Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I am combining chapters four, five, and six, because I haven't had time to keep up with it all. In chapter four Mclaren talks about the revolutionary nature of Jesus message. Mclaren talks about how Jesus message is revolutionary because it addresses and is concerned about the poor, children, and the outcast. He also asserts that "Violent revolutions...aren't revolutionary. Noisy regime changes are utterly predictable--brought about by displays of power and hollow promises and indomitable wealth."...while the message of Jesus, by contrast may be called the most revolutionary.....because...."The radical revolutionary empire of God is here, advancing by reconciliation and peace, expanding by faith, hope, and love---beginning with the poorest, the weakest, the meekest, and the least"...While I am on board with the advancement of the kingdom via reconciliation and peace I am not sure to what degree the "radical revolutionary empire of God is here", now. As I look across the religious landscape in America today I am not particularly optimistic regarding how many folks "really" believe peace is the way of reconciliation and advancement of the Kingdom of God. Many, if not the majority of Christians might believe that reconciliation with God is achieved via peaceful means, by accepting Christ as Savior, but I am not convinced they believe reconciliation with each other or with our enemies can be achieved through peaceful means. And, it is important to remember that reconciliation with God was not achieved peacefully but rather through the death of Jesus by means of crucifixion which is one of the most violent and barbaric practices ever.

In chapter six Mclaren about Jesus use of parables. Mclaren states that "Parables
entice their hearers into new territory...and...they invite the listener to ask questions...and...have the power to transform the hearer into interactive, interdependent,humble,inquisitive, and persistent people"....Regarding why Jesus spoke in parables Mclaren says, "Because his message wasn't merely aimed at conveying information. It sought to precipitate something more important: the spiritual transformation of it's hearers."...and...according to Mclaren Jesus hid the "explicit" truth so that "we simply wouldn't hear with our ears or read with our eyes on a literal level: we must invest ourselves in an imaginative search for meaning---a meaning that will surprise us when we discover it for ourselves"....I think Mclaren is onto something regarding Jesus desire for us to explore the meaning of life
ourselves with an imaginative, inquisitive and persistent spirit. For many years I relied too much on the opinions, experiences, and authority of others regarding the meaning/purpose of life, morality, and how life "ought" to be lived in general. I don't mean to imply that one should not listen intently to the thoughts and experiences of others but at some point one needs to take ownership of his or her own life and embrace one's own thoughts, experiences, intuition, and the "spirit" that resides in us all....otherwise....one will be simply living out the hopes, dreams,values, and passions of others and I sincerely don't believe that is God's intention for anyone....Over the past six months I have also become more aware of the need for imagination in our lives. We tend to associate imagination with the arts but I believe imagination is something that can be applied to every aspect of our lives....politics, child rearing, our jobs, problem solving, and our love making...but...imagination is squelched or non existent whenever we simply defer to the authority and experiences of others....I also appreciated Mclaren's comment about hearing and reading beyond the literal. For some time now I have felt that the teachings and life of Jesus were intended to inspire his followers and future generations to live a life of faith to God as Jesus did. The Bible exhorts us to follow Jesus but we have to work out our own salvation with imagination in our own way in the context of the 21st century. To me, that means we have a responsibility to forge our own path with the gifts and callings we have which means my life won't look the same as others but that is O.K. because I don't think God ever intended us to be religious zombies who simply follow the marching orders of others no matter what titles or intelligence they may possess.....

2 comments:

Dave said...

Bilbo, thanks for summarizing these chapters. I also hold some reservations about how "radically revolutionary" the gospel as its commonly understood is at this time. Even asserting Jesus' concern for the poor, children and outcast seems familiar and even kind of a worn-out platitude that doesn't have much power to move or shake things up very much. We've all heard it quite a bit over the years and it doesn't seem to have really changed the behavior of our leading religious institutions all that much. I sense a bit of an increase in awareness of social justice in some aspects of the evangelical subculture but even these soft, tentative moves have met with opposition from the Big Boys (Dobson and his cronies) who still control the flow of money and resources. I get the sense that they are still pretty intent on trying to run their agenda beyond the Bush presidency and aren't taking the clue that they "own" a big portion of the responsibility for the miserable failures that the current administration has wrought over the course of its tenure. It's hard for me to imagine the mainstream church repenting to the point of really changing its endorsement of the megacorp military-industrial complex and imperialistic status quo that funds so much of its activity.

Jesus' use of parables is an interesting subject. On our email list, you may have seen some of the recent controversy that sprang out of one members strong effort to allegorize two particular parables and make them interpretive keys for not only all the other parables, but the entire Bible. Of course, most of us active contributors there have pushed back against that power play. Your observations of how we can and should use our imaginations to see and read "beyond the literal" are helpful in the context of that current dispute. Not that I'm asking you to wade in if you don't feel like it or have the time - I think even angels fear to tread there! - but I appreciate how these words confirm my own sense of how the parables function to continually break open new perspectives on life - rather than serve as "puzzles" that we need to figure out in order to determine some kind of specific clues and/or directions that they supposedly contain.

Bilbo said...

Dave,

I think what has recently changed is that the Big Boys, ala, Dobson, and fellow sympathizers no longer have a free pass regarding their agenda and their younger counterparts seem to be more willing to speak up on issues such as global warming and the environment. I don't get too worked up these days regarding what the old vanguard has to say about this or that because I don't expect any sudden changes...and...I figure their days are numbered and they will be gradually replaced by the upstart Emergents who are growing by leaps and bounds here in California, except in Bakersfield, one of the few remaining "exclusive" outposts of religious conservatism/fundamentalism...I have been trying to follow the various conversations over at Pomoxian but currently don't have the motivation, nor the time, to wade into the water with the current "Pomoxian Trinity" of James/John/ and Jim. I am also not sure what there intentions and figure only time will tell...but...looks like you have your'e hands full... and...Finally,I am also still under the spell of Cupid's arrows and until Cupid decides to stop flinging arrows my way I suspect my involment will be sporadic...