Friday, May 2, 2008

Cannibalism and Christianity

UPDATE: Reflecting on this post I have decided to revise my blog. I have changed the title of the section with the links to the lectionary and the bible look-up site from "Bible Study" to "Spiritual Food".

There is a firestorm of criticism in the comments at Stand Firm today over a post of a news story from England about a famous gay man who appears to have committed cannibalism. This is the third case of cannibalism I remember that was not hunger related or cultural. In all three cases the perpetrators were homosexual. And Greg Griffith points out the same two other cases: Jeffrey Dahmer and Armin Meiwes. As I understand the criticism, it was that this was not relevant to the crisis in the Anglican Communion and appeared to be an attempt to tie homosexuality to this repugnant behavior.

The truth is that the issue of cannibalism is very relevant to Christianity. Many Jewish people, when they feel they know me well enough, will confide their concerns about this aspect of our religion. And also many people who are no longer Christians will point out this aspect of our religion as a deal breaker. I have even had conversations with my own daughter regarding her shock at the words of the Communion service. We do eat the body and drink the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.

When Christianity supplants cannibalism that is cultural, we can see that the cultural cannibalism provided a prefiguring of the true religion. Many pagan myths, rituals and practices provide entry points for conversion. Cannibalism is particularly salient because it prefigures the central ritual of our faith.

However, the reappraiser theologians seem to have begun to shy away from this central aspect of our faith. For example, in a recent article in Episcopal Life, Since You Asked: Why do we celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday?, the liturgical officer for the Episcopal Church, Clayton Morris, gave a response that first included a paragraph on why we celebrate the Eucharis before he addressed the issue of the day of the week:
Why does the church gather around a table with food and drink in its primary act of worship? Because God calls the church to a ministry of reconciliation. The church is called to restore the dignity of creation. It is all about feeding and being fed. It is all about making certain that all God's children are safe, whole and nourished. The ritual breaking of bread in the midst of the assembly reminds us of our task while it embodies its reality.

Notice that in explaining why we celebrate the Eucharist he does not mention that the Eucharist was related to the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Why this shyness about the words of institution? Is it from a naive stance of repugnance to cannibalism. I would think that trained theologians would understand that Christianity does not promote cannibalism, it supplants it. One commenter early on in the thread took the conversation in the direction I am heading. DietofWorms wrote:
Creepy/psychopathic behavior is not unknown amongst heterosexuals, either.

That said, this sounds a lot like Jefferey Dahmer, where the cannibalism in a way was an attempt to fill this huge void and psychotic loneliness.

I don’t think there is a coincidence that Chist shared his body and blood with us at the last supper. Jesus understands the depth of human depravity, and He alone is the answer to our deepest yearnings.

Everything human’s come up with for fixing ourselves is just a way of treating the symptoms of our brokeness. Jesus Christ is the cure for our brokeness.

Stories like the Mr. Gay UK story show us the psychotic extreme, but it is on the same contiuum of all attempts (no matter our sexual orientation) at wholeness without complete surrdender and obedience to Christ.


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