Christianity: An Evolving Faith

January 4, 2019

In a period of "fundamentalism"that has largely co-opted more than one faith path (certainly Christianity and Islam), an era in which the media reports nearly exclusively on literalist interpretations of sacred texts, I find it very difficult to explain to people where my views as a Christian lie. Today, I read a wonderful piece by Richard Rohr. I offer it as a window into a different flavor of Christianity, one that provides a floor beneath some of my plays. I hope it helps to answer some questions.

Here's an interesting thought from Richard Rohr that explains some of what goes wrong when people read sacred texts: "For all its inspiration, for all the lives it has changed, the Bible is undeniably problematic. Put in the hands of egocentric, unloving, or power-hungry people or those who have never learned how to read spiritually inspired literature, it is almost always a disaster." – Richard Rohr, Jan 6, 2019 

*I actually prefer the word "literalist" to "fundamentalist," because I see the fundamental values of Christianity to be much closer to the ideas expressed in Richard Rohr's piece than to the values expressed by what our culture erroneously in my mind calls "Christian fundamentalism."

Fine Words from a Friend

Gail Mangham, October 30, 2018

Actor and director Gail Mangham had this to say about Prescott's "Night of Furies" held on October 29, 2018:

"Last night my friend, Micki Shelton, presented a reading of her play St. Agnes in Agony. I had read it closely a couple of times prior to the reading, so in most senses, there were no surprises. The play shifts back and forth from 4th CE in the western portion of the Roman Empire to the present. In the past, a girl of 12, Agnes, a member of a family of Christians (in secret only), well regarded and with strong ties to the power of the Roman and non-Christian community, refuses an arranged marriage stating unequivocally that she has already given herself to God. She refuses to make sacrifices to the Roman gods for the sake of appearances and the safety of her family. Her father hands her over naked to Roman soldiers for punishment. She is verbally abused and then killed.

"This story alternates with a modern day couple. The woman is preparing for a hearing (read Kavanaugh) while her husband wrestles with understanding, fully, the event of sexual assault in her teen years and its lasting effect on her.
 

"The play, a basically a cold reading, (the cast was together for the first time last evening) was a springboard for discussion around the #MeToo movement and the political climate in which we find ourselves. Seated on my left was a friend whose husband, a Holocaust survivor, died a year ago. She had come out to participate in this event despite the murders of the congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh this past Saturday. Her anger melded with devastation was palpable. On my right was a friend whose music and activism has found its voice here and in the wider world. All around me and on stage were friends I’ve made through twenty years here in Prescott.
 

"Each of us brought a different set of life experiences to this event and reasons for being there. My own were many and varied. I wanted to support the playwright; I wanted to see this really talented cast bring the imprisoned words on the page to life; I wanted to experience the ties that bind all of us; I wanted inspiration for how to BE in this world, how to maintain internal balance while working on the change I seek.

"In the end what, perhaps, mattered most to me was the physical contact, the hugs, the simple act of touch from men and women I know, admire, even love. It was that communion of a small group of humans--irrespective of differences of race, gender, religion—that created the loop of energy between stage and audience fed by the liberated words of the play, that in the end brought me to my knees.

"While I’m sure most of us did not leave this experience with a game plan of how we might take action to effect change, I believe we did leave with much to think on. For me the words posted by a friend resonated as I left and remain with me today."

"You are not Obligated to

Complete the Work,

But Neither are you Free

To Abandon it."

 

       The Talmud

Laudato Si on the Care of Our Common Home

Pope Francis, 2015

 

This morning I'm reading Pope Francis's encyclical on our world. Laudato Si. It's long yet SO worth reading. Here is the link to the entire encyclical, along with a few powerful paragraphs from it. 

1) “For human beings... to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human be- ings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”.15 For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”

2) From page 49:

"We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the earth with all that is within it” (Dt 10:14). Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me.” (Lev 25:23).

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© All text copyright 2018 by Micki Shelton