this post is a continuation of our solidarity series in which we are exploring the life and teachings of jesus in relation to his commitment to the Other.
for those interested in measuring the orthodoxy of such an adventure, click here to see my theological non-negotiables.
in the meantime… let’s talk about the abominations.
‘abomination’ in levitical terms is a ritually unclean act. there is no particular distinction between these things along moral, civil or ceremonial grounds in the text itself. one infamous and fascinating abomination in leviticus is eating lobster (or any other shellfish).
‘but you must never eat animals from the sea or from rivers that do not have both fins and scales. they are detestable to you – unclean, an abomination.’
doesn’t look like red lobster would have done too well in ancient israel. pity. i love their rolls.
the reason eating lobster is an abomination on par with some other detestable acts (according to leviticus) is because lobsters are fish that walk. the hebrew conception of holiness is based, entirely, on an ethos of separation. from the old testament perspective, different = unclean.
things that are holy maintain their distinction from other things. for example :: God is holy because he is separate from creation; ‘the holy of holies’ is super holy because it’s separated from the rest of the tabernacle and temple by a veil; jews are holy because they are separate from gentiles; wearing poly-fiber clothing is an abomination because that’s mixing things; kosher dietary laws ensure foodstuffs are kept separate in preparation; et cetera. things are defined as abominations when they transgress those distinctions.
in regard to lobster :: land animals are supposed to walk (like cattle), and sea animals are supposed to swim (like fish). but lobsters are sea animals that walk. they transgress the boundary of land and sea – and so are considered abominations – unclean – detestable.
this abomination of boundary-crossing has staggering ramifications. mingling things essentially leads to death. for example, in the first creation story in genesis, God created the world by separating things like land and water. in the story of the flood, humans and angels transgressed their boundaries by… frolicking… with each other. the result was the boundary between land and water was transgressed by God – with a devastating flood. ‘you want to see boundary crossing?!?! i’ll show you boundary crossing!‘
everybody dies, and God starts over with noah and his family. God simply doesn’t tolerate boundary crossing.
there were serious ramifications for other (seemingly smaller) forms of boundary crossing, too. when a man was caught disobeying the distinction set aside for the sabbath, he was to be executed. no questions asked. death penalty. for working on a saturday.
weekends off. period. or you die. keep things separate.
this is part of the scandal of the incarnation – when jesus came along claiming to be God incarnate – being flesh and dwelling among human creation – it got him killed, too. it was the grossest form of blasphemy – that God would not only be around humans, but that he would actually be human. think about it.
no wonder the pharisees got upset.
so, they killed him. and even in his death jesus – God – aligns himself with the thieves and murderers – the guilty so that we might all be saved.
yet tragically, we easily miss what God is up to in this good news. the veil in the temple is torn, and there is no longer any separation between God and humanity. God solidifies his solidarity with all of creation in the incarnation, opening our eyes to the fact that it is all made holy because God is here.
there is no longer any separation between clean and unclean, the holy and the profane. the veil is ripped. God is on the loose. he broke out of the box the old covenant kept him in and invites us into his mission of the reconciliation of all things – a return to what is even more original than sin – that moment in the garden when he lovingly declares over his entire creation, ‘it is very good.’
and we can eat lobster while we’re at it.