If you are upset by what I blog, that’s probably a good thing.
Upset? Some people got upset at my last post. That’s good that they got upset! Hey people? Stick around! You are going to be upset again and again, and maybe that’s an excellent thing!
The questions are: why are you upset, and what should you do with that upset feeling, unhappy camper? How is this blog challenging you? Isn’t that what’s making you upset? Sure it is. Confession is good for the soul!
All of us are ignorant about a great many things: you, me, everyone. Honest ignorance is a beautiful opportunity to explore the inexhaustible Mysteries surrounding us and those deep inside in everyone and everything. Sincere stupidity, however, is another matter. This is culpable ignorance, the refusal to learn, and alas, against it, there is no defense. Only extinction comes from it, partial or total.
These posts that upset are not intended to be the intellectual comparison of a comparison of penis sizes. Upset by that grotesque analogy? Well, maybe that’s your thing? And believe me, as hideous as that sounds, it’s a common addiction—check out the video:
Upset Is Good, Sweetheart!
So can we honestly admit our stupid practice of pooling ignorance? If so, that’s a significant first step because the Way to sobriety begins with a first step! Addicts invited to recovery or dragged to it get upset. That upset reveals much!
“What is the solution! You show the problem but offer no solutions!”
Hmm. Should scientists remain silent about climate change until they can provide foolproof solutions? I offer directions, not answers. Let’s explore them! Perhaps we can find a solution down the way?
First, read what is posted here because what follows the upset for the risk-takers and courageous is a genuine sense of exhilaration. This sense comes by way of having a culturally-informed, historically critical understanding of Jesus and the Scriptures. Awestruck wonder at understanding something new is a fantastic gift from the Lord. No, it isn’t the solution to the problems I showcase. Still, it is good medicine against arrogant culpable ignorance keeping us prisoners in our theological crack-dens.
Upset Can Lead Us Somewhere New…
This sense of exhilaration is both humbling and exciting. And hope for re-discovery and metanoia can accompany this. It is like discovering a fortune sitting right under your very bed that was there all along, but you didn’t know it. Would you be upset if you found that? Hey, don’t be stupid. That’s what I am showing you. Just look.
It can empower and illuminate you to genuinely appreciate Jesus, his concerns, and his project. With this, you may truly begin to appreciate our ancestors in faith and understand what the witness of faith means through the centuries. Saying “Jesus, I believe in you,” or “Jesus, I trust in you,” or, “I love you, Jesus,” suddenly becomes meaningful.
Also, consider what it defends you from. With it, you get immunized against the pandemic of fundamentalism. New possibilities, both doctrinal and pastoral, suddenly arise. Far from abandoning the Christian Tradition, you begin to appreciate it more profoundly. Ultimately, you acknowledge that it has always been a living thing that evolves and changes. With that, you also evolve and change.
And this makes us able to appreciate, assess, and appropriate Christianity today in our cultural context. How awesome it would be to have a genuinely adult appreciation of the Jesus tradition as American Christians!
A Word Concerning Snake-Bastards (Matthew 12:34; 23:33)
But don’t look for any of that from our bishops these days. The ridiculous fop bishops fear an informed laity—they feared it so much as to betray Vatican II. They arrogantly sit in their mansions throughout the United States, enabling fascist regimes in the name of saving unborn babies. So get informed, take back your parishes, and fire them. The best way to love fat worthless bishops is the tough love way. Let’s reform things, find and empower good shepherds that are true servant-leaders.
Growing From Upset
How awesome it is to share and converse intelligently about Christian origins. Informed, it becomes possible! What would that do when examining positions advanced in modern Christian stories, doctrine, and ethics?
Respect the Middle Eastern North-African Jesus and our Mediterranean biblical ancestors in the faith. This can make us better Catholics, Christians, and Westerners. Despite our protests otherwise, we Americans are incredibly uncomfortable with cultural differences. We prefer to believe that “they” (whatever people belonging to other cultural groups) are really just like “us” (Americans/republicans/democrats/egalitarians/etc.). We Americans choose unity over diversity, and our coins scream this—E Pluribus Unum.
How exhilarating to appreciate different ways of being human! A big step in that direction goes in acknowledging that Jesus lived a human life, true, but one culturally very different than us Americans/Westerners.
Avoid Stupidity & It’s Pitfalls!
Also, with this culturally informed, historically critical understanding of Jesus, you can avoid terrible pitfalls many sadly fall into. You won’t be inflexible in assessing so-called “Bible-based” and “religious” positions. Such as? Such as anti-Semitism, Zionist racism, white supremacy, dispensationalism, anti-Catholic bigotry, Catholic triumphalism, and many other fundamentalist viewpoints.
Equipped with this knowledge, you won’t become paralyzed by fear when confronted by persuasive Bible-quoters. Chains of ignorance concerning Christianity and its origins, being forged and locked onto so many prominent figures, won’t work on you. You will never misuse the Gospels and the rest of the Bible as an inkblot test for your life. And you will never abuse God with these as if with a set of verses you could control and manipulate God. Mature acceptance of both Church teachings and biblical scholarship becomes possible.
Upset & Change
Another gift received by this approach is to see how the People of God routinely re-read their ancient texts as new circumstances arose within the biblical tradition itself. And they applied them anew to their contemporary situation.
Look how the Chronicler re-interprets the story of David and Israel recounted by the Deuteronomistic Historian! Be astonished how some sacred authors interpret their patron God as a Storm-god and War-god (Deuteronomy and Nahum). At the same time, another depicts God as a humiliated cuckold (Hosea)! Upset that the Bible does not give one definitive depiction of God? Rethink your life, Catholic.
The Matthean Jesus has no use for Samaritans and non-Israelites (Matthew 10:5-6). Later on, when Samaritans poured into the Lukan and Johannine Jesus groups, it was time to get creative (Luke 10:25-37; 17:11-19; John 4:4-42)! Upset that it’s time that we post-Vatican II Catholics got creative? The Body of Christ has had to do that since the beginning! Wake up!
Reading the Bible informed helps us free any pedantic, fundamentalistic notions of inspiration being once-for-all marching orders from the skies. How is God inviting us to broaden our horizons today? When it comes to women in the Church? Marginalized and excluded family members, like homosexuals, bisexuals, transpersons? How about respecting people of other faith traditions and not trying to get them to change religious commitments?
There are many exciting new vistas and opportunities to grow in, but a fundamentalistic mindset can’t see it. Upset over that? Well, that’s good! Change!
Upset & Good News
Also: if we really are to love Jesus, Mary, and other biblical figures, we need to get to know them AND accept them as they are/were.
So, no, I don’t offer solutions, just a direction. And this direction brings some pretty tremendous and practical benefits.
Actualizing Upset Into Change
As far as actualization is concerned, I appreciate the LIFE-LORE-LIFE approach of John Pilch and other Context Group scholars. It goes like this…
We respectfully read and interpret the Gospels while examining and investigating life inside our own American culture. That could be parenting, or secrecy, or witness, or sickness, or honor, or death, etc. We reflect on these from our own American cultural perspective.
Next, we select Gospel sections treating the same realities and values, but this time with Mediterranean cultural frame.
Finally, our conclusion is a challenge for us interpreters to construct a bridge between these two different cultural worlds.
In other words, to build bridges between these contrasting cultures, we must first…
First, learn and recognize the assumptions and values of our own American cultural behavior.
Then systematically contrast these assumptions and values with the Mediterranean cultural world of Jesus and the Gospels (and the whole Bible) and highlight differences.
Finally, WORK VERY HARD at creating the unique common ground required for successful intercultural communication.
Ultimately, there really is no other way that an American believer living today in such a different culture than Jesus’ understand and discover real insights and conclusions applicable to our culture.
The Way After Upset
This actualization process of LIFE-LORE-LIFE will necessarily open and close doors. Yes, that makes people upset. Entries will be closed on proof-texting. So also will Scripture-quoting without context, allegory-gone-wild, Scott Hahn “connect-the-dots” schemes to Catholic doctrines and practices, as well as many other dead ends. But also doors will open! Consequently there will be new possibilities and transformation, and that is hope!
The Church is a living, breathing thing. Don’t mistreat her as something static. Upset? Good! Now let’s build on that.