Thursday, September 10, 2015

Patheos Pisky Man-Priest Calls Jesus a Racist

"More preening goes on at Patheos than in the Amazon basin during Macaw mating season.."

The Bear rarely ventures into Patheos country. While it is true he is medicated for your protection, there is not enough medication in the world to protect some of the folks he might encounter there. Like white bread David R. Henson, who is an Episcopalian priest.

His text is the well-known story from the seventh chapter of Mark.
But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.  
Here is how Rev. Dave explains it.
In truth, at least in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is anything but colorblind. In fact, rather than being part of the solution to ethnic prejudice, Jesus seems to be very much part of the problem, according to this story. 
So what does it mean, exactly, that the Son of God, the Incarnation, the Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, utters an ethnic slur in a situation in which he held all the power? Because that is exactly what Jesus does in his exchange with the Syrophoenician woman.  
When confronted with the gentile pagan in this story, he explains that his message and ministry are for Israelites only, a comment of ethnic exclusion and prejudice that calls to mind a similar refrain from a more modern time – whites only – that reverberated throughout the South not too long ago.  
It wouldn’t be fair, Jesus explains, to take the banquet prepared for his people – the children, the humans – and give it to gentiles – the dogs, the less than human.
You know, the Bear hesitates to even do this. The last thing he wants to do is give some joker the satisfaction of knowing he has annoyed the Bear. He's tempted to say, "Well, what do you expect of the Episcopalians?" except he is afraid they are only a more out loud and proud version of much of our own Catholic clergy. But let's think about this.

First of all, the Bear wonders what situation is there when Jesus doesn't hold all the power? But nothing about this represents serious thinking. You see, the most important thing is to be seen as the guy who cares about racism, who has the guts to call out Jesus Christ himself on racism if necessary. More preening goes on at Patheos than in the Amazon basin during Macaw mating season. Because racism has always been the chief problem in the world. Whatever else Jesus thought he was doing, He should have put it on hold and stopped racism.

Of course, Jesus was on a mission to the Jews, a little thing called being the Messiah. Of course He wasn't being racist, acting out of the local prejudice. Jesus knew he was going to help that little girl, and foreshadowed the mission to the gentiles.

Oh, and Jesus? Sinless. The Bear wouldn't lie to you.

But to hear Rev. Dave tell it, this was Jesus' Rosa Parks moment.
“But even the dogs get table scraps,” she replies, a subtle calling out of his dehumanizing language. 
Jesus is astounded, the holy wind knocked out of him. A moment before, she was but a dog to him. In the next, the scales fall from his eyes as he listens to her and sees her for what she truly is, a woman of great faith.  
Jesus does the most difficult thing for those of us born into prejudice and power. He listens. And allows himself to be fundamentally changed.
Well, that must have been a scene, with Jesus reeling at the sudden realization of his own racism, and becoming "fundamentally changed."

Except of course, it never happened. This is what happens to a religion when it becomes about progressive causes instead of the truth.

What's some goofy Episcopalian got to do with the Catholic Church?

Hopefully nothing. But let's be careful out there, woodland creatures.


  1. In my extremely useful Hard Sayings of the Bible (written by a "conservative" evangelical Protestant), this passage is included. It DOES sound racist. And though I don't think that racism is The Worst Thing Ever, as some do, it is still initially unclear what Jesus was up to here. Now, of course you could say that about 30% (or whatever it is) of Jesus' statements and acts, but still. What is he up to here? The author of Hard Sayings proposes that Jesus is sort of sarcastically joking around. He's using the "ethnic slur" in an ironic mode, as it were. Do you agree?

    1. This has never bothered me. I figured he was on his mission to the Jews (hey, we used to have one of those!) and was making that point. The mission to the gentiles was yet to come. At the same time he knew exactly what he was going to do all along. He was setting it up so that the faith and humility of the Syrophonecian woman is actually recognized and rewarded before his disciples. It was what we would now call a "teachable moment."

      This is an infinitely better explanation than Jesus has a "whites (Jews) only" mentality because of his, you know, birth into all that power and privilege. That is reading the gospel through the lens of our own 21st century obsessions.

      The idea that Jesus was morally set straight by this woman speaking truth to power betrays a bizarre Christology. But who knows what Episcopalians believe?

    2. I think (FWIW) that once again, a whole lot of misunderstanding comes from bad translation. The phrase in the original Greek that we have translated as "dogs", is actually better/more accurately translated as "house puppies". In the original it has more of a sweet edge to it...more like what Bear was saying...Christ letting her know that this time for Him was a particular mission to His 'chosen', but the house puppies (those with faith in Christ) were very much part of the family, in the house, sheltered under the table, and always, eventually would be fed, and no doubt petted and cuddled and cared for. He's just giving her a mini-parable, and she responds with a 'got it' sign of faith..."Even the house puppies under the table eat the children's crumbs". Sirach 24....sublime inspired revelation of how important was Israel was in God's plan for all humanity, ultimately because they were a foreshadow of His Church.

      Anyway, read it with the better "house puppies" from now on...(just like the better/more accurate translation for Luke 2:24 is "how will this be...: rather than "how can this be...". but that's a whole 'nother topic).

      And a quick thanks to both of you for the MAGNIFICENT blog work you guys are both the best-of-the-best, and we are better for your contributions.

    3. Our SJW Episcopal friend has that base covered. He says put "little" in front of any racial slur and see if that makes it better. Of course, that is kind of a backwards argument if it was not being used as a racial slur.

      The almost playful back-and-forth reminds me of the encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well, who was a Samaritan, also a despised group. So I think this reinforces your interpretation.

  2. The Holy Wind, eh? Otherwise known as...?

    It is a hard saying, and I expect it's been so for almost 2,000 years. Because I'm really a huge softie, I've always been fond of the hypothesis that Jesus is rebuking the mutterings of his disciples, who were probably wondering why the Messiah of Israel was taking a detour into the land of the despised gentiles. But it's also possible that he was just telling it like it was, in those pre-Pentecost days. The Old Covenant was still in effect, after all, and God was very clear about the iniquity of the nations.

    But whatever. After a short while on the internet, you can see these people coming a mile off. Their sole concern is signaling their superior holiness and enlightenment. Pharisees [shudder].

    1. He was probably itching to preach on the evils of racism, and seized upon this text. I think he might have pulled it off in a very different way if he wasn't intent on shocking people. (Progressive AND edgy!)

  3. Wow. I'm pretty sure this jumping onto the 'look how enlightened and brave I am by taking the current most socially safe stance imaginable' thing is worshiping the beast, and to see this sort of demonic pride and self idolatry perfected in a supposedly Christian individual to the point where they would say that Christ was unenlightened and could learn from them, all in order to be fawned over, is just amazing. I guess it would take someone who refuses the Pope's authority.

    Thanks for writing this blog, Bear, I'm pretty sure we're almost to the point where saying these things will get us martyred. Probably by other 'Christians' too.

    1. Exactly, dear I don't know how to write or pronounce your name :)
      I too am so grateful to God for Bear and his writing. Several years ago I would have considered the drivielings of this "racist explanation" something to think about because of my need to be pc because that's what I THOUGHT the Church wanted us to be, according to all the junk I was hearing. Now I am learning. Deo gratias.

  4. To twist this beautiful, powerful encounter of Jesus with the shiksa into something so insipidly pc makes one want to wretch. I'm speaking as a shiksa.

  5. Racist? This is why I never pay attention to Protestants. Almighty God can say anything He wants. What are any of us compared to him? I was taught that this encounter was really a lesson to the disciples about faith.

    1. Not to be confused with "Bubbe made a kishke, she made it big and fat, My Zaydeh took one look at it and said "I can't eat that!'" -- Dr. Pearl at the end of "Waiting for Guffman."

  6. Sandpiper, Shiksa roughly means unclean female abomination. Even in jest my Jewish friends know that to ever say that to me.

  7. That column could have been written by Fr. Roger Karban. I tried to find it, but I could not easily. Is it really worth my faith and temper to read his garbage to find the example I want. Trust me. He's likely said something like this. Jesus before resurrection is the "historical" Jesus. There is apparently a different being of Jesus after resurrection. Don't ask me to explain. I can't.

    1. You're right! Although I don't remember Fr. Roger being so much the SJW. Anything he could do to destroy faith though. I haven't seen his junk in the Messenger in awhile. Did they get rid of him or has he gone to his reward?

    2. Fr Karban lives on as do his columns at the FOSIL web site. I think other dioceses may pay him for his "wisdom." The diocese found a way to ditch his garbage and use some one else. The replacement columnist has been decent. Can't recall the name.

      I shall have to google "SJW." Ok. Social Justice Warrior. That's all he is to progressives. The columns I skimmed in a brief attempt to find one on this passage were horrible. In one, Karban suggests that the emphasis on the eucharist was a change from early Christian times. He also exclaimed it was easier to believe in a piece of bread than the more difficult teaching...yet, he doesn't believe in those much either does he? Ugh! Karban would provide you with much material if you want to go down this road some more. Been there, done that, myself. It's too disheartening.

    3. No, you couldn't pay me to read Fr. Karban's stuff. It was why I stopped reading the Messenger lo these many years ago, and still won't subscribe. Life is short. Read Catholic Blogs.

  8. Dymphna--it never carried such odious baggage among the more secular Jews I've known. Nor does the Merriam-Webster online define it as such. Even if shiksa does mean an unclean female abomination, and even if, in theory, Jesus' cohort thought of non-Jewish women as such, doesn't the gospel show how Jesus transcended all that?

  9. It's hard to believe this Reverend could get this so wrong. I remember being taught that the Lord Jesus, being God, already knew what this woman was going to say. His statement about the children's bread being given to dogs was a prompter for her to answer the way she did, thereby showing that even the Gentiles could have faith in Him. And immediately after her response, He healed her daughter. It's beyond stupid to judge Jesus from a completely human point of view.

  10. LOL scales fell from the eyes of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God.

    "Preening macaws"----hilarious!!!


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