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The Other (/)/(_) Neighbor and the Acceptable Hatred

In a popular video currently circulating online channels, a young boy no more than 3 or 4 years old singing a song ending in the line “ain’t no homo gonna get into heaven”. For many this is a simple statement of fact. It is a reflection of Christian theology and belief. In fact, when the young boy makes this statement the crown in the church explodes with excitement. The entire church, it seems is standing and cheering the boy on. They are standing in solidarity with the boy and praising his words.

But let’s begin to breakdown this statement and the crowd’s reaction into its key components:

First, the boy is much too young to be formulating a stance on the eternal judgement of those who are homosexual. This is a learned and enculturated value. More than this, as the boy surely has no real opinions on such concepts as sexual attraction, the final state of souls in heaven or hell, or what theology as a whole has to say about any of these issues. The boy learned this song from parents who, so believing in the message of this song, taught their child to sing and perform these words, probably knowing the reaction the crowd would have.

Second, the word “homo”, as is used in this statement, is not a simple reduction of the word “homosexual”. Homo is slang and a slur. The word carries a negative connotation but is not fully an overtly offensive statement in the way the “n” word is for blacks. The word still means something other than a statement of fact – it is meant to conjure negative feelings and sentiments.

Third, the song makes a simple theological statement that a homosexual will not get into heaven. This, as I believe most Evangelical denominations  would agree, is contrary to accepted theology, which states that someone is saved despite the sin that is believed to affect the salvation of the individual. For example, a drunkard/alcoholic, if repentant and accepting of the belief espoused by the community, would achieve salvation. Regardless  of whether he is still technically an alcoholic, he is still fine. The same could be said of thieves or any other culturally established group that practices a belief contrary to the accepted values of the community.

But this boy is positing that homosexuals will simply not get into heaven. It is a statement of fact. It is a belief that is contrary to normal groupings of what is seen as sinful behavior and lifestyle choices.

Fourth, the crowd absolutely loves the experience. As a whole they cheer, laugh, and clap. The man on the stage, whom one might believe to be the pastor, grins and laughs as he experiences the lyric.

What is wrong with this picture?

To start, the boy is claiming that homosexuals will not make their way into heaven. In this system, the only other option is hell. When the crowd cheers the boy on with that statement, they are showing their happiness with the idea that someone who is gay will suffer for eternity in a place of unimaginable suffering. When this is stated the crowd is delighted. How does this in anyway align with the values espoused by Jesus? How is one to love their neighbor but rejoice in their eternal damnation and suffering? You’re not.

In psychoanalysis and postcolonial philosophy, the theory of the Other is a means for understanding the differentiation between ourselves and the outside world. The Other is a means for understanding who we are: we are who we are by knowing what we are not. The Other is unknowable, untrustable, and wholly different than ourselves. This separation is what allows us to form trusting bonds within our communities. It is also what allows us to perform horrible acts upon groups that are not who we see as ourselves.

For the Christians in the audience, their world is insular and accepted. They are around those who are like them. Their world is populated with replications of the kind of values and lifestyle choices that they see in themselves. The Other is a monstrosity. The homosexual represents the difference between themselves and who they are not. They see themselves as good and the Other as evil, wicked, detestable.

When Jesus made the statement to love your neighbor as yourself, it is this Other that can be articulated in understanding. The neighbor is the object from whom you keep your distance. The neighbor is not the community member but the difference than you. It is the neighbor who is not your family member in the house next door but rather the individual who’s excessive proximity is an offense to one’s happiness and satisfaction. The neighbor is the pedophile on the block, the family of a convicted felon.

If Christians are charged with loving their neighbor as themselves, could we take the boy’s lyric and flip it on its head to see if the reaction is the same? To take this statement literally one must put themselves in the place of the “homo”: Ain’t no me gonna get in heaven. Would the reaction be the same? Could they in fact celebrate this association in the same way as what was shown in the video?

This cheering is more than simply a sign of solidarity with a Biblical belief, this is the articulation of a cultural prejudice against a minority. The lyric should be offensive to not just homosexuals, but Christians who believe in a similar theology as the group represented in the video. There should be no situation in which a Christian should celebrate the idea that an individual must suffer for all eternity.

I believe the Evangelical Church needs to take a second look at how they treat their neighbor and the fairness and love with which their language, and most importantly, their lifestyle reflects the beliefs and theology they represent. Here I am not even referring to the heaven/hell issue, but simply their response to the challenge to love their neighbors as their selves.

Are we ever permitted to hate what we are not? Not if we are to love that which is not like ourselves.

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Reflections on the Meaning of Food

One:

Cooking is a relationship between ingredients, a symphonic harmony or angry discussion in the form of the penultimate state of a consumable good. A meal is a philter, a magic potion, not a combination of parts. Food is a relatively acceptable opulence or intoxicant, acceptable whether in ornamentation or quantity. Cooking is a chemistry experiment, the mystical union between unique particulates and compounds artfully arranged to satisfy palate and soul.

A meal is the interaction between eater and consumable: the same ingredients interact with the eater to signify romance or disgust. A disgust for one is the comfort food of another’s youth: food highlights human flexibility and cultural diversity. A meal can be mass produced by machines, crammed into freezer cabinets in shapes and forms only reflective of the original parts. A meal can be produced by hand, slowly and methodically, a thousand or more times before being perfected: bread dough, a pie crust, a plate of noodles.

Two:

I say I am hungry. First a discomfort in my biology, a desire for fulfillment, the end of an ailment. Second the mental disquieting. I am controlled by my biological necessity. My mind tells me I must eat and I consciously listen as though receiving a message from a disparate source. I am doing the listening and taking action upon my desire. I am not in charge of my wants. The I of me is the one who responds to the I of my desire. A prepared food, the image of satisfaction, in this condition is a sensual pleasure. To resist one’s desire for satisfaction, to prolong the want, is to increase the satisfaction – like a communion between tantric lovers.

I sample a portion of what is prepared before me. I may witness and take part in the operation, the creation. I choose what I wish to consume and as though selecting a movie or individual with whom I will interact. Each component has a name and purpose. One object offers my body a happiness, the sensory stimulation of a drug. One object is for health. I recognize that a sacrifice in what I purely crave will result in an invisible, detached reward. One part offers a unique flavor, a component of interest. The flavor must merge with the required ingredients. The flavor/s must tell me something, must speak through my cultural and experiential lens.

The portion offers texture and feel. The portion moves through my mouth like bare feet on a gradated surface, feeling through the ingredients and reminding myself of each object, first as a whole and then separately: this texture is a meat, this a vegetable; this feel is a pasta, a rice, a pudding. I feel as much as I taste. When I chew through the texture I move with the food. I know where to place each bite.

Three:

Food is a fully consumable art. Not constrained by being viewed from a distance, it becomes a part of the eater and integrated into the person, both as tangible items and as spiritual or emotional nourishment. Food crosses the boundary of speculative and enters into an experience. Food unifies the boundaries of history and biology: an engagement with all available senses,  a map of available resources, a history of conquest. Food is a drug, the cause of an illness, a cure.

Four:

We eat to live, but some live to eat. We live in a unique era with an exceptional selection of options and ingredients now available in even small, rural communities. We may now efficiently travel great distances for a few minutes of esoteric gastronomical bliss at a temple of haute cuisine or to sample the obscure culinary dialect of a culture few have heard of before.

Our food offers us peace, comfort, excitement, happiness, and joy. We look to it in times of unhappiness and relish in it when at our very best. We share the experience with others or enjoy on our own, finding meaning in the occurrence of each. And this is perhaps our greatest attribute as a species: the simplest act of consumption necessary for human existence, an act equated with pouring gasoline into a car, is an opportunity to find meaning in who we are as a community, as an individual, and as a mechanical object. We are the who that is eating and the who that must eat: one the necessity and the other our relationship to the object and its full meaning to ourselves and our community. We are what we eat.

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