On Clinging to Anti-Queer Riches and the Reign of God

Today’s scriptural reflection is from Bondings 2.0’s managing editor, Robert Shine.

The readings for today can be found by clicking here.

When I was a teenager, the story of the rich person who turned away from salvation to preserve wealth, which is today’s Gospel, was quite compelling. Jesus is asked by the person how to attain eternal life, and replies that one must follow the commandments. The rich person affirms doing so since childhood, but then Jesus adds one more condition: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor. . .then come, follow me.” The rich person goes away sad, unable to do so.

“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor” seemed like a fairly straightforward command when I was younger. My adolescent mind, at once quite zealous and quite privileged, could not understand giving up life with Christ in favor of “stuff.” With youthful idealism, I thought it would be easy and simple to give it all up.

I have a bit more compassion for the rich person now. At one level, I simply have more “stuff” to which I am attached than when I was a teen. But I also recognize that Jesus’ directive is not merely about “stuff.” Giving up our riches for the Reign of God extends to our beliefs, privileges, habits, and prejudices, too.

Writing to an LGBTQ-positive audience, I could easily pivot this directive to shed privilege and prejudice towards non-affirming people. Aren’t those who hold onto anti-queer sentiments that negatively color their actions just like the rich person? How easy it is to see the rich person in “the other” who is apart from us.

But, rather than seeing myself on Jesus’ side in this story, more and more I see myself as the rich person, clinging to that which keeps me from salvation. I cannot let go of the implicit race and class biases ingrained into me through socialization. I choose against creation in my habits of consumption. Jesus looks at me, like he does the rich person, offering eternal life. And, too often, my face falls as I turn away.

This dynamic is true when it comes to my bisexuality, too. For many years, I clung to an incomplete persona of who I was, even while a deeper, yet unvoiced part of me knew better. I clung to the privileges of being in straight relationships. I clung to the prejudices of internalized biophobia. I preferred existing narratives about myself, even if they are false, to truer ones that would disrupt life. Such an experience is common for many LGBTQ people I imagine.

But if we are willing to risk, Jesus offers far more, like he does to the rich person. Jesus says to queer folks, “Go, forgo all that keeps you from being authentic, and come out to live as you were made to be.” In response, let us not turn away with fallen faces. Rather, let us quickly shed everything that keeps us from life with Jesus and then follow him, out and proud.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 10, 2021

1 reply
  1. Brian McNeill
    Brian McNeill says:

    I take your well made point that we all have riches we can and should abandon to get closer to Jesus and the Reign of God. I’m in working class retirement, and I let myself off too easily from not doing more, as I know I can.

    Having said that, when I read the headline for you blog on the readings for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, I thought you were going to pounce on the wealthy Catholics whose money finances the anti-LGBTQ+ line of the conservative Catholic right, as personified in The Napa Institute.
    https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/napa-institute-expands-fight-culture-war

    The Church condemns greed, inequality, and the excesses of capitalism, all the while happily accepting millions from the wealthy, while insisting that this has no impact whatsoever on its theology, in exactly the same way that the politicians in Washington insist that the millions they receive from donors have no influence at all on how they vote in Congress.

    It is a corrupt system and needs to be called out more often.

    Reply

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