Friday, February 15, 2019

Fear of Defilement??

The reading from the Gospels for today’s Daily Office is the passage from Mark where Jesus calls out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes over how they practice some of the rituals of their faith.  The Pharisees have asked Jesus why his disciples don’t always wash their hands in the ritual fashion before meals. He uses their misinterpretation of the law to catch them in their hypocrisy. First it is their way of getting around the commandment to honor father and mother by giving money to the temple.  They can then claim they don’t have the resources needed to honor their father and their mother. Jesus then goes on to note that it is not what goes into a person that defiles that person. Instead it is what comes out of that person...whether from the mouth or their heart. What goes into a person enters the mouth, goes through the digestive system and out into the sewer.  Defilement is not from what you eat or touch. Defilement comes from the heart.

My thoughts turned to the eight bishops who have tried to refuse to allow same sex couples to be married in their dioceses.  The question came to mind wondering what the source of their fear might be. I think they are afraid of being “defiled” by allowing same sex marriages!  How on earth allowing a marriage can defile someone falls into the category of what Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes. How could ANY marriage defile the officiant or her/his bishop?  It can’t.

Those who have made arrangements for another bishop to oversee parishes that wish to allow same sex marriages are not off the hook with that maneuver either.  They have just found another route to avoid being “defiled” themselves.

Regardless of the arrangements or lack thereof, all eight of these bishops are playing the same game.  In that process, they are failing to meet the pastoral needs of people for whom they have vowed to provide pastoral care.  

Look at the ministry of Jesus.  He dismissed defilement as ludicrous in the sense that was being played out in His day.  He touched those deemed ritually unclean such as dead bodies and lepers. He upended the “rules” used to avoid caring for those who needed care.  It did not matter to Jesus.

It seems to me that the attitude of these eight bishops is as ludicrous as the issues of ritual purity were in Jesus’ day.  Do they honestly think that allowing same sex marriages in their dioceses can defile them in any way? If that is how they think, I question both their theology and the seminaries that taught them to believe such nonsense.  

Gentle bishops:  Your vocation is to be a pastor to ALL within your diocesan flock.  You do not get to “hand off” those with whom you do not want to engage, however much you disagree with them.  Our canon law provides for certain rites to be available to all. It is not your discretion to create exceptions.  Open your hearts. Defilement comes FROM the heart not from touching another either figuratively or literally. What, gentlemen, do you fear?  Could your fear be of yourselves? Only you can answer that.

Bruce Garner, Past President
Integrity USA:  The Episcopal Rainbow