Sunday, September 09, 2012

Was Jesus a Prejudiced Bigot? A Lesson to be Un-learned

I can't believe we are visiting this issue again. Today's reading from Mark 7:24-37 included the story of the Syrophoenecian woman.
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
The last time we heard a sermon based on this text, we were erroneously told by our priest that the woman opened Jesus' eyes. The full content of my blog post and the comments are well worth reading again since today we were told by our new priest that there were several ways of looking at this story, and the one she chose to expound on was, by her admission, the most dangerous interpretation. Never once did she explain what the danger was, but from the amount of time given to it, I got the impression that the dangerous = radical, and that was what she thought would be most beneficial for us pewsitters to learn.

So what might this dangerous interpretation be? Yep, it is the same old argument that Jesus' human half (don't go there!) needed to be taught a lesson by the Syrophoenecian woman (with the addition of negative terminology that He was pejudiced and bigoted).

Oh yeah, shock language about Jesus will get their attention.

At any rate, I call the un-named danger Arianism, and it pops up every time you make Jesus into a prejudiced, bigoted rabbi.

They must teach this stuff in Episcopal seminaries.

It is wrong teaching, and it should not be pushed into the collective consciousness on Sunday mornings.


  1. Our priest mentioned an experience he had in a seminary discussion as a student. Cutting to the end, he was assured by both the priests present that Jesus was just having a really bad day, and was being both sexist and racist. A TEC seminary, of course. Of course, the sermon he gave was rather better!

  2. Thanks Tregonsee,

    I suspected this was being served up in the seminaries.

  3. I think there is Arianism involved, but the heresy you're looking for is Nestorianism. The sermon that I heard at my TEC parish indicated that the (human) Jesus made a mistake (calling the woman a dog) and that she taught Jesus to "Give". Evidently, the "human Jesus" was a non-inclusive bigot. I almost got up and left... this service also featured a "Prayers of the People" from the New Zealand Prayer Book.

  4. Yep Main-Rem you are correct, but I don't know which half of you to thank.

  5. Our rector served up this same heresy. If he got it from seminary, they have been teaching it a long time. He's been ordained for almost 20 years. Oh, he is also the chair of our diocese's deputation to General Convention.

    This is really mainstream theology throughout the Episcopal church, in my experience. It is rather difficult (at least in this diocese) to find clergy who teach Chalcedonian christology.

  6. DaveH,

    This teaching must be pretty commonplace. I have heard several different priests repeat it as well.