so it happened.  God look at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” (Gen. 1:27-31).  In the second account, in chapter 2, “the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being (Gen. 2:7)…The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it (Gen. 2:15)…The Lord God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a suitable partner for him.” So the Lord God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name (Gen. 2: 18-19)…So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  The lord god then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man (Gen. 2:21-22). In her TEDx Talk of December 9, 2012 [http://youtu.be/575V-CgiVOE], Joan Chittister refers to this first book of the Bible to make the points that (1) they were undoubtedly written by a man from a male point of view; and both (2) hierarchy (man created first; woman second and subject to him; (3) and patriarchy are built in and have influenced history and culture ever since. Why in some countries are women and girls forbidden to become educated or even to drive?  Isn’t the argument that: it is the woman who attracts the man; it is the woman who gets pregnant, carries the child for months, and then...

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Women Should Be Silent!

Women Should Be Silent!

Scripture: 1 Timothy 2 If we could land on one book of Scripture that would convince us that Scripture is NOT all of a piece, and that there are many variations in genre, authorship, and authenticity through the ages, it’s this letter to Timothy.   Those who shy away from making distinctions among the books may have to accept some of the responsibility for what 1 Timothy has done to women through the centuries, especially this second chapter.  The issue of the roles of women in our contemporary world was brought home to me in a blog warning that climate change is going to affect ALL of us, no matter how far away we are from the melting glaciers.   The author (from United Nations Development) states that “We know that in 38 of the 48 countries surveyed by the United Nations in a 2010 report, women (over 15 years old) are responsible for searching and collecting drinking water. The harder it is to access it, the further they will have to walk, the worse their health will be, and the less time they will have to educate themselves.” Luckily, we have scholars such as John Dominic Crossan, who distinguish between a radical Paul (in his seven authentic letters), a liberal Paul, and a conservative Paul.  As Crossan puts it, “someone was cleaning up Paul” from his radical notions.   [See his talk on YouTube here: http://youtu.be/txdUXCY0clU]. Scholars are convinced that Paul didn’t even WRITE 1 Timothy, although it has been the cause of much dislike of Paul by women. Chapter two of 1 Timothy is fascinating in how it has been (and still is) interpreted.  The Jewish scholar, Dr. Amy Jill Levine (The Jewish Annotated New Testament), reminds us that the delay in the Second Coming of Jesus, which was the issue in Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians, led the scribes writing in the name of Paul to support the status quo; namely, that women were to find their salvation in having children and their husbands were to rule the household, in the patriarchal culture (and in popular moral treatises) of the time. Dr. Levine even writes, in her notes on chapter two of 1 Timothy: “The view that women are subordinate to men and that the subordination derives from Genesis [note that the New Interpreter’s Study Bible calls 1 Timothy 2:14 a ‘somewhat forced’ reading of Genesis] appears in later Jewish circles and is native to some rabbinic understanding of womanhood…”   When I remind my wife that Scripture says she should be subject to me, she gives me that look that promises: “In your dreams!”    Rightly so: we are partners who love each other dearly, and hierarchy is not even...

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Difficult Passages: Conflict Old and New

Difficult Passages: Conflict Old and New

As last week’s lectionary passage from Luke resonates in our memories, I cannot resist citing a link to Rev. Cam Miller’s sermon for last Sunday [http://subversivepreacher.com/2013/10/20/the-physics-of-pain-or-gallstones-of-the-soul/. ] His sermon calls us to look into conflicts that we avoid above all costs —even people that we avoid—as the judge does in the story of the widow seeking justice in Luke 18.  His sermon also challenges us to struggle with God, just like Jacob did on the night his name was changed to Israel (in Genesis 32).  Dealing with and discussing these issues may also help us resolve that very difficult passage that is only one chapter away from the Jacob wrestling match—the story of the rape of Dinah in Chapter 34.  Dinah’s rape and the terrible revenge for it that Jacob’s sons took forces us to consider the position of women in that age and in ours. It is so difficult to imagine ourselves in another culture, in an age when women were protected by their husbands, brothers, fathers but no one else, and could be traded for money, land, and power.   In the Genesis story, we moderns get the distinct impression that the rape was avenged not so much for Dinah’s honor as for the tribe of Israel’s honor.  The Israelites were offered assimilation by the Canaanites—what’s ours is yours, even our own wives and daughters—and they were having none of it. Trust was surely an issue, of course, when it comes to cultures merging in such a way, and the narrator of this chapter in Genesis reveals in the story that something devious was happening as the Canaanites made their ‘generous’ offer to the Israelites: “Will not their livestock, their property, and all their animals be ours?  Only let us agree with them, and they will live among us” (Gen. 34:23). And so the issues of living together were never put on the table and seen for what they were.  The list would have been long: who is your God?  Monotheism.  Laws.  Promises from God.  Who did the land belong to?   Would negotiating these issues  have helped?  Or would this discussion have prevented both sides from ever agreeing to joint living arrangements in that land?   What do you think? In marital engagements, before the couple say the powerful three words (I love you!), shouldn’t they have a few fights first?  Shouldn’t they test whether they can approach and resolve conflict or will soon develop the habit of avoiding it?   Like a man in the ad saying: “Here I am in this bathtub, watching the sun set, and you are in the bathtub next to me, and we are supposedly waiting for the ‘time to be right;’ but as...

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