Chris Haw, co-author of Jesus for President and a recent convert to Catholicism, raised some points about closed versus open communion. (I had a blast talking with Chris about Catholicism. He made some very powerful arguments that I'm still chewing on.)
As I've written about before, I'm a proponent of open communion. Chris, coming from his Catholic perspective, is a proponent of closed communion. In the closing session Chris made the comment that if we offered the Eucharist to everyone we'd be implicitly sacralizing and endorsing violence as the body and blood of Jesus would be being given to murderers, rapists, domestic abusers, etc. Chris said, citing William Cavanaugh, that the Eucharist must be used to draw a boundary.
I definitely see Chris's point. My response, however, is this:
The body and blood of Jesus has already been given to murderers, rapists, and domestic abusers.
It's no good trying to protect the body and blood of Jesus from being wasted in this way. Jesus has already wasted it. Jesus offered up his body and blood for the whole world while we were yet sinners. That ship has already sailed. Thus, it makes no sense, in my mind, for the church to protect behind a wall something that Jesus has already given away in a crazy, irrational and wasteful act of self-giving.
And nothing changes if you think, like Catholics do, that in the Eucharist the actual (if mystical) blood and body of Christ are present. Because the actual body and blood of Jesus was given away on Golgotha, with no church drawing a boundary and monitoring access. The actual body and blood of Jesus--then and now--will always be wasted.
This is why closed communion makes no sense to me. What are we protecting? What fantasy has gripped the church to make her think that she could prevent the blood and body of Jesus from being wasted on sinners?
Well folks, I'm sorry, it's too late for those illusions. Jesus pulled the trigger on that a long time ago, foolishly wasting himself on the world.
And the church, try as she might, can't stop that from happening.
...I wrote this post two weeks ago. Waking up this morning and reading it I'm feeling uncomfortable with it. Particularly given the conversation in the comment thread from yesterday about domestic abuse.
To clarify some, I hope no one would think I'm arguing that because Jesus died for sinners like "murderers, rapists, and domestic abusers" that those actions can be passed over lightly. And there is a powerful criticism, the one Chris made, that says if you are welcoming such people to the table you are tacitly endorsing their sin and violence, giving them a free pass. And I definitely see that point.
My argument here is less about welcoming perpetrators to the table than dwelling on this notion of waste, the feeling I often get from some that the church's duty in the Eucharist is to prevent the body and blood of Jesus from being wasted on the undeserving. But as I argue above, if Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners the body and blood of Jesus has already been wasted in the most extreme way imaginable. True, we might do different things in closed and open communion to address the violence and evil in our midst, but I don't think an argument about waste can be the leading edge of those discussions as God has already, in Jesus, been wasted upon us.