Archives for category: Theology

Food equals Love.” The quote on their wall arrested me. It has been a long time since I’ve loved food, or felt that food was loving. Eating, for the gutless, takes guts. It is an intentional choice to live, to survive. Eating for us is not romantic. It hurts. It burns. It shames.

But the quote brought me back to someplace that my soul once lived, to the tiny patch of roughed up earth that unwillingly rooted my narrow selection of plants. The words wafted up into my nose the way the chives and basil once did. I suddenly remembered scrubbing my nail beds before snipping those fresh greens into a salad and giving thanks for the goodness. Food was love, and I loved it.

It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten — every piece of fruit — had been picked by callused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone’s knees, someone’s aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before? All food is won by someone’s labor…

What We Came For by Alison Luterman

In those days I used to give much and reap much, and I understood eating as a byproduct of living a certain kind of caring, serving life. My greatest error at that time was in fastening my attention here and there on calories, forgetting the real matter at hand.

Robert F. Capon exhorts me to see the real matter: the miraculous in the rudimentary foods I have ceased to notice. Take an onion, he directs most spiritually. Plan to spend an hour with it. “The first order of business is to address yourself to the onion at hand… The two of you sit here in mutual confrontation.” This meeting becomes a session, enlightening my awareness of situatedness, creatureliness, and my need to notice.

But I am irked with Capon’s transcendent experience. Grasp the onion, he quips the delightful Russian fable, and it will lift you to heaven. I’ve resented the onion from the first post-surgical moment I spent with it. I don’t believe that the place it took me to was heaven. I hope not.

Today I can’t look at a green leafy without suffering  what do they call it in polite company?  the trots. Before the colectomy I had been treated with dietary restrictions so diverse and difficult that I believed this new lifestyle would be quite palatable. I didn’t understand that the colectomy was a marital breakup. I didn’t know how loveless meals would become.

The experience of suffering seems to drive a wedge between me and the flourishing, nourishing, feral Bread Life. The meals I once blessed I curse. My hands have ceased to serve and prepare and touch the earth. They reach for the simplest, the easiest, the most bland. In so doing, I have ceased to reach for the sacramental. And so I sit with the onion, and I pray…

O Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us grace to live as true men – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve Thee as Thou hast blessed us – with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Amen.

-Robert Ferar Capon

Capon, Robert Farrar. The Supper of the Lamb; a Culinary Reflection. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1969. Print.

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“It is difficult to do justice in words to the complete loss of intellectual morale in the twentieth-century Church. One cannot characterize it without having recourse to language which will sound hysterical and melodramatic.

There is no longer a Christian mind. There is still, of course, a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality… but as a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization. He accepts religion — its morality, its worship, its spiritual culture; but he rejects the religious view of life, the view which sees all issues within the context of the eternal…

-Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind

Oh, for a mind that relates all issues — social, political, and cultural — to the doctrine of God. What I wouldn’t give for that kind of thinking. What on earth is the eternal perspective, and how can I get at it? How does the life of God inform the life of… me? When the world is a-whack, and it generally is, what image of God focuses my eyesight?

These days the hot topic is Chick-Fil-A, tomorrow it will be something else. Another transient position of  “a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality”. Where is the Christian mind in all of this boycotting and talk of first-amendment? Is the life of the Trinity revolving around the American Constitution and the freedom of speech and the support of one fleeting bill over another one?

I picture Jesus reminding me always to “Render to Caesar. Do it. But render to God as well. Don’t confuse the two.”

There are days when I cannot understand the “Christian” mud-flinging… the conservative obsession with controversy… the Church caught up with in the most recent popular headline… the way in which hot political topics are confused with the Gospel. If the world ran out of controversy, we would invent something to fight about: a means to channel our righteous indignation. Steven Colbert took my breath way in his recent programming:

“As a practicing Christian in this modern, fallen world, it can be hard to explain why I still go to church. That’s why I want to say thank you… for cementing in the minds of nonbelievers just what my religion stands for: Jesus, the only Son of God, gave His life to redeem mankind by suffering torture and death, then rose from the dead in forgiveness of our sins, ascending to heaven and is seated for eternity at the right hand of the Father in fulfillment of the scriptures. …You know. For chicken.”

God, who offers a perspective that I crave: When the world is crazy and distressing, help me to press into the eternal perspective. Help me to repeat the creeds before regurgitating political talking points. I ask, again and again and again, for the Father to show me how His life participates in this life… how to render to Caesar… how to demonstrate the stark opposition of the kingdom of God to the kingdom of this world. In the name of the One who said, “If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight. But…”  Amen.

We pray to You, the Father, the Son, the Eternal Spirit: the God of hospitality.

We pray languidly to You before our consumptions. We invite You to eat with us because You are easy to welcome at table. We pay no heed to the poor, the sick, the starving – Your inconvenient incarnations. You are a welcome guest, or so we say, but if You smelled like the streets we would leave You at the door. We “say grace” but in this feasting we are graceless.

Teach us to eat with eyes opened and hearts softened. Teach us to rejoice in our food, our drink because this day You have given, and tomorrow You may take away. Teach us Your radical hospitality and how to widen our circles. In order to welcome You here, we set aside ignorance, apathy, gluttony, and thoughtlessness.

We pray in the name of the One who was spurned from many tables, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

I love the book of Ecclesiastes. It is one of my favorites and I return to it frequently. When life turns me on my head, Ecclesiastes reminds me that life has always been turning people on their heads, even the wisest, most knowledgeable, most secure of people.

The most recent “disaster” in my extensive history of medical disasters was the sudden loss of 25 lbs, for which the only explanation are my ongoing surgical complications. On a five foot tall frame, 25 lbs is a lot of weight. Before I knew what was happening, my body could not stave off infection and became ravaged with fever, nausea, and pain.

But I am a lucky one.

When I am starving – quite literally starving – for nutrients and medicine and care, I take a short drive to the hospital. I can spend as many days as I need, get all of the attention that I need, have IV bags full of nutrition custom-made for what I need.

Hunger is a term which has three meanings (Oxford English Dictionary 1971)

  • the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food
  • the want or scarcity of food in a country
  • a strong desire or craving

In round numbers there are 7 billion people in the world. According to the 2012 World Hunger Education Service, 13.1% of them are hungry. That is almost 1 in every 7 people.

The numbers… the statistics… we’ve heard them all. We’ve felt them, too. We’ve felt the sheer immensity of them. We’ve grieved the complexity of the world in which we live, where food prices soar, governments exploit agriculture, and systemic violence and class systems ensure that the poor will always be with us.

For me these days, hundreds of milliliters of completely accessible nutrients course through my veins for twelve hours each night. I am fed with food that is more than sufficient for me. I look at the homeless man on the corner of Division St and the disparity between us makes me queasy. I feel guilty. The dizzy, spinney, sick feeling sends me back to Ecclesiastes. “There is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.”

Ah. Ecclesiastes turns me back around. It is not wrong to enjoy. My guilt matures… if it is not wrong to enjoy food and drink, then the question becomes howhow to enjoyhow to enjoy and celebrate and still stand in solidarity with those who cannot join my feasting?

This is the Holy Frustration.

I want to dialogue in my community about this question of how. DL’s proposition is powerful… cooking theologically… inspiring.  It is incredible that we can turn even our eating and drinking into a holy experience and an act of solidarity: the kingdom of God coming like yeast in dough.

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

We cannot be the ‘image of God,’ either at the ecclesiological or the anthropological level,

unless we are incorporated in the original and only authentic image of the Father,

which is the Son of God incarnate. ~John Zizioulas

Radical serves as a call to action for a church lost in the chaos of American materialism… David Platt’s words serve as a rude awakening: “We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to make the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.  A nice, middle-class, American Jesus.  A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have.”  In the very first chapter, Platt calls us to a life of complete abandonment to Someone worth losing everything for.  Throughout the book he continues on that theme, providing real life examples and suggestions for action.  Platt describes the persecuted and underground Church as being hungry and desperate for God’s word, busy about their Lord’s work, and passionately risking everything for the beliefs they hold to.  Platt encourages global missions, saying that one should devote 2 weeks a year to short-term mission trips.  Some people may disagree with his approach, saying that ministering to your surrounding area demands as much praise or that short-term missions can do more harm than good.  While emphasis on both global and local missions should be balanced, Platt’s main argument remains sound: the American Church needs to lose it’s unhealthy addiction to materialism and focus more on the Great Commission.  Radical abandonment to the follower of Christ means going out into the world and making disciples of all mankind.

Radical is a passionate book, and it deserves a passionate response.  The emotion it most instilled in me was excitement.  I was ecstatic that a writer had vocalized a belief that I was slowly coming to on my own.  Platt explained clearly and succinctly his goal: spreading the Gospel regardless of your own personal risk, in whatever form it may take.  Radical left me with the knowledge of my failure to live up to my potential in Christ and the determination to change what was inhibiting my spiritual growth.

~Meghan Bolger, contributor

         Gender. Is it a category which applies to divinity? Is God gender-less? Is God gender-ful? Controversy is hot over the 2011 edition of the New International Version of the Bible and its use of gender-neutral terms to refer to God. From the midst of the conservative camp, I am sensing an emerging theological undertone that dares to argue that God is predominantly of one gender. Blogging on the topic has kept the debate fresh in my mind, and while this post is winding and slightly disjointed, it serves well to help me think through the issue.

We must talk about God, but God is beyond language. The best we can do is image God through our language, and the ancient way to speak about God is metaphorically. The parables of Christ are crucial because they demonstrate that metaphor is an indigenous Christian language. One advantage to metaphorical theology is that no one metaphor has to illustrate everything. Deficiencies can be covered by other models.

There are many examples of metaphoric language describing God. In Deuteronomy 32:18, God is both the father and the mother who gives birth: “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” In Job, the writer talks about God both mothering and fathering: “Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens (Job 38:28-­29)? God is also described as a woman in labor and giving birth. He is seen as being in pain and crying out, gasping for breath. “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant” (Isa. 42:14). Again the feminine imagery is found in Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.” God is a comforting mother, “For thus says the Lord: ‘As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you'” (Isa. 66:12‐13). Isaiah describes God as both mother and father in this hymn of praise: “Look down fromheaven and see, from your holy and glorious habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The trembling of your womb and your womb-­‐tenderness? They are withheld from me. For you are our father” (Isa. 3:15‐16, literal translation).

With such strongly feminine imagery used in Scripture as God-descriptive, why does the tendency lean so strongly toward the use of masculine terms for the Divine in liturgy, prayer, and worship? The forms of scripture, creed, and historical theology in which Christian tradition is carried are encased in and formed by male-dominance. Theology is a matter of language, and of finding the best language available to speak of the concerns of faith. Theologians are very aware of the nuances and sway of language. It is not just the naming that is at stake, but that the naming establishes the relationships, the gridwork through which faith is mediated to women and men.

Roger E. Olson writes in his blog “Some Thoughts About ‘Christian Feminism’” that “insofar as we use the Bible’s predominantly male imagery of God we teach people that maleness is closer to God than femaleness. Without doubt that has been the case throughout much of Christian history.”

Sexism, like racism, is an insidious disease that affects everyone in a world saturated in it. Christians should be at the forefront of the battle against sexism, resisting the blight that it spreads throughout God’s created relational ecosystem. Supplementing predominantly male biblical imagery of God with female imagery, especially drawn from the Bible itself, seems to me to be a critical step in the movement toward biblical equality and restored personhood.

In the introduction to Dorothy Sayer’s article titled “Are Women Human?” Mary McDermott Shideler raises an equally viable concern, “Male and female are biological categories. Masculine and feminine are cultural categories. Both are impersonal classifications with real but limited usefulness. We cannot live or think effectively without classifying our experiences, but always we must ask whether the categories we are using are adequate for the problem we are considering.”

Are the categories male and female, masculine and feminine, “adequate” terms to describe the referent we are considering [God]? Is the God revealed in Scripture through both male and female, masculine and feminine terms classifying himself as one or the other? (Notice my use of the masculine reflective pronoun “himself”. It is unnatural, coming from my tradition, to use any other English pronoun. Perhaps other languages serve this purpose better.)

Olson’s critical follow-up questions to the case for equality are my food for thought these days: “But does throwing out male imagery of God in favor of predominantly female imagery solve anything? Or does it simply reverse patriarchy?” That is the danger that I find in modern feminist theology. The point is not to undo the harm that has been done by centuries of patriarchy via reversing the crime committed, the point is to redeem biblical images of God and the biblical purpose of personhood.

How is that to be accomplished? How do I move forward? I find that my tradition inhibits me from speaking of God in any terms but masculine ones. That is the great, almost imperceptible power of breakthroughs such as the new NIV translation. Slowly but surely, I will learn to speak of God as he speaks of himself. I will learn to see him as more than one gender or another.

In conclusion, I can echo the words of Olson once more: “God has no gender, in spite of the predominantly male imagery of God in scripture. I promote teaching that both male and female characteristics are valuable but prone to distortion and that both genders need redemption without in any way destroying or even undermining their uniqueness as created by God. I promote Christian leadership without hierarchy. I promote liturgical renewal that is not ideologically driven. I promote teaching boys and men to be suspicious of our socially-driven tendencies toward patriarchy without demeaning maleness itself.

 

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor