Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jesus Was A Male

Fr. Dale Matson

And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, how is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? (Luke 2: 48-40)

Much is rightfully said about the divinity of Jesus and also the humanity of Jesus but it is also important to see Jesus as a man. He is both Son of man and only begotten Son of God. A son is male.

Feminists, especially liberationist feminists find the patriarchal focus of Scripture to be misogynist. They have introduced gender neutral terms in reference to God (the Father) and even (God) the Son. Now they are calling for feminine terms for the Three Persons of the Trinity.  In fact many Christian feminists including individuals who would refer to themselves as transgendered Christians see Jesus as androgynous. The problem with a Jesus that is not male is that it is an attack on an orthodox Christology of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. It is also a denial of the statements in the Council of Chalcedon (451) accepted by the Roman, Orthodox and Anglican churches.

The problem with an orthodox Christology of Jesus, who is male, for feminists, is that He can’t save women. As feminists see it, it is also a Christology that has been used by the patriarchal church to diminish women and keep them in subjugation. “Jesus, who was indisputably a male human being, is interpreted as the incarnation of the Logos, an ontological symbol connected with rationality and thus, according to Greek philosophy, with maleness. The Word made flesh is then related to human beings defined according to an androcentric anthropology that sees men as normative and women as derivative. (Elizabeth A. Johnson, “Redeeming the Name of Christ,” in Freeing Theology (ed. Catherine Mowry LaCugna; San Francisco: Harper-San Francisco, 1993), p.118)

Professor Johnson has stated the truth in her complaint. “…men as normative and women as derivative.” That is what the creation account tells us to be the case. Additionally, the redemption of humans was a logical reflection of the order of creation of humans. There is an excellent piece on this by Father Dale Brown.

The feminist concerns about salvation by a male are misandry at best and agnostic revisionism at worst. Are they saying His work was not finished unless they can make Him into someone who better reflects both genders? What about ethnicity too? In attempting to make Christ less male, they have made Him less human also. Isn’t it really the symbolism that matters to the feminists?

This is not even the end point in feminist theology. Others like Rita Nakashima Brock state, “The feminist Christian commitment is not to a savior who redeems us by bringing God to us. Our commitment is to love ourselves and others into wholeness. Our commitment is to a divine presence with us here and now, a presence that works through the mystery of our deepest selves and our relationships, constantly healing us and nudging us toward a wholeness of existence we only fitfully know. That healed wholeness is not Christ; it is ourselves.” [my bolding]  Rita Nakashima Brock, “The Feminist Redemption of Christ,” in Christian Feminism: Visions of a New Humanity (ed. Judith Weidman; New York: Harper & Row, 1984), 69.

And so we come full circle. Feminists have determined that Jesus cannot save them so they have to save Him. The attempt to make Jesus a symbol or a metaphor detracts from His humanity. In detracting from His humanity they are also diminishing our humanity; male and female. The feminist spirit is not new. It began with Eve doubting what God had instructed and trying to become more than she was created to be; wanting to be equal to God. There is an element of symbolism here. Feminism is giving birth to a new Christ and with this new Christ, a new gospel is needed also. In order to make their new narrative work, they must change the Christology of the church. This is the spirit of this age and it has infected the true church however, Jesus has not changed. “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

“Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)  Jesus came to reveal the Father. It is a major work of the church to reveal the Son. To obfuscate the person and work of Jesus Christ is to confuse His revelation of the Father, confound soteriology and grieve the Holy Spirit.  

Note: There is a more extensive treatment of this topic by Micah Daniel Carter “Reconsidering The Maleness Of Jesus” available here: . 
There is also an excellent book on “Feminism In Christianity” by Deborah Malacky Belonick. (1983)  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Prayer Of Intercession: Innocent Victims

Fr. Dale Matson

Lord, watch over the victims who perished at the hands of others. Deliver them from earthly care and distress. May they enjoy eternal felicity in Your presence.

Lord, intend for good the actions intended for evil. Restrain those who would seek to profit from the pain of others. Restrain others who would be attracted to form their own script for evil. May they not view violence toward others as justice or a balm for their own suffering.

Lord comfort and console the survivors. Let them heal from the trauma of the events that have harmed their sense of security and trust. May they be surrounded by love and human warmth. May any physical wounds heal quickly. Let compassion abound and may they laugh and experience joy once again. May each passing day diminish their grief and soften the pain of their memories. May they not experience false guilt for surviving when other did not survive.

Lord help those who are relatives of the victims put their world back together. Let them eventually see some purpose, realize a greater meaning. Do not let hate and anger replace hope and faith in what is left of their lives. Let them only remember the good in those they have lost. Let them cherish and share what memories they have. May they find thankfulness for the time they did share with those who were taken from them. Please help them transcend a terrible grief and seemingly endless nightmare.

Lord help the community come together and recommit to caring for and supporting one another. Let other communities that have suffered as well, reach out and offer their knowing compassion. Let them offer ways to cope.

Lord let us who have suffered from afar not look away from what has happened. Let us see this as our family also. Help us to not defend ourselves with denial, insulate ourselves in our homes, and drug ourselves with distractions. Help us to examine our own lives and private thoughts. Convict us when we fail to care. Let us better understand the toxicity and contagion of violence.  Help us to continue to love and trust others. Let the lessons of this violence yield honesty and humility, not cynicism. May our prayers ascend for peace, mercy and forgiveness.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy amen.   

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Knock On Wood: Avatar

Fr. Dale Matson

There is probably no one reading this posting that hasn't used the expression, “Knock on wood” after making a statement about their good health, financial well-being or any string of positive experiences. It is intended to mean that one is not taking things for granted and things could still ‘go south’ at any time.

The derivation of the expression possibly came from an account in the life of St. Boniface who was an Anglo-Saxon apostle to Germany in the 700’s. The Germans were essentially pagan and believed that spirits inhabited trees. “Now at that time many of the Hessians, brought under the Catholic faith and confirmed by the grave of the seven-fold spirit, received the laying on of hands; others indeed, not yet strengthened in soul, refused to accept in their entirely the lessons of the inviolate faith. Moreover some were wont secretly, some openly to sacrifice to trees and springs; some in secret, others openly practiced inspections of victims and divinations, legerdemain and incantations; some turned their attention to auguries and auspices and various sacrificial rites.”

Much to the dismay of the local pagans St. Boniface began cutting down their holy tree. A mighty wind came up to finish the felling of the tree. This tree and others were linked to a world tree (Yggdrasil). Seeing the tree felled with no retribution visited upon St. Boniface by the resident spirits, the pagans became Christians. Boniface later "Christianized" the tree by having it made into a small chapel dedicated to St. Peter.

St. Boniface was eventually martyred in 754. His feast day is celebrated by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans on June 5th.
So, what does this story have to do with the movie “Avatar” (2009)? Avatar is really a modern story of paganism (neo-paganism) with an incarnational protagonist named Jake Sully. Jake reminds me of the character Neo in “The Matrix” and Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” etc., etc., etc. It also reminds me of a Star Trek episode, “The Way To Eden”. In fact it reminds me of so many stories, that it is what could called "Sampling" if the movie was music.

In Avatar, Jake Sully is initially an invader and eventually a savior of the residents of Pandora (an Eden- like planet). The Na’vi. are a peace loving, Eywa “All Mother” worshiping culture who live in harmony with their environment. “Hometree is an important gathering place for the Na’vi but an impediment to human exploitation of the minerals beneath it. (Think of Donar Oak here). It is eventually destroyed. The “Tree of Souls” (Think of Yggdrasil here or pagan spirit) is successfully defended because Jake prays to Eywa as an intercessor for the Na’vi and the rapacious humans are expelled from Pandora forever.

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Second week in Advent.     

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Feminism And The Church

Fr. Dale Matson

And Mary said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded: the lowliness of his handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48 KJV)

“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

"Women have compelled their legislators in every state in this Union to so modify their statutes for women that the old common law is now almost a dead letter. Why not compel Bishops and Revising Committees to modify their creeds and dogmas? Stanton, Elizabeth Cady (2012-05-17). The Woman's Bible (p. 13).  Kindle Edition. Again there are some who write us that our work is a useless expenditure of force over a book that has lost its hold on the human mind. Most intelligent women, they say, regard it simply as the history of a rude people in a barbarous age, and have no more reverence for the Scriptures than any other work. So long as tens of thousands of Bibles are printed every year, and circulated over the whole habitable globe, and the masses in all English-speaking nations revere it as the word of God, it is vain to belittle its influence. The sentimental feelings we all have for those things we were educated to believe sacred, do not readily yield to pure reason." Stanton, Elizabeth Cady (2012-05-17). The Woman's Bible (p. 14).  Kindle Edition. The Woman’s Bible is actually a commentary on selected verses of Scripture.

I believe feminists (even those who actually believe the creation account as a real event) have taken Eve as their role model for women to their own detriment. Their goal has been to get even (equal with men).

“Mary's surrender destroyed the illusion of power embodied in another woman who had refused to be handmaid, and who instead had reached for control and clarity. In the primordial garden a Serpent's fateful words had rung out. "Eat of this tree and you will be gods," the devil had quietly urged, hiding the intensity of his excitement as the first woman toyed with the idea of "forbidden" knowledge and power. Eve grew suddenly suspicious that God might be withholding some tantalizing special something to which she might have a right. She grasped the tempting promise, only to rupture the fabric of God's eternal giftedness in self-giving love poured into creation.

In Mary--the Woman--the Church learns that every act of grasping, control, pride, and ambition distorts the feminine Body which is the Church. These principles anchor our turbulent emotions when wrestling with what are perhaps inaccurately called "feminist" issues in the Church. There are women of our own century who symbolize in their own feminine self-donation the essential Marian image of the Church: among them Mother Teresa, the angel of Calcutta and visible sign of the healing Christ to people of every religion and no religion, and Mother Thecla, co-foundress of the Daughters of St. Paul and, in her life, always in the forefront of evangelization, communicating the word, the essence and the heart of the Church. Amidst the clamoring of labels, insults, speculation, politicizing, and arguments that burden the simplicity of faith today, they are women who embody Marian faith that is handmaid and womb.” (Sr. Kathryn)

I am not here to argue against the feminist assertion that Adam and Eve were created by God as equals. In fact, some feminists use Scripture to argue for the superiority of women over men. “Phyllis Trible, Professor of Sacred Literature at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, for example, holds that far from being a secondary or dependent being, Eve is in fact the ‘culmination’ of creation.”

Feminism is part of the new gospel of the Episcopal Church included in the justice of equality and inclusion. The highest regard for Elizabeth Cady Stanton is evidenced by her inclusion in the “Lesser Feast and Fasts” (Now called “Holy Women, Holy Men”) She is viewed as a “Saint” by the Episcopal Church (TEC) yet listed under “Atheist Feminism” in Wikipedia and elsewhere.
Since when does a feminist who is an atheist, deserve inclusion in the list of Saints?

Am I being unfair to feminists? What about those who refer to themselves as Christian feminists?
“Christian feminism is an aspect of feminist theology which seeks to advance and understand the equality of men and women morally, socially, spiritually, and in leadership from a Christian perspective. Christian feminists argue that contributions by women in that direction are necessary for a complete understanding of Christianity. Christian feminists believe that God does not discriminate on the basis of biologically-determined characteristics such as sex and race. Their major issues include the ordination of women, male dominance in Christian marriage, recognition of equal spiritual and moral abilities, reproductive rights, and the search for a feminine or gender-transcendent divine. Christian feminists often draw on the teachings of other religions and ideologies in addition to biblical evidence.”

With this lens, how will feminists offer a second commentary on Scripture or even a new translation?