My dog is very smart. But it wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized: sometime between learning to pee while balanced on three legs and figuring out that I’ve been hiding his stuffed alligator on top of the TV console so that he can’t disembowel it anymore, Barnaby learned how to strategize.
I came to this realization thusly:
When I’m too lazy to take Barnaby on a walk to relieve himself, I’ll let him out into the backyard, which is fenced on three sides, and wait while he does his business. Barnaby, of course, thinks of this time not as a bathroom break, but as a marvelous opportunity to try and find the remains of his frisbee and make me throw them for him over and over again, until its covered with a delicious combination of slobber and mud. While this never ever gets old for him, for me it takes about three minutes.
So after three minutes, I will call him in. Barnaby knows what “Come” means. He knows that I makes terrible, guttural, angry noises when he doesn’t come when called. But he ALSO knows that the one thing I brought him outside to do was relieve himself, and that as long as he’s doing that, I am not allowed to be mad at him.
So after I call him, Barnaby looks directly at me, innocently cocks a leg, and while staring at me and panting happily, he finally relieves himself, while I grudgingly acknowledge that yes, OK, fine, he’s a good boy.
Except he’s not, really. He’s totally following the rules. But he is not being a good boy.
I’ll be sharing a short reflection about my dog’s bowel movements at tonight’s Doggie Devotions, and intend to connect it to the umpteen times Jesus feels that it’s needful to call out the Pharisees on too strictly observing the letter of the law, but failing to take note of the spirit/Spirit. I intend for it to be short, thought-provoking, and just a little bit fluffy (pun intended).
Except…except, except. This week I seem to have run into a higher than average number of reminders of how often, when humans do this, it is not as frustrating and adorable as I find it when my dog does it. Too often, the letter of the law is used not as an excuse to have some fun, but as a weapon to put other people in their place.
Cross-reference the Arizona bill legalizing discrimination against homosexuals for religious reasons, mercifully vetoed earlier this week. See also similar bills in Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Check out this awesome blog post by Rachel Held Evans, and hear both the hope and fatigue in the comments section because women’s equality, especially in church, is still an argument we’re having. Read the op-ed pieces in a local paper that I had to review for a class this week that slammed my church, the ELCA, for voting to ordain homosexuals in committed relationships in 2009.
And speaking of those op-ed pieces: to the people who cite biblical verses in these critiques and then claim to be leaving the church because the church no longer follows the word of God (because clearly those people would be reading my blog)–do you not think that the church has never seen these verses? Do you think that because I take a clergy collar with my XX chromosomes it means that I have never read 1 Timothy 2? Do you think that because I love and embrace my gay brothers and sisters I have never read Leviticus?
I have read your proof-texts, considered them, wrestled with them, hold them in tension with the rest of the Bible, and am doing my best to follow where I believe God is leading me. So consider reframing your protest: you are leaving the church not because the ELCA no longer follows the word of God, but because you disagree with how the ELCA seeks to follow the word of God.
Look. Take a leaf from my dog’s book (which is a very small book with very big letters): if you’re going to be subject to the law, be subject to it for the sake of goodness, of delight, of lovingkindness, and not for the sake of judgment. And if you don’t want a leaf from Barnaby’s book (I can’t blame you, since it’s all slobbery and muddy), then take one from Luke 6.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go put on my polyester blend clergy shirt (forbidden in Lev. 19:19) and gold cross (forbidden in 1 Tim 2:9), make some pork potstickers for dinner (forbidden in Lev 11:7), and maybe read the latest sermon from one of the best preachers I’ve ever heard, who also has the coolest tattoos (forbidden in Lev 19:28).