Thursday, April 28, 2016

A theology of bad blood

In January, I spent an uncomfortable couple of days reading A Church Undone: Documents from the German Christian Faith Movement, 1932-1940. I was surprised, over and over, by how many Lutheran theologians in Germany tied Christian faith to racial purity. Specifically, blood purity. Most of them believed mixing blood lines was tantamount to heresy. Failure to maintain blood purity placed the salvation of true Christians/Christianity at risk.

I'm always taken off-guard by the regular mention of blood in our hymns and in Scripture. Blood carries much meaning.  Blood finds its way onto the screen in Kill Bill and zombie films and I wipe it off skinned knees and it has a menstrual flow and I give it through a needle to a bank, and Jesus bled it as he died.

I shouldn't be so surprised, then, by it's use in scripture and hymn. 

But when I shared a post yesterday about intersexuality, the rapid and dramatic responses I got to the post made me realize--all lot of the people bothered by the conversation and inquiry, they believe in blood purity!

For example, one person argued that God sent the flood in order to purify the Nephilim blood line from its mixing with humanity. This particular Missouri synod Lutheran actually believes that God was trying to purify humanities bloodline corruption through the flood, and then finally purified the human blood line in Jesus.

Really, he thinks this. Never mind that the Nephilim reappear in Numbers. Never mind that Jesus didn't pass on his blood line through descendants. Somehow the purity of blood matters.
So apparently the issue with intersexuality, the reason it causes such great anxiety among these racial purists, is because intersexuality represents to them a weakening somehow of the blood line. Blood carries DNA. 

If Jesus is intersex, another person argues, then Jesus is "imperfect." Never mind that I was not arguing directly that Jesus was a specific kind of intersex, or not. I was in that other post simply offering a meditation on how we can hear Scripture better if we pay attention to Jesus' transgressive relationship to all forms of cultural norming.

But listen to what is happening here. Somehow it is heretical to speculate that Jesus is intersex, because that indicates he was imperfect. Bringing Jesus into proximity to something that is considered "unclean" somehow sullies Jesus--either is character, or his nature, I'm not sure which.

But that isn't how this whole thing works. Jesus didn't redeem a fallen humanity by becoming a genetically perfect human being (whatever that might be).

Jesus doesn't redeem humanity by restoring a pure bloodline. He redeems humanity by taking on humanity. Jesus takes our place, that we might occupy his. Whatever genome Jesus took on, it was his taking on of a genome, being found in human form, the humbling himself, that offers redemption.

In other words, Jesus being born of a virgin means he brings into himself all the blood, every blood. 

Welcome to Jesus, y'all, a mixed blood God and man.

We can't know if Jesus was intersex. We only have the witness of the saints, which confesses the miracle of the virgin birth and the full humanity of the man, Jesus. But it certainly is salvific, healing, to confess clearly that there isn't just one "ideal" human form.  It's a relief to many, actually.

Your salvation isn't at risk because you have "bad" blood. Jesus has experienced everything that humans have (without sin). So Jesus knows what it is like to have an empty womb. Jesus knows what it is like to be infertile. Whatever is considered impure in the world, Jesus goes and gets dirty with it. Not to strain out all the impurity and retain all the truly pure ones. No, Jesus goes and trades places with such blood, that all the blood might be all the blood.

What I think many readers of my last post totally missed was how conventionally traditional and biblical my argument was (although I should add, many other readers did see this, acknowledged it, found it helpful). I adhered closely to Scripture, to the tradition, and then offered a reflection on it that provides comfort and gospel for those who sorely need it. That's not heresy, my friends. That's the good news of Jesus Christ, who is so fully human that all of humanity, not just certain pure blood lines, are now "new blood!"

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