Shuck and Jive

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Song of the Fish People

I really like this poem by Pat Boran (picture above). It has a place in my "loose-leaf" Bible.

“Song of the Fish People”

Give us legs and arms
to run and fight and kill,
then give us other skills
to plant and farm.

Give us warm blood
to feel the variations
of temperature, the patience
to untangle bad from good

while the known world spins,
and give us the desire
to create, and the fire
to destroy. And take the fins.

But leave us always tears
that we may not forget
the salty depths
of our formative years.

--Pat Boran. New and Selected Poems
(Cambridge: Salt Publishing), 2005

In the spirit of locating good writing, I recommend the following article by Robert Jensen. Mr. Jensen was admitted to membership of the St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas, a church in many respects like the one I serve. Both churches are affiliated with The Center for Progressive Christianity .

Mr. Jensen's membership was challenged by others in the presbytery because of his unorthodox views. I won't say any more about that. I will let you read his story. It is exceptionally well-written. I think it relates through a personal account exactly what I am attempting to do on this blog and in my ministry. In my view, Christianity is changing and it needs to change. The honesty, intelligence, humility, and passion of folks like Robert Jensen is something to cultivate and celebrate in the life of the church. So do take the time to read this. It is well worth it.

Here are his opening paragraphs:
This past year, after decades of steadfastly avoiding churches of all kinds, I returned to church. Ironically, and completely by coincidence, I returned to a Presbyterian church, the denomination in which I was raised and to which I swore -- in both senses of the term -- I would never return. But return I have, prodigally perhaps, depending on one's position on various doctrinal issues, which we will get to tonight in due time.

I don't want to be overly dramatic, but my early experience with church had been life-threatening: I was bored, nearly to death. For me, growing up in a middle-of-the-road Protestant church in the Midwest, religion seemed a bland and banal approach to life -- literature, politics, and philosophy seemed far more fruitful paths to explore. As I have confessed to my pastor, in my entire life I have cheated on only one test -- the exam to pass confirmation class so I could fulfill that requirement imposed by my parents and be done with the whole enterprise. For that sin, I have neither sought nor been granted absolution.

So, my friends and family were somewhat startled [when] I joined--of my own free will, being of sound mind and body--St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX....

Read more here...

The Struggle Over What It Means to be a Christian Today: Finding My Way Back to Church and Getting Kicked Out

Next time (maybe) a look at the pre-Hebrew creation myths to set the context for reading the creation myths in the Bible.



  1. I just wrote a response to this in my blog, but I did want to add a comment here about one of Jensen's remarks about the doxology. I really like the words that he says they use in his church. Like Jensen, I am most familiar with the words (sung to "Old Hundredth") that end with "Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." Those words were sung in my church every Sunday when I was growing up. The version that they sing in St. Andrews is something I would love to hear in the church I attend now. But I also, like him, find some strange comfort in those old words. I guess it is because I like the melody and it is so familiar to me.

  2. Thanks Seeker,

    I appreciated your analysis of the Jensen situation on your blog. Ya'll oughtta check it out

    (I link to this blog on my front page under the "Cool Blogs" section.)

    It will be worth defining as you have done terms such as "theist" and "atheist", etc.

    But, to the doxology. Our congregation's version goes like this:

    "Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
    Praise Christ, all people here below;
    Praise Holy Spirit evermore;
    Praise Triune God, whom we adore.

    I inherited it. I always forget the words and go back to the Holy Ghost version on occasion.

    To tell you the truth, I don't think our doxology is all that helpful anyway. We still talk about "all people here below" (below what?)

    In a similar way, most of the hymns we sing are patriarchal and reflect a medieval cosmology.

    Yet they are familiar and give a sense of peace and rootedness. Some of the new hymns are good, some are not.

    However, new hymns that reflect how we see the world today will be old and familiar when our children grow older.

    It is an art to work that balance between new and familiar...