Jesus Talk ft. Beyond the Block (3 Nephi 17-19)

Monday, September 28, 2020


Channing: Hi I’m Channing

Elise: and I’m Elise

C: and this is The Faithful Feminists podcast.

E: This is not just any Come Follow Me podcast - we do things a little differently here. We offer approachable feminist interpretations of the Come Follow Me manual for those who want to study and understand the scriptures in a framework of equality, social justice, and sisterhood. We’re here to show you all the really good ways faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience. 

C: We’ve saved you a seat on the soft chairs so join us today for a conversation about 3 Nephi 17-19 for the dates September 28-Oct 4. We’re so glad you’re here today!

E: We're not just glad that you're here today. We are also glad because we have two of our favorite favorite friends and fellow podcasters - the guys from Beyond the Block! We have  Brother Jones and Brother Knox. We'd love it if you could introduce yourselves. 

James: This is Brother Jones, James Jones, co-host of Beyond the Block and co-producer. Yeah, I’m mostly just here for timekeeping and moderation and making sure Derek doesn't do any jokes.

Derek: Okay, well I'm obviously Derek. My name is Derek Knox and I'm a scholar, educator, and comedian-- even though James won't let me put that on the business card. (everyone laughing) I just love talking about the scriptures, maybe too much, but it's so great that you saved us a seat on the soft chairs!

J: I feel like I'm crashing Relief Society right now. I feel a little deviant but also feel excited.

C: Relief Society is a great place to be!

J: It is!

C: We're excited to have you here today because based on what we've talked about and based on what's coming in the scriptures today, it's going to be a really insightful and delightful conversation. So we're just going to get right into it.

We're going to start in chapter 17. In this chapter I found most striking the way that Christ ministers to the body, and not just the body of the people, but the actual physical, mortal body. I wanted to just go through, not necessarily verse by verse, but example by example of all of the different ways that Christ addresses the health and well-being of our physical bodies. It doesn't take very long for him to get into this because we literally start in verse two, where Christ has finished preaching to the people from the words of Isaiah and he kind of looks around the crowd and he says, “I perceive that ye are weak and ye cannot understand all my words which I speak unto you at this time.” Then he says, “Therefore go ye to your homes and ponder upon the things which I have said and prepare your minds for the morrow.” 

When I think about this, I think of Jesus as a really tender teacher where he kind of looks at his class and he's like, I can see you all are exhausted. Why don't we just go home and rest because I know you're not going to be able to absorb all of the things that I want to share with you today. I think that that's our first example that we’re provided with in the scriptures is that Christ has an awareness of physical exhaustion and the limits of our own mortality. Which of course he would know! He wasn't human that long ago at this point! I love that.

Continuing in the chapter, this is where things really start to pick up. In verse 5 it says that Jesus “cast his eyes roundabout again on the multitude and beheld that they were in tears, and they looked steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them. And he said, Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.”

I kind of want to break these two verses down, but before I do that I wanted to note the second theme or second condition of mortality that I think Jesus addresses, and that is the human need for connection and belonging. I think that Christ looks out on the crowd and says I can see you're tired, but I can also see that you need more, that you need to feel connected, that you need to feel like I belong to you and you belong to me. Therefore I will tarry with you a little longer. 

I really wanted to break down in verse 6 this word compassion and especially how Christ uses that. [He says] “My bowels are filled with compassion.” I did a little bit of research on this word just because I was curious about it. I feel like it shows up quite a bit in scripture, not just in the Book of Mormon. So the Hebrew word for compassion comes from the root word called rechem. I hope I said that right, but if not look it up. This [word] translates directly to the word “womb” as in the one that babies are born from. Not only is this strikingly feminine but accompanying the word “womb” are beautiful images and actions of nurturing, cleansing, carrying, insulating, and of living. 

Also, I am going through a yoga teacher training right now and we're studying the different energetic areas of the body. The same area where in the female body is the second chakra area, which is present in both men and women. This is the area of the body that holds our emotion and controls our emotion. I found it really fascinating that Christ said, “my bowels,” the same area of the body that is filled with compassion, because this is the point in the body that governs our emotions! 

Going along with that, I just couldn't help but notice when we get to the next chapter, we're talking about the sacrament. [When we think of] the word compassion coming from the word womb, and then we get into the sacrament-- which focuses mainly on Christ sharing his body to nourish and carry us through this life-- I think that imagery carrying over and talking about the sacrament is so unignorable as a feminist reader. Its very inherently feminine. I was just so excited, especially having been through that experience of pregnancy and birth myself, being able to see Christ relate to me in that way was really just empowering and really special for me. 

J: I just wanted to say, the only reason I knew about that whole second chakra business is because of the Avatar. I know I said I was done, but you know I wasn't. As soon as you said that I was like, I don't know much about yoga but I know about chakra because of the Avatar! Now I have another gospel parallel that I can use for the Avatar. So thank you for that Channing. 

Also, the piece about the body and the compassion with the sacrament,  I was like oh my gosh! It just occurred to me that literally this whole experience of feeding somebody with your body, carrying somebody with your body, using your body to otherwise care for somebody and and succor them and sustain them is a very like, oh my gosh, that is the most… I don't know why it took me this long, but hearing you articulate it like that I was like, yo Christ was a total feminist! Like, straight up! I mean, I knew that already. But to this level to where he is literally taking something that we ascribe to the feminine as not just an essential part of the worship experience and the most important thing that we do on Sunday... It just shows you how involved I guess motherhood and femininity generally speaking is in the Divine. That is not something we are conditioned to think about, how feminine the act of the sacrament is.

D: And for Christ to transgress gender categories and roles it actually helps everybody, it helps people of all genders. 

C: I think this shows that you don't have to be a woman or identify as female to be able to participate in the action of nurturing and of sharing and caring and suffering for others. You don't have to have a womb or female genitalia to participate in that action, because everyone can have bowels filled with compassion.

The final condition of mortality that I think Christ addresses in chapter 17 is sickness. In verse 7 he says to the crowd, “Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither and I will heal them. And it came to pass that when he had said this, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick, and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all of them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth.”

I think that this perfectly illustrates that Jesus is someone who understands the importance of the body so much that he makes them perfect right now in this moment. I love that there's no condescending tone, he doesn't have to check your recommend at the door, there's no worthiness interviews, there's absolutely no limitation to the miracles that he is giving. There's only grace, there's only mercy, only loving-kindness, and that same compassion and devotion. What this tells me is two things: one, that Jesus absolutely will meet us where we are in every moment, and two, that this life is worth living fully. Jesus doesn’t just look at them and say, Oh your body isn’t perfect. Don't worry about it. In the resurrection it'll be all better. He says, “No, it matters right now so we're going to take care of it right now.” 

The last thing which I also could not get over when I realized this was in verse 10, after Christ had healed everyone, it says that “All those who had been healed and were whole, did bow down at his feet and did worship them, and as many as could come for the multitude, did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears.”

I was thinking about this and I [wondered] Where else in the scriptures have I seen someone come and bathe Jesus's feet in tears? and I was like, “It's Mary! Mary!” I just couldn't help but wonder if maybe Christ thought about her in that moment, [if he] was just filled with so much love and friendship. I don't know. I'm always looking for opportunities for women to show up in the scriptures and I think this might be another like instance. That was really exciting.

E: I'm glad that you talked about the way that Jesus invites everyone to come unto him. I was also thinking about the role of the people who carry both the suffering and the Afflicted and the people who carry the children and bring them to Jesus. I wanted to ask everyone, if we're thinking about the work of social justice and liberation, do we have a responsibility to carry people that are afflicted, suffering, and are filled with sorrow and hopelessness, is there a responsibility that we have to do what we can and to carry them to wholeness, sanctuary, or refuge?

J: What are we doing here if not that? If I can just highlight what we're all doing here for a moment, that is one of the biggest reasons that I approached Derek about starting Beyond the Block was because I wanted there to be a space for us to do that kind of work. Derek and I are fortunate in that we occupy many positions of privilege, you know, but also our marginalized identities have put us in certain situations where we see certain things and we see things that we want to change. Both of us as a result of our study, as a result of our work, but also as result of the grace of God we've been allowed to stay here and to continue both our experience of worship and our experience of ministry both at church and here doing the podcast. I don't know if we both do this because we feel a responsibility, I'll just speak for myself in saying that I feel like because the Lord has gifted me with this resilience and with these resources and with my certain privileges, I feel like I do have a responsibility to do some of that work of caring simply because I can do it. One of the greatest things and one of the most Christ-like things I think I can do is give access, or at least create the means whereby others can receive access, to the Atonement of Christ or to the worship experience and the ministry experience that I have. 

One thing that I'm really grateful for about you guys highlighting this healing experience is Jesus said he was going to do this after he, you know, after that great act of violence that he committed just a few chapters ago... He said, Won't you come unto me so I can heal you? He said he was going to do all this, but you also got to remember what the active healing does. In addition to just physically healing people, there is a spiritual and emotional and communal aspect to the healing exercises. Not only were these people made to be able to walk again, made to be able to speak and hear and see again, they were given access to worship in ministering experiences that were not before available to them. That is extremely powerful in this whole thing. That is one of the bigger blessings of the healing. I think that this is something that only gets briefly highlighted when Jesus does it.

I just remember reading last week in the book of Mark, one of Jesus's first miracles is to heal a leper. He has to touch the guy to heal him. Now that has its own implications, but the whole thing is that Jesus told this guy to go show himself to the priest because as soon as he did that he was welcomed back into society. He was able to worship again. Jesus more than cleansed that guy. He gave him access to worship experiences so that he could embrace the gospel in a way that other people were able to that he wasn't before.

So to get that this original question of caring, I feel like part of what we are doing here is our way of carrying, is that we provide a way for people to engage the gospel and access it in ways that they were not able to do it before. So the short answer is yes, I feel like we do have that responsibility because we have these resources and we have you know whatever just sent out that we have. I believe to glorify God, that is what he would ask us to do, what he would want us to do.

D: Yeah thats a really good point and I share your enthusiasm for bringing people. Now I'm really interested in putting this text and conversation with an analysis of disability because some people may jump to this idea of oh, if we’ve got disabled people, the whole point is to fix them. Disabled folks are some of the most marginalized in any society and in the church in terms of access and in terms of visibility in terms of being in the decision-making roles. Wrestling with this text, I would say a couple of things. I would center in on the word affliction and then hold up the value of self-identification and self-advocacy. If someone believes themselves to be afflicted, like if I got an illness and I wanted to recover, that's my ability to name that. So I would say you can't define someone who is disabled and say You're afflicted and you need to get fixed. The second value is, of course, consent. I imagine that you needed to have the consent of the people that you're bringing to Jesus. You don't just bring them in there if they’re like we don't want to be healed. But I am assuming that within this context, the way its celebrated…  I'm assuming that this was not only self-identified affliction but also something that the people really wanted.

E: Thank you for saying that, both of you. I think that in this example too it's really clear that we are not acting as the Savior, or as a savior, and yet we're bringing them if they consent and if they desire, to the Savior. But we're not the ones that kind of swoop in and save the day and try and think that we know what's best in the way that we think they should be healed. I think Jesus is the one that speaks with them and talks with them and doesn't just heal them of their afflictions, but also like you were saying James, opens up a much more enriched possibility for them to live a full-fledged authentic life in ways that perhaps they were excluded from in the past. 

D: And that brings us to the warning of not being a white savior. Some of us, when we’re at the beginning stages of learning about racial injustice, we say, I feel so bad about this. I want to go fix it, fix this, and I want to fix black people. But that's what we as white people should do is just stop hurting black people and trust the process.

J: I also want to bring back this whole thing of when Christ said, will you not come unto me that I might heal you? I have a feeling he was speaking more to, and even not necessarily of physical healing. He wanted to do something for these people that was going to enrich their experience in their ability to come unto him. I am quite certain that when he said heal in that moment, while he could very well have not been eliminating the possibility of physical healing, he wanted these people to be spiritually healed and emotionally healed. He wanted them to be in a position where they could embrace him more fully, whatever that looked like. I'm sure was what these people were willing to embrace at this particular point, especially when we read earlier in the chapter that these people look on Jesus as if they would have him stay longer, these people clearly wanted him there and they wanted to embrace him to some degree; therefore Jesus was willing to embrace them and he was willing to heal them. This is what makes the experience, as we were just talking about, consensual to me. And also more of a spiritual exercise in the healing process than a physical one, though that is a necessary component of this also.

D: You know I also want to offer up something about the theology of disability that may help us here. Looking at the Exodus narrative and what happened when the Lord called Moses to be a prophet and he first said no, I have a speech impediment. I have this disability and so this is not going to work. The Lord had a couple of options there. One would be to say, oops I'm sorry I'm not going to use you. Then, I can fix you up, so I'm just going to magically fix your disability. The Lord chose neither one. The Lord chose to provide a reasonable accommodation in the person of Aaron, that by working together, it made it accessible for Moses to be the prophet of the people.

J: If I could say something about this compassion of Christ real quick while we were talking about this still... Something that I really like in this chapter is that as soon as Jesus... I mean you know Jesus says like I'm going to go, I'm going to ascend back into heaven, going to go do Jesus stuff or whatever it is, he looks on the people and says, I see you guys want me to stay. What else can I do for you? Then you just see this string of events that happened as a result of Jesus exercising compassion. He stays with the people to heal their sick. He blesses them and prays with them. He calls the children to come unto him and he prays with them. He blesses them. Angels come out of heaven and fire encircles them. The people start speaking in tongues. The angels minister to them. In the next chapter he's instituting the sacrament. So much stuff happened because of Jesus exercising compassion. So many incredible and amazing things.

We’ve really got to make space. As soon as I read that I was like, we got a really make space for more compassion in our lives to people who either don't think like us, don't love like us, don't look like us, or just need attention in some way so that amazing things like this can break forth. Jesus even goes as far as to say, “People in Jerusalem didn't experience this because they didn't exercise the faith that you guys are exercising.” This is another opportunity for us to talk about faith here, but I just wanted to highlight just how many incredible things and how many great blessings were able to come to the people of Nephi because Jesus Christ exercise compassion. 

What can we really do for our church, what can we do in our ministry, what can we do in our personal lives, in our families, in our communities if we just exercised some christ-like compassion! Could we get angels to minister could we heal folks could we can we speak in tongues again? I don't know. This is just the kind of thing I was thinking about. What kind of incredible things could we accomplish, can we do, if we exercise this kind of compassion? 

E: I think that’s a great question and I also think it ties up nicely with some of Channing's earlier points about the body because oftentimes spiritual experiences can feel like they transcend the body, and yet none of these things could have happened without being in a body, without Christ being there in the flesh. I think there is something beautiful when we stop and think about the ways that we can care and be so compassionate in a way that ushers in these transcendent, holy, divine experiences in a way that doesn't negate the body but in a way that celebrates the body and says Thank you for allowing me to feel this way. I can't experience spiritual things without my body and without my physical senses. Even if it's beyond words. Even if it's beyond comprehension. 

D: I think there's a profound resonance between Jesus living in a body for a time and then being responsive to the needs, as we talked about earlier, of those who are in a body. I want to talk a little bit about this responsiveness, because Jesus adapts to the needs of the people. A lot of Latter-day Saints just think, well, God knows everything and we just got to get in line and be obedient and and we're like computers to get programmed and God’s got everything. But we realize here that Jesus has the spirit of dealing with stuff and changing plans when the plans need to be changed. It was manifest to Jesus that, whoops we've got to deal with this and I've got to switch gears. I think that could even impact our prayer life. How much more valiant and powerful would our prayers be if we had this understanding that God's going to change for us!

This reminds me of two women in the New Testament who changed Jesus’ mind. One is Mary in John 2 at the wedding of Cana, where Jesus is like, nope it's not my time and then Mary is like yeah it is, you're going to do this. Then of course there's the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7 and Matthew 15, which we talked a little bit earlier before we started recording. You’ve got this idea of Jesus saying Oh no, I’ve got to change my plan.

I want to offer an extended analogy about... you know, we've heard of this concept of “cafeteria Mormons” like people picking and choosing. I think that gets used abusively against people who are just trying to do the best they can. What I want to name is a different type of analogy, a different sort of dichotomy, rather than dividing people into cafeteria Mormons and then faithful Mormons. I can offer something else, but I need to talk a little bit about the crisis at Mount Everest. 

There's a problem here. Originally Mount Everest was this really pure pristine amazing snow-capped mountain, but now with the accessibility of more people being able to climb the mountain, we've got a problem. Because this is above the line, where it's above the elevation, so that it's frozen year-round, so nothing melts. What happens is people poop. We've now got hundreds and hundreds of people going up the mountain every year and pooping on the mountain. It sounds like I'm making a joke, but I promised Brother Jones not to make a joke! There's a problem here because the poop freezes and it does not return to Nature. You’ve got piles of poop on it and it's a mess. It's actually an instance of environmental racism because you've got rich westerners paying thousands and thousands of dollars to go up this mountain and then their poop slides down into the indigenous people’s villages and that's not okay. It it makes a mess for everything. The point of this analogy is this is what happens when you don't deal with stuff. It just sits there and then you step in it. Whereas, if you poop in the middle of a rainforest, there's no problem with that because it will return to nature very very quickly. I'm going to give my analogy. I'm going to talk about Rainforest Mormons vs. Everest poop Mormons.

There's some of us who deal with the stuff when it comes up, just like Jesus did here. Something happened and he was resilient to the needs of the problem. He realized there's a problem, I'm going to fix it. There are a lot of saints out here, I want to name this especially as we're preparing for General Conference, that think God’s got everything and we just have to sit back and get spoon-fed. That’s not the God that I know from the scriptures or my real life. It's a lot of those people, the Everest poop Mormons,  are like I'm not going to deal with something. We don't have to change, we'll just let it pile up... and then put out pristine photos of Mount Everest and say Look! There's no poop!

But I'm the type of person, I'm not cafeteria Mormon at all, I'm one of these rainforest Mormons. We're going to deal with stuff. It may not be in the moment, but it's better than having it all pile up. I don't know if you've been to a Boston winter, like the snow when it first falls is pretty, but then people will sludge in it and then it gets brown and and gross and slushy. That's kind of my analogy here, of not allowing the people who are labeling others as cafeteria Mormons to put the lines on the game field, on the field of play. We need to take charge. This is how we draw the lines, this is the game we're playing. I'm going to be a rainforest Latter Day Saint. 

J: If I could add a quick tangent, I just wanted to say as far as cafeteria Mormons go, we already pick and choose when we follow the word. We're all cafeteria Mormons if we're really going to play that game, you know what I'm saying? We take the council we are going to follow from the scriptures, from the prophet, we pick what we're going to follow from the law, from our boss, from our health care providers, from my parents and our spouses... We pick everything that we're going to do, you know what I'm saying? I never liked the insult or the pejorative of “cafeteria Mormon” as if we're not already doing that, you know what I'm saying? We're all doing that man! They pick and choose the parts. [Someone’s] racist, but you’re going to get mad at me for saying ‘hell’? What's wrong with you? 

D: Or they don't look at the parts of the scripture that condemn the rich. They pick and choose.

J: Yep! Sorry that was a tangent, but I just needed that out there since somebody said cafeteria mormons.

C: The example of the Syrophoenician woman actually I think pushes back against cafeteria Mormonism. I wish I was, but I am not at my house right now... I have a book that has a wonderful essay on the Syrophoenician woman. I will link it in our show notes so that our listeners can find it ('A Gentile Woman's Story,' Sarah Ringe, in 'Feminist Theology: A Reader,' edited by Ann Loades), but she actually calls Jesus out. One way to interpret the story is that the Syrophoenician woman approaches Jesus and asks for more inclusivity in the way that the gospel is being shared with others. At this time in Jesus's ministry, the gospel is only being shared with the Jews. The Syrophoenician woman was a gentile. One feminist interpretation of this is to say that she pushed back against that and asked for blessings for herself, that that courage and breaking of social understanding was actually what influenced Jesus's understanding to open up the gospel to all the world and enourage more inclusivity that way. I don't know, maybe I'm about to say something super radical on the podcast, but maybe the Syrophoenician woman called Jesus out on his own cafeteria Mormonism. So, Syrophoenician woman, we love you! 

E: Then if we turn over to chapter 18, this is where Jesus institutes the sacrament with the people. I think it's important when we think about the sacrament as communion and think about the sacrament as God being incarnated in flesh in Jesus. I think it's important for us to pair chapter 17 and 18 together because before Jesus teaches the people about the sacrament and delivers the sacrament, he finds it important that everyone needs to be brought together. Everyone needs to be in one physical body of Christ before they can partake of the perhaps spiritual body of Christ. So we have the sick and afflicted, we have those who were carrying, then we have the children, everyone is here. Now Jesus says, okay now that we're communing together, let me teach you about the sacrament, or communion.

At least for me in the LDS church, I know that we are taught that the bread and the water represent Christ's body and blood, but in other religions it's not so much representative as it is literal. I think there is something that we can learn from this understanding of the bread being flesh and the water being blood-- but not in a suffering way. I think we can often get trapped and think that the sacrament is only about remembering the suffering that Jesus underwent in his physical body. But there are some interpretations out there that are also that also bring Mary and a feminine aspect into the sacrament, because Mary was the one who nourished Jesus with her own flesh and her own blood and her own milk. Now through the sacrament Jesus nourishes us and Jesus heals us with his body and his blood and we can see this Marion aspect all throughout the sacrament. 

I think in this way the sacrament becomes less of a remembrance of suffering and a forgiveness of sin, and it becomes a celebration of what it means to be human and what it means that God was so compassionate and loved us enough to come and be in a physical form alongside us.

J: It never occurred to me that when I partake of the sacrament, there's a little bit of Mary in there as well, you know what I'm saying?

E: There's more than just Mary, too! I think when we think about the Syrophoenician woman that we were talking about previously, I wanted to read a passage from a book called “Women, Eucharist, and Good News.” 

“The Syrophoenician woman is identified by her ethnicity and religious beliefs. She is also portrayed as a woman who is desperate to obtain healing for her daughter. In reply to the woman's request for healing, Jesus introduces the image of bread when he argues that the children's bread should not be given to the dogs. The response of the woman pronounces a claim on at least the crumbs, and for the only time in this gospel, Jesus has been matched, and even bettered, in the context of a challenge. This woman’s successful reply to Jesus's words enables her to obtain a share of the bread for herself and for her daughter.”

It's significant to note that the woman has to work harder than any other person who requested healing. In Mark's gospel, only the Syrophoenician woman has to convince Jesus, that after the initial request for healing she has to struggle to be included within the sacrament, within this community who are already nourished by the bread. The success of her struggle highlights that women and Gentiles and people who are excluded from the sacrament, shouldn't be excluded from the access to the bread, from this nourishment, from this healing. Also that women can take a leading role in providing the bread for those in need of nourishment. I was stunned by this passage, but I think it pairs up really nicely with what comes later in the chapter, where Jesus cautions people to not let people partake of the sacrament unworthily. I think the Syrophoenician woman says, “No, no, no. This communion, this nourishment and healing of the body and blood of Jesus, that's for everyone.” 

C: As I think of me taking the sacrament but also being denied access to the sacrament, it actually reminds me of... I don't know if anyone is familiar with Nadia Bolz-Weber. She is on Instagram @sarcasticlutheran and I love her. One of the things that she had mentioned probably a couple of months ago is that the responsibility of Christians in general is not to bar certain people from coming to Christ, but that our message should always be forgiveness, that the focus needs to always be on saying you're forgiven, welcome to the fold. I think sometimes, or at least in my own lived experience, there have been times where I have desperately needed that forgiveness and that welcoming back into the fold and haven't received it, and how striking the contrast is to the experiences when I did, and how life-changing or not one of those has been. This idea of, I don't know, I can't imagine in my own understanding of God and my own understanding of Jesus, of ever being turned away. I think that is the radical message of love and that is the good news of the gospel. I just wonder sometimes if in our practice of Christianity, if we've lost focus of what the actual good news is: the forgiveness and the welcoming and inclusion.

J: Something I really wanted to address when I came across the institution of the sacrament and this chapter, because just a few chapters ago actually in 3rd Nephi chapter 11 when Jesus first makes his appearance and introduces himself, he says at the end of that chapter, “This is my doctrine. Do not add to it, do not take away from it. This is my doctrine.” He basically talks about faith, repentance, and baptism as being the fundamental parts of his doctrine. What I was talking about when Derek and I discussed that episode is just how much of a tendency there is for Christians to add to take away stuff. 

One of my favorite questions to ask when I was a missionary was “Why do you think there are so many churches?” Inevitably, somebody would be like “Well, it doesn't matter. We all worship the same God.” I'm just like, Well, What is God? Who is he? What does he want us to do? How do we get back to him? Eventually we would get to the point where we just say, “Okay, there's a lot of churches because we all believe fundamentally different things about the nature of God, Christ, what he taught, what they expect of us, yada yada.... and I was just like, “So this is the problem. We have effectively changed the doctrine of Christ in different ways.” Jesus Christ says when he arrives is “This is my doctrine. Don't mess with it.” That is the first thing he says. Then we get to this part where Jesus really got mad at people in the New Testament for changing his doctrine, changing his words, changing what the Commandment to love others looked like, and I feel like we might fall into that trap occasionally as members of the church, where we fundamentally have made God in our own image by saying we are disenfranchising entire populations of people as an act of love when Jesus Christ himself probably would not have done that or would that have exercised loving that way. 

All this to say, now that we're talking about the sacrament this is Jesus Christ’s effort to continue reinforcing what is doctrine is now. I just wanted to point out that even though Jesus Christ has effectively named what is doctrine, we are seven chapters later and now he's instituting the sacrament. What exactly do we think he's trying to reinforce here? I have an idea, I see it early in this chapter, but he says, “This ye shall do in remembrance of my body which I've shown unto you and it shall be a testimony unto the father that you do always remember me.” I'm thinking to myself that this is an effort to reinforce the faith part of the doctrine and probably the repentance part of the doctrine as well because that is what the sacrament is for in my opinion. It's a fundamental part of my repentance process but I just wanted to ask you guys if you feel like there's a piece of the sacrament that reinforces Christ’s doctrine of faith, repentance, and baptism. 

C: Well I think I might just bite at the low-hanging fruit. The sacrament does remind us of baptism in that we continually get that chance at repentance and by partaking in it. This is literally the primary answer, right, by partaking in the sacrament we participate in a weekly ritual of repentance or have the opportunity to anyway. So I think in that way it does function as a remembrance of the true gospel of Christ, which is why it's never made sense to me that we exclude people from it. But that's just my own personal opinion. 

D: Yeah well I want to talk a little bit about the stewardship of the sacrament because Jesus teaches something, two different things, that I think are in contention with one another, but you can resolve them when you look at the final results when he says that church leaders should make sure that people do not partake of the sacrament unworthily. Then he also says even if people don't partake of the sacrament, make sure that everyone is well from there in the meeting that don't don't deny anyone, that you should not forbid anyone from coming. Both of those are a line towards the goal of repentance and that's the whole point of what Jesus says himself. Not denying people is to lead them into a state of repentance. That's the whole point of allowing anyone to come into the meeting is to bring them and just stay to repentance and I just want a little bit of talk about how about how this power or stewardship of the sacrament gets deployed. 

One of the most important questions we can ask is who has the power and how is it being used? I just want to tie this together with an intertextual echo in 1st Corinthians 11 which was a very divided church and was divided on the lines of privilege. You had people with higher wealth education and access and what happened is that they had all the food and they got drunk and they had a big party and they left out the poor people. That's the context in which Paul says you can't do that. When he says in 1st Corinthians 11 not to partake of the sacrament unworthily, that's sandwiched in between these two warnings of don't do this. Don't don't just have a feast and leave people out. don't don't do that. I think that is a really key insight is that in that context the only unworthiness that Paul seems to have on his mind is the act of people with privilege and power excluding others. I think that's the unworthiness that Paul is wanting people to recognize. He says you're not even recognizing the body. I think if we bring that into this text it gives us a very interesting result about what unworthiness in my view would be significant enough to withhold the sacrament from someone.

This gets back to how I do my ministry when I think the point of religion is and there's sort of three parts to this. One is those who are comfortable need to be afflicted, those who are afflicted need to be comfortable, and everyone needs to be affected by my jokes. There's something really biblical about the first two bits of that. I think the desire to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable is rooted in Mary's Magnificat. It's about casting down the mighty from their thrones and feeding those who are hungry. I think this sort of 2 fold ministry is also rooted in the way Christ he says love one another as I have loved you in John 13:34. How did he love other people? He called out people! Someone accused me of name calling on Facebook and I didn't respond to it because I'm ten steps ahead of him, but Jesus, when it was about Herod, he called him a fox. He says, ‘go tell that fox.’ I just want to put that out there for the record that sometimes name-calling is Christlike especially if you have power and privilege and you're hurting other people, name calling is appropriate! 

Anyway let me get back to the sacrament thing. I would feel comfortable if I were a church leader and someone is engaging in manifest racism in going to say, “Nope, nope, You got to repent.” This is your wake-up call. I want you to have the sacrament when we have brought you back into moral inclusion. I think some of the church leaders want to use the stewardship of the sacrament to afflict the afflicted, that is people are LGBT people on the margins of the church people who don't fit in somewhere. I'm like no that's not the right way. You should use your discernment and worship in order to afflict the comfortable those who are unrepentantly participating in the work of white supremacy in this country or or any of these other isms that that need to be addressed. I think those people I would feel comfortable saying, “Look, you're not part of the body of Christ if you are hurting other people in this manifest way.” That's I think how I would use, sort of give context to this about what really does unworthiness mean and is it ever appropriate to deny someone the sacrament. 

C: Can I disagree a little?

D: Yes.

C: I think I just struggle with the idea of exclusion at all. Okay, I'm just going to say it and hope that you guys will talk to me and we can work through it together because I might not be right. I struggle with the idea of exclusion just based on the fact that I have experienced that for myself and I would feel uncomfortable excluding to teach a lesson or to say that somehow I know better. That's not to say that racism and sexism and homophobia and all of those things are not bad because they absolutely are and I do think that we need to address those in the church and that we can do it effectively, but I'm unsure that excluding from the sacrament would be the answer. I don't know. How do you guys feel about it? I don't know, it just doesn't sit right with me. But it might just be because maybe I'm not understanding fully.

E: I think I was going to ask a similar question. Is the role or purpose of the sacrament to gauge worthiness or do we partake of the sacrament because we are trying to remember Jesus and trying to be welcomed into the body of Christ? I'm wondering, can we still call people to repentance and also say, you really need the sacrament too, because you need Christ’s nourishment to fill you?

J: I’d just like to address Channing’s question more directly. I’ve been talking about boundaries this year, particularly when it comes to making racism a costly experience. And to Derek’s point was to simple say that if we are going to keep people from taking the sacrament for, I don’t know, reasons related to the law of chastity or the word of wisdom, then we definitely need to be making the sacrament unavailable to people for racism, homophobia, sexism. Just in my mind, I want us to be consistent in that regard,otherwise we stop prohibiting people from partaking of the sacrament. I feel like this is what Derek was saying, I want us to be consistent if we have to be insistent in restricting the sacrament from people. I don’t want somebody to be prohibited from taking the sacrament because they had a sip of alcohol and they’re trying to do better, whereas the people who unrepentantly post Candace Owens videos and they get to take the sacrament! That is something I take issue with.

To Channing’s point, my whole thing is, I just want bigotry to be costly. If people are unapologetically embracing some form of bigotry, then that needs to have a consequence. I really agreed with Christ in this, to not allow someone to partake of the sacrament unworthily. That’s not something I’m putting on me. I’m saying someone is forcing my hand when they engage in that. For example, right now in my life, my father refuses to go to my sister’s wedding because she's getting married to a woman. I don’t want to not have a relationship with my father because of that decision he’s making, but he’s kind of forcing my hand. At that point he decides not to go to my sister’s wedding, he’s choosing bigotry over his own daughter and I have to do something about that. Not because I want to exclude or punish him but because I have boundaries. That is the principle I’m trying to operate on. Its not that I love my dad any less or I want to exclude him. I want to let him know that its a boundary he has transgressed, and I have to enforce it because of my principles. Am I getting warmer? I feel what you’re saying, Channing, my only issue is that if someone is unrepentant, that’s where I start asking questions and drawing lines.

D: Yeah, Channing, I don’t want to come out like I’m saying that you’re wrong. I'm just speaking from my experience, and each of us has a window from our perspective and I'm right there with you with your concerns around inclusion. But I remind myself of this principle that in the mortal world, where there is opposition in all things, it is not possible to say all are welcome or to make all welcome, and here's why. If I invite the sheep and the wolves to dinner, the sheep won't be safe and they're not really invited. In a body where people are coming in a state of vulnerability where they need to be safe, if you have racist... if you say everyone's welcome including racists, then people of color may not be safe. If you say homophobes are welcome then I won't be safe. So you have to choose - what are you going to choose? My view is because of the opposition in all things, we're going to have to choose. Are we going to center the needs of the privileged, are we going to center the marginalized? I just choose for myself the marginalized because I don't know of any other better way. I would like to say all are welcome but I don't know how to do that. 

D: I would like to say ‘all lives matter.’ Oh, that tasted awful coming out of my mouth! 

C: I really I really appreciate you both being willing to sit with me in that discomfort because you've given me a lot to think about. I'm really incredibly grateful because like I said, it gives me a lot to think about. I appreciate you being really patient with me and also gentle with my questions. I'm still learning. I also to just want to point out to our listeners that that’s the whole point of this: to discuss with each other, talk with each other, and ask hard questions, and maybe be a little bit embarrassed about not knowing everything because I definitely don't, and being open and willing to learn from others so that we can get to that place where we have an understanding, and safety and welcoming, comfort for the afflicted and affliction for the comfortable. I really like that. Thank you both for being willing to help me figure it out. Thank you both and thank you for your comments.

E: I wonder if we can say still all are welcome and yet when you don't welcome others or when you run your mouth, then there are consequences, and one of the consequences if you're excluding the body of Christ is you don't get to participate in the ritual of being welcomed into the body of Christ. All are welcome, and yet, there are consequences for those who dehumanize or exclude. 

D: Yeah and I just want to name one other thing that I thought of. It's one of the sort of central ways that liberation theology typically flows is it starts out with concrete praxis, like what are we doing? What is the action? Then it moves into a reflection on the praxis in light of the word of God, in light of whatever analytical tools you have. Then you reflect on the praxis, then you fold that, pack that reflection back into the praxis. I think there's room for navigating this, [for] asking questions about ‘why do we?’ That gets to what James was saying, why do we exclude people from the sacrament who are violating the word of wisdom? Why aren't we? Why aren't we excluding those who are engaging and racism? We reflect on that praxis and then think about that in light of these texts and we wrestle with it. It may not be an easy answer and that's really where the hard work of theology is. Answers everyone can do, but we have to wrestle with these hard ones and then fold that reflection back into a renewed understanding of our praxis and then it actually changes our actions.

E: Thank you all so so much for joining us today for this episode’s conversation. We are so so grateful and appreciative to our friends and brothers at Beyond the Block for joining us today and making this conversation so important and so impactful. Before we close out, do you guys want to say goodbye and drop your socials? Tell us, tell the people where they can find you! 

D: You can find us at Thank you so much for hosting us. I hope that some of your listeners may discover us. We're also on Instagram and Facebook and we're also on Twitter, coming soon to Snapchat and Cameo and TikTok and YouTube. Yes, all the young people stuff. Our handles, by the way, and  are handled by the way, on Twitter and Instagram, are @btblds, like Beyond the Block, @btblds.  

C: Perfect. We’ll link to those in our show notes and our Instagram post so our followers can find you guys super easy!

E: The good news is we've got more collaborative episodes like this planned for next year, so keep an eye out because we're going to be combining more! We love you guys. 

Thank you all so much for listening and joining us today for this episode. We look forward to talking with you next week. Bye!

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