Sunday, December 29, 2013

Prophetic Imaginations and Our Imaginations

If you're needing inspiration and great interviews, let me recommend some great stuff I heard during Christmas week on NPR.

Even if you're not Catholic, you'll likely enjoy this discussion of Pope Francis on The Diane Rehm Show.  They talk about all sorts of theological issues and the history of the church and the future.  Good stuff here.

I have written here before of my love of Nadia Bolz-Weber, too many posts to link to here.  But if you want a short piece that will help you see why I love here, check out this interview on Morning Edition.

I also listened to this interview with Walter Brueggemann on NPR's On Being.  What an amazing mind!  I've read his work before, and I've always come away impressed.  I suspect the reason I want to go to seminary is so that I'd have a chance to read books like the ones he's written.

I want to go to seminary because I assume my seminary professors would be like he is, and one reason why I'm resisting going is because I'd be so disappointed.

Happily, I can read these works on my own, and hearing this interview is like what I imagine a seminary class would be--and it's much cheaper!

Here are some quotes to whet your appetite:

"The other text I'll read is Isaiah 43. It's a very much-used passage. "Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" And apparently, what he's telling his people is just forget about the Exodus, forget about all the ancient miracles, and pay attention to the new miracles of rebirth and new creation that God is enacting before your very eyes. I often wonder when I read that, what was it like the day the poet got those words and what did it feel like and how did he share that? Of course, we don't know any of that, so it just keeps ringing in our ears."

"But the amazing contemporaneity of this material is that the issues are the same, that the world we have trusted in is vanishing before our eyes and the world that is coming at us feels like a threat to us and we can't quite see the shape of it. I think that is kind of where the church and the preachers of the church have to live, and people don't much want to hear either one of those words, that the world is vanishing or that a new world is coming to us, which is why this kind of poetry always leaves us uneasy, I think."

"It is counter-cultural because our consumer culture wants somehow to narcoticize us so that we just settle in on things. I think Kafka maybe said that a poet or a novelist is like a pick ax that attacks the way we've got things arranged, and I think these poems are like pick axes that are not welcome among us, but we're going to miss out on the reality of our life if we are narcoticized both about the loss and about the newness."

"Yeah, well, I think we think in terms of systems and continuities and predictability and schemes and plans. I think the Bible is to some great extent focused on God's capacity to break those schemes open and to violate those formulae. When they are positive disruptions, the Bible calls them miracles. We tend not to use that word when they are negative, but what it means is that the reality of our life and the reality of God are not contained in most of our explanatory schemes."

"I've asked myself why in the church does the question of gays and lesbians have such adrenaline. And I've decided for myself that that means most of what we're arguing about with gays and lesbians has nothing to do with gays and lesbians. It is rather that the world is not the way we thought it was going to be. I think what has happened is that we've taken all of our anxiety about the old world disappearing and we've dumped it all on that issue.

So I have concluded that it's almost futile to have the theological argument about gays and lesbians anymore because that's not what the argument's about. It is an amorphous anxiety that we are in freefall as a society, and I think we kind of are in freefall as a society, but I don't think it has anything to do with gays and lesbians particularly."

"You may know that the Hebrew word for — Phyllis Trible has taught us that the Hebrew word for mercy is the word for womb with different vowel points. So mercy, she's suggested, is womb-like mother love. And it is the capacity of a mother to totally give one's self over to the need and reality and identity of the child. And mutatis mutandis then, mercy is the capacity to give one's self away for the sake of the neighborhood.

Now none of us do that completely, but it makes a difference if the quality of social transactions have to do with the willingness to give one's self away for the sake of the other rather than the need to always be drawing all of the resources to myself for my own well-being. So it is this kind of generous connectedness to others and then I think our task is to see how that translates into policy. I think that a community or a society finally cannot live without the quality of mercy. The problem for us is what will initiate that? What will break the pattern of self-preoccupation enough to notice that the others are out there and that we are attached to them?"

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