21 January 2016

A little perspective

Life feels a bit chaotic at the moment. A bit of perspective (along with a reminder of the strength and character of the women I met through the Vrouwenpastoraat) feels appropriate:
"In the High Middle Ages, the moral sensibilities of leading churchmen were different from those in our own time. For example, the canons of the Cathedral of Notre Dame decided to receive a donation towards the construction of the cathedral from the city’s prostitutes, but refused one from the city’s bankers. The women, they argued, had worked for their money. Perhaps this will cost me my reputation as a progressive, but in this instance, I prefer the moral analysis of the High Middle Ages to that of our own time."
 From Ross Douthat's Erasmus Lecture by Michael Sean Winters

With thanks to Matthijs who passed this quote on to me.

05 January 2016

12th day of Christmas: subversive Mary

Christmas tends to bring out the sentimental, as if people think only of Jesus as a "cute bundle of joy" instead of a) a mess human being that cries, needs diaper changes and needs to be fed at inconvenient hours and b) the King who has come to save the world.  

Mary tends also to be sentimentalized. A number of years ago, Scot McKnight wrote an article for Christianity Today about Mary that describes this: "Mary has become little more than a delicate piece in a Christmas crèche, whom we bring out without comment at Christmas and then wrap up gently until we see her again next Advent."

Instead of only seeing Mary as she is often depicted at Christmastime:
she "wears a Carolina blue robe, exudes piety from a somber face, often holds her baby son in her arms, and barely makes eye contact with us. This is the familiar Blessed Virgin Mary, and she leads us to a Christmas celebration of quiet reflection."
McKnight invites us to see a different Mary - "the blessed Valorous Mary."
she "wears ordinary clothing and exudes hope from a confident face. This Mary utters poetry fit for a political rally, goes toe-to-toe with Herod the Great, musters her motherliness to reprimand her Messiah-son for dallying at the temple, follows her faith to ask him to address a flagging wine supply at a wedding, and then finds the feistiness to take her children to Capernaum to rescue Jesus from death threats. This Mary followed Jesus all the way to the Cross—not just as a mother, but as a disciple, even after his closest followers deserted him. She leads us to a Christmas marked by a yearning for justice and the courage to fight for it. Like other women of her time, she may have worn a robe and a veil, but I suspect her sleeves were rolled up and her veil askew more often than not."                               The Mary we Never Knew
I am growing to appreciate this second Mary. This Mary is the one who agreed to bear the Christ-child knowing that it might cost her everything - the security of a husband and a place within the Jewish community - and the one who spoke the subversive words of the Magnificat that envision her child coming to scatter the proud, bring down the mighty, and exalt the humble.

02 January 2016

Because reading the Bible changes you

For several years, I have been reading a wonderful blog - Gruntled Center - written by sociologist Beau Weston. It provides insights into religion and culture that consistently leave me pondering.

Weston recently pointed to a study from Christianity Today, which showed a link between reading the Bible and people's political views:
“Ask an evangelical who is politically conservative, has some college education, has an average level of income, is a biblical literalist, and does not read the Bible, and you’ll have only a 22 percent chance he or she will say reducing consumption is part of ethical living.
Ask the same person, only now they read the Bible, and you’ll have a 44 percent chance they’ll say so.” 
gruntled center
I find this a fascinating example of how reading the Bible changes the way one sees the world.