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Reimagining the Bible, Again

27 May
Photo via Flickr user honorbound

Photo via Flickr user honorbound

I love a good storyteller. She has to ability to break the present, ordinary moment open to a sense of pure transcendence. A good story invites us into a thin space where we can float in truth and beauty. Go to a story telling event or an amateur comedy night and be reminded how hard good storytelling really is.

We need good storytellers to help us read the Bible and make it come alive, again, for us in this time and place.

During the Modern Age, Darrell Jodock explains in his book The Church’s Bible, the Bible lost a good deal of collective authority. This had to do with several cultural shifts including increased value placed on objectivity and the scientific approach and people connecting loyalty to tradition with stagnation.

The Bible, however, continues to withstand the test of time. Christians continue to find it useful to turn to the book. It is time-tested, but each generation has to reclaim it and rediscover its usefulness for their context. The Bible indeed has no authority outside outside the context of community and relationship. It is a book collecting dust until we open it, interact with it, and apply it to our communities. At its best, the Bible can connect us to other communities over time an space, providing a hold continuity. It can mediate the presence of God by providing a language of faith. As time goes on, we have to work harder and harder to translate that language in a way that is relevant to a world far from the original audience.

Reading the Bible with young people is a welcome challenge for me. We talk a lot about stories– those in the text and our own. We work to understand the original context so that we may apply it to our immediate context with care. Re-contextualizing the Bible requires imagination, creativity, patience and empathy. When we do it well, it is worth the work. The richness of the stories, if reimagined well, point beyond itself to God. They break open to transcendence. Beauty and truth rush in.

At the end of his book, Jodock invites us to simply take the Bible and read it. It will only speak when used in community and embodied in the daily lives of its members. In that way, we give the Bible it’s authority. It’s complex, worthy work.

Storied People

25 Sep

We are a storied people. Joan Didion reminds us in The White Album that we tell ourselves stories in order to live. We are constantly converting our lives into a story about our lives and bouncing that story off larger cultural tales. It is one reason I teach theology. I love teaching young people the stories in the Bible and looking for ourselves in them. We need to know our story to know where we came from, where we are and where we are going. It gives us a foundation to stand on. It connects us to our ancestors. It reminds us that we are part of a larger narrative.

My son loves books, and it is a gift to surround him with stories. When we play make believe, we are living in the stories we are creating. I get excited thinking about the stories I will share with him as he gets older, stories I loved as a child, stories that changed my mind, changed my life. He will be welcomed to share in my canon, and will undoubtedly add to mine as he creates his own.

When I am taking pictures of him or journaling about him, I am aware that I am crafting his story. As a writer, I take this job very seriously. It feels like a big responsibility. The folklore that comes out of our youth has a role in our identity formation. The stories that our ancestors tell us about ourselves take root. What moments do I capture that get at the heart of who he is? What narrative threads are presenting themselves in his story? He will get a sense of who he was and who he is and who he is becoming by ingesting my interpretation of his life. For now, before he has memory, I am helping craft his story for him.

Ken Burns has a great video on Vimeo called On Story. He talks about re-telling stories of history, how he likes complicated stories where 1 + 1 = 3. Where villains are lovable and heroes are faulty. Where the strength of someones story may challenge us to change our minds. Every story is manipulation, and he reaches for an emotional truth through that unavoidable manipulation. He says, “We tell stories to continue ourselves.” Stories remind us that it is going to be okay.

What stories are you telling?

What stories are you swimming in?

What stories do you hold as true?

What story are you living?

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