Murmurs and Antagonisms

Orthodoxy via Heresy

Category: Theology

Remarks on Jesus’ Blood

Blood is weird.

Anidjar thinks blood exists everywhere and he’s not wrong. Blood functions within Christianity rather oddly. This function is summarized nicely by the line, “Oh, how precious is the flow/that makes me white as snow/no other fount I know/nothing but the blood of Jesus.” I’ve been thinking about this line, about the ironic ability of red blood to make white (or is it white blood making white?). Even that phrase, “makes me white as snow,” seems odd. Making white, odd. In American history blood and sin tie together in intimate ways that reflect a strange back and forth between blackness as privation and salvation as life in whiteness.

I think my hesitance with this hymn stems from the fact that it bears a similar line of argument to that of Samuel Cartwright’s abhorrent argument regarding the blood of African Americans. His argument goes as so:

It is the red, vital blood, sent to the brain, that liberates their [African Americans] mind when under the white man’s control; and it is the want of a sufficiency of red, vital blood that chains their mind to ignorance and barbarism, when in freedom.

Earlier Cartwright states that the blood of a person of color is darker than that of a white person. And if Anidjar is correct in states that “Blood must become a category of historical analysis,”(44 of Blood) then the logic of Cartwright and the hymn go hand in hand and a brief look at the function of blood seems apt.

Without the white washing blood of Jesus one is unable to be “saved” which really only means, in American Christianity, being more white. “Christian master, enter the dark cabin of thy servant [read: slave], and with the lamp of truth in thy hand, light up his yet darker soul with the knowledge of him, whom to know is life eternal…” (A.T. Holmes, “The Duties of Christian Masters”). The gospel no longer stands as an end, but a means to extract labor, to civilize. The ultimate goal of the message of Jesus seems to be: blackness is the privation of the saving blood of Jesus that makes white as snow the “still darker soul” through enslavement’s catalyzing effect on blood flow.

My friend Melanie has written much more beautifully, and holistically, along a similar vein of thought here.

Attack the Patriarchy

Remember this: men abandoned Jesus after the crucifixion. Women remained before the cross and while he lay in the grave. Women preached the news of his rise. Men quit on Jesus. If that’s not an indictment of patriarchy I’m not sure what is.

God: The Bastard

The following post is a jumping off point from a post I’ve previously linked to (so if you haven’t read it you should since my meditation on this passage finds it origin in his thoughts, I’m derivative I know) at Matt McCracken’s blog in which he points out the curious phrase in the book of Job where it states that Job’s friends and family “…came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring [Emphasis McCraken’s].”

The passage does what too many evangelicals are afraid to do with the book of Job: foist responsibility of all the evil done (and it was evil) upon God. Too often when Job is being dealt with we say God allowed this evil to happen. But really? As if that absolves God of any responsibility for what occurred. The text, it seems, makes things less simple. More bluntly: the text itself clearly states that God had an active role in bringing evil upon Job.

(Note: this is not some singular cherry picking because the context is within a larger framework of a book, a story which clearly affirms the statement in this passage.)

What is this passage even about? Simple answer: God does evil things. End of story. Of course every Calvinist agrees with this statement (or should if they have any desire for intellectual consistency) but most people don’t like the idea. For good reason, even. But let’s take a moment and consider that earlier in Job the main character gives to God the attribute of being the one “gives and takes away” and then in Lamentations we see the poet decrying God’s apparent injustices. This type of mourning and anger permeates the Psalms and can even be found in the cry of Jesus upon the cross. What are we to do with this? In all honesty I’m not sure. I want to say God is not evil but God obviously then goes on to commit the greatest atrocity by planning and enacting via human agency the murder of his own son. So, maybe the odd beauty, the disturbing nature of the cross is that it forever separates us from God all the while bringing us near?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Failure

There’s an obsession in the world today with making an impact. As if that’s the end goal of our being. Which, frankly, it’s not. At all. Nor is it the rather common refrain of living for the glory of God. More clearly, the goal of humanity is to realize the rather odd irony of Jesus. This irony is one which states, quite bluntly, that failure is the way to impact the world. Sure, Christians would say Jesus achieved something for us on the cross and by the Resurrection, and, while not opposed to this idea, I want to suggest that Jesus failed on the cross. Precisely: Jesus failed at being God and human.

Unless you were not aware the historical person known as Jesus died. He was brutally murdered. But throughout it all he never once protested in an attempt to retain some sort of absurd dignity. Humans want their pride, their dignity, and Jesus essentially says that those pursuits are meaningless and trivial. In fact, the want for dignity seems counterproductive to what he wants to achieve, the acceptance of the rejected and ostracized. His failure to be, well, human, a man, as we understand it is the acceptance of everyone.

But his failure as God seems much more absurd. God(s) aren’t supposed to die. (Anyone who says God didn’t die on the cross is playing the game of semantic masturbation, pleasing themselves for comfort sake). God died on the cross. No question. And somehow the point almost seems to be that Jesus wants us to see that God is really, truly, malleable within our hands. God is subject to man in the most important moment.

Dirt:Rib

I thought, today, about how the world revolves around beauty and truth.

At least, I want it to revolve around those two spheres. It would be nice if the world revolved around those two and sin and evil and ugliness were not so prevalent. Sadly, or not so sadly in my mind, the picture of truth, beauty, evil, ugliness, is one much more haunted by intimacy than we would like it to be. Like a spiral of color where one ends the other begins and often times one can only guess at the end or beginning. 
If we’re honest this picture of reality – a potpourri of conflict – is based in the primordial reality of the bible. In the opening chapters of the creation account we find God molding out of dirt and rib humanity. Dirt and rib which is intimately linked to God by being made in his image. And then a chapter later we find man breaking down, the dirt and rib cracking, and the image of God becoming marred. 
But it is still there, haunting our every move, mixing in the sin and beauty into one rough cut whole. 

And as the story of the bible continues on towards its culmination in the Incarnation of the Word there are numerous stories of this complex interaction between the ugliness of sin and the beauty of God’s children. David, the man after God’s own heart, commits murder and adultery and causes people of his nation to be killed at God’s behest. Rahab, the prostitute, redeemed by faith and action (and oddly seemed to have faith while still a prostitute). Solomon, given wisdom, commits idolatry via marriage. 
The point is, the stories we tell often do not fit the stories of the bible. The language we use does not fit the language we find in scripture. 

Point is, horrible sinners can be decent people. Saints, good people we admire, screw up horribly, commit atrocities and horrors unspeakable. We are grace filled creatures with sin leaking in the cracks, made by dirt but breaking, created via life yet death creeps ever closer at every step. We are not only walking contradictions, we are walking dead. 
We are not sinner or saint. We are decent killers and indecent saints. 

Being God Equals Loneliness

How horrid it must be to be God, to be alone, to be utterly alone. God, who is the ultimate “something” there is (admittedly, that idea might be a linguistic creation) is in a state of ultimate loneliness. There are no others like God. 

(Yes, I know, we have the Trinity in Christianity. Yes, it is three persons in one (which, is again, important but often practically meaningless language) and all three are equally God and individual, yeah, I’m not going into the discussion of Trinity, suffice it to say: useful but at time impractical because of the language used.) 
But God, as unified whole, the most complete whole, is alone. God is the only one like, similar to, in any way comparable to, God. It seems God needed a mission – unless of course the idea that God has himself to entertain and find joy in is true then I am wrong – to provide himself something to do, to be less lonely. Maybe that’s why humanity exists. 
We exist to glorify God and our glorification of him lets him know he is wanted (because everyone wants to be wanted). God created us to teach himself he is wanted. Maybe the courage of Nietzsche is letting God know he is unwanted. Maybe the courage of Christians is recognizing in Jesus that God doesn’t want himself but rather wants us. 

Grace

I read in the bible of a being that, with “truth and grace”, came into our world. What exactly does it mean that Jesus came in “truth and grace”? What exactly is grace? The sphere of Christendom I have grown up in has defined grace as “unmerited favor” or another odd, but no less abstract definition. But Jesus came in “truth and grace” or, rather, “truth and grace came through Jesus.” Either way, somehow I think I’ve missed the point. Grace is not some abstract concept. It might explain why the other more liturgical denominations speak of “means of grace.” 


Means of grace: word and sacrament: visible, tangible. 


Jesus brought grace into this world via Incarnation. Incarnation: real, visible, malleable, tangible, felt, and not off in the world of concepts alone. A conceptual understanding of grace demands nothing of us, has no long lasting effect. Grace is not for one time, one conversion. 


Rather, it is for all time, always reforming, always converting, and always being felt. And if it is not tangible and real it seems meaningless and lacking. 

Grace is…real and maybe it’s too real for our own comfort and maybe that’s why we put grace in the world of ideas because if it’s a reality found in the physical world, then it demands something of us. In fact, it is all around us. 

Disbelief is Fidelity

It is not so much that I disbelieve all that is put under the banner of Christianity, my particular opiate of choice, but rather that I do not believe it enough. I have friends who believe more consistently than I and in some sense the easiest answer to why I don’t believe as they do is: they are wrong. Or, more bluntly, their version of God is wrong. But that isn’t right either. I refuse to believe consistently in some regards if only because I like to think I’m caring for others. My love for the Other demands I disbelieve that which my religion demands I believe.

Glory, Abused

The glory of God is the new Law. No longer are we enslaved to the Law of death. At the present we are enslaved to the Law of glory. Whatever one does is to be done to and for God’s glory and instead it turns into a vicious cycle of guilt and demand. The death of Jesus speaks to us now, forming us, with the realization that on the cross God has already been glorified. In partaking of the cross (through Eucharist and Baptism and faith) we find ourselves partaking in the once and final act of glorifying God, the last need to do so has been placated and filled full. We are free to live in grace and folly.

Quote

“In the Christian context, we do not mean by a “mystery” merely that which is baffling and mysterious, an enigma or insoluble problem. A mystery is, on the contrary, something that is revealed for our understanding, but which we never understand exhaustively because it leads into the depth or the darkness of God. The eyes are closed—but they are also opened.”

Kallistos Ware