|Bishop Karen Oliveto and her wife, Robin Ridenour|
Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
As I read the commentary by traditionalists on the election of Karen Oliveto, an openly gay clergy person, as a bishop in the United Methodist Church, I have a confession: I don’t get it.
I was going to use the traditional salutation, “Sisters and Brothers in Christ,” but I am trying to move beyond the gender binary.
I generally dislike the genre of the “open letter” because open letters aren’t really letters at all, they are opinion pieces and they are typically snarky while pretending to be sincere. In this case, I am hoping to be more ironic and satirical than snarky, and I make no pretense of sending a sincere letter.
But I am serious.
And I do have a very real question for you (the traditionalists).
It’s not the question about why anyone would think that “traditional” and Christianity would go together in the first place. Wasn’t Jesus always at odds with the traditionalists?
But that’s not my question today.
The question is, “Why do you care so much about same sex relationships?”
I get it that you care about the authority of the Bible. So do I. But why is that part of the Bible so important to you?
Honestly, I just don’t get it.
Progressive Christians (I don’t like that label. I thought we were just garden variety ordinary Christians, but I guess we are stuck with it) tend to focus on the Sermon on the Mount, and the prophets, social and economic justice, and everything else that Jesus (and Paul) proclaimed as the Kingdom of God on earth. We are focused there because Jesus was focused there, and we are also committed to that agenda because we are concerned about human beings who are marginalized and oppressed.
For some traditionalists (not all) that probably looks like politics. I get that.
But I don’t get the emphasis on same sex relationships.
What about keeping Sabbath? Keeping Sabbath is an order of magnitude more important to the biblical writers than same sex relationships. It is a core principle in Hebrew Scripture, and although much is made of the ways in which Jesus disagreed with some traditionalists on how one ought to keep Sabbath, he consistently kept it. The disciples even kept the Sabbath after Jesus was crucified.
It is interesting, by the way, that in the Exodus version of the commandment it is related to the order of Creation (God rested on the seventh day of Creation), while in Deuteronomy it is related to the notion that even slaves must have a day of rest. In the nineteenth century, Progressives used this as part of the argument against a seven day work week.
Biblically speaking, breaking Sabbath is a major sin. Although we know that the death penalty pronouncements in Leviticus were not meant to be taken literally, Sabbath breaking is punishable by death.
And we know that human beings need Sabbath.
So why isn’t that even a blip on your radar?