Friends of the cross

For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ … (Phil. 3:18)

Saturday saw an appalling spectacle as British campaigner Kellie-Jane Keen, sitting member of Parliament Moira Deeming, and masked neo-Nazis performing the Nazi salute held an anti-trans rally on the steps of Parliament House. And so it was timely and perhaps spirit-led that Sunday’s reflection was a queered up reading of a well-known biblical text (here).

But perhaps you sometimes wonder why we must be so insistent and so public in our affirmation of LGBTIQA+ folk, or why we must insist that we live on stolen land that was taken by force and has never been ceded. Why can’t we just quietly agree and move on? Why draw attention to these things?

Good question. But we must insist, and we must do so publicly, because white supremacy and related hatred are so inextricably linked with white Christianity. The Nazi movement, which murdered millions of Jewish, Romany, gay, trans, and disabled bodies, was supported by almost all churches in Germany. Very few dissented, and even today the neo-Nazi movement has strong connections with white evangelicalism.

Too, the genocide and colonization of this continent was supported by almost all churches; indeed, biblical texts were regularly used in the public sphere to diminish, even dehumanize, First Peoples and to justify white invasion and white violence. Drawing on those same assumptions, some pastors in this region continue to insist that Aboriginal folk never had it so good. I know, because I have heard them say it.

Meanwhile, hysteria and violence surrounding gender and sexual diversity has deep roots in European Christianity and an ongoing pick-and-choose, a-historical approach to biblical texts. Some of our dearly beloved siblings in Christ have known first-hand the pain of being required to be different, and the rejection, shunning and exclusion which ensues when they cannot be other than who God made them to be. Many LGBTIQA+ folk are persecuted even more harshly. Uganda is an extreme example; but in the US and here, Christian-led anti-LGBTIQA+ movements silence, shun, persecute and hound folk, in some cases leading them to lose their voice*, employment, necessary medical care, and even their lives.

What these movements have in common is the use of religion in the oppression and persecution of the poor, the broken, the marginalized, and the suffering: that is, those who are usually relegated to social, economic and political marginality, and who often experience emotional, spiritual and even bodily trauma as a result. Yet to persecute people is the antithesis of what it means to follow Jesus, who very deliberately and publicly aligned himself with poor, broken, marginalized and suffering people, and whose solidarity caused such offence to the powers that his own body was dragged outside the city gates and killed.

To stay silent when vulnerable people are being persecuted is to be complicit. It allows a toxic Christianity to dominate the public sphere and makes us enemies of the cross of Christ. And so we must not only celebrate the diversity of our own little group, but, through sermons and other statements, must insistently and publicly stake our position alongside all those who bear the brunt of hatred and violence.

A couple weeks ago we were privileged to hear from Rev Dr Garry Worete Deverell, a tralwoolway man and superb thinker and theologian; I know many of you greatly appreciated what he had to say. I recently watched another sermon of his in which he speaks about both false enemies and the enemies of the cross of Christ. It’s a very powerful reflection on what it means to follow Jesus, who we must align ourselves with, and what it can cost. I highly commend it to you as part of your Lenten journey; you can watch it here. If you would like to go back to the texts to which he refers, they are Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18Psalm 27Philippians 3:17-4:1  and Luke 13:31-35.


*I’m thinking here of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay legislation, which bans discussion of sexual orientation in schools. Though I imagine straight cis teachers have no problem mentioning their spouses.

Emailed to Sanctuary 22 March 2023 © Sanctuary, 2023. Photo by Aiden Craver on Unsplash. Sanctuary is based on Peek Whurrong country. Acknowledgement of country here

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