1. Christologies for the 21st century
Both Sallie McFague’s writings on metaphorical theology and feminist theology’s commitment to expanding the imagination in regards to our God-talk by challenging monolithic metaphors and imagery that favor patriarchal religious expressions have influenced me significantly. Sallie McFague’s article “An Ecological Christology: Does Christianity Have it?” in Christianity and Ecology (Cambridge, Mass: Center for the Study of World Religions, 2000), addresses a plurality of Christological approaches (prophetic, wisdom, sacramental, eschatological, process, and liberation) and weighs them against their validity and appropriateness to our global condition, their orthodoxy, and their practicality. Her attention to Christological praxis is crucial, speaking to the necessity of dislodging our doctrines from the realm of intellectual assent and allowing them to transform community, culture, and world, and giving the Incarnation a multivalent ability confront oppression and injustice in a variety of contexts.
Hope for our world lies not only in what Jesus tells us to do, but also, and more deeply, in Christian belief that God is with us as we attempt to do it. 1
It is important to move beyond “fully God and fully human” and expand on what that means for all of creation rather than what it means for salvation, as well as making use of the various metaphors and implications present in these approaches rather than pitting them against one another as doctrinal correctness tends to emphasize. More on this to come.
2. On the use of prophecy
This morning I read an article by Susan Ackerman about Dr. King’s recurring usage of Amos 5:18-24 in his orations and writings. There is far too much to say about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to do him or his legacy any justice in this short space, but I want to share some of Ackerman’s thoughts. She points out how quickly and easily any of us can (and do) point toward passages from the biblical text to support or condemn any number of issues, often gravely misusing the text and using it for abuse. What would the writers of these texts think about our application of their words to our modern situations? Ackerman believes, and I agree, that Amos would approve. Themes of injustice and oppression, economic and social inequalities flow throughout the prophetic voices of the Hebrew Bible. Ackerman ends her article with these words:
The challenge that follows for us as readers and hearers of the text, is to consider more ways in which Amos’s imagery might be transformed for our times yet still be consistent with Amos’s original message. THe waters that Amos evoked have so far proven mighty and everlasting. Our task, if we are to use Amos’s text in this new century, is to make sure they run clear to the prophet’s vision. 2
The reduction of prophetic texts to future-casting specific historical events or persons also reduces the power of the texts to continually speak to communities again and again. When prophecies are fulfilled we feel that can stop looking for and creating answers. Dr. King realized this.
3. More on Amos…
By now I’m sure that even my internet-challenged mother has stumbled onto the “Why I hate Religion, But Love Jesus” video that is making its rounds right now. Many have weighed in on this video, so I’ll just share a little bit. The poet is certainly makes some spot on critiques and observations, albeit none of them are new. In fact, they have been present for a few thousand years. Again, Susan Ackerman:
Yet because of the moral failings of Amos’s day, YHWH proclaims in Amos 5:21 that the festal celebrations have been despised. Similarly in Amos 5:22, the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and offerings of well-being that elsewhere in Israelite tradition are said to be pleasing to the depth (e.g., Lev. 23:18) are, amidst a climate of social injustice and unrighteousness, rejected by God. Music making in a religious context is also associated elsewhere in the Bible with rejoicing before and, by implication, with God (e.g., 2 Chr. 5:13). But Amos again turns the common idiom on its head to suggest that, in a society mired in discord, sacral music becomes discord as well (Amos 5:23). 3
The prophet Amos strongly criticizes religious business as usual in the midst of injustice and suffering. Amos disrupts tradition to call attention to the oppressed and to proclaim that tradition has the potential to dominate progress.
1. Dieter T. Hessel and Rosemary Radford Ruether, eds., Christianity and Ecology: Seeking the Well-Being of Earth and Humans (Cambridge, Mass.: Center for the Study of World Religions, 2000), 29-43.
2. Susan Ackerman, “Amos 5:18-24”, Interpretation 57 (2003), 193.
3. Ibid, 192.