This past week I was involved in an event at Austin Seminary. It was an event concerned with how and why we minister to Young Adults. I love Austin and enjoy the energy present in the city.
I got to room with an old buddy of mine, Dr. Harris. He spent part of one-day reading blogs and came across an article that has Deuteronomy 23:1 in it. I forget the exact nature of the article but he became obsessed with it and has vowed to memorize the strange and eccentric verses in the Bible.
It got me to think about the language of the Bible. I am fascinated with the weird and abstract nature the Bible seems to deal in. Scripture is filled with holy and no so holy images of who is insider and who is outsider. When taken at face value it presents an amazing dilemma.
Take Deuteronomy 23:1, “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” [New Living Translation] WTF?!? When looking at this verse at face value I see a discrimination against someone that received a punishing action [the cutting or crushing of their junk]. Who would crush or cut their junk [junk=penis & testicles]? Perhaps not so complex in the context it was written, as the cutting or crushing of the junk happened to prisoners of war and other slaves. Folks even did this to their own children to offer them in worship to some deities.
I am reminded of the Castrati of the 18th century. It seems to have been captivating to listen to these folks sing with a uniqueness all their own.
When this passage is investigated with modern sensibilities we must take into account the transgender community. In reading some Jewish interpretation that has been made regarding those in the transgender community that are correcting their gender from male to female this verse is especially important. If this verse is read literally it can be used to oppress and hurt many people.
I find it alarming that the required rite of circumcision is not included in the forbidden practices when this verse is engaged. I do not remember being asked to be circumcised but I am pretty sure that my junk was cut to include me in this most joyous of practice.
So what does it mean to cut or crush the junk? I am certain it has to do much with the idea of fertility and ones ability to deliver seed and carry on a population. Again many in the translation business are stuck on the order of ordained partnership must be one of fruitfulness. This creates an outsider class comprised of second marriages, senior citizens, lesbian, gay, and barren couples that no doubt love each other and provide a compassion and partnership that models the “ness” of Gods calling to not be alone.
We use language to divide, oppress, dominate, and segregate all of Gods creation. I cannot shake the idea the when Jesus preached from the Mount that famous sermon, he was doing so to call attention to all of our frail human division. I wonder what kind of world would we live in if we held the diversity of Gods beautiful creation and used words to describe and draw near rather than using the gift of language to defend, deflect, and divide it.
I am convicted that I must focus on the truth being spoken to me that guides me as I humbly accept and wrestle with the truth being revealed to the Other. Is there a place where humility and conviction meet? Would this place be where The Christ calls us to? I am not sure. I trust that one day all shall be made known and it is up to God to judge me for what I have done and left undone. This I feel to be universal and is beyond language.