Shuck and Jive

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Telling Truth in Tennessee

Inspired by the honesty of Sam Harris and his books Letter to a Christian Nation and The End of Faith, I thought as we contemplate the new year, that honesty in religion is a good policy, now, perhaps, more than ever. I am a member of the Literacy and Liturgy Seminar (formerly the Westar Leaders Seminar) of Westar Institute. The Spring meeting is in Miami, check it out! In the Fall of 2005 I presented a paper regarding preaching in light of historical Jesus scholarship. I would say some things differently today, but overall, it says what I think is important. I invite you to read the paper and answer this question: am I a Christian?

Now, I really don't care how you answer that, because it isn't about me. Nor will I be offended or flattered by your answer. Whether or not you consider me a Christian has nothing to do with my personal morality or lack of it. I am curious as to whether I can say and believe what I say and still remain in the Christian faith, particularly the Presbyterian Church (USA) as minister. It doesn't matter whether or not you agree or disagree with particulars in the following paper. (For example, I can disagree with you over a matter of theology but still consider you a Christian or a ministerial colleague, for that matter). The question is this: are our disagreements so large that we are no longer in the same faith?

Before you give me your answer, here is mine. Yes, I am a Christian and a Presbyterian and a minister in good standing. I plan to remain one. The issue is not about me. It is about who we are as Christians--and to a lesser extent Presbyterians--as we begin the 21st century. What does it mean to be a Christian?

Frankly, I think the fundamentalists in our denomination are correct when they claim that we have two different faiths under one roof. Perhaps more than two. I don't think we share anything in common except our humanity, some of the language of faith, and our church polity. I reject all five fundamentals. I think TULIP is a disaster for human progress. Retreating back to 17th century Calvinism is 180 degrees from where I think a progressive faith should be heading. I firmly am convinced that science and modern scholarship have eroded completely all vestiges of dogmatic religion.

One final thought. I really don't care if fundamentalists and progressives share a church identity. I don't care if my colleague down the road is a fundamentalist or not. I will work with anyone (but I won't be quiet). But my hunch is that she or he does care. To the fundamentalist, I am worse than an unbeliever. I am Satan. I must be purged.

This is where we have come in this country and in the church. Fundamentalist Christians are trying to send us back to the time when we cured mental illness by boring holes in people's skulls. They deny gays and lesbians their rights as human beings by referring to texts in a book that they believe has been divinely ordained! We are headed for a theocracy if we are not vigilant and honest with ourselves and with others. This is why I put myself out there, honestly taking what I learned in college and seminary to its logical conclusion. We are products of the Enlightenment and we need an enlightened faith. We need to face religious dogmatism with reason. Read Sam Harris and read my following paper! You can read this paper of mine and others on the website of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton.

What to Preach?

The Challenge of the Jesus Seminar to Contemporary Homiletics

Prepared for the Westar Leaders Seminar

Fall 2005

John Shuck

In the January-February 2005 issue of The Fourth R, Robert Funk challenged the Westar Leaders Seminar to “creat[e] a new Sunday Morning experience from scratch: new music, new liturgy, new scriptures, new ceremonies, new rites of passage.” (p. 2) I think this is a great idea. However, I am not sure if I am up to that task. The reason for my reticence is that I am a minister in an established tradition that is loaded with a great deal of baggage. Starting from scratch is simply not going to happen unless I leave the church and start my own cult. Since I have chosen to remain in my tradition, I have to work with what is there and to facilitate change as best I can.

The task for me and perhaps for some others in the Westar Leaders Seminar is to do a great deal of deconstructing even as we reconstruct the Sunday Morning experience. Some of this deconstruction and subsequent reconstruction will result in reinterpreting old forms. I see this reinterpretation as temporary and transitional, making the paths straight for the new forms to come. On the other hand, some of the changes already taking place in many communities of faith are quite progressive. I am looking forward to Hal Taussig’s forthcoming book in which he surveys over one thousand congregations that have employed new forms and structures in response to modern scholarship, our contemporary setting, and current religious/spiritual needs.

Robert Funk did not mention the role of preaching in this new Sunday Morning experience. For those of us in the Protestant tradition, preaching has traditionally been a very significant if not the most significant aspect of worship. To underscore this point, I offer three selections from the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Confessions. From the Second Helvetic Confession:


Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good. 5.004

From the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q. 83. What is the office of the keys?

A. The preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline. By these two means the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers and shut against unbelievers. 4.083

And from the Confession of 1967:

God instructs the church and equips it for mission through preaching and teaching. By these, when they are carried on in fidelity to the Scriptures and dependence upon the Holy Spirit, the people hear the word of God and accept and follow Christ. The message is addressed to men and women in particular situations. Therefore, effective preaching, teaching, and personal witness require disciplined study of both the Bible and the contemporary world. All acts of public worship should be conductive to people’s hearing of the gospel in a particular time and place and responding with fitting obedience. 9.49

As you can see, preaching in my tradition comes with a lot of baggage! One of the tasks of the contemporary preacher who serves two masters (an ecclesiastical body and his/her own conscience) is to deconstruct and reconstruct in such a way that seeks to honor both masters (or at least seeks not to dishonor either master). Not easy. Jesus might say, impossible. Whether or not Jesus was exaggerating to make a point or speaking absolute truth is yet to be confirmed for me. At any rate, it is for those who have chosen to preach in the church that this paper is directed.

I cannot predict whether or not preaching will have a role in the new Sunday Morning experience. It certainly has a role at present. Because preaching is so central to the Sunday Morning experience (formerly known as worship), I believe we need to address this question: What is the purpose of preaching? A second question is like it: What is the content of preaching? Here are some of my reflections regarding the purpose and content of preaching in response to the work of the Jesus Seminar.

Preaching and the “Word of God”

I believe that many clergy are overdue for a heart to heart with their congregations about the metaphor “Word of God” especially as it applies to the Bible. I have found that this metaphor more often stops creative thought than inspires it. The question we might ask our congregations is, “If the Bible is the Word of God, what makes it so?”

Modern scholarship has eroded the foundations for this metaphor. We have come to a time in which it is incredible to assert that our canon of scripture is objectively true or authoritative for all of humanity. Appeals to the Bible’s historical or scientific accuracy are naive. The claim that our canon has been dictated or inspired by supernatural revelation amounts to little more than special pleading. There is no magic power that makes the Bible or any text within it superior, truer, or more divinely inspired that any other human writing, religious or secular. The hands of human beings through their own imaginative power made every jot and tittle of carving and of script. The Bible is a collection of the writings of humans for humans. Once we dismiss the assumption that our book or library of books is more authoritative than any other collection, we can finally take our seat around the table of humanity.

When faith communities begin demythologizing the Bible, some interesting things will happen. The Bible’s authority will shift away from the text and toward the individual interpreter or community of interpreters. No longer will the Bible be considered an authoritative source of truth that contains infallible propositions about God or the human condition. Rather, it will become a resource for wisdom. Since authority is earned by the truth it tells, the Bible will have whatever authority the individual or community gives to it. People may find through its narratives, poetry, and song, an oasis of spiritual refreshment. Or they may not. It will be up to the people (both collectively and individually) to draw out what is meaningful and good and to discard what is not meaningful and good.

The preacher’s task will be to offer permission and encouragement for the congregation to engage in this discipline of freedom. The preacher can no longer assume that within a biblical text is a Word from God that needs to be teased out through exegesis and delivered to the waiting faithful. The preacher can no longer assume that just because a text is in the Bible that it is from God or is even valuable. A preacher can, however, provide information about a text using such tools as literary and historical criticism. The preacher can also provide an opinion regarding the text’s value for the community of faith. The preacher may even use the text as an impetus to speak about a contemporary concern. But I believe it is unethical for a preacher to make the claim that what s/he is saying is true, good or of God because it is based on his or her interpretation of a biblical text. In other words, a preacher cannot use a biblical text to prove a point. Anything a preacher says must stand on its own terms. This ethic will free both the biblical text and the preacher. The text will be freed from the preacher’s misuse of it. The preacher will be freed from the constraints of needing to “preach from the Bible” or to have everything s/he says to be backed by scripture.

Preaching can do a great deal of good in a community of faith. It can inspire, comfort, challenge, and inform for the betterment of humanity. Preaching can also do a great deal of harm. The harm results not so much on the content of the message or its style of delivery as on the implied authority of the preacher because s/he supposedly preaches the Word of God. I believe that Word of God is not only a meaningless metaphor; it is also a harmful metaphor for both the Bible and the preaching act. I recommend that preachers discontinue its use and have this conversation with their congregations.

What approach, lens, angle of vision, or metaphor might we take toward the Bible that will make it a helpful resource in the Sunday morning experience? I consider the Bible to be the family history of our spiritual ancestors. It is a collection of the record of human experiences canonized by various family historians. Our family history gives us rooted-ness. We have a story. We have a past. Our ancestors do have wisdom. I believe that they caught a glimpse of the fire. If we are wise, humble, and courageous, we can see that fire as well. It is out of respect for our ancestors, our need for rooted-ness, and our need to listen to the wisdom of the ancients that we “open and read.” The advantage of this metaphor is that it allows us to appreciate that there are other families on this earth. They have family histories as well. Telling our stories to one another (without the competition about whose is more objectively authoritative) will enable us to engage more positively and peacefully with those of other faith traditions. Also, family histories are never complete. Like the genealogist who discovers great Uncle Albert, who for some reason was not mentioned in the family history, so too, scholars of Christian origins have found remnants of communities whose stories were not told, or at least told positively, in the canon of accepted lore. These “Uncle Alberts” include communities reflected in the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary and numerous others. As we discover the great diversity of our Christian past, we who are charged with adding to the family history for our descendants, will now be obligated to include these voices as well.

Careful thought must be employed regarding the use of texts from the Bible and other non-canonical literature during the Sunday Morning experience. It would help level the playing field by not elevating the canonical literature over any other reading. Also, preachers must come clean with their congregants regarding the type of literature the text they have selected represents. Simply determining if it is history or fiction is a good start. Particularly with Jesus material, the preacher needs to be honest as to whether the material is historical, legendary or if it fits some other typology.

Preaching and the “Son of God”

The second heart to heart that preachers should have with their congregations is how the metaphor “Son of God” does or does not apply to Jesus and what value, if any, this metaphor might have. This heart to heart will have direct relevance to the Sunday morning experience. In my tradition, the Revised Common Lectionary is all the rage. While the lectionary provides for rooted-ness and ecumenicity, it does not engage the modern world-view. The entire scheme from Advent to Christ the King Sunday reflects an ancient cosmology that is no longer credible. I have my doubts if it is even good for us ethically as it reinforces an otherworldly view of human hope, presents Jesus as a supernatural being, and confuses history with legend.

It is certainly possible to preach the Christ of the lectionary as a myth or an archetype (“Jesus is Son of God and so are you”). But it is important to be honest about what we are doing. I have endured the preaching of even seminary professors who know the difference between the Christ of mythology and the Jesus of history and yet do not come clean in their preaching. I believe this is intellectually dishonest and does a disservice to Jesus himself. If there ever was a guy who actually said and did some of the things historical scholars think he might have said and done, we owe it to him not to turn him into a god, or at least to be honest about it when we do.

I understand the reticence to give up on the Christ myth. It is hard to give up something that we cherish. When I first read Robert Funk’s Honest to Jesus, I found myself in agreement with the core of what he said, but resistant to do anything about it. I felt that a “demoted” Jesus was flat. I needed the kerygma--the Christ myth. Within the last few years, I have changed. I now find the myth flat and the human Jesus invigorating. When that which one cherishes no longer nourishes, it is time to part ways.

What is the essential content of preaching regarding Jesus? In my tradition the content of preaching goes something like this: we preach God reconciling the world to Godself through Jesus Christ crucified and risen. The metaphors for Jesus follow: Son of God, savior, firstborn of all creation, etc. In light of historical Jesus scholarship, one could preach this as mythology or archetype and separate the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. This was the neo-orthodox solution and the method I was taught in seminary. It didn’t seem to work for me in practice. The subtleties of neoorthodoxy never caught on in the church. The distinction between history and legend were not made clear. For many lay people, clergy, and some seminary professors, the Christ myth morphed into a quasi-historical reality. For instance, many in mainline churches still regard the resurrection as an historical fact or think they should if they want to be Christian. Under the banner of neo-orthodoxy, clergy never had to come clean. They could just “tell the Story” and not bother the poor parishioners with annoying details like facts. Thanks to the Jesus Seminar, many of these parishioners’ demands for honesty are being met. Now, in light of the work of the Jesus Seminar, what is the content of preaching regarding Jesus?

Certainly, the Christ-myth and its trappings cannot transfer to the historical Jesus. Jesus is no object of worship and none of the metaphors such as “Son of God” will fit. The preacher could preach the Christ-myth as a myth. For instance, the preacher could treat the myth as an archetype for the authentic human being. Paul Alan Laughlin explores a number of images of Jesus and Christ as possibilities for a future faith[i].i If this option is chosen, I think the preacher has an ethical responsibility to be clear that s/he is not speaking about an historical person.

The other option is to leave the Christ myth behind and focus on the historical Jesus. This is my personal preference as I find the historical Jesus much more interesting than any Christ myth. However, I realize that this is a preference and may relate to my spiritual or personality type. Others may respond positively to some form of the Christ of faith. I think that space needs to be made for that option as well. But does the historical Jesus preach? How is this done? Much of the preaching regarding the historical Jesus will include a teaching element. Being honest with the congregation from the pulpit regarding modern scholarship is a must. This does not require a lecture each Sunday. A few sentences to situate the text may be all that is needed. But preaching is more than teaching. Preaching also inspires. It motivates and touches the heart. The historical Jesus certainly does that. This past year I preached on the 23 parables awarded either a red or pink vote by the Jesus Seminar. This was my temporary canon. The discipline of doing this with the congregation has introduced us to a Jesus (and the divine realm to which he pointed) that is relevant to our modern experience. His parables invited us to consider the most important aspects of our humanity.

I am currently in the process of creating a lectionary of red and pink sayings and deeds. On Sunday morning, I come clean about what we are reading in the bulletin. I simply label the saying as “A Teaching from Jesus” or “An Act of Jesus” and cite the sources. If I include a reading that reflects the Post-Easter Jesus, to use Marcus Borg’s phrase, I tell the congregation that. To do so is nothing more than to be honest with oneself and with the congregation about the type of literature that is in front of us.

Preaching and the “Kingdom of God

So, then, what does the preacher say on Sunday? Where does s/he begin? What is the point of the Sunday morning experience? I am beginning to see where I do not want to go, but I am not quite sure as to where I do want to go. Perhaps we do not need a definitive answer just yet. Creating new orthodoxies and new canons is no more appealing than retreating into old ones. One place to begin is to tell the truth to our congregations about our dilemma. This removes the burden from the preacher of being the know-it-all, for pretending that s/he is preaching the “word of God”, or from behaving in other co-dependant ways with her/his congregation. People need and demand honesty. After millennia of the church doing the thinking for the people, I have found that congregations need “permission” to think for themselves and to make decisions about what they can and cannot believe. It is the responsibility of the preacher to be honest with the information that is available in regards to scholarship, Christian origins, Jesus, and the development of the creeds and canons. Freedom follows honesty. This freedom allows the community to be an active participant in determining what to do with this information.

There is yet something more to the preaching experience. It is an art. It has power. It can be a positive means for transformation. In defining a new purpose for preaching, we may be able to reinterpret its traditional purpose in a new way. Soteriology has been the guiding force behind preaching. Preachers preached so that people might believe the gospel and be saved. Through preaching people might enter the kingdom of God (basileia tou theou). A guiding metaphor for preachers and preaching still may be the basileia tou theou (translate that as you wish). Thanks to the Jesus Seminar and its reconstruction of the voice print of the historical Jesus, we have a broader vision for this concept. We also have a model in Jesus of how to approach it. Jesus preached about the basileia tou theou. If it was enough for him, might it be enough for us?

What is this basileia tou theou? If the historical Jesus is our guide, it is not an otherworldly home in the sky. Our modern experience is showing us that human beings are earthlings born of the earth and from the earth. To the earth we shall return. Heaven and hell as ultimate reward and punishment must be buried with our superstitious past. Our modern consciousness has brought the Bible, Jesus and the kingdom of God down to Earth. What is the basileia tou theou? It is a mustard seed. And it isn’t. Exploring that mystery, that metaphor that I think points to something very real, should keep preachers and communities of faith busy for quite some time.

The content of Christian preaching, then, is not the mythical Christ, nor the historical Jesus, nor the Bible, nor even God, but the basileia tou theou. The art of preaching will ignite the imagination, spur freedom, inspire creation of meaning, and foster a spirit of care taking among those who hear our words. Ultimately, the purpose of preaching is to encourage people to awaken to and to participate in this mystery of the basileia tou theou. By participate I mean to be awed, disturbed, overjoyed, puzzled, saddened, hungry, filled, shaken, comforted, transformed, and blessed. Jesus is a guide, a pointer, a teacher, a fellow seeker, and a preacher. It is pretty simple, really. I believe that in the church of the future, that is now breaking into the present, preachers, like Jesus before us, will have but one task: to consider with others the mystery of the basileia tou theou and in considering find life.

[i] Laughlin, Paul Alan, “The Once and Future Christ of Faith” The Fourth R, March-April 2005.


  1. There was a time when I believed the bodily resurrection of Jesus was made up by his followers and instead it was a transformation of the faith community that took place. Followers of "the way" found the courage to stand up and proclaim a new way of life that would create an inclusive community. It was a resurrection of the power of love. The historical Jesus is the model of a new way of living.

    There was a time when I thought the logical conclusion of what I learned in science and history was that the bible is nothing more than a collection of folk-tales, cultural legalisms, and community history. Wisdom and truth could be found in the bible, but it was certainly not the word of God, per se.

    Now, at this time, I've come to accept that I'm not a Vulcan. Logic is not my philosophy/religion. In fact, it appears the sub-atomic quantum fabric of the universe doesn't operate with any form of logic we can understand in the macro-universe.

    Also, I've come to realize that conclusions are nothing more than rest areas in the ongoing experience of life and existence. There is a depth and breadth to wisdom that is like an expanding balloon, or the expanding cosmos, for that matter. Occasionally, I pause to catch my breath before allowing the ruach/pneuma/wind from God to once again expand my understanding of life and spirituality.

    I don't believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, but I intuit both the incarnation and resurrection to be real.

    I don't believe the bible is the word of God, but I have encountered God in those inspired words.

    I don't fully understand the mystery of the Trinity, but twice I have felt the touch of God so fully that the metaphorical veil of the Temple was torn and I saw truth, and I realized that I can't handle the truth.

    Through the years, my faith has been enlightened. It will become even more enlightened. It is not, however, a product of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment is but one stone in the foundation upon which I stand. More stones will be encountered. I'll trip over some. Stub my toes on some. And build with some.

    Here I walk. I can do no other.

  2. Hey Paul!

    Thank you! Good thoughts. Well stated. I like this: "It was a resurrection of the power of love."

    I am going to push on this one a bit:

    "I don't believe the bible is the word of God, but I have encountered God in those inspired words."

    How is that different from what you used to believe?

    "There was a time when I thought the logical conclusion of what I learned in science and history was that the bible is nothing more than a collection of folk-tales, cultural legalisms, and community history. Wisdom and truth could be found in the bible, but it was certainly not the word of God, per se."

    Not a critique, just not sure of the difference.

    I would affirm both what you used to think and what you think now. I would add that I have encountered ignorance and hatred in the bible as well. If inspired is a good thing, it isn't all inspired. That is why I say that if Christianity is going to move forward it needs to be honest about the uneven nature of its central text. There is a lot of bad stuff in there and there are a lot of people who do a lot of bad things because of that bad stuff. I would say similar things about the Qur'an.

    The problem for me is not the texts themselves, but the value we place on them. Religion has placed halos around bad texts and we are harvesting the fruit of that serious error.

    The library of books in the bible are fine, but to be blunt, Shakespeare was a much better writer. But that is beside the point. The bible is what it is. Also, it is not what it is not--that is not "special" to the extent that it is beyond criticism or can take the place of science, ethics, politics, philosophy, psychology and so forth.

    Next thought:
    I appreciate that you understand your faith as enlightened but not a product of the Enlightenment.

    I think that is an important discussion. I think that science, reason, tolerance, inclusivity, are gifts to us from the Enlightenment. We are not perfect but a lot better off than we were in the 14th century. That is where our Muslim true believers are. They are there because they have not developed critical tools to evaluate their own faith and texts.

    All of that said, I don't want to be a Vulcan either. Those ears are so last century. I have had those moments of transendence that you speak of and so have many people regardless of religious tradition as well as those without any religion. Not all of the Universe can be understood (in my opinion) in material terms. Spirituality is real but I certainly don't need to believe Jesus was born of a virgin or will return in the clouds or that Allah wrote the Qur'an to connect with that reality.

    On a personal note, I did get your e-mail and I was waiting for something profound to say before I wrote back, but as usual, nothing profound appeared. So I will write something less than profound. Still diggin' the strip---

    Walking Across America (check the right of this blog under "Dailies")

    --for those of you lurking!


  3. I have not met a Christian like you who speaks outloud the very things that I am afraid to mutter, but believe. Perhaps because as fas as Christianity goes, I am still surrounded by many who believe things on the opposite end of the spectrum: that being Christian means believing one way, and one way only, and if you don't you are seriously misled (oh, and hellbound, for sure). I have found it easier to just stop going to church altogether than to seek out those that speak like you do. I guess I just don't know where to look.

    Anyway, you have gained another reader. Thank you for your honest and refreshing words and views!

  4. Hi Crissi,

    Thank you for that and for reading. Depending upon where you live you may find a faith community that shares views similar to mine. I am finding communities and individuals all over the place that are Christian but in a way that is nondogmatic. Our oongregation is affiliated with The Center for Progressive Christianity If you haven't found that website yet, you might check it out and look over their eight points.

    Again, thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. Hi John,
    I read your essay--pretty interesting and very provocative. Just two little things from me, a fellow wonderer:

    1. From my point of view, the text is not authoritative in itself. What *is* authoritative is our communal reading of it. One thing I really didn't like about what you wrote is the idea that an individual's interpretation of the text is in any way better than the Christian tradition's interpretation of it ("The Bible’s authority will shift away from the text and toward the individual interpreter or community of interpreters"--here when you say "community," I take you to mean a localized, contemporary community.) For me, there is an aesthetic value tinged with transcendance and sublimity that says that what the church believes of the text is a deep pool in which I can do nothing more than submerge myself. My interpretation, however enlightened, however informed, however factual, can hold not a candle to this immense force which is our tradition.

    2. This is a personal question, and therefore, please feel free to ignore it, and I apologize if it offends, I mean no offense: Have you ever considered that you have definitively departed from the Reformed tradition? I mean, you question some things that are far from adiaphora. I don't think this is bad, but I just wonder what it means for you as a pastor in our PCUSA.

  6. Brett,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Let me answer your second question first.

    No offense taken. I do not feel I have departed from Reformed faith or from the PCUSA. I suppose that is not for me to decide. I believe that the church is in the midst of a reformation that perhaps even exceeds that of the 16th century. It is bigger than you or I. My understanding of the heart of Reformed faith is that we are to be reformed toward truth not dogma. I believe that my search for truth is in line with what it means to be presbyterian/reformed. Again, I am not the final arbiter. I speak as honestly as I can, change my opinion when I feel that change is needed, and let the chips fall.

    As to your first question, I, too, value tradition. But tradition is not always right. The 16th century Reformation was over/against tradition, wasn't it? I don't necessarily mean local community, when I say community. I mean the larger Presbyterian community, the Christian community, and ultimately, humanity itself. The key to all of it is open conversation.

    Thanks for your wonderings!


  7. Dude, it is weird that I asked you this, then you started getting tons of heat over at Gruntled! I'm not completely clear on your motivations over at Gruntled's blog--I mean, you and he may not be having the same conversation at this point. Of course, you should write whatever and wherever you want--I just don't want you to get into judicial trouble over some silly blog conversation about homosexuality that promises to do nothing more than rehash crap that has already been said.

    As to your reply, yeah, tradition is sometimes wrong (at least in new contexts), and it's not immutable, and we are part of the tradition because it is alive. But, I don't live a tradition because it's right or wrong, or because I believe it or not, or for any other individual- or belief-centered reason. I follow it because I am part of the tradition whether I want to be or not. I've started to think of my Presbyterian religion as an element of my ethnicity, an essential part of the fabric of my being.

  8. Hi Brett,

    Thanks for commenting. I probably should just shut up. I find it so frustrating that we cannot explore ideas without this constant judicial thing--this limitation to thought. I don't know if I am right or not, to tell the truth, it is 99.9999% likely that I am wrong, but if we can't have the freedom to explore and challenge then we shrivel.

    It is the obsession with the Bible having the answers to complex ethical questions that doesn't make sense to me. I think that much of the time we go to it with questions it cannot answer for us. But you are right. We keep rehashing the same old stuff.

    Anyway, tradition and ethnicity. Great comments. Yes, that's it for me, too. My metaphor is not perfect, but the Bible as a complex family history and narrative is one way I see it. The church community is my family. The Bible is our community's narrative and identity. It is the lore of the ancestors.