Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"The God Who Hates Lies"

The title of this piece is from a book by Rabbi David Hartman. He was writing about contemporary Jewish thought but his premise applies to any tension between a conservative, static interpretation of tradition versus a dynamic, ongoing dialogue. 

He writes, "...the authority of the past cannot claim our allegiance when it conflicts with the immediate reality of the present. Our experience must not be denied because of  the authority of the past. This is an image of a God that wants us not to use the authority of the past to lie to Him.
The past must be validated by your lived experience; if it's not, and you say it is, that is a lie. Your reality has to confirm the validity of the language of the past."  

Rabbi Hartman acknowledges the contradiction of a God conveying permanence through history and tradition yet there is an equal claim, he says, that there be a continuing evolution in response to the normative needs at hand, hence our resistance to ascribing false things to God. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church recently experienced the difficulty of honoring such truth before God when it conflicts with scripture. It was awkwardly done but at heart she was correct. Briefly, the story is about Paul casting out a spirit, an exorcism, but Bishop Schori maintained that Paul intruded into her spiritual perception dislocating her from that experience. This is a keenly interesting interpretation and embraces a much larger sense of the holy than the story conveys. Given what we know about Paul's capacity for limitation can we not compare his actions with what seems reasonable today? Sure. 

During a recent speech I said the following:   

"St. Ignatius described the Church as being in the company of Jesus, La Compania de Jesus. We must move away from doing feel-good charitable acts and self absorbed liturgy which takes us away to the ozone layer of life but nowhere else. Be in Jesus’s company, that is with the poor. I have been asked about the relevance of the church. I said that many a Sunday morning was often nothing more than a museum with a floor show. 

Sit in your pew and watch what really happens. I say “watch” because that’s all you can do anyway. We sit in rows and listen to an elite group tell us what to do. We sit still while the choir entertains us, often the music and organ budget outdistances anything set aside for outreach. 

The Prayers of the People—that wonderful intrusion from the street and the world—is reduced to a script and read by somebody who’s all dressed up. Our treatment of Prayers of the People now makes me cringe, it’s almost pornographic in its teasing to make you think it’s the real thing. We give those prayers no more attention or preparation than reading the back of a ketchup bottle while waiting for a hamburger. "

I was well-received earlier in the talk especially when I took modern culture to the cleaners but when the critique included the church (and this was a church crowd) it became as quiet as a wake. Any sensitive person with an ounce of activism will squirm when listening to the dreadful prayers we place before God on behalf of the poor. We lie to God in this pretense of caring by yawning  and numbly reading prayers which engender zero compassion in us. 

1 comment:

  1. Vox Populi, Vox Dei.

    Evolution is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be Happy.

    We are there, good Bishop. Let us rejoice!