Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Christians and the Pagans

This week on MassResistance, a blog dedicated to repealing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, they highlighted the efforts of the "wacky pseudo-Christians...with their religious symbols and clerically dressed spiritual leaders," clergy at last month's Constitutional Convention.

This rhetorical tactic to label Christians who disagree with a fundamentalist approach to the faith as "pagans" or "wacky" or "pseudo-Christians" is nothing new. Yet, trolling religious blogs this week, it seems that there is a growing awareness on the part of conservatives about queer theology. Although gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have always been a part of the church in the pews, pulpits and ivory towers, their work is just now being dis-covered by the conservative leaders.

Dr. Peter Jones, explains the dangers of paganism (as found in the work of feminist and queer theologians) to our youth and nation in his article, "Christian Letters to a Pagan Planet." From his recent expereince atthe American Academy of Religion, he cites several examples of the rise of extremist ideology taking over congregations and college campuses including, "An 'evangelical feminist' [who] railed against the genocidal foundation of America and called for the deconstruction of 'normative heteropatriarchy.'"

Apparently, the dangers of "paganism" have infected our institutions for religious education, shaping and molding today's youth into radical apostates. For Jones the professors and scholars he heard at the AAR are evidence of the threat to our youth, a veritable "armada of brain-power deployed on our campuses to form the thinking of the rising generation."

Now, here is the funny thing, I don't think Dr. Jones is wrong. In fact, he is right on target. There is a growing body of research and a ever widening circle of scholars that understands the way in which the Christian tradition at times both oppresses those at the margins and offers possibilities of liberation. These scholars in liberation, feminist and queer theologies are not "anti-Christian" because they question Christianity, rather they are part of that very tradition they seek to engage, pushing at its limits, struggling with its history, re-shaping and re-molding it that it might be a living tradition once again. While for some that struggle may lead to a need to move beyond Christianity to becoming post-Christian, or Buddhist or yes, even, Pagan, there are others who remain challenging the tradition to live up to its own message.

I have hope for the future of the Church precisely becasue of the radical, new scholarship happening in our colleges and seminaries and congregations. Dr. Jones had it almost exactly right, after all these scholars are indeed an armada of brain-power deployed on our campuses to form the rising of the thinking generation!

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