Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Emo Scripture

Let's get this out of the way first: I don't like the Psalms as instructive texts.

Most other biblical works could be said to be testimonials about God, the written witness of the faithful. Psalms isn't written that way at all. There's nothing cohesive about it. It flips about from loving-kindness to hatred in mere moments. One shining example is Psalm 139. We move from the wondrous rapture of verse 13
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
to the bile of verse 22
I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Classy stuff. I've long heard verses like 13 as a universal encouragement that the creator God loves us all and thinks highly enough of us to be personally involved in our foetal development. By extension, should we universalise another verse in the same psalm to justify perfect hatred of people who loathe God? That doesn't fit in the broader message of God as love.

Then what to do with the Psalms? We can read the different literature forms in different ways, knowing that they're different. So let's read the Psalms differently; not as instructive texts at the level of science books, but as the emo songs of an ancient generation. Here's a paraphrased summary:
I love God, I hate God.
I love my friends, I hate my friends.
My neighbour praises God because of me, my neighbour curses me because of God.
So much teenage angst in there.

If we read them that way then the whole book seems to have a single message: it's OK to be emotional and to tell God about it. Be happy; so happy to sing songs and dance about it! Be angry; so angry to curse your neighbour and complain to God about it! Be morose! Be grumpy! It's OK to be melancholy and to put voice to the feeling.

But whatever you do, recognise it as your own legitimate emotional response to something and your desire to involve God in it somehow. It's probably not a good idea to base doctrines or philosophy on these moments, though. So let's revise my opening shot.

I don't like the Psalms as instructive texts. They're emo scriptures that tell us it's OK to be emotional human beings. Read them and know that someone else felt just as crappy as you do and that God didn't smite them for feeling miserable.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Confession: I see the Other

The church I go to these days is fond of the connect group. You may know them from such other titles as home groups, cell groups, soviets, etc. I've volunteered to run one during next year.

I'm yet to see how this will pan out. I'd like to think that I can indulge myself by grappling with the text of the week and helping people to learn how to exegete. If there's something I wish I could do better and wish I knew earlier was good exegesis.

Apparently for other people (you know who you are) exegesis is boring and/or dry. And apparently I'll have some of these "other people" in the group. I'm tempted to call them all the Others and militantly apply some good Other philosophy.

So I confess, dear reader, the presence of the Other and the obstacle it proposes. I confess that Bonhoeffer's solution to the problem excites and terrifies me.

Enough confession for today.