Saturday, February 21, 2009

Velvet Elvis thoughts...

So despite the state of chaos in my house right now....sick 2 yr old, sick me, healthy 7 yr old who wants to keep daily routines....husband moving most of our stuff to the garage so it's easier on moving day next weekend...he'll be in Edmonton all week working, sigh.
So despite all this, I've been able to snatch a few late night moments to read a few pages of Velvet Elvis...and reread them and then highlight them! Here's part of the book I had to highlight, it just makes sense!
"The Bible is a communal book. It came from people writing in communities, and it was often written to communities. Remember that the printing press wasn't invented until the 1400s. Prior to that, very few if any people had their own copies of the Bible. In Jesus' day, an entire village could probably afford only one copy of the Scriptures, if that. Reading the Bible alone was unheard of, if people could even read. For most of church history, people heard the Bible read aloud in a room full of people. You heard it, discussed it, studied it, argued about it, and made decisions about it as a group, a community. Most of the "yous" in the Bible are plural. Groups of people receiving these words. So if one person went off the deep end with an interpretation or opinion, the others were right there to keep that person in check. In a synagogue, most of the people knew the text that person was talking on and already had their own opinions about it. You saw yourself and those around you as taking part in a huge discussion that has gone on for thousands of years.
Because God has spoken, and everything else is commentary.
Contrast this communal way of reading and discussing and learning with our Western, highly individualized culture. In many Christian settings, people are even encouraged to read the Bible alone, which is a new idea in church history. A great idea and a life-changing discipline, but a new idea. And think of pastors. Many pastors study alone all week, stand alone in front of the church and talk about the Bible, and then receive mail and phone calls from individuals who agree or don't agree with what they said. This works for a lot of communities, but it isn't the only way.
And it can't be the only way if we take seriously Jesus' call to be binding and loosing, which must be done in community with others who are equally passionate about being true to the words of God.
In Jesus' world, it was assumed that you had as much to learn from the discussion oft the text as you did from the text itself. One person could never get to far in a twisted interpretation because the others were right there giving her insight and perspective she didn't have on her own. Jesus said when he was talking about binding and loosing that "where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them".
Community, community, community. Together with others, wrestling and searching and engaging the Bible as a group of people hungry to know God in order to follow God.
Perhaps this is why the Bible can be confusing for some the first time they read it. I don't think any of the writers of the Bible ever intended people to read their letters alone. I think they assumed that people who were hearing these words for the first time would be sitting next to someone who was further along on her spiritual journey, someone who was more in tune with what the writer was saying. If it didn't make sense, you could stop the person who was reading and say, "Help me understand this."
When we're serious about dealing with the Bible as the communal book that it is, then we have to be honest about our interpretations. Everybody's interpretations is essentially his or her own opinion. Nobody is objective.
Several years ago I was in an intense meeting with our church's leaders in which we were discussing several passages in the Bible. One of the leaders was sharing her journey in trying to understand what the Bible teaches about the issue at hand and said something like this: "I've spent a great deal of the time recently studying this issue. I've read what the people on the one side of the issue say, and I've read what the people on the other side say. I've read the scholars and theologians and all sorts of others on this subject. But then, in the end, I decided to get back to the Bible and just take it for what it really says."
What was she really saying?
Now please understand that this way of thinking is prevalent in a lot of Christian churches, so I don't mean in any way to single her out. But this view of the Bible is warped and toxic, to say the least. The assumption is that there is a way to read the Bible that is agenda- and perspective-free. As if all these other people have their opinion and biases, but some are able to just read it for what it says.
Think about that for a moment: This perspective is claiming that a person can simply read the Bible and do what it says - unaffected by any outside influences.
But let's be honest. When you hear people say they are just going to tell you what the Bible means, it is not true. They are telling you what they think it means. they are giving their opinions about the Bible. It sounds nice to say, "I'm not giving you my opinion; I'm just telling you what it means."
The problem is, it is not true.
Obviously, we think our interpretations are the most correct; otherwise we'd change them.
Or as one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, put it, "Everyone thinks their opinion is the right one. If they didn't, they'd get a new one."
The idea that everybody else approaches the Bible with baggage and agendas and lenses and I don't is the ultimate in arrogance. To think that I can just read the Bible without reading any of my own culture or background or issues into it and come out with a "pure" or "exact" meaning is not only untrue, but it leads to a very destructive reading of the Bible that robs it of its life and energy." pgs 51-54 of Velvet Elvis.

This was such an eye opener for me...it makes sense! I serve a God that is all about relationships! And when we are living in community, relationships happen! The kind of relationships I love are the ones that are transparent and open, without fear of rejection when our weaknesses show!!! And being open enough to accept correction when it is needed! I'm not too proud to admit to my weaknesses!! I JUST want God to be King and Ruler in my heart and sometimes that means others need to point out a few things that I have just become comfortable with! Like my language...I still have this tendency to swear every now and then...when wanting to emphasize my words or when I'm simply frustrated and angry...I'm not proud of it but it IS something I'm working on and was just reminded this week of how it DOES bother some people! Like my mom, for example! lol
II Timothy 3: 16-17 says, "All Scripture is God Breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." That's what I want...to be thoroughly equipped for every good work! So to me that means that I need to be open to correction, especially if others come to me with Scripture to back up their issues with me, and the Scripture is not taken out of context!

Anyhow, why I'm talking about this? It's because I think that if we are living in close community with others, this kind of transparency is needed in order to make it work right...so that once a weakness is shown, others in the community can encourage us and pray for us. It's not meant to shame one another but to love and help each other to overcome those areas of weakness!!!

I'm sure I'll have more Velvet Elvis thoughts the farther I get in the book...but right now this is where I'm at!

1 comment:

RosyJ said...

Opinions are like bottoms...everybody has one....
I think I have to read it again...
Certain authors..radio show hosts and people simply encourage you to think..others simply want you to listen and accept their view points...
I hope I live my life thinking and challenging others to think...I hope I enter into the grand discussion...without fear.
Thanks for the reminder.