One Man's Web
1:1 The beginning
1The beginning of the good news [Or gospel] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. [Other ancient authorities lack the Son of God.] (Archē tou euangeliou Iēsou christou)
1. Eyes for Reading: Imagine a Jewish man who has survived the chaos of the destruction of Jerusalem and has ended up employed by the Romans to keep an eye on the undercurrents of Jewish nationalism.1 A copy of what we now call The Gospel of Mark has come into his possession. What would he see?
He would probably read what we now call verse 1 as the title 2 of this document. If he had the mind of a scribe or a rabbi he might wonder if Mark is using archē, or beginning, as an allusion to Genesis 1:1 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament3 that was in common use at the time. That text begins: Εn ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν, which is, In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. Would he wonder if Mark's first verse, because it is the title, means the entire document is consciously intended as a completion/commentary on Genesis, and the Jewish scriptures, and even the Creationv?4
2. Mark lives under Empire: Given Point 1, we might wonder whether that word archē is not also an allusion to the creation story of Babylon which Genesis was crafted to dispute5 and to say that the God of Israel is in control of the creation, not the chaotic gods of the empire of Babylon.
Mark never uses the word empire, although he speaks of Pilate and his entourage. But Mark's passion narrative, in particular, shows an imperial culture. It will become clear that, now under Roman rule, Jesus sees much of his own culture still has the same ancestry and underpinnings as the empire of Babylon from which it had escaped. The classic introduction for understanding the connections between Jerusalem, and our own culture, and the culture of Babylon, is Walter Wink's article "The Myth of Redemptive Violence."6 It helps us see that the toxicity of empire is something which Mark takes for granted... Read on >>>>
A commentary on Chapter 13 of Mark. From the conclusion:
Nora Gallagher said "I once asked a friend of mine who is a therapist how to stop projecting onto others my own fears and weakness, that is, how to love, and she said: 'You must enlarge your capacity to suffer.'" The empires are metaphors for the path taken by humans determined to sort out and manage their own salvation… If Jesus rejects Babylon, and rejects Satan, his only other option is to suffer. This is because if we will not suffer, if we will not "enlarge our capacity to suffer" then we will inevitably project, and deflect, our suffering upon others. In the end, that's all Babylon and Rome are: for all their grandeur and power they are, finally, a refusal to suffer. They try to avoid the suffering that is unavoidable if we are to live. They fail the call which Jesus accepted... Read on >>>>
Forty years ago, I met a man who profoundly shaped my ministry and pastoral practice. Struggling to know how to manage pastoral care and just generally being a minister, I found in him an inspiration. I copied him.
I say this to introduce a reflection on my recent post Towards a Theology of Gender. While writing it, I could see it would be possible to read the post as a criticism of someone who identifies as male. The post is not seeking to say that. It would never occur to me that my good male friend, such a boon to me, should be anything else other than male. "Well then, why do you need to be this non-binary thing?" someone could ask. "Can't you simply be a male, or masculine, in a non-toxic or non-misogynist fashion?" In other words, why can't I just be like my friend? It's a common-sense question. Another common sense question would be what this means for my relationship with my partner. Well, I adore her, and nothing's changed there. That's because there is no necessary correlation between sexual attraction and gender identity. Which leads us to looking at what gender identity might be.
Why I can't just be like my friend
I start from some "givens."
I take it that most, if not all, societies are set up to favour men. In the west, that means white, heterosexual men. I make no apology for saying to someone who can't see that, "It's time to wake up." Four women have been murdered by men in domestic homicides in South Australia, in this past week... Read on >>>>
This essay explores the relationship between my Christian theology, strongly influenced by the insights of Rene Girard into the into human imitative behaviour and desire, and the thinking of Judith Butler. I am currently working my way through their seminal work, Gender Trouble. The essay is purposely over-wordy, with long quotations from other authors and from other work of my own. This is because I am both seeking to lay out the basis of my thinking so that the reader who has not read the scholars on whom I depend, will get some understanding of where I am coming from. It is also the case that I am creating long-form notes for my own future thinking... I write this as a non-binary person who looks "male" but often feels much closer to what we often call "female." In another world...? Seeking to understand myself energises this essay.... Read on >>>>