Friday, October 19, 2012

ABUSIVE THEOLOGY – some reflections (2)

At present in the UK abusive theology is made use of in relation to gay people and women.  Whilst the matter of the ordination of the latter seems mainly to concern a particular section of that gender it clearly has an implication for the whole, as well as affecting an understanding of the male sex and our perception of ourselves.  Regrettably one hears only too often of the way both men and women (but mainly male priests) denigrate women priests.  Concepts of ‘tainting’ sanctuaries and altar’s; the refusal to communicate with women priests, or touch them; the maintenance of places where women cannot enter; the refusal to acknowledge women in hierarchical authority, and much more all indicate a fear that women are ‘unclean’ both in particular and, by extension, in general. 

For those men who hold such beliefs or who accede to them, there is also potential damage.  To exclude the feminine from the holy or to hold a view of the divinity which excludes the feminine is to place the masculine in a position which unbalances their humanity.  It is arguable that those who hold a theology that exclude women can find themselves drawn into an abusive relationship with both men and women.

Whilst the Christian Church, in common with society, has a history of male supremacy/domination this, of course, has been changing in the UK.  However, by allowing such views within the Church those pastorally responsible seem reluctant to address the issue of abuse of women and LGBT people by some priests, laypeople and bishops who seem, consciously or unconsciously, to be influenced by a theology purity/exclusivity.  Whilst many would be supportive of an approach to life determined by WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) it astonishes me that such people do not seem to hear those terrible words our Lord, directed at the religious purists of his day and recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, … 13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. 14 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. …  23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! 25"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. 27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28 So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matt. 23)

Hearing the way in which some priests and bishops speak of women and LGBT people one wonders what they make of these words or how they hear the underlying command contained within the whole of the New Testament to Love one’s neighbour as oneself.  I fear that self-love may be undermined by loathing for abusive theology will ‘taint’ those who hold it just as it hurts and damages others.

John-Francis Friendship
Feast of S. Luke 2012

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