You’ve written often about the importance of storytelling, even to the point of suggesting that first-year divinity students should read a diet entirely of fiction — Flannery O’Connor, the Russian novelists, Faulkner. Wonderful idea. How are people transformed by fiction?
“I think that their imaginations are transformed. When you’re reading a novel, you’re following a plot and character development. The best writers leave a lot to your imagination. The task of a writer is to get participation from the reader, and you can’t do that by telling them everything. The Bible is that kind of literature. There’s very little explanation—almost no explanation, no definitions. And the writers of Scripture were also, as they were telling these stories, aware of all the other voices that were in the air—Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, Jesus, Paul.
“Our school curriculum teaches you how to study. You learn facts. But they don’t do much to help you read in an imaginative way to help you enter the story. That’s what novelists do. So I think a basic immersion in fiction is almost a prerequisite to reading the Bible, to preaching sermons, to teaching classes. Poetry does the same thing, but it takes a different route to do it.” (Read the full interview here.)
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“The unfaithful witness is the one who simply transmits the conventional and familiar, unchanged and undigested. He is unfaithful, in the first place, because he is lazy. For the labor of interpretation and contemporization, the work of ‘translation,’ is grueling work and it is never done without abortive trials and breath-taking risks. . . . He who simply repeats the old phrases takes no risks; it is easy to remain orthodox and hew to the old line. But he who speaks to this hour’s need and translates the message will always be skirting the edge of heresy. He, however, is the man who is given this promise (and I really believe this promise exists): Only he who risks heresies can gain the truth.” (Helmut Thielicke, inThe Trouble with the Church).
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I’m told that the word “nonviolence” did not exist (at least in the English and German languages) until the 1950s. There’s a reason for that: the notion didn’t exist in our consciousness. We didn’t create a word for it because we didn’t get it yet! When Gandhi came along, he pointed out that every religion in the world knows that Jesus of Nazareth taught and lived nonviolence except one religion—Christianity. In very short order, after Gandhi, this became obvious to many wise people throughout the world.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was the one who most influenced our American culture regarding nonviolence. That’s why I speak of it as a recovery of nonviolence. We had it, but we couldn’t hear it, especially after Christianity became the imperial religion. When you’re imperial, you can’t hear any talk of nonviolence. You have to be violent to be an empire. So after 313 AD, we pretty much lost the nonviolent teaching of Jesus and it was not recovered until the twentieth century. It’s sort of unbelievable, but in between, nonviolence was almost universally forgotten, denied, or ignored as Christianity needed to justify its own violence. (Richard Rohr, from CAC daily email)
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In an age of information overload, when a vast variety of media delivers news faster than most of us can digest – when many of us have at least two email addresses, two telephone numbers, and one fax number – the last thing any of us need is more information about God. We need the practice of incarnation, by which God saves the lives of those whose intellectual assent has turned as dry as dust, who have run frighteningly low on the bread of life, who are dying to know more God in their bodies. Not more about God. More God. – Barbara Brown Taylor:
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A Reflection by Donna Schaper
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15-16)
Many of the best stories are stories of origin. The best conversation-starter is how did you meet? When did you meet? How do you know each other? The second best is how some kind of problem turned into some kind of opportunity. People love reversal stories. The letter to the people at Colosse is very much one of origin and of reversal. The invisible, original God became visible and present in the now.
I love the way some English-speaking people have funny language for things. Like the way a thrift shop in Australia is either an opportunity shop or a reject shop, depending on your social location. Or the way a car that we call a lemon is called a “defect” car in Britain. A pastor tells me that someone parked a “defect” in front of his church outside London. Because such parking is illegal and the owner of the abandoned car was being fined every day – adding poverty to poverty upon poverty – the pastor decided to push the car into the church parking lot. A few days later, another defect showed up, followed by a third and fourth. Clearly things were getting out of hand. That’s when one of the laymen decided it was time to start a microbusiness at the church. The business was fixing up cars. The church made money, people got their wheels back and everybody knew they had turned a lemon into lemonade.
Sometimes I think this is why the invisible God became visible. To remove the defect in our eye. To show us a glimpse of how wonderful life could be, even after the parking tickets arrive. (from UCC’s StillSpeaking)