This summer, I’m playing with the book of Mark every week. Check out my original post about why I’m studying Mark, and Mark 1:Authority and Mark 2: Avocado Toast. Today I’m in Mark 3 – give it a skim first before we jump in together.
So we’ve left fundamentalism.
We’ve left fundamentalism with its rules, its identity politics, its unforgiving reading of the Biblical text, its demands on our thoughts and our lives and how often we’re supposed to read the Bible and what we’re supposed to find when we open it.
We grew up in a culture that told us who is In and who is Out, who is a Good Guy and who is a Bad Guy. We grew up in a subculture driven by fear – fear that if we aren’t careful, we are going to be the people that are “Out.” We learned that if we don’t guard our ideological purity carefully enough, we are going to be thrown out as carelessly as we’ve been tossing out the gays, the single moms, the liberals, the women preachers, the universalists. Unless we were super careful, and had a quiet time every morning, and were submissive wives, and didn’t believe in evolution – we were going to be Out. So I’d better kick someone else Out before they get to me! You’d better prove your loyalty by Othering someone, or you’ll be next.
So we pack up our bags and head out of that unforgiving, harsh landscape. We see clear skies and an open road and wide pastures, and we take a deep breathe for what feels like the first time.
But then to our horror, we look down and see that we’ve taken fundamentalism with us.
Because the shittiest thing about fundamentalism isn’t the particular beliefs. The shittiest thing about fundamentalism is that it planted a deep, terrible fear in us – the fear that if we didn’t believe particular thing, or have a particular identity, or toe the line correctly, that we would be banished. And our hearts respond the only way that they’ve ever been taught. We find a group of people that look like us, think like us, act like us, have a particular set of beliefs that are as homogenous as possible, because Difference has only ever been used a weapon against us, and we’ll be damned if we let ourselves be hurt like that again.
We left fundamentalism, but we’re still desperate for people who are Like Us, because we don’t know how to have an Identity unless we’re surrounded by homogeneity.
We left fundamentalism, but we’re still forcing people Out, because we don’t know how to see the world except in terms of Insiders and Outsiders.
We left fundamentalism, but we took our fear with us.
Again he entered the synagogue,
and a man was there who had a withered hand.
They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath,
so that they might accuse him – Mark 3:1
All these Insiders standing around, watching to see if Jesus is going to break a rule and step outside the fences. Watching everyone closely, “so that they might accuse him.”
All these Insiders, only knowing who we are because of who we aren’t.
We’re desperate for mirrors that will reflect back at us that we’re OK, that we aren’t on the wrong team, that our identity is still Accepted, Loved, Enough. And the easier mirror is the cheap Acceptance of total conformity that says “you’re like me, and you’re OK, so that means that I must be OK.”
And that’s what I’m really afraid of. That I’m not OK.
When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind. Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Mark 3:21,31-34
Mark 3 asks us, again and again, to think about what makes us who we are. Who is your family? Who belongs in the synagogue? Who is allowed to interpret the Law? Who is the crowd, and who is the disciple? Reading it in the week leading up to Memorial Day, I thought a lot about Christian nationalism – another identity, another way to make Insiders and Outsiders. Another mirror. Another way to keep out our fear.
Nuclear family, nationalism, religious fundamentalism.
Liberal fundamentalism. Social justice. My queer community.
Mirrors that show me my identity.
Mirrors to convince myself that I’m OK.
He went up the mountain
and called to him those whom he wanted,
and they came to him.
And he appointed twelve,
whom he also named apostles,
to be with him.
I wish I could believe, just for one day, that I am OK because Jesus called me.
Because He wanted me.
Because He wanted me, just to be with me.
Not because of anything particular that I had done. The disciples haven’t been particularly impressive in the first two chapters.
Not because of anything that I would do. Because through the rest of the Gospel, the disciples aren’t particularly impressive, either.
Not because I’d follow Him courageously to His death, because the crowds betrayed him and his disciples ran scared.
Not because I’d be really good at understanding what He said, because the scribes and the crowds and His inner circle all missed the point of 90% of what His stories and parables.
Not because I’d know who was In and who was Out, because the disciples spent too much time arguing on the road about who was going to be the most recognized and the most Inside of all the Insiders.
But I’m OK because He called me, and He called me because He wanted me. He called me because He wanted me to be with Him. Just as I am.
Can you imagine how we’d engage the world if we believed this?
If we believed it for ourselves, we could start believing it for our neighbor.
If we weren’t operating out of starvation and scarcity, terrified that there won’t be enough love to go around, we could open our hearts and homes and theologies because we’d know that there is plenty, more than enough, for everyone that we encounter.
If we weren’t living out of the deep and terrible fear that we’re Outsiders, we could have hospitality in our souls to extend a hand and invite others Inside.
If we believed we are accepted and loved just as we are, then we could leave behind the fear of being an Outsider that fundamentalism stamped on our young hearts, and we could love all kinds of people without being afraid that our Insider status would be tarnished by association.
If we believed that we are OK, enough, accepted, beloved, we could see the acceptance and belovedness of people who are so different from us.
When we know who we are, we aren’t afraid that someone else can take away our identity just by being different.
When we know who we are, we don’t need everyone we meet to mirror back to us that we’re OK.
When we know who we are, we can put gates in our fences, or knock the fences down altogether.
We are wanted by Jesus. And we are enough.
And that is enough.