Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Proverbs of Ashes

I often pick up this book around the same time every year - Lent. I love it because it encourages a moral imagination or creativity that we too often don't explore or are afraid to explore. It also examines the liturgical themes that come about at this time of year and moves through them to a search of what truly can save us.

I appreciate many parts of this book because of the willingness to consider a new framework, a new way of looking at potentially damaging and harmful theologies, casting them in a new life-giving way. It's a text that has feminist leanings and to some, it would probably be considered heretical. The reason I keep picking it up and re-examining it every year is because it reminds me of the fact that I don't have to accept or be bound by the status quo (in terms of theology and belief system) and that it inspires me to look for ways to continue to be in relationship with God in refreshing, life-giving ways. I have my critiques of it, as I do with parts of the feminist theological thought... but overall, it's an intriguing book.

Although I don't relate to the stories of violence and sexual abuse, there are stories of race and racism which conjure up my own stories of pain and hurt as a result of damaging, racist, manipulative behaviors toward me and/or people close to me.

[Tangent] I am not closed-minded enough nor naive enough to believe that people don't have varying opinions about many things, including theology, but what really gets me is when people are not able nor willing to allow, consider or permit other theologies and belief systems to exist that are not their own. That's when conversation ceases to exist and relationships are strained. Perhaps some of the unwillingness can be attributed to generational differences and upbringings. Perhaps I'm giving too much credit for one's personal responsibility to understand and articulate what they believe in and why. Perhaps its narrow, close-mindedness after all. And in that case, I've probably fallen into your limiting stereotype of a liberal, feminist, business-woman which is scary to you. And you probably wouldn't give me a chance anyway, even though you say you would. That's sad and it's your loss.

There are many quotes from the book with which I resonate. There are also some with which I wrestle. Here's one about the bible that I have always felt was true for me and how I approach the bible not as THE inerrant, Word of God, but rather as a document to be studied as it gave witness to those who wrote it and compiled it.

"The Bible is a multi-voiced witness to the endeavor to know God and reverence life. As a human document, it is flawed in its grasp of ultimate things, but within it - as in our own flawed lives - we glimpse a mystery that holds us, always."


Josh said...

One new thing in my life living overseas in an Islamic country is talking about religion with my friends who are Muslims. One of my friends here and I get into some fun discussions. We know that at the root, we believe different things, and either one of us, or neither of us, are right, but that we BOTH can't be right. Yet, we are forced because of our separate love of God and each other to get past our theological differences and interact towards each other with love and friendship.

Being in a situation like this has made me examine my beliefs more closely, and made me examine what others believe about my own religion and theirs. I am constantly flabbergasted by the confusion and amazement I find when dealing with and interacting with this new culture and new religion (for me). I just pray that I can show others the love of Christ in a uplifting way that is true to what He says about Himself, and is also done with the best of intentions.

Maybe not quite what your post was about, but it got me thinking...back in the US, I've had and will have in the future more of these kinds of discussions as you wrote about. It is hard to accept a theology that is not your own. It's a sticky situation for most of us, I would think. But now, over here, I have a new perspective on the whole thing, and new insights that I hope will be useful to me when talking about my God to others back home--to those in the Church and those outside of it.

Blessings to you.

Rachel said...

It's really interesting, I just added this book to my "to-read" list! I'm pleased to read your comments, because it helps me to understand that this book may encompass more than I originally thought it would. I'm looking forward to reading it, and may even try to get it in during the lenten season.

I think I'm with you in your thoughts about beliefs and the Bible. I was always told that being open to others' beliefs, and acknowledging that other people believe things different from me makes me "not a Christian" because "Jesus said the only way to heaven was through him!" And that made me so angry, because you're right, when you approach someone with the thought that my way is the only way, you completely shut down the conversation.

The other part is that, in the Bible-belt south, saying that the Bible isn't God's direct word is blasphemy! But, as a good United Methodist, I follow the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, which says that reason and experience are just as important as scripture. I apologize if it offends anyone, but there are things in the Bible that don't align with the God I know, and I think God wants, even expects, us to use the minds we were given.

Sorry, maybe that's my tangent. :-) Thanks for your response, and the recommendation!