"You are my witnesses."
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Tuesday, March 23rd: Psalm 119:9-16; Isaiah 44:1-8; and Acts 2:14-24. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
“You are my witnesses!”
A young man in Georgia goes on a shooting spree at massage parlors. He is a deeply engaged Evangelical Christian. He has been taught that impure thoughts are as evil as actually following through with them, which he did also. He has been taught that his church sanctions only heterosexual sex within the bounds of marriage and all other outlets are perversions of God’s natural order. He believes that his sexual indiscretions will send him to eternal hell.
I cannot help but wonder how it is that a man so concerned about his moral character and his standing before God’s judgment could murder eight people without the same compunction as viewing pornography or even visiting massage parlors. What has he been taught that makes him so fearful of damnation because of his sexual proclivities and not as fearful of damnation by murdering eight people?
In many conservative, Evangelical churches it is the moral responsibility of women to not tempt men. Their bodies are judged as tools of evil. They are every generation’s Eve. Just as Adam seems doltish in Genesis: “Here take this fruit. Yeah, O.K,” so do men in this morality play. Men are judged incapable of controlling their sexual appetites, but it can’t be their fault. It must be the woman’s. It still must be Eve’s. For as much as many a conservative church wants to present the male as dominant per God’s order, the same theology makes men seem pitiful and weak. Their urges cannot be controlled so women must bear the moral brunt of being the temptress rather than the man as the predator. Thus, on top of the Atlanta shooters mental derangement, this misogynist theology helps to lead to his violence.
It seems clear that the Atlanta shooter’s church hyped sexual morality, but where was their voice against violence? How is it that this sick man could perceive the sexual sin, but could not fathom the violent one? Were violence and guns coopted into Jesus’ gospel somehow? How is it that Christian fanatics, really fanatics of any religious stripe, justify the coupling of faith and violence? How do Christians storm the Capitol with wanton acts of violence and even murder and carry the image of the cross and invoke Jesus’ name simultaneously?
We are in the final weeks of Lent. I hope that by now we have realized that Jesus goes to the cross triumphant. Jesus remained faithful to His gospel ideals even when the most despicable acts of torturing-violence were used against Him. He remained true. Jesus remained peaceful in the face of this violence. He prayed for the forgiveness of His tormenters rather than hurling curses at them. He remained true. The cross is the triumphant symbol of Jesus’ absolute and uncompromising rejection of “an eye for an eye.” The cross is the militant expression of nonaggression. This is the lesson churches need to proclaim and teach in a world obsessed with violence.
“You are my witnesses!”
If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary.
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