Saturday, April 30, 2011

Disappointing but Not Unexpected: "Marriage Amendment" Bill Passes MN Senate Judiciary Committee


I was at the Minnesota Capitol on Friday for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Republican-introduced Constitutional Amendment bill that would ask the people of Minnesota to vote on placing discrimination in the State Constitution by prohibiting same-sex marriage in Minnesota.



I went to the Capitol as a Catholic gay man deeply opposed to any efforts to amend the Minnesota Constitution so as to ban marriage for same-sex couples. As such, I stand with the majority of Catholics in support of marriage equality for gay people. It's a stance that is inspired by the Gospel message of compassion and inclusion, and our Church's teaching on justice and human rights. I view efforts to pass the so-called “marriage amendment” as an assault on LGBT couples and families who simply want the same rights and protections that are available to all other Minnesotans. Equal protection of the law should apply to everyone – regardless of sexual orientation.

As many of those who testified against the proposed amendment at Friday's hearing noted, no family is "defended" and no one's life is improved when same-sex couples are denied the right to marry. Same-sex marriage harms no one, but would benefit thousands of LGBT Minnesotans and their children.

In addition, the amendment will, as OutFront Minnesota's executive director Monica Meyer says, "create a multi-million dollar political battle that will divide our communities and sideline the real issues that deeply affect all Minnesotans like the budget, education, jobs and the economy, transportation, and our quality of life."



Despite the moving and heartfelt testimonies of those opposed to the amendment, the committee voted to advance Senator Warren Limmer's bill to place the rights of a minority group of Minnesotans to marry on the ballot in November 2012. The vote was disappointing, but not really unexpected, given the sizable anti-equality majority on the committee. Still, the supporters of fairness for LGBT Minnesotans, who outnumbered amendment proponents by over three-to-one, sent a strong message that increasing numbers of Minnesotans oppose these attacks on their LGBT family members, friends and neighbors.



Above and below: Members of the public filled an overflow room at the Capitol and watched proceeding of the hearing on video monitors.



Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights was, for many of those gathered, a real hero of the day. At one point she remarked that even if it meant she would be voted out by her constituents, she would never vote "to put language of discrimination in the constitution."

"I could not live with myself," she said, adding, "And [to] those of you who claim to be good Christians, you need to think about what you are doing here." This was a pointed reference to the many religious folks, including Bishop John Quinn of Winona, who spoke in favor of the amendment.

Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, also drew thunderous applause from those in the overflow room – applause audible in the senate hearing room – when he said that the measure did nothing to support the principles the nation was founded on.

"I cannot see in this bill anything that promotes life, anything that promotes liberty," he said. "If anything, it seems to restrict liberty. I cannot see anything that will promote the pursuit of happiness. It sends a chilling message that it is OK to discriminate. It sends the message that gays in Minnesota are ‘less than.’"



In the wake of the senate committee vote to place the marriage amendment on the 2012 ballot, a number of powerful commentaries and op-eds have been written and published.

I close this post with links to many of these and with David Schultz's commentary Constitutional Prejudice: Why the Minnesota Senators Got it Wrong on Same-Sex Marriages, reprinted in its entirety. Schultz is a Professor in the School of Business at Hamline University, St. Paul, MN.

No surprise – Minnesota Senate Republicans unveiled on April 26, a state constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriage. Assuming it clears the legislature and goes to the voters there is no guarantee that it will pass. But that is beside the point. The purpose of the amendment is less about its actual passage than about symbolic politics and voter mobilization in the 2012 elections. Its proposal demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of American politics, the Constitution, and is an unfortunate and cynical appeal to prejudice for political gain.

Why a constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriage? It seems unnecessary given a 1971 Minnesota Supreme Court decision Baker v. Nelson and a 1997 state law barring same-sex couples from marrying. Yet GOP Senators in affirming their reasons for the amendment stated that laws can change and courts can alter their minds but constitutional amendments are more permanent. They contended that voters have a right to have a say on who is allowed to marry.

The senators are correct about the former, wrong about the latter. However, the law should change to reflect new circumstances and public opinion and judges should calibrate interpretations in light of new facts and circumstances. The law should not be fixed in the past reflecting old prejudices and beliefs. To argue that is to assert that the law should be frozen in the past. Democracy is about consent of the present, not of the past.

But the law should not be fixed in the past. Such logic was characteristic of the most notorious Supreme Court case of all time – Dred Scot v. Sanford – an 1854 decision declaring African-Americans (then slaves) could never be citizens because it was contrary to the intent of the constitutional framers. The same logic persistent in the 1874 Minor v. Happersett case where the Supreme Court ruled that women could not vote for similar reasons. These decisions reaffirmed old prejudices and beliefs. The purpose of the law should not be to enshrine dogmas and prejudices. The Supreme Court said the same in its 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision striking down a Virginia law barring couples of different races from marrying. In Loving the Court declared marriage a fundamental right–the essence of a free society is letting people decide with whom they form a life.

Democracy is about majority rule, but such a decision about who we can marry is not a choice for majorities to decide. This is why we have a Bill of Rights – to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

As Justice Jackson eloquently declared in a case affirming freedom of religion: “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to . . . freedom of worship . . . and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” The same is true with marriage. I doubt anyone believes that the voters should have been able to decide in 1967 or today whether individuals of different races should marry. Proposals to put this to a vote simply mask racism and appeal to prejudice. The same logic applies to same-sex marriage.

There is no good public policy reason to bar same-sex couples from marrying. But the constitutional amendment is not about policy, it is about symbolic politics and voter mobilization. As was demonstrated in 2004 when Karl Rove and the GOP placed bans on same-sex marriage on the ballots across many states, it was a terrific hot button issue to mobilize voters. It worked. The religious conservatives turned out in droves.

Placing a ban on gay marriage on the ballot for 2012 might work for similar purposes. First, it is a symbolic payback to the religious right who backed GOP candidates in 2010. Thus, it is pandering to special interests. Second, placing the amendment on the ballot is simply an effort to repeat 2004. The hope no doubt is that this amendment in 2012 will offset what some think will be a better year for Minnesota Democrats when Barack Obama and Amy Klobuchar are on the ballot. Place this amendment on the ballot and as the theory goes, it will drive more conservatives to vote.

However, 2012 is not 2004 and such a strategy may backfire as public opinion has changed and it may engage progressives this time. This is a gamble the GOP senators are taking. Their purpose thus is not so much to pass the amendment but use it and cynically appeal to prejudice to pay off supporters and drive voter turnout.



Recommended Off-site Links:
Senate Committee Passes Anti–Gay Marriage Amendment
-- Andy Birkey (Minnesota Independent, April 28, 2011).
With GOP in Control of Legislature, Gay Marriage Ban Approved by MN Senate Committee
-- Patrick Condon (Associated Press via the Star Tribune, April 29, 2011).
MN Legislators' Triming of Marriage Amendment Wording Could Leave Door Open for Same-Sex Civil Unions
-- Rachel E. Stassen-Berger (Star Tribune, April 28, 2011).
A Tipping Point for Gay Marriage?
-- Adam Liptak (New York Times, April 30, 2011).
Supporter of Gay Marriage Offers Sunny View of Vote
-- Gail Rosenblum (Star Tribune, April 30, 2011).
Just Say No to Wedge Politics
-- Lori Sturdevant (Star Tribune, April 30, 2011).
Banning Gay Marriage Would Institutionalize Injustice
-- Gary Boelhower (Duluth News Tribune, May 1, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – April 21, 2011
Governor Mark Dayton to LGBT Advocates: "I Stand with You"
A Celebration of Faith and Family; A Call for Compassion and Fairness
Quote of the Day – November 4, 2010
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy
Minnesotans Rally for Equality and Love
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Archbishop Nienstedt Calls (Again) for a Marriage Amendment to Minnesota's Constitution
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Steve Chapman: "Time is On the Side of Gay Marriage
Dale Carpenter on the Win-Win" Reality of Gay Marriage
Dr. Erik Steele on the "Naked Truth on Same-Sex Marriage
Stephanie Coontz on the Changing Face of "Traditional Marriage"


Friday, April 29, 2011

From Westminster Abbey to Washington DC, Love is in the Air

Above: Jonathan Howard and Gregory Jones
pose with their marriage license in Washington, D.C.


The following is excerpted from an article by Seth Adam on the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) blog.


. . . “I knew from the moment I met Greg he would be a part of my life forever,” says Jonathan of his husband-to-be.

As the world turns its eye to Westminster Abbey on Friday for the highly anticipated wedding of Prince William to Catherine “Kate” Middleton, we are reminded of what makes marriage so magical – the love and commitment that two people promise to share for a lifetime.

But we must also be reminded of the millions of gay and lesbian Americans who are denied that opportunity because of who they are.

“We are all too well aware of the fact that too many loving couples cannot get married in the United States,” says Jonathan. “We need to change that and one of the best ways is to show the world that our love is no different [than straight couples’].”

Jon and Greg shared their story with nation last year after entering Crate & Barrel’s “Ultimate Wedding Contest.” The couple would eventually garner over 20,000 votes from supporters all over the country, and placed second overall.

Now, Jon and Greg are helping to share others’ stories by encouraging their friends and family to support this year’s gay and lesbian “Ultimate Wedding” contestants.

One such couple, Robbie Cronrod and Allen Artcliff, are poised to be among the 2011 finalists, earning over 7,000 votes to date. But Robbie and Allen are hoping for something much more than just the cash prize.

“To our knowledge we’d be the first gay couple to win a national contest for a wedding,” says Robbie. “Winning could create nationwide media attention about the importance of marriage being between two loving people. . . . A win for us is a win for the LGBT community.”

Other same-sex couples in this year’s contest include Carrie and Anastasia [right], Theresa and Heather Patrick and Brian.

“Greg and I are both strong believers that by sharing our stories, we can help people understand that gay and lesbian couples are just like them,” says Jonathan. “On Saturday, we will make a promise to love and take care of each other for the rest of our lives – we just hope that one day, everyone will have that same chance.”


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What a Man!

.
For rugby star Ben Cohen,
battling homophobia is his duty.


Ben Cohen (pictured at right) reminds me a lot of my friend Iggy (left). Both are straight, share a similar physical appearance and level of fitness, and display an accepting attitude toward LGBT people. Oh, yeah, and both look good in their skivvies!


Iggy's yet to be interviewed by The Advocate, but here's what the popular gay magazine reports about Ben:

Rugby superstar Ben Cohen says he grew up around gay people and that helping to combat homophobia is his duty, according to an interview with website Accidental Bear. Asked about the inspiration for his desire to make people more accepting, Cohen replied that his views stem from meeting the guys and hearing their stories of bullying.

"We get literally hundreds of emails and Jill [Cohen's manager] passes them on for me to read," Cohen says. "That is what has spurred me on more that anything to make a noise about it and make people in general aware of what is going on. I grew up around gay people as my family had nightclubs and I used to spend a lot of time there. So to me it was normal. But when I realized that others were not so tolerant and people were taking their own lives through depression and harassment over their sexuality, I thought I had a duty to do something about it."

Cohen, a longtime opponent of homophobia in sports [and a popular underwear model!], recently launched the anti-bullying Ben Cohen Acceptance Tour with its "Beer with Ben" slogan in England and will visit Atlanta, New York, Seattle, and Washington next month. For more information, visit Cohen's site.

________________


See what I mean by "What a man"? The guy's quite an inspiration.

And . . . in addition to his anti-homophobia efforts mentioned above, Ben Cohen has also contributed a video message to LGBT youth via the "It Gets Better" Project. His message can be viewed in the player below.






UPDATES: Rugby Star Ben Cohen Retires to Tackle Bullying and Homophobia – Alex Lowe (The Independent, May 16, 2011).
Ben Cohen, Rugby Player and LGBT Rights Advocate, Shows Off Shirtless Bod in Steamy Attitude Video HuffPost Gay Voices (January 2, 2014).


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Fresh Take on Masculinity
Learning from the East
Jesus Was a Sissy
The Trouble with the Male Dancer (Part 2)
Boardies, Budgie Smugglers and Euro-Togs


Quote of the Day

It’s disturbing that Republicans want to use one of the last weeks of the legislative session to marginalize one group of people and divide our state. We are facing a $5 billion budget shortfall, yet Republicans believe the biggest threat to our state’s welfare is who is allowed to be married.

For same-sex couples, marriage is about economics; it’s about allowing families to take responsibility for each other and support their loved ones, creating strong households throughout our state. For this reason, there is significant evidence that the states that do the best economically are the ones that embrace diversity, not shut it out.

With this amendment, we are taking Minnesota in exactly the opposite direction of where we should be headed – toward a stronger economy that welcomes the contributions of all people.


– Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis
Quoted in "Minnesota Republicans Offer Constitutional Amendment
to Ban Gay Marriage
"
by Andy Birkey
Minnesota Independent
April 26, 2011



Recommended Off-site Links:
State GOP Seeking Vote to Define Marriage – Bob von Sternberg (Star Tribune, April 26, 2011).
Republicans Move to Put Same-Sex Marriage Ban on the Ballot – Tim Pugmire (Minnesota Public Radio, April 26, 2011).
Proposed Constitutional Amendment is Anti-Jobs, Anti-Business and Anti-Family Digital Journal (April 26, 2011).
Amendment is Just a Red Herring Albert Lea Tribune (April 27, 2011).
Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Offered by Minnesota Republicans TheColu.mn (April 27, 2011)
Se. John Marty Talks About the Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment TheColu.mn (April 27, 2011).
Senate Hearing Set for Anti-Gay Marriage Bills The Colu.mn (April 27, 2011).
In Minnesota, the Time for Action is Now!
The Progressive Catholic Voice (April 27, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – April 21, 2011
Governor Mark Dayton to LGBT Advocates: "I Stand with You"
A Celebration of Faith and Family; A Call for Compassion and Fairness
Quote of the Day – November 4, 2010
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy
Minnesotans Rally for Equality and Love
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Archbishop Nienstedt Calls (Again) for a Marriage Amendment to Minnesota's Constitution
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mourning Lis, Farewelling Sarah Jane


Over the past week a number of tributes have been made that not only mourn the passing of actress Elisabeth Sladen but commemorate her most famous role, that of Sarah Jane Smith in the British TV shows Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Of the tributes I've read, Naomi Alderman's "In Praise of Elisabeth Sladen" is by far the most heartfelt and insightful, with Alderman beautifully articulating what it was that made Sladen's portrayal of Sarah Jane so beloved for over 30 years.

[T]he Doctor and his companions are driven by curiosity – and courage. Elisabeth Sladen excelled in communicating that heart. Her Sarah Jane never lost her slight nerviness, the trembling lip that said maybe she'd prefer the beach-and-cocktails. She wasn't an action hero; she had to make the decision to be brave.


Since Sladen's passing on April 19, three of my previous posts about her and her portrayal of Sarah Jane Smith have been ranked among the most visited at The Wild Reed. They are She's So Lovely (which for several days was the most popular post), Remembering Elisabeth Sladen (currently the most popular post), and The Adventures Continue.

I'm glad people are finding these posts and, hopefully, getting something meaningful from them. I'm sorry, however, that the reason that these particular posts are being so frequently visited is because of Lis' passing. My thoughts and prayers remain with her family and with those she worked with – especially the young people of The Sarah Jane Adventures, Tommy Knight, Yasmin Paige, Daniel Anthony and Anjli Mohindra.

Following, with added images and links, is Naomi Alderman's appreciation of Elisabeth Sladen.

______________________________________


In Praise of Elisabeth Sladen

By Naomi Alderman

The Guardian
April 20, 2011



Elisabeth Sladen – who played probably the best-loved Doctor Who companion ever, Sarah Jane Smith – died on Tuesday. Like so many fans, I'm bereft.

Why was Sarah Jane so important? Doctor Who always had strong female characters, but unlike, for example, Zoe, the astrophysicist who lived on a space station, Smith was an attainable role model. An investigative journalist in modern-day Earth, her first appearance in the 1970s found her relentlessly pursuing a story – and refusing to make the Doctor a coffee. She was strong, funny and determined. And unlike some female companions before her, she didn't constantly trip, twist her ankle and scream "Doctor!"

The genius of Doctor Who is that the TARDIS can travel anywhere in time and space – it can never run out of stories. The weakness is that there's always an escape route – why stay in the apocalyptic wasteland when you could be whisked away to a planet with a beach and cocktails? The answer is mostly character-led: the Doctor and his companions are driven by curiosity – and courage.

Elisabeth Sladen excelled in communicating that heart. Her Sarah Jane never lost her slight nerviness, the trembling lip that said maybe she'd prefer the beach-and-cocktails. She wasn't an action hero; she had to make the decision to be brave.

When Tom Baker's Doctor left her on a suburban street and she strolled off whistling merrily, the audience longed to know what happened next. When she returned in 2006 to Doctor Who, and her own show The Sarah Jane Adventures, we rejoiced – and hoped for many more years.

As I write this, I've just sent back the proofs of my first Doctor Who novel to the BBC. Selfishly, I'm mourning the fact that I'll never be able to write for Elisabeth Sladen. Along with many fans, I'll be donating to a cancer charity today, in her memory.


_________________________________


Another tribute worth sharing is Viv Groskop's "Sarah Jane, I'll Miss You" (The Guardian, April 24, 2011). Following is an excerpt.

. . . As I frantically Googled for more information, I realised the real impact of Sladen's death – on me. The children were happy to accept it and shrug. Sarah Jane the character was more real to them and they know they can see the programme again. Sladen's death was a curiosity: they were just interested to see how the adults around them behaved. They were the same about Michael Jackson (the only other celebrity death they've known anything about). Who was he and why was his death news? Why did he have a brown face and then a white face?

These events were information to be assimilated, not something to mourn over. You might want to save that for real life, perhaps, for people you actually know.

I was the one who was devastated. Sladen was impossibly cool, the Meryl Streep of CBBC. She made watching kids' telly an addictive pleasure. She took a role which demanded ridiculous heights of emotion amid preposterous plots and turned it into something magical and believable.

Her age [63] should not have been surprising – she first played the Doctor's assistant opposite Jon Pertwee in 1973, after all. But what she did with a sonic lipstick took decades off her. (Yes, she carried off a sonic lipstick. This alone deserves an award.)

The children's sensible reaction – interest and respect but nothing more – is a reminder of what we adults really mourn when someone dies: our own mortality. With Sladen gone, I'm trying to mourn something less selfish: the disappearance of one of the only kickass sixty-something women left on TV. That really is worth a weep.



And finally, on Saturday, April 23, CBBC broadcast My Sarah Jane: A Tribute to Elisabeth Sladen, featuring such Doctor Who luminaries as Matt Smith, David Tennant, Russell T Davies, John Barrowman and Katy Manning, along with the young cast of The Sarah Jane Adventures, sharing their thought on Lis and the character of Sarah Jane Smith.

Both parts of this special and, at times, very moving broadcast can be viewed in the players below.









UPDATE: BBC to Screen Final Filmed Episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures – Simon Brew (Den of Geek, May 4, 2011).

For more on Elisabeth Sladen and Sarah Jane Smith at The Wild Reed, see:
Blast from the Past: Sarah Jane Smith Returns to Doctor Who
What Sarah Jane Did Next
She’s So Lovely
Impossible! . . . It Can’t Be!
She’s Back!
Too Good to Miss
The Adventures Continue
Remembering Elisabeth Sladen
Quote of the Day – April 20, 2011

Recommended Off-site Links:
Greatest Doctor Who Girl Ever – Dan Sales (The Scottish Sun, April 20, 2011).
Elisabeth Sladen Remembered by Doctor Who Stars ContactMusic.com (April 20, 2011).
"Don't Forget Me": A Tribute to Elisabeth Sladen – Kristy Jay (Sarah-Jane.tv, April 20, 2011).
A Tear, Sarah Jane? – Scott Matthewman (The Stage, April 20, 2011).
Remembering Sarah Jane Geeks of Doom (April 20, 2011).
Sarah-Jane.tv


Quote of the Day

. . . [W]e've known for some fifty years now that the kinds of absolutist, top-down, authoritarian claims the bishops want to push in their "arguments" against Elizabeth Johnson have a shaky historical and biblical foundation. Vatican II has also taken place, and it has reminded us that the bishops and pope are not the whole church. The church is the people of God in pilgrimage towards a truth to be found at the end of history which transcends anything the church is, does, and teaches here and now. And we seek that eschatological truth together, in community.

And so why are the bishops now trying to revive and reassert long outmoded arguments about what it means to be a bishop, an apostle, a teacher in the Catholic church? Why are they trying now to reassert long-since exploded arguments about their exclusive right to define Catholicity?

Why are we speaking now of the finding that 98% of lay Catholics reject the teaching on artificial contraception as if this is some new finding--when these figures have been known since the late 1960s? What is it about the current state of the Catholic church that elicits this sudden muscular reaction on the part of the bishops, and the sudden spirited defense by a small handful of restorationist Catholics of the muscular episcopal Catholicism of the U.S. bishops and the Vatican?

It's clear to me that the bishops' (and the Vatican's) backs are up against the wall right now, and instead of talking with the faithful about the crisis in which the Catholic church now finds itself, they intend to become even more authoritarian, more repressive, more evasive – evasive when it comes to facing the plain truth of, say, what ordinary Catholics think and do re: contraception, for instance.

Evasive when it comes to facing and admitting the plain truth of their astonishing malfeasance as pastoral leaders, vis-a-vis the abuse crisis. Evasive when it comes to acknowledging that a huge number of Catholics in the developing parts of the world are simply walking away. That they're tired of the nonsense. That they've grown weary of the diversions and scapegoating of nuns and feminist theologians and gays and lesbians.

And of the empty authoritarian gestures masquerading as genuine pastoral leadership and credible theological or moral teaching. The Catholic church is in serious crisis today, because its leadership structures are in crisis . . .

– William D. Lindsey


See also William's follow-up piece:
The Elizabeth Johnson Case and the Teaching Authority of the Bishops: Further Reflections– William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, April 24, 2011).


Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

To Believe in Jesus


Concluding The Wild Reed’s special 2011 Holy Week series, I share today an eighth excerpt from Albert Nolan’s groundbreaking 1976 book Jesus Before Christianity.

Throughout this series each installment has been accompanied by images of a different "movie Jesus." This final excerpt is accompanied by images of Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus in Nicholas Ray's 1961 film King of Kings.

(To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

___________________________________


Jesus did not claim divine titles or divine authority, but he did claim to know the truth and to know it without having to rely upon any authority other than the truth itself. He claimed, at least by implication, that he was in immediate contact with the truth, or rather that in him the truth itself was finding expressing. Thus his audience was not expected to rely blindly upon his authority, but to catch from him the truth which he was and spoke, the truth which he had not received from anyone else. By learning from him they were in fact making the truth itself their authority. Those who were convinced by Jesus were convinced by the persuasiveness of the truth itself. Jesus was uniquely in harmony with all that is true and real in life. His spontaneous compassion for people precluded any kind of alienation or artificiality. His spontaneous faith in the power of goodness and truth is indicative of a life without falsehood and illusion. One could say that he was absorbed by the truth, or, better still, that in him the truth became flesh.

Jesus himself would have experienced this as being in complete harmony with God. He must have been aware of the fact that he was thinking and feeling as God thinks and feels. He therefore felt no need to refer to, or rely upon, any authority or any power outside of his own experience.

But how are we to know whether this claim to truthfulness was an illusion or not? There is no scientific or historical way of proving it or disproving it. Like the proverbial tree, it can only be tested by its fruits. If the fruits, Jesus' sayings and doings, ring true for us, then the experience upon which they are based could not have been an illusion. Once we have listened to Jesus with an open mind, and once we have been persuaded and convinced by what he has to say about life, we will know that his claim to first-hand experience of the truth was no hollow boast. As soon as Jesus has been able to awaken in us a faith in what he stood for, we shall respond by putting our faith in him and making his unique truthfulness our God. In other words, the faith which Jesus awakens in us is at the same time faith in him and faith in his divinity.

This was the experience of Jesus' followers. This was the kind of impact he had upon them. They would not have articulated it in this way; but then it is, after all, not a matter of theories about Jesus or the Godhead. Words and theories will always be inadequate. In the last analysis faith is not a way of speaking or a way of thinking, it is a way of living and can only be adequately articulated in a living praxis. To acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior is only meaningful in so far as we try to live as he lived and to order our lives according to his values. We do not theorize about Jesus, we need to "re-produce" him in our time and our circumstances. He himself did not regard the truth as something we simply "uphold" and "maintain," but as something we choose to live and experience. So that our search, like his search, is primarily a search for orthopraxis (true practice) rather than orthodoxy (true doctrine). Only a true practice of the faith can verify what we believe. We can refer to traditional authorities and theological arguments, but what we believe can only be made true, and be seen to be true, in the concrete results which faith achieves in the world – today and tomorrow.

The beginning of faith in Jesus, then, is the attempt to read the signs of the times as Jesus read the signs of the times. There are similarities but there are also differences. We cannot merely repeat what Jesus said; but we can begin to analyze our times in the same spirit as he analyzed his times.

We would have to begin, as Jesus did, with compassion – compassion for the starving millions, for those who are humiliated and rejected, and for the billions of the future who will suffer because of the way we live today. It is only when, like the good Samaritan, we discover our common humanity, that we shall begin to experience what Jesus experienced. . . . Faith in Jesus without respect and compassion for people is a lie (compare 1 Cor 13:1-2; James 2:14-26). To identify with Jesus is to identify with all people.

Searching for the signs of the times in the spirit of Jesus, then, will mean recognizing all the forces that are working against humanity as the forces of evil. Is the present world order not ruled and governed by Satan, the enemy of humanity? Is the system not the modern equivalent of the "kingdom" of Satan? Are the powers of evil not dragging us all along to our destruction, to a hell on earth? We shall have to try to understand the structures of evil in the world as it is today. How much have we been basing ourselves upon the worldly values of money, possessions, prestige, status, privilege, power and upon the group solidarities of family, race, class, party, religion and nationalism? To make these our supreme values is to have nothing in common with Jesus.

To believe in Jesus is to believe that goodness can and will triumph over evil. Despite the system, despite the magnitude, complexity and apparent insolubility of our problems today, humanity can be, and in the end will be, liberated. Every form of evil – sin and all the consequences of sin: sickness, suffering, misery, frustration, fear, oppression and injustice – can be overcome. And the only power that can achieve this is the power of goodness and truth, the power of God.

There is a power that can resist the system and prevent it from destroying us. There is a motive that can replace, and can be stronger than, the profit motive. There is an incentive that can mobilize the world, enable the "haves" to lower their standard of living and make us only too willing to redistribute the world's wealth and its population. It is the same drive and incentive that motivated Jesus: compassion and faith. It has generally been called faith, hope and love; whatever you choose to call it, you must understand it as the unleashing of the divine but thoroughly "natural" power of truth, goodness and beauty.

– Albert Nolan
Jesus Before Christianity
pp 168-171




Images: Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings.

Writes
Mick LaSalle:

Almost half a century later, this is still the most inspiring of the mid-century Bible epics, with Jeffrey Hunter a mesmerizing Jesus, in a story that covers everything, from his birth through his ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. . . . Designed to appeal to both Catholics and Protestants, the film walks a careful line in terms of doctrine. At one point someone asks Mary (Siobhan McKenna) if she might relay a message to her son, and she says, "Intercession?" (The movie leaves open whether she will take the Catholic course and intercede or take the Protestant course and not.)

. . . [T]his is an inspiring movie, with director Nicholas Ray, who started in film noir before becoming known for Rebel Without a Cause, offering remarkable sequences, including an epic Sermon on the Mount. Ray's film noir cred allows him to tap noir heavy Robert Ryan to play John the Baptist, an example of unexpected casting that results in a lovely performance. In the movies, beauty is mistaken for a spiritual condition, a confusion put to good use here: With his unbelievably handsome face, eerie blue eyes and clear, resonant voice, Hunter is the movie ideal of spiritual perfection.



For The Wild Reed’s 2010 Holy Week series (featuring excerpts from Andrew Harvey’s book Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ), see:
Jesus: Path-Blazer of Radical Transformation
The Essential Christ
One Symbolic Iconoclastic Act
One Overwhelming Fire of Love
The Most Dangerous Kind of Rebel
Resurrection: Beyond Words, Dogmas and All Possible Theological Formulations
The Cosmic Christ: Brother, Lover, Friend, Divine and Tender Guide

For The Wild Reed’s 2009 Holy Week series (featuring the artwork of Doug Blanchard and the writings of Marcus Borg, James and Evelyn Whitehead, John Dominic Crossan, Andrew Harvey, Francis Webb, Dianna Ortiz, Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Paula Fredriksen), see:
The Passion of Christ (Part 1) – Jesus Enters the City
The Passion of Christ (Part 2) – Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers
The Passion of Christ (Part 3) – Last Supper
The Passion of Christ (Part 4) – Jesus Prays Alone
The Passion of Christ (Part 5) – Jesus Before the People
The Passion of Christ (Part 6) – Jesus Before the Soldiers
The Passion of Christ (Part 7) – Jesus Goes to His Execution
The Passion of Christ (Part 8) – Jesus is Nailed the Cross
The Passion of Christ (Part 9) – Jesus Dies
The Passion of Christ (Part 10) – Jesus Among the Dead
The Passion of Christ (Part 11) – Jesus Appears to Mary
The Passion of Christ (Part 12) – Jesus Appears to His Friends

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Why Jesus is My Man
Jesus Was a Sissy
The "Wild Gaiety" of Jesus' Moral Teaching
Jesus, Sex and Power
Jesus and Homosexuality
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 1)
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 2)
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
When Expulsion is the Cost of Discipleship
Christ and Krishna
The Wounded and Risen Christ


Jesus: The Breakthrough in the History of Humanity


Continuing The Wild Reed’s special 2011 Holy Week series, I share today a seventh excerpt from Albert Nolan’s groundbreaking 1976 book Jesus Before Christianity.

This excerpt is accompanied by images of Enrique Irazoqui as Jesus in Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew.

(To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

___________________________________


The remarkable thing about the movement inspired by Jesus was that he himself remained the leader and the inspiration of his followers even after his death. Jesus was obviously felt to be irreplaceable. If he died, the movement died. But if the movement continued to live, then it could only be because in some sense or another Jesus continued to live.

. . . [Within the movement he inspired] Jesus was experienced as the breakthrough in the history of humanity. He transcended everything that had ever been said and done before. He was in every way the ultimate, the last word. He was on a par with God. His word was God’s word. His Spirit was God’s Spirit. His feelings were God’s feelings. What he stood for was exactly the same as what God stood for. No higher estimation was conceivable.

To believe in Jesus today is to agree with this assessment of him. We do not need to use the same words, the same concepts or the same titles. We do not need to use titles at all. But if we relegate Jesus and what he stands for to second place in our scale of values, then we have already denied him and what he stands for. What Jesus was concerned with was a matter of life and death, a matter of ultimate importance. Either you accept the “kingdom” as Jesus understood it or you don’t. You cannot serve two “masters.” It is all or nothing. Second place or half measures are tantamount to nothing. To believe in Jesus is to believe that he was divine.

. . . To believe that Jesus is divine is to choose to make him and what he stands for your God. . . . I have chosen this approach because it enables us to begin with an open concept of divinity and to avoid the perennial mistake of superimposing upon the life and personality of Jesus our preconceived ideas about what God is supposed to be like. The traditional image of God has become so difficult to understand and so different to reconcile with the historical facts of Jesus’ life that many people are no longer able to identify Jesus with that God. For many young people today Jesus is very much alive but the traditional God is dead.

By his words and praxis, Jesus himself changed the content of the word “God.” If we do not allow him to change our image of God, we will not be able to say that he is our Lord and our God. To choose him as our God is to make him the source of our information about divinity and to refuse to superimpose upon him our own ideas of divinity.

This is the meaning of the traditional assertion that Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus reveals God to us, God does not reveal Jesus to us. God is not the Word of Jesus, that is to say, our ideas about God cannot throw any light upon the life of Jesus. To argue from God to Jesus instead of arguing from Jesus to God is to put the cart before the horse. This, of course, is what many Christians have tried to do. It has generally led them into a series of meaningless speculations which only cloud the issue and which prevent Jesus from revealing God to us.

We cannot deduce anything about Jesus from what we think we know about God; we must now deduce everything about God from what we do know about Jesus. Thus, when we say that Jesus is divine, we do not wish to add anything to what we have been able to discover about him so far, nor do we wish to change anything that we have said about him. To say now suddenly that Jesus is divine does not change our understanding of Jesus; it changes our understanding of divinity.

– Albert Nolan
Jesus Before Christianity
pp 165-167




Images: Enrique Irazoqui as Jesus in Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew.

Notes
Richard Corliss:

Worlds removed from Hollywood's elephantine Biblical epics, Piero Paolo Pasolini's Il Vangelo secondo Matteo was a low-budget black-and-white pastoral Christian film, made by an atheist Marxist homosexual. Pasolini said he responded to the literary brilliance and narrative propulsion of the Matthew gospel he wanted to show that the greatest story ever told was, among other things, a great story. His dark-haired, dark-eyed, unibrowed Jesus (played by Enrique Irazoqui, a Basque Jew who, like the other performers, was not a professional actor) spits out the parables and prophesies with a brisk ferocity, like a union organizer with a spiel to finish before the end of the lunch break. He is testy with his inquisitors and abrupt with his Apostles. He's a man-God in a hurry to fulfill his mission. Sooner dead, sooner resurrected.



NEXT: To Believe in Jesus



For The Wild Reed’s 2010 Holy Week series (featuring excerpts from Andrew Harvey’s book Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ), see:
Jesus: Path-Blazer of Radical Transformation
The Essential Christ
One Symbolic Iconoclastic Act
One Overwhelming Fire of Love
The Most Dangerous Kind of Rebel
Resurrection: Beyond Words, Dogmas and All Possible Theological Formulations
The Cosmic Christ: Brother, Lover, Friend, Divine and Tender Guide

For The Wild Reed’s 2009 Holy Week series (featuring the artwork of Doug Blanchard and the writings of Marcus Borg, James and Evelyn Whitehead, John Dominic Crossan, Andrew Harvey, Francis Webb, Dianna Ortiz, Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Paula Fredriksen), see:
The Passion of Christ (Part 1) – Jesus Enters the City
The Passion of Christ (Part 2) – Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers
The Passion of Christ (Part 3) – Last Supper
The Passion of Christ (Part 4) – Jesus Prays Alone
The Passion of Christ (Part 5) – Jesus Before the People
The Passion of Christ (Part 6) – Jesus Before the Soldiers
The Passion of Christ (Part 7) – Jesus Goes to His Execution
The Passion of Christ (Part 8) – Jesus is Nailed the Cross
The Passion of Christ (Part 9) – Jesus Dies
The Passion of Christ (Part 10) – Jesus Among the Dead
The Passion of Christ (Part 11) – Jesus Appears to Mary
The Passion of Christ (Part 12) – Jesus Appears to His Friends

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Why Jesus is My Man
Jesus Was a Sissy
The "Wild Gaiety" of Jesus' Moral Teaching
Jesus, Sex and Power
Jesus and Homosexuality
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 1)
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 2)
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
When Expulsion is the Cost of Discipleship
Christ and Krishna
The Wounded and Risen Christ


Saturday, April 23, 2011

And What of Resurrection?


Continuing The Wild Reed’s special 2011 Holy Week series, I share today a sixth excerpt from Albert Nolan’s groundbreaking 1976 book Jesus Before Christianity.

This excerpt is accompanied by images from Denys Arcand's 1989 film Jesus of Montreal.

(To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

___________________________________


It remains for us to consider whether Jesus foresaw his resurrection or not. Some of the “passion predictions” conclude with a “resurrection prediction”: “And after three days the son of man will rise again” (Mk 8:31 parr; 9:31 parr; 10:34 parr; see also Mk 9:9). That Jesus should have said this is not impossible. “After three days” is a Hebrew and Aramaic way of saying “soon” or “not long afterwards.” Most Jews at the time believed in the resurrection of the dead on the last day, and of all Jews the martyrs were most assured of rising on that day. Jesus could not have predicted that he would rise before the last day, otherwise all the confusion, doubt and surprise when he did rise would make no sense at all. In other words all that this “prediction” could mean is that Jesus as a kind of prophet-martyr expected to rise again on the last day and that the last day would come soon.

This interpretation is not incompatible with Jesus’ beliefs and concerns but it is certainly irrelevant to all that he had been trying to do and say in his time. He probably did agree with the Pharisees against the Sadducees about the resurrection, as the gospels tell us (Mk 12:18–27). But it is surely significant that outside of these “resurrection predictions” the only time Jesus even mentions the resurrection is in answer to the Sudducees’ question about the resurrection. He never raises the matter of his own accord. It is not an integral part of what he wanted to say to Israel at that time and in those circumstances. Why would one talk about resurrection when people are suffering and a catastrophe is imminent and there is every hope that the “kingdom” of God might come on earth within a few years? We may therefore wonder whether Jesus did in fact make any “resurrection predictions.”

This is not to say that Jesus did not believe in the resurrection. He no doubt believed in it along with many other things that the Jews of his time believed in; just as the prophets no doubt believed in many things which were not immediately relevant to their message to the people of their time. For Jesus, in his time, resurrection, like the paying of taxes to Caesar or the sacrifices in the Temple, was simply not the issue.

The situation after Jesus’ death was completely different. Then . . . resurrection became the central issue.

– Albert Nolan
Jesus Before Christianity
pp 141-142




Images: Johanne-Marie Tremblay (above left) as Constance, Lothaire Bluteau as Daniel, and Catherine Wilkening as Mireille in Denys Arcand's 1989 film Jesus of Montreal.



NEXT: Jesus: The Breakthrough in the History of Humanity



For The Wild Reed’s 2010 Holy Week series (featuring excerpts from Andrew Harvey’s book Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ), see:
Jesus: Path-Blazer of Radical Transformation
The Essential Christ
One Symbolic Iconoclastic Act
One Overwhelming Fire of Love
The Most Dangerous Kind of Rebel
Resurrection: Beyond Words, Dogmas and All Possible Theological Formulations
The Cosmic Christ: Brother, Lover, Friend, Divine and Tender Guide

For The Wild Reed’s 2009 Holy Week series (featuring the artwork of Doug Blanchard and the writings of Marcus Borg, James and Evelyn Whitehead, John Dominic Crossan, Andrew Harvey, Francis Webb, Dianna Ortiz, Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Paula Fredriksen), see:
The Passion of Christ (Part 1) – Jesus Enters the City
The Passion of Christ (Part 2) – Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers
The Passion of Christ (Part 3) – Last Supper
The Passion of Christ (Part 4) – Jesus Prays Alone
The Passion of Christ (Part 5) – Jesus Before the People
The Passion of Christ (Part 6) – Jesus Before the Soldiers
The Passion of Christ (Part 7) – Jesus Goes to His Execution
The Passion of Christ (Part 8) – Jesus is Nailed the Cross
The Passion of Christ (Part 9) – Jesus Dies
The Passion of Christ (Part 10) – Jesus Among the Dead
The Passion of Christ (Part 11) – Jesus Appears to Mary
The Passion of Christ (Part 12) – Jesus Appears to His Friends

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Why Jesus is My Man
Jesus Was a Sissy
The "Wild Gaiety" of Jesus' Moral Teaching
Jesus, Sex and Power
Jesus and Homosexuality
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 1)
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 2)
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
When Expulsion is the Cost of Discipleship
Christ and Krishna