Exodus and Eucharist

eucharisticon23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” –1 Corinthians 11:23-25
New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
“The Institution of the Lord’s Supper”

On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus and his closest friends and community were gathered for a ritual Jewish observance of Passover.

Passover is an observance of the way that God led the Israelites out from slavery in Egypt in a covenant of protection that was sealed with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb.

On the night of the Last Supper, the embodied God reveals that He will free the people from the tyranny of sin once again, but this time God himself will be the sacrifice of flesh and blood for all people.

Holy Eucharist is about as ‘meta’ as it comes. It is endlessly self-referential; the followers of Christ re-enact a revelation of sacrifice and salvation, that is in and of itself a re-enactment of a revelation of sacrifice and salvation, that is a product of sacrifice and salvation, and so on back to the source. Its origin is in an ancient Hebrew ritual of protection that predates Exodus, then as path to liberation from slavery in Egypt, and ultimately to a resurrection from literal death and salvation for all people. The sacrifice that is motherhood is not absent from this narrative either, as St. Augustine reminds us, “Jesus took His flesh from the flesh of Mary.”

Mary is the literal Tabernacle of God, there is no redemption story in Christ without the faith and acceptance Mary has of God’s Will. Moreover, charis is the Greek word for grace and it has its origins in fertility and beauty goddess. The chalice is often a feminine symbol and when filled with a red wine, well, its reasonable to draw some connections especially when one considers the way we pray to the Mother, “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.” Mary is the Eucharist just as much as her son, a fact which is very controversial within Christianity. For example, Catholics are accused of idolatry for their reverence to Mary but remain adamant that transubstantiation of the Eucharist can only occur if the individual performing the ritual has a penis because Jesus had a penis and apparently needed a wand to perform the trick. However, there are protestant sects that would disavow the worship of Mary but see no conflict in allowing a woman to preside over the Eucharist. Eucharistic theology has been in conflict since the ritual was formalized.

Before delving too deeply into Eucharistic theology, let’s go back in history.

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3 Things You Should Know Before Writing About Josh Duggar

I found a REALLY great post written by Kathryn Brightbill outlining some of the politicized ideology behind Fundamentalist Christianity, the Quiverfull movement, and the actual cults within the Quiverfull ideology.

Quiverfull is a politicized ideology based on Psalm 127 that says you should have as many children as possible because those children are arrows in the culture wars. It’s explicitly about taking over society by outbreeding the rest of the population.

Fundamentalism itself wasn’t even politicized until the rise of the Moral Majority and related groups in the late 1970s. Prior to that, most fundamentalists believed that Christians should stay out of politics. The quiverfull movement came even later and didn’t gain much foothold until the 1990s.

Bottom line? Quiverfull is a subset of the politicized fundamentalism that developed in just the last forty years.


Christ and The Women Of The Body

Michelangelo's Pieta
Michelangelo’s Pieta


It’s been said before and it will be said again, but Catholicism has a palpable paganism to it that is very hard to miss. It’s there in the saints and the relics and the icons, many of whom are directly appropriated or adapted from many traditions, myths, and regions of the world. There are the rituals, the costumes, the long holy festivals, the murmuring, and decadence. Catholicism is deeply conservative but I always grew up thinking of Protestants as being conservative and severe with their prohibitions against gambling and drinking and smoking. An old school Irish Catholic was the Monseigneur of my childhood parish and he saw no sin in reviewing the racing form with a cigar in his mouth just outside the church and he enjoyed beers in our small downtown and he certainly knew his way around a swear word or two.

On one hand, any good Catholic will scowl at the comparison to paganism but start up talk about stripping the church of its art, music, pageantry, statues, incense, strained glass windows, or Mariology and see what kind of reaction you get. Get rid of the saints? Are you out of your mind? How on earth would you get through the passage of ordinary time? Who is going to intercede on your behalf for anything from getting a semi-sinful relative out of purgatory or preventing you from choking to death on a fishbone as a child?

Though the Catholic Church has absolutely condemned the body in many of its teachings, it affirms it when it doesn’t overly concern itself with micromanaging the immediate affairs of its congregants. When the political battle for the legal status of abortion is removed, one can see an absolute adoration of fertility. The fixation on suffering is that on the corporeal experience of pain and immutable corporeal reality. The central thesis of the religion is that God took human form and experienced everything that the body does to better know and love us and out failings. It was to take on a first person experience of this body that God designed rather than the view of the creator. There is an active theology of the body at play and this hardly the first or the most astute commentary on it so much as a slight furtherance to encourage consideration of a preferential option for female body workers as those who tend to something sacred.

I say this as I continue to move from solidly from sex work to birth work and into death work. These rites have been largely in the domain of the feminine for a long time but under patriarchal capitalism shifted into the domain of men and law. Sex work is criminal and so often is independent birth and death work by women. When men manage these affairs, there is less legal interference and often the law is constructed to privilege their process of obtaining control in the first place.  The more I serve the body in its sexual, reproductive, and deconstructive modalities the more I can see that we are not in charge. I can point to things I know to be biological law and I can point to instances that break those laws. I know that we do not have ultimate control of life or death. Working with sexuality, birth, death and also with harm reduction for substance use and overdose compels these thoughts after awhile.

The Christ story is one of God born unassisted from a broke teenager burdened by laws that condemned her reproductive choices: an unmarried pregnancy was already a major problem within her own culture but on top of that there was a death sentence ordered for her child. Mary and her son, Jesus, were in mortal danger of patriarchal laws claiming authority over her reproductive choice. She had to be a brave young woman not in some ‘not choosing abortion’ trite way but because she was willing to violate all kinds of laws (in modern parlance, Mary would be violating federal, state, county, and city laws all at once and would probably have Interpol on her ass today for moving across borders to commit these crimes) to carry out God’s will. It’s exceptionally notable that she gave birth unassisted because some douchebag innkeeper wouldn’t even make room for a miracle in his hotel.  The fabled Magi of the bible are pagan astrologers of traditions that are not the regional economic dominants who foretold this revolutionary birth in their own traditions but there are also medieval traditions that talk of midwives who heard the cries of the Christ child and came immediately to attend and assist in the stable.

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Complementarians v. Egalitarians


Although the world of Christianity has a strong diversity of cultures, rituals, philosophies, and people the issue of gender relations seems to break firmly into two camps. There are the egalitarians who believe in equity and equality between genders and there are the complementarians who believe that there are two sexes of humans that are equal in God’s eyes but whose innate differences and roles are designed to complement one another on earth.

I’ve been obsessed with complementarianism for a long time. Feminism was a no brainer for me as a stubborn and willful child stepping into atheism long before I could even fit a bra (let alone burn one in defiance) coming of age in the Catholic Church. Being told I was fundamentally unfit for a leadership role in my community or my household made me blood boil. As a sixth grader I used to pronounce that I was going to be the first PERSON to walk on Mars, not the first woman and if women could be astronauts then being a priest or the pope was obviously a possibility. The ‘complementarian’ bullshit didn’t work on me. My logic at the time was that if a woman was the best person to make sure a family had a clean and hygienic home, oversee daily child development, plan meals, and stay on top of all the work and rigor that goes into homemaking than she was probably more than adequately prepared to run a parish.
IMG_3302The Catholic Church made me feel so much that being a woman was a punishment. Eve was responsible for the downfall of the first man and the rest of humanity for all time. Nevermind the fact that God decided to take on human flesh and redeem everyone (even women!) and opened up a New Testament where the gates of heaven were reopened and salvation was for all who wanted or needed it. If Eve had offended God so gravely, wasn’t it more than apparent that through the Cross, she was forgiven for that ill-fated snack of an apple? Why was the church of man still insistent on carrying out a punishment on all women, for all time?

Patriarchy is not God’s design for the world. Patriarchy was very much a product of sin, not part of the original design.

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Progressive Christians I’m Reading


I’m a native California girl who was born and raised in Los Angeles, attended university in Santa Cruz, and made my home in the San Francisco Bay Area. What this means primarily is that my veins look like the highways and byways that connect California’s biggest cities with major arteries like the 5, 101, or 1 and small little farm highways known as “blood alleys” that haven’t exactly aged with grace. As a child, I was a wizard at car reading. Later I lost that superhero ability but to my surprise digital books don’t seem to bring on the nausea. I was delighted to read all of Erin Lane’s Lessons in Belonging From A Church Going Commitment Phobe.

The more progressive Christian books I read, the more I can parse out their culture and cadence. The first author to get me sucked in was Nadia Bolz-Weber who blogs as the “Sarcastic Lutheran.” Erin Lane is a “Holy Hellion.” Both are feisty spirits who have written a kind of Christianity that doesn’t make me run screaming from the room and actually gets me to sit down for a moment and think about things like Grace and God’s Love without leaving a mass-produced and hollow cheap candy saccharine cough syrup taste on your tongue.


The Christian church is said to be having a masculinity crisis but I would say that’s been happening for a long time now. It has been said that church attendance could be increased if hipster chic manly men could appeal to their fellow bros-in-Christ and bring forward artistinal patriarchy. (I’m talking to you, Mark Driscoll.) But it’s unreal to suggest that Christianity is losing its patriarchal edge, it just has God forsaken hair and terrible patterned wall paper. It’s not Christ that makes Christianity a hard place to be a feminist. When I hit puberty and realized that my Catholic upbringing had a lot to answer for when it came to the way it regarded my anatomy and that anatomy’s role in our collective salvation and I washed my hands of the business. I fled out of a sense of self-protection. The women with the most power in the church always seemed to be the ones who affirmed patriarchy the best and lost touch with what it meant to be a girl coming up under it.

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The Whore in the House of Jesse

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Hebrews 11:31)

Rahab the harlot lived on the margins of her society, literally. In the late bronze age when her story takes place historically, it was common for people to build housing adjacent to or within fortification walls like that of Jericho. She was a harlot who kept her family afloat by keeping her tavern well. Rabbinical literature cites Rahab as one of the most beautiful women of the bible alongside Abigail, Sarah, and Esther. She is marginalized by her location within Jericho, living right on the perimeter just under the skin of the city and also metaphorically by her harlotry. But, it is this exact marginalization that makes her God’s servant. She is a woman very much in the right place at the right time with the right job: a whore whose tavern borders the town barrier on the evening of a reconnaissance mission before conquering it.

Sex Working and The Bible has some incredible commentary about this story from a roundtable discussion between incredible sex workers whose work has left inedible marks in the history of human rights activism. The ability to faciliate their analysis and to center it as valuable theological commentary is something that is rare and precious. Ipsen points out that Mary Magdalene is debatable but Rahab really is not unless you want to absurdly hold semantic ground. She’s a vital character to study because she is lauded by the bible for her actions and held as a model.

What the commentary from the sex workers really grabbed onto was the disenfranchisement that Rahab must have felt to be able to sell her city out. She is loyal to her house but she is not loyal to her city and based purely on what she had heard about the Isrealites and their escape from slavery with the miraculous support of their God who stands with the marginalized. To be loyal to her city would be loyalty to the hierarchy she is subject to and she hitches a ride to freedom with this quick and decisive act. It is very much what makes her a worthy matriarch for this powerful and divinely inspired lineage: she does what it takes to take care of her family and she has a keen vision of freedom and liberation.

And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. (Joshua 2:13-14)

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“Progressive Catholics”

It made perfect sense to me that Lutherans should be, well, Lutherans. Otherwise, why pose? Get out the tambourines and the Rubbermaid for the rebaptizing and be done with it already. (Which is what drives me crazy about so-called progressive Catholics. Admit it: you’re Episcopalians. You know it. We know it. The pope knows it. Go make a pilgrimage to Second Avenue and stop whining. You may think there’s some cachet in being a rebel, but standing up to the Vatican in 2012 is about as edgy as peeing in the Olympic pool. And you all sound like Veruca Salt off her meds. Shut your pie holes and go walk a labyrinth.) –Anthony Sacramone “The Strange Herring”

I found this quote while searching for more blog posts on Nadia Bolz-Weber and I snorted something out of my nose. My go-to insult of the week is going to be “shut your pie hole and go walk a labyrinth.”

Was Mary Magdalene A Prostitute?

Giampietrino, Die buessende Magdalena - Giampietrino / Repentant Mary Magdalene -Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th Century was well aware that you can destroy a woman by calling her a whore. Mary Magdalene was the “Apostle to the Apostles” and one of the very few to see the risen Christ, but Peter was the head of the Church. To affirm the sexed hierarchy of leadership within the Catholic Church, the reputation of Mary Magdalene was attacked. She was called the penitent whore without a shred of evidence.

There’s a lot of truth in that. Sex workers are real but “whores” and “sluts” are mostly a figment of patriarchy. I mean this in the sense that the term is an ideological container for the dissonance sexual attraction creates inside of misogyny. Pope Gregory had no intention of elevating Mary Magdalene and following a thread about the corporeal nature of Christ and the necessity of reproductive labor and salvation. Pope Gregory was neither the first nor the last person to conclude or project prostitution narrative onto Mary of Magdala. Mary Magdalene is the #1 pornstar at the Vatican for the abundance of reverentially erotic images produced of her over the centuries. She cultivates devotion precisely because of her presumed background in the sex trade. She is the perfect compliment to Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The Madonna and The Whore fit seamlessly onto the story of the redeemer of humanity.

There is a strong push within feminist theology to counter the idea that Mary Magdalene was a whore, to remind people that the accusation is without solid biblical evidence. There is nothing in the text to ‘prove’ that Mary Magdalene was even in the sex trade and there are so many Mary’s in the book that it’s easy to confuse one with another. These refutations seem superficial when reframed: what is lost if Mary Magdalene is associated with prostitution and what is gained? Does the story of Jesus Christ lose its power if his closest and most loyal confidante who remained to bear witness to the execution and received his brutalized corpse was or was perceived to be a prostitute?

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