I don’t care very much about Anthony Weiner’s, um, wiener. But the “flame-stream” media can’t seem to get enough of it. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, count your blessings.) What a tragedy that a congressman can get far more media attention with his genitals than he ever could with his passionate work to end poverty, provide access to health care, and rein in the military-industrial complex.
I am so tired of media flare-ups over the sex lives of our politicians. Sure, those lives are riddled with stupidity, but have you peered over the fence into your neighbor’s life lately? Tracked your teenager’s texting trail? Watched nearly any Hollywood movie? Read any issue of People magazine? American culture is simultaneously enthralled and repulsed by sex, and that surely contributes to the unending appetite for scandalous news.
In a bloated world of 24/7 instant media, there’s no better way to secure market share than fanning the flames of outrage; and sex scandals are the best fuel for the fire. But where’s all the outrage over the scandal of a dissolving social safety net, or the scandal of wasted lives in an endless war on terror, or the scandal of treating women’s bodies as pawns in a game of political brinkmanship, or the scandal of decimating the environment on which all of us depend for life itself?
That’s just a short list of the scandals that everyone, but certainly Christians ought to find outrageous. Sadly, the only time most people read the words “scandal” and “church” in the same sentence is when they’re reading about the latest case of clergy sex abuse.
If flame-stream media want religious scandal, let’s give them Pentecost, which many Christians will celebrate tomorrow, June 12. I mean something more than a neat and tidy liturgy done decently and in order (though there’s nothing wrong with that).
In the biblical account of Pentecost, previously fearful disciples of the risen Jesus are dramatically empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach good news to a whole bunch of diverse people who may not have known they needed to hear it. The disciples were so outrageous about this that some observers thought they were drunk (Acts 2:13).
The courage to be outrageous came from the Spirit, who rested on the disciples’ heads like tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). And these fired-up disciples did more than preach. They rearranged their households, disrupted local economies, challenged both religious and civil authorities, and shattered social and cultural taboos. Read all twenty-eight chapters of Acts – it’s not a story of respectable, law-abiding, church-going folk. Propelled by the Spirit’s queer energy, they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
That’s what I call a queerly Pentecostal agenda, which is still fueling world-changing work. The project currently underway for the blessing of same-gender relationships in the Episcopal Church is one example. So is the Fellowship, a multi-denominational network of congregations and clergy devoted to the radical inclusivity of the Gospel, linking amazing worship with transformative social ministries. The Bay Area Coalition of Welcoming Congregations is yet another. But that queerly energizing Spirit also shows up in less “churchy” locales too — among the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in San Francisco, for instance, or in theatrical performance artists like Peterson Toscano.
Those are just a few among many examples – and all of them are certainly more newsworthy than a lusty congressman.
If flame-stream media won’t cover the sacred scandal of Pentecost, then it’s up to us. Let’s make sure the queerly Pentecostal agenda goes viral. Facebook it, tweet it, blog it. And if you’re going to church tomorrow, wear something red, not just to commemorate an event of the past. Wear red as a sign of your commitment to turn the world upside down today.