Monday, April 18, 2016

Enough said.

I have spoken and written way too much in my life and it only gets worse as I get older. (Sorry, everyone.)

Despite this online evidence to the contrary, words really get on my nerves. I mean, isn't it lovely to meet a person who listens more than they speak?

Our reception of language is often fixed and inflexible, so words are used to judge. Do you ever worry a LOT that someone will misinterpret what you have said? Boy, I do. Surely this is because I know my own tendency to judge others by what they say, rather than seek to understand the spirit in which they said it.

I used to have a deep suspicion of anyone who owned up to being, for example, 'proud' or 'drunk'. (I know). Such prejudice lasted long into my twenties. Then, at some point, I opened my eyes and realised that 'proud' for most people simply means happy. And 'drunk' could be anything from blacking out in a pool of vomit to having a delightful, tipsy chat with your mates. Oh the joy of being drunkenly proud of my children!

Often, social speech irritates me because I take it too literally. I hate bragging. My more tolerant husband has pointed out to me that people who brag usually just want to be liked. I try to see that. I have loosened up enough to know that banter is social glue, not frivolous disrespect. Sometimes I even manage to enjoy that, too.

Words in church are a big problem for me. Give me a ten-minute homily and silent prayer and an ancient hymn with words at least good enough to have stood the test of time any day. Oh and please, please, please save me from policies, doctrinal checklists, statements of faith and vision-writing exercises.

The bible is chock-full of losers, contradictions, mistakes, weirdness, metaphor and poetry. And it isn't even the Word of God - that role was reserved for a real, live person (who didn't go in much for sermonising).

And now, having proven myself to be a total hypocrite, I'll shut up.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Fantastic Mr God.

I'm pretty cheesed off with kiddie bibles.

Here we have a collection of moving, enticing, profound stories. But somehow, every interpretation for children (well, let's be honest, quite a lot of the interpretations PERIOD) makes the whole thing pedestrian, dull and manipulative.

Serpents in paradise. Noah and his ark. Jonah and the Whale. Tent pegs hammered through temples. Wives turning into salt. Vixens who cut men's hair and thus emasculate them. Magically profound parables that apply to any era, defying and slitherly superceding any amount of sermonising. Apocalyptic brushstrokes of terror and wonder. Fantastic!

And there's the word that interests me. Fantasy. We enlightened Western Christians need to stop fearing it.

People fantasise. They need to let their imaginations run free reign and they need to be exposed to stories without instructions. Perhaps this is how we grow up. We live in reality, we take refuge in fantasy and slowly we learn to distinguish, play and work between the two.

If you take a pretty amoral, factually dubious story and domesticate it in order to instruct a child - or anyone - in correct doctrine or character development, you do them a huge disservice. Let the kid spring off from the story and find her own way!

For example, take Cain and Abel, those famous first brothers in Genesis. Cain kills Abel because the Lord looks favourably on Abel's sacrifice and not on Cain's.

Every sermon about or analysis of this (until Brueggemann's, which I read gratefully last year) that I can remember suggested Cain's offering to God was mean and paltry. It revealed his inferior moral character and faith. That's why The Lord didn't like it. Neat. What a bad guy Cain was!

But look at the text. There is no such indication. God simply favoured one over the other. Inexplicably. What an unjust God!

It's safer to attribute predicatable moral rules to God, but this story and the 'Lord' it attempts to reveal lie beyond our moral schemes. They frustrate our attempts to rule and understand the world.

God is fantastic as well as good. Deal with it. Figure the damn thing out. And let your children do the same.