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The Good Book
First Fruits: The Giving of the Harvest
"Behold I am Doing a New Thing" - A Vision of Harvest
More issues ...
are many ways to think about allowing abundance, about asking and receiving
the harvest. One can think about it in ecclesial terms: churches, faith
communities, and movements ask their members to give generously from their
abundance of talents and finances in order to support various ministries.
During these next two months, though, many Christians will also be thinking
about the abundance of grace that the early Church received when God sent
the Holy Spirit to the apostles and disciples on Pentecost. This event will
be commemorated liturgically in many Christian Churches and Communities
on June 4.
Pentecost did not begin with Christianity. The apostles would already
have been celebrating the Jewish festival of Pentecost, also known as
Shavu'ot or the Festival of Weeks. Jews still celebrate Shavu'ot today.
Like many Jewish festivals, Shavu'ot celebrates both a historical and
an agricultural event: the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai is celebrated
along with the harvesting of the first fruits to be brought to the Temple.
We can frame the sending of the Holy Spirit within this Jewish context.
God gives of his abundance of grace so that the Holy Spirit whom we have
received can become the new Law written on our hearts, but we are expected
to give back the many and very different gifts we receive from God to
better the Church and the world. It almost goes without saying that we
should receive the abundance that God sends us graciously. Or does it?
When we speak of the abundance that God sends us in a Christian context,
we are often speaking primarily of people and the gifts they receive from
the Holy Spirit and bring with them to the Church. As Christian queers,
we know that the Church has not always received this human abundance graciously.
We and the gifts we bring are routinely rejected, and we are told that
the gifts we have received could not have come from God. Still, I think
that we too often try to take the splinters out of our sisters' and brothers'
eyes without removing the gigantic beams from our own eyes. It is true
that the Church has not always been graciously accepting of the human
gifts God has given it, but it is equally true that gay culture has not
always been accepting of certain kinds of men and women and the gifts
they bring with them.
When I speak of gay culture not accepting certain women and men, I am
speaking mostly in terms of body image. Although we know better than most
how much cultural rejection can hurt, our culture is often even harsher
than our wider American culture is toward people whose bodies do not meet
our predetermined criteria of normalcy. As Christian queers, we have an
obligation to try to change this trend toward rejection in our culture.
Our faith tells us that God created our bodies, and that he sees all that
he created as good. That means that short men are as good as tall men;
large men and women are as good as thin men and women; men with smaller
penises are as good as men with larger penises; and women with smaller
breasts are as good as women with larger breasts. All of our bodies are
good because God created them.
When we look at gay culture, we must admit that the goodness of the
body is not really affirmed. Among gay men, we can find the rejection
of many body types throughout the pages of the popular Instinct
magazine. In this month's issue, a very attractive couple (Billy Polson
and Mike Clausen) is featured. One of the feature pictures shows Polson
and Clausen in tightly fitting tank tops: biceps bulging, broad shoulders
exposed, tight shirts conforming perfectly to their impressive pectoral
and abdominal muscles. Polson and Clausen own their own business, a gym
in San Francisco. Another man, David Epstein, is featured as Bachelor
of the Month. Epstein is 41-years-old, he's 5'8'', and he weighs 150 pounds.
I don't deny that these men are attractive, and I applaud them for knowing
what they want their bodies to look like and working to meet their goals.
But are Polson, Clausen, and Epstein really representative of all, or
even most, gay men? Of course they're not. Many gay men don't have the
genes, the money, or the time to maintain the kind of bodies that these
men maintain. Additionally, some gay men are happy with being "large and
in charge," and this sentiment often finds its expression in the bear
subculture. And yet these bears do not find a prominent place in the pages
Rejection of diverse body types certainly does not stop at gay and lesbian
magazines. Where are the bears in the cast of Queer as Folk? Why
are all of the women in the cast of The L Word so uncommonly thin?
Why, on Will & Grace, are Will and Jack so thin, why are their
love interests always thin and so often well built, and why does Jack
constantly criticize Will for being fat? Why couldn't one of the two leading
men in Brokeback Mountain have been a hairy-chested guy who looked
like he actually ate meals hardy enough to sustain a cowboy? When it comes
to gay culture, the rejection of certain body types that are considered
"abnormal" is all-pervasive. And as this part of our culture is absorbed
into the mainstream media, is it any wonder that so many heterosexuals
think that sex and physicality are what gay culture is all about?
Pentecost is not just about recognizing the abundance of gifts that
God gives us in the context of the Church. Pentecost is also about remembering
Creation, when the Holy Spirit moved over the waters of the abyss and
created everything from nothing, when the Spirit of God was breathed into
each one of us and became for us the breath of life. Pentecost is about
remembering that every single one of us was created good in the first
place, that we were all created in the image and likeness of God, and
that we are the gifts that God has given to the world. Pentecost is about
remembering that everything about us is a gift, including and especially
It's time for gay culture to graciously accept the abundant bodies God
has made and given to us, and it's time for all of us to realize that
we are creatures made by a good God who knows what she's doing.
Nelson is a 22-year-old political science major at Ohio University
Eastern, and he is also a member of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church.
Nate can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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