I just want to warn that this post talks (briefly) about clergy sexual abuse.
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Maybe one way you can tell Jesus was really a construction worker is that he apparently made a joke about an industrial accident: You’re worried because you think your neighbour has a splinter in their eye, but you’ve got a construction beam coming out of your head! Who’s got the real problem?
We were talking about this confronting parable on Saturday at a meeting about how people of faith can promote the ‘yes’ vote in Australia’s upcoming survey on marriage equality. The parable is a darkly humorous way of talking about the hypocrisy of deeply immoral people attempting to ‘correct’ others.
I think what is really tragic is that many Christians don’t realise that in our wider society we have lost all credibility on morality – particularly with regards to sexual ethics. Christian clergy in Australia have sexually abused children and the church institution has tried to cover up the abuse. This leaves us with no credibility in the wider community if we try to say that two adults in an equal and loving relationship shouldn’t be able to get married.
On Saturday I posted about how our household (which is predominantly Christian) is trying to make sure we are clear about making sure there is space for folks who aren’t Christian. We want to make sure we can work alongside and learn from people who have other worldviews, not just people who have worldviews similar to our own. I’ve noticed that when groups make this decision there is often concern from Christians that the group will lose it’s Christian character. I don’t have that concern because I believe the project’s Christian character is preserved in our practises. (I’ve also been part of other Christian projects where we’ve involved people from other faiths or no faith, and we’ve been able to do that by focussing on Christian practices.)
I don’t think Christianity is generally known as a faith that emphasises practices. Generally we think of Chritianity as being focussed on beliefs. However, the gospels suggest that Jesus first invitation to his early disciples was to come and follow him. By looking at Jesus’ behaviour (rather than looking for theological doctrines) I think we can find the kind of practices that Jesus was teaching his followers:
befriending the stranger
sharing meals across social boundaries
providing access to medical treatment
reconciling with enemies
bringing marginalised pople back into the community
Those Christian practices are all things that we do in different ways as part of our project. They don’t require people to adopt our religion to participate. But I think they do preserve continuity with the teachings of the founder of our movement.
At Easter I published a post where I said that we should treat the story of Jesus as mythology. Some folks said they were interested in what I mean by that. I started wondering what I really mean by that.
Dominic Crossan says that myths are stories that try to explain everything, make us at ease, close all the gaps, show us that everything makes sense and everything is as it should be. Myths explain everything. Myths don’t leave space for more speculation or conversation.
Parables, on the other hand, challenge mythology. Parables, disrupt, question and transform. Historically Christians have often read the parables of Jesus as though they answered questions and summed up reality, but in their original context they often challenged people’s assumptions.
Given Crossan’s definitions, would you say that the story of Jesus’ resurrection is mythology or parable?
One of the reasons I was sick of seeing the articles arguing for or against an hisotircal, literal resurrection was that I am not convinced that arguing gets us anywhere. I think it stops us from hearing what the other has to say. I think people who write these arguments already know what they think and are looking for arguments to back up what they think.
In the Facebook thread where I posted what I’d written, some folks started arguing. 😉 I engaged a little bit, but didn’t want to get drawn into arguing. That was exactly what the original post was about! (My trust is that it was still encourgiung for the folks it was meant for. I hope that folks who didn’t find it helpful are able to let it go.)
I don’t want to get involved in arguing this question because I just don’t know. But I do find myself inspired by and caught up in this story. I believe it because I’ve experienced people acting in the way Jesus did. (If you want you can read about that in a post I wrote last year.)
I don’t know whether Jesus’ followers met with a Jesus who was literally resurrected. I don’t know whether they simply meant that they experienced his corporeal presence in the body of believers or among the poor of Galillee. I find both possibilities inspiring as I try to practise resurrection, or at least not get in the way of others as they practise.
I’m going to finish today’s post there. It doesn’t mean this is finished. If you think it’s not finished, feel free to write a response. Or let me know if you think there’s more I should be exploring.
In the lead-up to Easter there have been the usual articles about whether or not Jesus rose from death – or if he even existed. I’m not particulalry interested in those articles because I don’t think they treat mythology correctly. I think the truth of mythology is in whether it can inspire and direct a society. Peter Catt, the dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane, has reminded us that the story of Jesus taught our society that victims are innocent.
I’m less interested in whether the stories of Jesus’ resurrection are historical and more interested in whether they can teach us to practise resurrection. Can they teach us to seek life amongst the dead? Can they teach us to seek hope in the midst of despair? Can they teach us to keep working away when the world seems to be going to shit?
I’ve generally been posting a refelction on Genesis/Bereshit on Wednesdays, but I haven’t had time this week. So here are some sketches I’ve done for a commission I’m working on this week, riffing off Paul’s letter to the Romans.
If you’d like me to do a commission for you too, let me know – email@example.com