Queering Wesley, Queering the Church: Toward an Ecclesial Circumcision of the Heart

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This is my paper presentation from the 2017 meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society.

Abstract: Holiness churches find their name and identity in their understanding and practice of holiness, that is, a certain flavor of Christian living in which the ultimate focus and goal is the perfect love of God and neighbor, exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ. In so doing, these churches often look to the margins, where Jesus would be most likely to dwell—with the poor, the sick, the outcast. John Wesley himself emphasized the importance of being in community and solidarity with the marginalized, not only to help them in their need, but also to engage with and learn from them as the locus of God’s presence in the world.

This paper will offer a queer feminist reading of John Wesley’s 1733 sermon “The Circumcision of the Heart,” in an effort to show that the perspective of LGBTQ+ people has vital contributions to make within the holiness church that so often marginalizes them. Reading John Wesley queerly offers unique insights for thinking holiness—the core aspect of our faith—as an expansive openness to the grace of God rather than a limiting and restrictive legalism. Indeed such a reading will not be “a setter forth of new doctrines,” but will preach only “Jesus and the resurrection.” That which may sound queer to our ears will reflect only “the most essential duties of Christianity”: to love God with one’s whole heart, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

The paper will consist of three parts: (1) An analysis of the queerness ofthe concept “circumcision of the heart,” aspresented in Wesley’s sermon and in Scripture, (2) An analysis of holiness as queer, and 3) Some consequences and implications for the life and practice of Wesleyan-holiness churches in light of (1) and (2).

Read the full paper HERE.

We Who Are Many Are One Body: Rethinking the Real Presence of Christ in the Loaf and the Church

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This was my term paper for Laurel Schneider's "Theologies of Multiplicity" class. I'm fairly pleased with how it turned out, and I thought others might be interested in reading it.

I draw primarily from Schneider's Beyond Monotheism and from Catherine Keller's Cloud of the Impossible to dialogue with my understanding of real presence in hopes of probing and prompting possibility.

A short abstract: This paper will attempt to re-imagine an understanding of real presence in terms of multiplicity. First I will briefly survey some of the common historical understandings of real presence and how the doctrine functions in the observance of the Eucharist, and point out how these understandings favor obedience to the law of identity over what I argue is a more polydoxically Christian understanding, free of this obligation and open to a multiplicity of identities. Then I will join the cacophonous chorus of constructive theology and rethink what real presence might look like, taking seriously relational ontology and dynamic incarnation, and assert that the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist materializes rhizomatically as the Body of Christ, in and as the flesh and bodies of those who participate in the ritual, such as the many are one and the one is many.

We Who Are Many Are One Body: Rethinking the Real Presence of Christ in the Loaf and the Church


Theology of Luck: Fate, Chaos, and Faith

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

Fringer and Lane’s Theology of Luck addresses the complex questions of God’s nature and sovereignty straightforwardly, but without contending to know all the answers.

Somewhere between the “God of control” and the “God of passivity,” with their respective “theology of certainty” and “theology of absence,” Fringer and Lane argue for a “God of relationship”: a God that does not wield power, but yields it; a God that “has demonstrated a willingness to initiate but a hesitance to dominate”; a God that is working “to transform this world through love and not through magic and manipulation.” The arguments are clear, the language is accessible, and the sources are adequately academic and sufficiently biblical, such that truly anyone might take and read—laity, clergy, or academician. For each study, the authors provide further reading—both “beginner to intermediate” and “more advanced”—as well as provocative and productive questions for individual or small group reflection.

Written by Nazarenes and published by Nazarene Publishing House (!), Theology of Luck is a gentle introduction to open theism for a denomination that is in the ideal theological location to consider such an understanding of God: evangelical, Wesleyan, and rooted in holiness traditions. I absolutely recommend this book to Nazarenes, but also to anyone who struggles with questions of God’s will and human freedom in the face of evil, abuse, and sheer bad luck.

Review and Critique of Dan Boone's "Human Sexuality: A Primer for Christians"

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This post serves as a kind of Table of Contents for my in-depth review and critique of Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality: A Primer for Christians.

While I understand that Boone's audience for the book was primarily members of the Church of the Nazarene, and that he endeavors to show compassion to all people engaging in questions about sexual ethics and the Christian life, there were many assumptions and assertions in his book that I felt were harmful and needed to be addressed. I'm Nazarene too, and I think the Church of the Nazarene can do better than this book in our discussions of sexuality. So I tried to offer an alternative perspective.

Chapter 11: Behind the Veil

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This is the last post in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10

To wrap up the book, Boone talks a bit about holiness. He says that “we veil that which is holy to respect its dignity and to protect it from usage that cheapens it” and that “the veil before the Holy of Holies signified to humans that boundaries are to be respected” (152).

The whole book has been about drawing lines and parsing distinctions of what’s right and wrong. About what needs to be covered, hidden, denied. About what we should turn away from and fear.

Boone says that the tearing of the veil at the crucifixion is “the epitome of evil,” and that God somehow makes something good out of it, but what if the tearing of the veil is an act of holiness itself?

What if, instead of talking about holiness in terms of protecting and defending, we talked about holiness in terms of loving with reckless abandon and radical openness? What if instead of talking about the death of Uzzah, who touched the Ark of the Covenant “unworthily,” we talk about the hemorrhaging woman, who touched Jesus—God in the flesh—knowing she would be healed? Holiness is about healing and love. It is about opening your door to the broken, sitting to eat with the sinner, giving all you have to the needy. It’s not about establishing who’s “in” and who’s “out,” or telling people what they must do to be accepted. It’s about ripping through these distinctions completely—from the top to the very bottom.

I hope the Church of the Nazarene can embrace this kind of holiness.

Chapter 10: The Church in Exile: Interpreting Where We Are

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This is post eleven in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9

This chapter compares American Christians to the Israelites in exile. This is foolish. As long as our banks are closed on Christmas but not on Rosh Hashanah or Eid, you can’t talk about our pluralist society as if Christians are not in a position of privilege and power. There is no “500 pound cultural gorilla beat[ing] the church into quiet submission” (132). There are people living their lives differently than white middle-class hetero evangelical Christians would have them live. This is not persecution. This is not oppression. This is not exile.

Say it with me: The Church in America is not oppressed.

Boone explains that “exile was a time when [the Israelites] remembered having had a Jewish king, Jewish army, Jewish laws, Jewish land, Jewish economy, Jewish religious structure,” etc. (133). That is, while they were oppressed, they longed for a time when they were powerful rulers.[1] Today in America, Christians are still powerful rulers. The United States has never had a non-Christian president. According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of the 2015 House and Senate are Christian.[2] In 2010 the Military Leadership Diversity Commission reported that about 78% of military personnel identify as Christian.[3]

One more time for those in the back: The Church in America is not oppressed.

Instead of fearing how the Church should react or challenge a culture that is opposed to us, continuing to construct an “us vs. them” narrative, we should be concerned about how we go about loving the people that make up this culture. I think that might be what Boone is trying to say, but when he talks about “warning” culture about the supposed consequences of their actions and “defending our religious liberties” (147), it sounds more like a defensive stance than an openly loving one.

[1] It’s worth noting that many scholars, following the archaeological work of Israel Finkelstein and others, don’t actually believe there ever was a powerful Jewish monarchy at all, but rather that these were stories written to encourage the Israelites in their faith.

[2] “Faith on the Hill,” Pew Research Center, January 5 2015. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/01/05/faith-on-the-hill/

[3] “Religious Diversity in the US Military,” Military Leadership Diversity Commission, June 2010. http://secular.org/files/mldc-ripsdemographics_0.pdf

Chapter 9: The Case for Celibacy

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This is post ten in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8

Much of what I want to say in response to this chapter I have said before.

Both LGBTQ+ persons and straight persons may be called to celibacy. It is our responsibility as the church to encourage them, love them, and care for them—as whole persons already, our siblings in Christ, our dearly beloved friends. But, as Boone says, “the vow of celibacy must begin in one’s identity,” which is not earned or chosen (121). This is exactly why we cannot force our gay friends to be celibate. If they are not called, if it is not part of their identity, then it is not the life for them. We aren’t going around insisting that certain people are called to professional ministry, why would we insist that people are called to celibacy? Calling and identity are deeply personal.

In this chapter, Boone follows Mark Yarhouse in saying that there are two “scripts that compete for dominance in a same sex attracted life: the gay script and the identity in Christ script” (123). Essentially he is arguing that a gay Christian must be sure she is more Christian than gay, and to do so by “center[ing] your identity around other aspects of your experience” besides sexuality. While indeed our belonging to Christ is at the core of our identity, it’s absurd to demand LGBTQ+ Christians to compartmentalize their lives in this way. Humans are sexual beings, and our sexuality is integrated throughout our lives and experiences. Further, nowhere in this book does Boone demand the same of heterosexual Christians. He apparently assumes that heterosexual Christians automatically have this Christ-first kind of compartmentalized identity all figured out. Surely this is not the case.

Indeed, the thrust of this chapter is for LGBTQ+ Christians to deny themselves in favor of a hegemonic, heteronormative narrative of identity that is unfair and untenable.

I’d like to again point you to this article, “Gay Celibacy is the New Ex-Gay Therapy,” in which lesbian and former chaplain at Wheaton College Julie Rodgers says, "No matter how graciously it’s framed, that message [of celibacy] tends to contribute to feelings of shame and alienation for gay Christians. It leaves folks feeling like love and acceptance are contingent upon them not-gay-marrying and not-falling-in-gay-love. When that’s the case … it’s hard to believe we’re actually wanted in our churches. It’s hard to believe the God who loves us actually likes us."

If the people we are endeavoring to love feel unwanted, we are not loving them.