DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Are you equally as outraged?

Written by: on November 16, 2017

Anthony Elliott’s text, Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction is comprehensive and easy to navigate.  He highlights multiple theories in this second edition, and challenges the reader to critically engage in understanding societal theories of change in “contemporary social life”.[1] Because it’s intended to be used as a textbook (and the cost reflects that), very few reviews exist.  Generally, fellow sociologists report the book is “a remarkable overview of thinkers and themes”.[2]

One such theory discussed in the text, Queer theory, merits further exploration.  It was evident from our experience in South Africa of hearing Rev. Michelle Boonzaaier discuss her organization, IAM.org (Inclusive and Affirming Ministries), the use of the term “queer” evokes high emotion.  During her presentation, Rev. Boonzaaier stated “Our God is a queer God”.  This single sentence challenged listeners – and let’s be honest – angered many.

What exactly is queer theory?  Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick, described as “the mother of queer theory”[3] believes Queer can be defined as whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate and the dominant.  The study of queer theory has been used by social theorists to “critically interrogate sexualities and the decentering of identity.”[4]  “In simple terms, we can conclude that queer theory is an approach to literary criticism or study that rejects the informal norm. Queer theory is not only the study of gays or lesbians, but also the study of transgender, hermaphroditism, and all other sexual orientations that compete with society’s formal sexual norms.”[5]

So…how should a ministry practitioner respond to this theory?  Should it be rejected immediately as unnatural?  Argued as sinful?  Judged as deviant?  I think I can safely say the issue of sexual identity in the church is a hotbed for debate.  How does the church currently respond to this theory?  Not well.   Christians have a long history of misuse of scripture – oppression of black people, institution of slavery, oppression of women, use of Apartheid, the exile of Palestinian’s from the Middle East by Israel, and last, but perhaps most poignant in modern times, condemnation of homosexuality.[6]  “The human community has suffered for so long from dehumanizing racial prejudice. People need to be cleansed and freed from all forms of destructive prejudice, including that which is based on a person’s sexual orientation.”[7]  I want to believe ministry practitioners could agree that scripture should be interpreted under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – using the core values of the gospel – goodness and holiness, wholeness and humanity.  Obviously the “church” has changed their Biblical interpretation on issues of slavery and racial and gender oppression in recent years – because those writings were “of the times” vs. “for the times” (essentially a cultural attitude that worked during that time in history).  “Yet it is a strange and sad fact that, in spite of this, so many Christians would appear to think that the more they take the Bible literally, the more they are somehow being faithful to Scripture, and that they are the true and authentic Bible Christians! We must object strongly to this presumptuous claim. This literalistic way of treating the Scriptures is misguided and simplistic and leads to all kinds of problems. It is precisely in this way – the quoting and literal reading of a particular text as God’s clear will and command – that the Bible has been tragically and dogmatically misused and abused down the ages to justify all manner of injustice and wrong.”[8]

I’m aware the challenging statements in the prior paragraph may trigger outrage to the literal Bible interpreters.  As outraged as you may be to the suggestion that the Bible shouldn’t be literally interpreted, are you equally as outraged by the vulnerable and marginalized people in your neighborhood, state, country, and world?  Are you outraged enough to spend as much (or more) energy on seeking social justice and facilitating discussions with key stakeholders as you are in trying to defend your interpretation of the Bible or thrust your judgement on marginalized people?  I’m asking how willing are you to be the hands and feet of Jesus….?

Let me offer suggestions on how to move forward in Biblical love (Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. —Matthew 7:1):

  • Seek the truth of Christ in the spirit of Christ
  • Seek to move beyond corners of conviction
  • Seek first to understand and then to be understood
  • Seek to see the human face of this issue
  • Seek to become well-informed
  • Seek to celebrate the gift of diversity[9]

What a beautiful opportunity we have as Christians to err on the side of love, be open to contemporary social theories on sexual identity, and to usher in the new generation of followers to a Christian faith that is less legalistic and more Jesus.  I, personally, want to err on the side of Jesus.

 

 

 

[1] Lechte, John. Higher degree Convenor (SOC), Macquarie University, Australia

[2] Turner, Bryan. Alona Evans Distinguished Visiting Professor of Sociology, Wellesley College, USA

[3] Elliott, Anthony. Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. New York: Routledge (2014)

[4] Elliott, Anthony. Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. New York: Routledge (2014)pg249

[5] Boone, Emily. “What is Queer Theory”. March, 2013. https://prezi.com/ezvybihgmvzk/queer-theory-presentation/

[6] http://iam.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/TBAH_Text.pdf

[7] http://iam.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/TBAH_Text.pdf

[8] http://iam.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/TBAH_Text.pdf

[9] Methodist Church of South Africa. Christians and Same-Sex Relationships. MSCA Conference in 2003.

About the Author

mm

Jean Ollis

17 responses to “Are you equally as outraged?”

  1. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    Jean, I love the idea of “erring on the side of love.”

    And I agree that we should be outraged by how the Church has treated marginalized people groups in the name of Christ. Lord have mercy.

    An experience that helped me to grow in this area was having a hermaphrodite join our small church community in France. S/he was born intersex (genetically s/he is both male and female), but as a baby had surgeries that made her appear female. Claude did not even know she was a hermaphrodite until she was 50 years old and came across her own birth certificate. By then she was married with four grown children. When her husband learned the truth, he divorced her, and the Catholic church excommunicated her (but not her husband, because the divorce was considered her fault.) Claude deeply loves Jesus and has ministered to me in many ways. And I’m so grateful to know Claude because Claude has helped me to question my own beliefs and interpretation of the Bible.

    Have you always had this understanding of scripture, or has your view evolved over time? What experiences have informed your understanding?

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Jenn, this story stays with me from your telling me while in SA. Thank you for including it here.
      Jean, drop the mic. I was hoping you would use Michelle’s content for your post when I saw your topic. Thanks for the provocative statements and questions. At the very least we are all thinking about what you have to say on a serious issue the church must address. As one who has multiple queer friends, I want to see the church love my friends and help them know they are welcome, wherever their gender/sexuality lies. Getting close enough to people who are marginalized to understand them and know their pain and their joy makes me wrestle all the more with the question of how do love and truth come together through me in a way that honors Christ.

  2. Beautiful post Jean! I am sooooo with you on this, in fact my favorite response to people when they question me about how I handle people who are “queer”, I say that I treat them the way Jesus did. We are called to love so they will know we are Christians, and your love for them definitely comes through your post and your life. I’m curious if you have had any experience with these folks in your church, and if so how the church leadership treated them and made or not made them feel equally important. Love your heart my fellow MSW 🙂

  3. Greg says:

    From Hitler to Queer theory in one week, Jean you are not sitting on the sidelines with these blogs. I think my frustration with Rev. Michelle Boonzaaier was she used this statement like a hand grenade, throwing it, then ended her talk. I felt as though what she said up to that point was lost (especially on those that were being challenged by her). The questions and statements were focused on that one sentence rather than on the remarkable journey and love that she models.

    I will admit I don’t like the word “queer” for all the baggage that is tied to it. I had a professor in seminary that loved the word “gay” and said he was still going to us it and not let the homosexual community take it from him. What do we do when language shifts away from our usage of it, do we change with it or hold onto what we want to be right about? Beyond the language game, how the church responds is so important to lost, the marginalized and those that need Christ’s love and forgiveness. I remember sitting in a Tony Campolo meeting and he yells, “SHIT!” from the pulpit. Then says, “how many of you are more concerned that I cursed in church then for the people hungry and sleeping on the streets of your own city.” I am not sure how to handle all the complexities of this issue but I like that you said we should err on love. Thanks Jean for the challenge to think beyond what we are comfortable with.

    • mm Kyle Chalko says:

      I was thinking the same thing! Who gets to define the meaning of words???

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Greg, I wonder if we have to rethink our language again and again to be able to minister well to others. It seems wholly insensitive of your professor to not let a community ‘co-opt’ his word which was never his word (or used in any edifying way) in the first place. Words like queer mean more than their slang baggage but also probably shouldn’t be thrown out to an audience who is not mature enough to handle it because they don’t understand its true meaning from the context of the speaker. Although I think Michelle generally knew what she was doing (and I agree with you, much of her beautiful presentation was lost after that), I think many of the hearers, myself included, did not comprehend what she meant by her statement. The unfortunate part is when people react instead of respond by asking what she means, or to broaden it back out, what anyone means and the social context for their language. I am finding that I am at a church right now that has some very different language than I am used to and it’s uncomfortable. Your comment is making me rethink how I respond to people and their spiritual jargon as well. I guess I have some questions to be asking as well. Thanks for your good thoughts on this!

  4. Shawn Hart says:

    Jean, I am afraid you will not see the same supportive comments from me regarding your posts as other have made, though I do want to say first that I completely agree that there is an attitude of love that has been disregarded when dealing with a lot of issues facing the ministry these days, including the topic of homosexuality. However, I feel you have combined different areas of thought here, and in doing so, have made assumptions that should be answered honestly. I have seen too many people that have tried to disregard scripture simply because they have decided it only pertained to people “of the time”; since when was God not able to write a Book that is relatable for the ages. Sin is still sin, regardless of whether it was 2000 years ago, 4000 years ago, or today. I am a literal, and yet respectful reader of scripture: I do understand that some lessons have different relevance than others, but yet do not so easily dismiss instructions against sinfulness. In the same regard that I would tell someone that was living in adultery to stop sinning against God and their husband or wife, I would tell a homosexual that God calls it an “abomination”.
    Romans 1:16-17 (NKJV)
    16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
    As a minister of the Gospel, our obligation is to take the truth to the world…should we judge eternal salvation…definitely NOT. Should we do it with hate or contempt…definitely NOT. But should we do it with a lie by claiming sin is not sin…DEFINITELY NOT!
    Romans 1:24-32 (NKJV)
    24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
    The reality of Christianity is this: if someone desires to live in the world and practice worldly things, then they have that option; it’s that eating the fruit option found in Genesis. However, once we decide that we want to God’s chosen and elect children, then the rules change:
    James 1:21-22 (NKJV)
    21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
    Teaching that “sin is sin” should be done in a spirit of love, but it must also be done in a spirit of truth. As for what Jesus taught,
    Matthew 7:21 (NKJV)
    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
    Your post does bring a valuable point to light with the reading though; the way we view ourselves in the light of the Bible will show were we are in our ministry. If you read Scripture non-literally, and I read it more literally, then to communicate, we will need to identify that factor before we can communicate well.

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Shawn, I just want to note that people who are queer are often not gay. I have a male friend who identifies as queer in the classic sense who is married to a straight woman. Does this change or inform any of your response to them?

  5. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Attempt #2. For some reason, it wouldn’t post before….

    Apology for long response. My passion speweth forth.

    ____

    Jean, I get so frustrated at those bible thumpers who take every word of the Bible literally. My prime example is in Revelation where it says 1/3 of the stars will fall from the Sky and hit the Earth. There wouldn’t be much earth left if that is literally going to happen.

    Personally, I am convinced that Genesis is a poem and I’m not convinced that the story of Job actually happened.

    Still though I resonate with this statement most, “We take literally in the Bible, what is meant to be taken literally.” Of course that’s where the difficulty of interpretation comes in. What is meant to be taken literally? And this of course has been abused before. BIG TIME!

    However, I would also bring up that it is because I take the Bible (many parts of it) literally, that I am driven to do the work of justice. Someone who is not defending the marginalized could be said to not be taking the Bible literally enough when Jesus says “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.” The person who stands up and shouts “God Hates (fill in the blank)” is not taking the Bible literally enough when Jesus says, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    To be honest, the word “literal” opens a huge can of worms, and I am personally not interested in dying to defend that hill. The Bible itself does not claim to be “literal” so why should I project on to it, that which it does not claim for itself. In the end, my statement of faith about the Bible, if someone pressed me for it, would be, “The Bible is trustworthy, and should be taken seriously.” This, I know, would make many upset.

    One thing I wanted to ask for clarity on your post is when you asked if a minister should reject queer theory. I think that no one should reject what you call “Queer Theory” if it is as you described it, the study of typical and atypical gender and sexuality. I honestly don’t think anyone could reject the study of anything. But what is unclear is if you’re saying we can’t reject the conclusions of that group’s queer study. I’m all for queer theory study. I’m not all for what everyone concludes from their queer theory study. There is a vast spectrum represented under “queer theory” and I think we have the need to be more and more precise when it comes to this issue which is becoming more and more complex.

    Lastly and honest question I’ve been wrestling with… How do we take what Jesus says in Matthew 7:1 and synthesize it with Jesus says in this same sermon just 15 verses later… that we are to “recognize a tree by it’s fruit”… Is that not judging? And then of course there is Paul telling us to Judge those who are inside the church. (1 Cor 5:12). How does all that fit together?

    Great post! And You win again for the most engaging Title award!

    Blessings!

  6. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Jean,
    I was taught Biblical hermeneutics from this point of view: Original time and context: This includes the personal perspective of the writer, the normative perspective of the text itself, and the situational perspective of the original audience.
    Transmission and its context: Understanding the transmission of Scripture includes contemplating the message being sent through the text, taking into account the concerns of individual writers/translators as well as its broader role in the unraveling narrative of history.
    Modern context: Poythress calls interpreters to understand Scripture as “what God is saying now” to the individual as well as to the modern church.

    That being said, the first thing I always say is how are we to be know “by our love for one another”. I am a biblical literalest, (not sure if that is a word). I do believe that the bible in both the Old and New Testaments speaks about homosexuality, but how I look at it is that is between someone and God. Just like our salvation is between us and God, I cannot tell you if you are saved, I don’t have that authority. I can only go how I feel I can interpret scripture. My concern is if one part of scripture is a lie or wrong then that makes all of it be called into question. If I cannot trust scripture to inform me by what it says in its original autograph then my salvation is not assured. The last think I will say is this, I am not God, he makes the final decision, I just try to do the best I can.

  7. mm M Webb says:

    Jean,
    Thanks for the post. I do support showing unconditional love to everyone, allowing scripture to interpret scripture, and viewing the world thru the Holy Spirit who lives inside me. Remember, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, powers, and forces of darkness. Satan is very good at making a lie, look almost like the truth. He loves to see Christian’s get sidetracked on these Biblical interpretation issues and fight amongst themselves.
    I do not see this an “iron sharpening iron” scenario. Just my feelings on the matter.
    By the way, I have a daughter who is spiritual blinded, sexually confused, and living a life of sin. Do I love her? Absolutely! Do I condone, no. We keep presenting the loving and caring image of Christ, while keeping open lines of communication, but we do not accept or condone. We see her regularly, share theological discussions, Christian music, play golf every now and then, and support as loving parents. I have not seen any scripture where the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, or God condones sin.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  8. Permit me to insert a little Canadiana into the thread…

    I’ve been following the story of Dr. Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, with interest. He refuses to use new pronouns such as ‘ze’ and ‘zir’, and as a result, has sparked a firestorm of protest on the campus, and much further beyond.

    http://nationalpost.com/opinion/rex-murphy-jordan-peterson-a-real-professor-at-last

    And then there’s the case of Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada. The Supreme Court hearing is coming up on November 30. The Christian university has been denied the ability to register its new faith-based Law School by the various provincial law societies because they have a community covenant which states marriage is between a man and a woman.

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-appeal-court-upholds-law-societys-stand-on-christian-school/article30674427/

    I think both are unsettling examples which illustrate what we uncovered in our Elliott readings. Our hypermodern context where everyone is individualistic leads to a totalitarianism, where we have groupthink and social controls over any aberrant thought or action.

    I think that the Church must resist polarization and labeling, and we must allow ourselves to exist holding polarities in tension and permitting unresolved ambiguity, while at the same time advocate for our convictions. If we have the faith to believe in a virgin birth, or in resurrection from the dead, then surely we can allow more ambiguity in our belief system. Not only is the Church for the gay and the straight, but it is also the home of the fundamentalist and the conservative and the liberal and the progressive. I love that this cohort can be a place where we hold and express divergent viewpoints but are united by love for Christ.

    Jean, this comes with my prayer for a beautiful Thanksgiving for you and Ron and your family.

  9. Chris Pritchett says:

    Yes I am! Equally as outraged as you, that is. Thank you for this. You have shown courage and boldness and have offered a prophetic word to your readers. It strikes me that in every situation where Jesus was caught between an accused or needy individual and obedience to the law, he always chose the person. How do we choose to say ‘yes’ to the person over-against everything else…every law, tradition, rule, interpretation, sin, whatever..? It seems that is the way of Jesus. God became human after all. Why should anything but compassion define our approach to the other. I gather this just by reading the gospels by the way.

  10. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Jean,
    A ‘literal’ reading of scripture never made sense to me, not because I don’t think God could use a tool like scripture in that way. In reality even if everyone who called themselves followers of Jesus believed that scripture should be read literally there would remain infinitesimal interpretations of this ‘literal’ work. Rob Bell, in ‘Velvet Elvis’, shares frustration with God’s gift of scripture when he asks, Is the Bible really the best God could do? I for one am still growing in my understanding of what constitutes ‘Christian’ response to sexual orientation.

    I do take offense at the ‘gay’ community co-opting statements and ideology from the civil rights movement as I do not feel they are the same thing at all. I do not believe one can equate enslavement, linching, exclusion and abuse based on skin color with the plight of those who are sexually oriented against the societal ‘norm’. As abhorrent as any form of discrimination is, one that is determined at the moment of conception because one’s parents are not of the ‘right’ race seems to me to be on a completely different discriminatory plain.

    I believe you are correct in your desire to let ‘love’ be your primary response in all circumstances. If the cases such as those presented by Mark are any indication, the decision about what is or is not acceptable may ultimately be taken away from the Church by the State. I for one refuse to let this 1 issue define any individual, they are far more than their sexual selves both to me and to God.

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