Words. Often when we use them others hear/read something else. Even when we belive we have a mutually agreed upon understanding invariably a given word or prhase is embued with the meaning the reader or the listener pre-determines.
Recently I read The War of Art. (I gave my copy to my youngest brother to read and so am working from memory here.) The author’s subject was writing. Pressfield considers “resistance” to be the greatest enemy of the writer. Fear is the tool resistance uses. Writers often want to write but resist the creative urge for one “excuse or another.” Sometimes a writer fears what others will think, what some may mis-understand, or what it may feel like to stand out there with your words and nothing else – naked if you will.
Pastors face such a fear on occasion.
The position is a bit precarious. We applaud the prophetic words of, say, Isaiah who boldly challenges Israel to be the kind of people God intended – caring for the widow, the orphan, the stranger and the alien. We like what I often refer to as the “bony finger of the prophet” challenging everyone else but “me.”
If you happen to like Brueggemann’s use of 587 as a metaphor, which I do, then you understand how what Jeremiah noted to Judah was both positive and negative. On the one hand the world Judah knew had come to an end. Lament would be her genre for some time. On the other hand Judah would experience a brave new world. The watershed moment – captivity. Some things need to come to an end so birth may come to something new.
Pastors sometimes write/speak things that may cause some to think the “end of the world as they know it” is just around the corner. Before reading further decisions are made and no one stays long enough to hear the pastor also saying, “there is being born a brave new world.” So, since we practice a hermeneutic that reveals we believe the meaning lies in the reader rather than the text, Pastors often fear writing. They resist saying what they believe down deeply. Some get a way with it. Others not so much.
I am contemplating a turn for this blog. There are things I believe deeply and there are things I struggle to understand completely. Often these have been held at bay for fear of mis-understanding. For fear some would be more prepared for the worse than consider the best. My brother faces just such an experience.
Silent I have been. On specifics, silent I will remain. But, when a pastor stands to suggest we are living in a new empire and that some of our faith practices tend to ally more with a coalescing of our convictions with the security of the new empire let’s give the benefit rather than the doubt. Indeed we may need to learn to subvert the civic/civil empire in order to live faithfully the Gospel. Peter Rollins would suggest this is a fidelity of betrayal.
Lest someone think my current pastoral context lie in back of this post, please read carefully it is not. I have received more grace and support even when an askew glance has been cast on an idea, thought or suggestion. I love where I serve and not out of fear.
Overcoming the fear of what my peers or denominational types may think is one of the aspects of being a “recovering Southern Baptist.” That kind of fear really undermines our understanding of “free church” ecclesiology. Such fear will be laughed at by those who hold power. Others know first hand its reality. Fear of losing the opportunity to serve on a board of one of our agencies be it in Oklahoma or on the national scale reflects the constant inner struggle the rhetoric of our recent past “battles for the bible” have left.
So, in a somewhat rambling post, I am thinking of changing some things up here to reflect the title of this blog a bit more. What are your thoughts?