Shuck and Jive

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Antiquities Dealers

Well, I have been spending time spreading the word about our Jesus Seminar on the Road and our Michael Dowd Thank God for Evolution event. The publicity is out and I will be likely hearing from the true believers. I love them. God bless them. They have a right to their views. They have a right to tell me I am wrong and that I am leading my poor defenseless sheep astray.

Roy Hoover, one of the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar (and a Methodist minister), said this in his essay, Tradition and Faith in a New Era:

"Those who insist upon the unaltered retention of traditional forms of religious understanding and language and who retreat from the challenge posed by the actual world after Galileo want to direct the Christian community into the confines of a sacred grotto, an enclosed, religiously defined world that is brought completely under the control of scripture and tradition; and they want to turn the ordained clergy into antiquities dealers."

Brother Roy is right on. But you know something? Just because they want to, doesn't mean they will succeed. You have a right as well. You can think for yourself, decide where and when and how you want to worship, and explore truth in your fashion. And you can do it as a Christian, in a Christian church, with a Christian minister if that is what you want.

I have learned that it is not healthy to allow anyone to define your faith for you. They can make long lists of dos and don'ts. They can make arcane creeds that tell you what to believe. They can say what they want, but you don't have to internalize their rules.

One of the reasons I chose this particular Jesus Seminar on the Road was because I am interested in how easily power is substituted for truth. The communities whose texts we will examine lost because of politics. The winners say it was because they had God or Truth on their side. Of course, they say that. It is the only way you can get away with burning a heretic or invading a country. And they did both many times over.

I don't think that reality is inevitable. I think we owe it to those early Christians whose works were stamped out and whose witness erased (well almost) not to allow that to happen again. The true believers don't own the story. They don't own Jesus. They don't own the church or this country.

They have a right to their story, their view of Jesus, and to life in the church.

And so do you.

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