Archive for October 7th, 2010

I’ve been accused of living in a bubble before.  Numerous times, actually.  This accusation has come from others inside the same bubble, looking out, wanting to connect with those outside of the bubble.  It has also come from those outside the bubble, some wishing they could of had my bubble experience.  ”Bubble” conversations usually include the phrase “the real world.”  Of course, what people usually mean by that phrase is harsh life experiences.  Somehow we have this idea that if you haven’t been through some kind of hardship, then you haven’t really lived, or that you are living in some kind of manufactured, protected fantasy.  The problem with this is that it tries to define others by the life situation into which they were born.   Or by their life experience.  It’s a caste system of a different kind.

The bad news is that there is a bubble.  But everybody is in a bubble.  It is the sphere in which we live.  Where we work, eat, sleep; who our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers are; what we know and have experienced, etc.  Everybody lives in a bubble.  A bubble that may never be pierced by certain experiences, knowledge, choices, or people.  A bubble that my never brush up against the bubbles of others, making them aware of their existence.  Bubbles that might collide and bounce away from each other.  The small farmer struggling to keep his farm going may never come into contact with the war torn existence of an Ethiopian orphan.  His only interaction with latino migrant workers may be a fearful cry to deport illegal immigrants regardless of the legal status of that migrant worker and in contrast to the rather large shared experience of struggling through farming to provide.

The good news is that the bubble is clear, movable, and expandable… if we want it to be.  We are not bound by the bubble, just by our choices.  Despite finding ourselves in a bubble, we can help shape the character of the bubble by our choices.  My bubble has been changing.  I recently came across the Not For Sale Campaign and the Global Forum on Human Trafficking.  James 1:27 has taken on new meaning to me, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” If we turn away from the suffering and hardship others, our bubble can become opaque and hard.  If we are persistent in doing good instead of self-seeking (Romans 2:7), our bubbles will no longer be the limits of what affects us, but they will become the areas in which we are effective.

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For some reason or other I am on this Stanley Hauerwas kick. I’m not exactly certain why I am on this kick–he and I are not even in the same arena theologically and I have no political affinity for him whatsoever–or why I have been gulping down his books and whatever I can get my hands on at the time, but I am. Just now I am reading an older book he wrote called Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America.

He freely admits early in the book that he does not ‘know the ‘text’ of the Bible well–all my theological formation took place in curricula shaped by Protestant liberalism. Yet such formation was more ‘biblical’ than I suspected because I know think it an advantage to learn Scripture through the work of Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth, and Yoder’ (9). And I think this is probably where Hauerwas misses the mark most assuredly–he’d do better to spend more time with Scripture than not. But what do I know?

Every now and again, however, he does say something that doesn’t cause my blood pressure to rise and instead causes my eyes to light up and my mind to start churning. One of those things I’d like to share with you and invite you to respond to. Someone asked a similar question in a Facebook thread the other day and I confess that I wish there was an answer. I don’t think there is, but here goes:

If the Bible is at once so clear and full as a source of Christian doctrine, how does it come to pass that people are divided from one another over how to interpret it? (29) [And consequently, why are there so many 'sects', i.e. denominations, each with their own version?]

I confess agreement with his assessment. How indeed? Why is there so much division in the church strictly do to the Bible and how to interpret it? Why is the Bible such a source of divisiveness when it is meant to be an instrument that binds us together? Hauerwas’ plan, in the book I’m quoting, is to simply remove the Bible from the hands of the laity and return it solely to the hands of ‘the church.’ I do not know if I am willing to go that far just yet (that’s too Catholic for my taste), but his proposition is intriguing.

So what do you think? This is a ‘nature of the bible’ sort of question. What is this book meant to be and why have we fallen so short when it comes to the essential unity, the oneness of the church?

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