Christcon: Does Jesus Love the Incel?

It has been an interesting to week to have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other to borrow from a famous quotation from Karl Barth. The Rev. Patrick Conroy found that speaking truth to power, even in an opening prayer can present risks and he resigned his position as House Chaplain without having to be let down through an opening in the wall.

How do we talk about stories from the time of Jesus in twenty-first century America? In my New Testament class, we’ve been talking about pseudepigraphy; texts attributed to an author by members of the authors community. As an example, several of Paul’s letters are considered by many scholars to be pseudepigraphic. I posed the question of how this is different from fanfic today. In a class discussion forum, I wrote:

Looking at pseudepigraphy through a twenty first century lens, it seems to be a fancy word very similar to fan fiction today. I'd encourage people to read The Promise and Potential of Fan Fiction as you think about pseudepigraphy.

Perhaps our worship services are really weekly fanfic conventions. ChristCon?

Expanding on the idea, imagine a gathering where fans of a particular literary opus met weekly. They would start their gatherings with a person walking in carrying a replica of a device used to torture and murder the hero of the literary opus. Some participants might even wear small pieces of jewelry in the shape of the torture device. People would read sections of the literary opus. A keynote presenter might get up and expound on some of these sections. Later, they would re-enact a significant scene from the literary opus.

This week we also read about an attack in Toronto where the Toronto suspect apparently posted about an 'incel rebellion.'.

A friend of mine just posted about this on Facebook. He asked to what extent people who identify as Men’s Rights Activists (MRA) or ‘involuntarily celibate’ (incel) are privileged men who have not developed necessary social skills, perhaps because they are neurodiverse or other similar reasons.

What jumped out at me in the CNN article was a quote from an incel website, this "enters the realm of having no possibility of finding a partner, either to get validation, love, or acceptance from".

To me this gets to the core of Christianity and key issues American Christendom faces. Whatever your thoughts on substitutional atonement are, the cross is the ultimate offer of validation, love and acceptance. Yet so much of American Christendom fails to show that love to those that are different, that are other, whether the otherness comes in the form of neurological differences, differences of race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, class, or anything else that is used to try and separate ourselves and those around us from the love which is in Jesus Christ.

Yes, if we want an authentic ChristCon, we need to sit down and eat with incels and everyone else who feels ostracized from society. We need to accept and validate every person as a beloved creature of God, even if they do things we find morally reprehensible or a simply different or other than ourselves.

The final topic I want to talk about from this week is implicit bias and racial reconciliation. However, that is a long post in and of itself, so come back later for that post.

The Particularities of Our Concerns

(This is another blog post adapted from a discussion for one of my seminary classes. The references to Boring are to An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology by M. Eugene Boring. Thoughts and comments are always welcome.)

As a blogger, I am struck by Boring’s discussion of ‘real letters’. Boring describes them saying, “a real letter is composed for a particular person or limited group sharing a common history, known to the author and addressing the particularities of their concerns.” (Boring, Kindle loc 6667). Later, Boring says, “Letters mediate the presence of the writer to the distant reader” and “a real letter thus is part of a conversation”.

It seems like the epistolary form mirrors my thoughts about our relationship with God. God is not just addressing all of human kind, God is address each one of us in the particularities of our concerns. God is seeking to be present to each one of us.

This fits nicely with the twenty first century literary form of blogs. Good blogs also address the particularities of the concerns of their readers. I have to wonder what form the scriptures would be written in if they were written in the twenty first century as well as what sort of communication we are called to today.

What can we learn about the Three Self Movement today?

(This was written for a discussion in Christian History II and I thought I'd adapt it to be a blog post as well.)

The discussion of the Three Self Movement reminds me of Roland Allen whom some of my friends are very interested in. It led me to try and find out more information about Henry Venn, "honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841 to 1873."

I am struck by the different approaches of Indigenisation that Venn supported, of having missionaries start the churches which would then be handed over to the indigenous people and Indigeneity which Groves and Allen supported of having the indigenous people start the churches themselves.

This raises for me the question of how we reach out to the “nones” of today. Are we trying to get them to return to the churches of the previous century? Are we trying to set up churches we will hand over to them? Or are we trying to help “nones” develop communities that meet their spiritual needs?


Furtively we crept to the wake.
The room was dark and full of pictures.
We had hoped he would be the one
We had hoped that this would be the week
when we arrived at the capitol
with great fanfare,
but the crowds turned against us.
They gave him the death penalty,
executing him like a common criminal.

Now, we huddle in silence, sadness, shame, and fear.
Will they come for us next?

Suddenly, there’s a commotion.
One of the women has returned.
She says the body is missing.
Is this the final insult,
a desecration of his grave?
Another returns.
She has seen a vision.
She says he’s alive.

I am shaking;
terrified and overjoyed
with no way of understanding
what all this means.

Late Night Spiritual Wrestlemania

It's the middle of the night
Near the Indiana line
I'm pulling in a Christian station

The words of Richard Shindell’s song Next Best Western come to mind as I try to pull together some of my thoughts. Yesterday, I spent time going over some of my school work. I’ve been reading commentaries on the Gospel of John and about Christianity in the United States between the Revolution and the Civil war.

I received an email from a friend in the Episcopal Church about The Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism seeking feedback on anti-racism and racial reconciliation training document. I shared it with my classmates. The email reminded me of my many struggles with the Episcopal Church.

In the evening, I went to Vespers at the Orthodox Church. I love the Orthodox Church and the services have been very meaningful. It feels like some would like me to join the Orthodox Church. Others want me to remain in the Episcopal Church, and others just want me out of their hair.

In Christian History, we’ve been talking about the period in the United States between the Revolution and the Civil War. This has included how various churches dealt with slavery which is one of the reasons the racial reconciliation document was so pertinent right now. We also have been talking about how religious plurality helped shape American Christianity.

This led to a discussion of “Church Hopping”. People talked about the importance of making newcomers feel welcome. I am very aware of this as I look at my own experiences with different churches and ecclesiastical organizations. It also relates to a topic in New Testament, but I’ll save that for another time.

On Church Hopping, I wrote

It seems like the phrase ‘church shopping’ has a negative connotation, to use [one of my classmate’s] phrase, something that happens at the ‘surface level’. We talk about the importance of welcoming new comers, without being too aggressive.

Yet I wonder what it would be like if we thought of our visitors not as people ‘church shopping’ but people in a spiritual discernment process, for in truth that is an important part of what is going on beneath the surface when someone church shops.

In the middle of the night, I woke up from a strange dream which involved various employees of the Episcopal Church. It was unsettling and when sleep would not return, I got up and started writing. I wrote down my dream. I wrote some responses to the discussion forums for class. I wrote part of an email to a priest in the Orthodox Church about some of my struggles and I checked Facebook.

In a group of people struggling with their discernment journeys, a member posted about a challenging thing that recently happened in her life. She posted it in the middle of the night as well. In a group of Episcopalians another person posted about struggles with their discernment journey.

My mind drifted to Jacob wrestling with an angel. It feels a little bit like Wrestlemania this evening on Facebook for those of us on spiritual journeys.

In a different group, a member has been posting short videos as she starts her second Camino. She has large blisters. Jacob has an out of joint hip. As I head back to bed and see if sleep will return, Richard Shindell’s words come back to me.

At four a.m. on 80 East
It's in the nature of the beast
To wonder if there's something missing
I am wretched, I am tired
But the preacher is on fire
And I wish I could believe

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