Archive for the ‘post-critical naivete’ Tag

Jesus is Coming. Look Busy!   2 comments

LtQ2 contributor Rev. Dr. Barbara Rossing speaks for many rational followers of Jesus when she acknowledges that the rapture is nothing but fear-based spiritual abuse. Calling it the “rapture racket,” she points out how the rapture industry preys on desperate people frightened by unscrupulous and misguided teachers.  In Episode 13 of Living the Questions 2, “Debunking the Rapture,” Prof. Rossing gives an overview of her book, “The Rapture Exposed.” Make sure to check out the clip below — before it’s too late!

<br>

Sadly, even a lot of non-fundamentalist Christians are allowed to believe a soft version of the rapture claptrap (59% of Americans according to a 2003 poll by Time magazine). Many clergy run scared on the subject and can’t come right out and say that not only is the rapture not going to happen on this or that date, it’s not going to happen EVER. To do so would commit one to the study of historical context and a critical reading of scripture that might very well call into question many of people’s simplistic ideas about their faith.

What’s it going to be?  Jesus said love your enemies — unless they don’t believe the right things. Then Jesus is coming back to torture and kill them with extreme prejudice. God is love — unless you’re gay or lesbian and then God thinks you’re an abomination to be “cured” or killed.

The bottom line is that the whole idea of the rapture and the literal and violent apocalyptic second-coming is not only un-Christian but a betrayal of Jesus’ core teachings.

While there is absolutely nothing to fear from the ravings of apocalyptic preachers and fundamentalist personalities, their ridiculous claims continue to erode whatever reputation Christianity still has among thinking people. The challenge for 21st century followers of Jesus will continue to be one of offering an alternative to the fear and violence embraced by so much of the Church. The overall responsibility of disciples today is to bearers of hope and reconciliation to a troubled world;  doing our part to realize peace and bring healing to the nations, one person at a time.

Living the Questions contributor, Rev. Dr. Barbara Rossing

Barbara R. Rossing is professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where she has taught since 1994. She appears in both Living the Questions 2 and Dream, Think, Be, Do.

You can also see Prof. Rossing being interviewed on May 19th’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell. Video Link HERE

Christmas stories big on symbolism. History? Not so much.   1 comment

Marcus Borg in "Living the Questions"

It’s that time of year again. Shoppers are rushing home with their treasures — all to honor the birth of a 1st century Jewish peasant. If most folks even think about anything beyond the gifts and carols, the conventional wisdom is that we’re celebrating the occurrence of actual historical events some 2000 years ago — wisdom based on an assumption that the gospels are history.

But even a cursory reading of Matthew and Luke reveal conflicting story lines, characters, and theological agendas that show that they couldn’t possibly BOTH be historically accurate. But that’s OK. Neither one was ever intended to be history, but symbolism. The problem comes when well-meaning believers try to make them into something they were never intended to be.

In Living the Questions 2.0, Marcus Borg makes a case for moving from the magical thinking of pre-critical naiveté through critical thinking to a post-critical naiveté that can still appreciate the Christmas stories for their deeper theological meanings, not their supposed historical accuracy.

“I don’t think the truth of the Christmas stories is dependant upon whether Jesus was born in Nazareth or Bethlehem, whether there were wise men, whether there really was a star.  I think the truth of the stories is in their ancient archetypal religious symbolism, those affirmations that Jesus is the light and the darkness, and so forth.

“To hear these stories is using some of the most ancient archetypal language with one of their central affirmations being, Jesus is the light of the world, the true light that enlightens every person, with even them coming into the world.  That’s the star, the radiant glory of God, and the angels in the night sky.  It is the ability to hear the birth stories as true stories even though you know the star is not an astronomical object of history but probably the exegetical creation of Matthew as he interprets the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah as a literary creation.  Even as you know that Jesus was probably born in Nazareth and not in Bethlehem.  And even as you know that Herod the Great never ordered the slaying of all male babies in Bethlehem under age two, but rather that is the use of the story of the birth of Moses in the time of Pharaoh when Pharaoh issued a similar order and the author of Matthew is saying the story of Jesus is about the story of the true king coming into the world who the evil kings seeks to swallow up.  This is the story of the exodus all over again.  This is the story of the conflict between the Lordship of God known in Christ and the Lordship of Pharaoh and the rulers of this world and the rulers of this world always try to swallow up the one who is of God.  Is that true?  Post-critical naiveté is the ability to hear that as a true story.”

The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are unlikely to portray much of anything that is “true” historically, but remain beautiful examples of engaging stories that conveyed the gospel writers’ claims of who Jesus was for their communities. Once we get over the need for the stories to be “true” factually, we can re-engage with them and appreciate the richness of their symbolism.

 

%d bloggers like this: