The Presbyterian Church (USA) through the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy and their journal Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice, has stepped beyond the boundaries of Scripture and confession. The being of God and the person of Jesus are deeply effected in their November edition, “Gender Justice 2014: “Hearing the Voices of Peoples Long Silenced,” which in the first part focuses mainly on women’s issues.
The articles have all been published elsewhere but they come together in the journal to form a stew of twisted Scripture and bad theology. Marci Auld Glass’ “The Cry of Tamar” adds words to the biblical text in several places, yet her thesis that women are more than their sexuality could have been wonderfully bolstered by leaving the biblical story intact. But the major problem with all of the articles is their disregard for the first commandment of the Decalogue: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
No they are not advocating as some have for “the Queen of Heaven, “referred to in Jeremiah nor do they lift up the supposedly ancient goddesses. And while the words are deceptively beautiful and the stories sad and needy, their tenor and words deface the holy God of Scripture. For instance, Rita Nakashima Brock’s article, “Re-Imagining God: Reflections on Mirrors, Motheroot, and Memory is filled with her bent toward panentheism which tends to destroy the majesty and beauty of God while diffusing the Incarnation into a simple idea of God’s being evolving through creation.
Brock quotes and affirms the words of Nancy Mairs:
“God is here. And here, and here, and here. Not an immutable entity detached from time, but a continual calling and coming into being. Not transcendence, that orgy of self-alienation beloved of the fathers, but immanence: God working out Godself in everything… the holy as verb”
Brock uses three words to express her view of what will aid the re-imagining of God, Incarnation, Emanuel and Ecclesia. But to each of these she gives a human centered picture. The Incarnation, God taking on flesh and dwelling among us as the unique person of Jesus is shattered and creation and community takes his place. He is even maligned. Speaking of the Syrophoenician woman, Brock writes:
“When Jesus is oppressed by the principalities and powers of the world, he reveals the incarnate power of God, as he does through much of his life and at his death. But when Jesus has structural power over another—marginalizes her—divine power confronts Jesus from those margins. In other words, she is the incarnation of God to Jesus. Jesus acknowledges this revelation when it happens with the words, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And this is how the transformative power of God is revealed, the power of motheroot.”
Awful power, not sacred power is placed in the hands of humanity. Human brokenness, rather than a redemptive savior, is lifted up.
Sylvia Thorson-Smith’s offering is the tired old mix of Sophia and sex. The article is her speech at the Presbyterian Voices for Justice at the 2012 PCUSA General Assembly, Re-Imagining “Re-Imagining” and the Next 20 Years. She rehearses the events of the Re-imagining conference held in 1993. Thorson-Smith even refers to the “womanist theologian Delores Williams’ dramatic reimagining of the Atonement, denouncing the idea that Jesus was a substitutionary “surrogate” who had to die for our sins in order to satisfy the demands of a patriarchal Father God.” And it was a bit more than that something about not needing any bloody crosses.
One of the postings is part of a script written by Rachel Shepherd and Miriam Foltz. Daughters of Eve, (not yet formerly published), is a supposed take on biblical stories of women through the lens of the infamous play The Vagina Monologues. The article itself is entitled, Daughters of Eve: Biblical Women Take Back the Microphone
While these biblical stories of women are so important for women, they are trivialized with such words as, “But even in my darkest moments, God was there; God had not written off my vagina yet,” (Sarah speaking) or “Finally my vagina is a welcome and friendly part of me, not an erratic stranger I have to harbor. I can trust our rhythm, count the days until bleeding begins and ends, and see it for what it is: a source of joy and life that connects me to my God,” (the woman with an issue of blood which Jesus heals).
And the Levite’s concubine who was horribly raped, “Now I am Israel, I am twelve, I am no more and I am always. My vagina was the first part of me to be broken, and the rest followed. My vagina is priceless and worthless, vulnerable and meaningful. My vagina is a vanguard.”
This last story is so horrific. It is the story of a people who constantly betray their God, and as the text states, do what is right in their own eyes. It is also the story of a woman who suffers the terrors that too often befall innocent victims in the midst of an ungodly people. The story as told by the play begins well but the ending is awful since it focuses on the woman’s poor misused vagina—one wants to vomit. Take a soft warm blanket and cover the abused body. Do not be like the husband cutting the body apart, showing it to everyone, but rather react as the Lord does who has pity and redeems.
This material, found in the Unbound journal, as I have said is old and tired material. It is also ugly and chases away those who would be faithful. We turn our eyes away and instead set them on beauty.
God is not an evolving being filling out creation as He grows and changes. God who is transcendent comes to us in Jesus, very God of very God—the begotten God in the bosom of the Father. Jesus comes with all of the redemptive, transforming power that we need to live in community as daughters and sons of the Father. Jesus, He is of our flesh and of the Father. Through the Holy Spirit we are united to him and so are lifted up and “seated in heavenly places.”