In a previous post, I presented the first four questions that I asked at Toronto Generous Space Group. The Game is designed, not to determine whether one is a heretic, but to demonstrate that a community with widely divergent opinions can nevertheless sustain a loving and life-giving dialogue, especially when we are committed to doing no harm, listening deeply, and learning to love and follow Jesus Christ.
Below are the last four statements that I posed. I asked people to stand on a matrix. One spectrum was I agree completely to I disagree completely. The second spectrum was This is very important to This is not important at all. I offer my own thoughts with the statements.
God sometimes asks people to commit genocide. My answer is: No, I disagree completely, and this is very important. The Bible does appear to support that God asks this of his people on several occasions. There are two problems with this view: historical and theological. The historical problem is quite simple: the scholarly consensus is that Israel was never able to actually commit genocide (despite the Bible’s contention that they sometimes succeeded). The theological problem is tied to God having Christ-like character–though the people might have believed that God authorized genocide, it was never the heart of God. Instead, it was part of the human practice of othering and scape-goating. These mechanisms were exposed and overcome, for Christians, in the non-violent ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.
God calls some Christians to be in armed combat roles. No, I disagree completely, and it’s very important. I believe that God-as-Jesus demonstrated pacifism (specifically, non-violent resistance) and warned his followers that living by violence perpetuates the very thing we hope to stop. The Church as a whole has failed to take this calling as a serious ethical norm for Christian life.
I realise that the majority of Christians throughout history disagree with me about the rightness of Christians taking up arms (whether as police or as part of the military). I realise that “whatever does not come from faith is a sin,” (Romans 14) and that some Christians “have faith” to be in armed combat roles.
Nevertheless, I would urge Christians who bear arms to grapple with the simplicity of the ministry of Jesus presented in the Gospels before filling our heads with just-war theory and the understandable complications of living in the contemporary world.
Use of pornography is immoral. I don’t know, but it’s an important conversation. It would depend on the word inserted between is and immoral: never, sometimes, always? It would depend on the definition of pornography. It would depend on whether the people who are part of a photo- or video-shoots give informed consent and have maximum agency. Is there a distinction between visual, sexually arousing media (that may not have a plot-line) and written material that has characters and a narrative arc? What does sex mean in the world of the story? What does engaging with porn do to the brain? Does the brain react differently to regular use of video, audio, and written material? What kind of space does porn take up in one’s day and inner life? Is it well-integrated, or does it seem to “master” one? All of these questions (and others, I’m sure), are important.
I believe that Christians need to be adult in their thinking about the complexities of the issues involved: consent, agency, lust, love, sexism, gender, and a host of others that all intersect and tangle with each other. At the very least, we need to reduce the shame in conversations about this topic and become more curious about why and how our sexual desires and beliefs take their shape (and have their power).
When we come for Communion, we are somehow meeting with Jesus. I agree completely, and this is very important. Battles have been fought over particular theologies and practices. There are two ditches in the tradition: the bread and wine become magical after the appropriate hand-waving (like taking down a road sign because you want to take it home with you); or, we only do Communion because Jesus told us to–we really don’t know why (like setting up a pole and forgetting to put the sign at the top). But between these ditches is the difficult and life-giving path of seeing the elements as a true sign that Christ is with us and in us, and that the Holy Spirit reminds of who we are: the Body and Life of Christ in the world. People I respect call this truth Real Presence, and however we articulate it, I think that most Christians really do expect to meet Jesus when they come to Table–and why not? He’s the Host.