I would like to thank the Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile for arousing my conscience, though not in the way he intended, with his blog post entitled, “The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing Homosexuality and Gay Marriage“. In that post, he argues that it is important for Christians to pay attention to their sense of disgust, to see whether it has moral dimensions. (If you haven’t read Richard Beck’s Unclean on this subject, go do that). Anyabwile’s essay is morally, theologically, and biblically disastrous, but there can be a connection between one’s sense of disgust and one’s conscience, in a very different way than he describes.
For example, as a follower of a man who touched lepers I am convicted that I have felt disgust at sickness and injury in others. I have allowed my disgust to keep me from intimacy with the infirm and in so doing I have turned my back on their suffering.
As a disciple of a man who made common cause with the poor I am convicted that I have felt disgust at the physical signs of poverty like poor hygiene, rotted teeth, and body odor. My disgust has cut me off from the very people my savior said he would be found among.
As a student of the way of that carpenter from Nazareth who famously kept company with sex workers I am convicted that I have acquiesced to cultural disgust of human sexuality. I have been silent while others were burdened with guilt, shame, and self-loathing. I am part of a religion that has piled sexual abuse on top of repression and falsehood. We baptize our unholy disgust with religious language, committing blasphemy while deeply wounding countless souls.
As a member of the same community into which Philip baptized a eunuch I am convicted that I have permitted others to set up their disgust as a barrier for some people to enjoy full membership and participation in the body of Christ. While the Holy Spirit was busy making the road wide and open I stood by as others assembled barricades out of their gag reflexes.
As part of the very body which approved of Peter eating with Cornelius I am convicted that I have not gainsaid those who call disgusting what God has called clean. Those God has called beloved sons and daughters, Christian parents have kicked out onto the street. Those God created good, Christian ministers have called an abomination. My conscience screams that our disgust has led us into rebellion against God.
As a minister serving in the name of the one who said, “This is my body broken for you, take and eat,” I am convicted that disgust prevents us from being the body of Christ for the world. It is a hard teaching that we should eat his flesh and drink his blood. Among other things it means that our animal nature – that we sweat and cry and bleed and defecate and orgasm and eventually we all die – is not repulsive to God. No, these wrinkled, sexy, diseased, dying bodies are so beautiful that God desired to take on flesh and live among us, and in the person of Christ offer his body for our unification and redemption.
This is a mystery we cannot enter until we lay our disgust aside.