Monday, March 20, 2017

Footnote Answering A Silly Snarky Frippery

Since you snark, I can date the beginning of the end of my apostasy to my first reading The Historical Jesus by John Dominic Crossan, which must have been in the early 1990s, after it came out in paper back.  What's funny about that is, as I've read more and more and thought more, Crossan's books and those by his fellow members of the Jesus Seminar have seemed ever more beside the point, to me.  I still respect a lot of what he said in the book, it's just that other authors and, especially, reading the texts of the Bible using a hermetic of their intent mattering more than their age, the central issue for Crossan and his Seminar colleagues, makes sense to me.  The texts were written as an assertion of the obligation to do justice to the least among us - the thing which Jesus made central to our ultimate judgement and disposition, not an unimportant detail in the texts and why they were written, after all.  No one bases their study of other texts beginning by ignoring the intent of them except religious ones. 

I have come to see the wisdom of what Brueggemann and some others have said about the relative unimportance of such things as the "higher criticism" and the obsession with chronology.  I know that those have been important for atheist and other attacks against Christianity and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Judaism, but they come from a hermenutic of dismissal of the importance of the meaning of the texts, anyway.  I think it is entirely relevant in judging that intellectual movement that those engaged in it are primarily of the upper middle - upper class or who aspire to that economic status.  Brueggemann's story about the janitor who asked him to explain the dispute to him and who said that if there isn't going to be some eschatological delivery of justice then people like him were just lost is all anyone should need to know about why the academic hermenutic  which starts out demoting or dismissing that concern of justice for the poor and marginalized is fatally problematic.  As my post this morning says, it is also fatal to the cause of economic and social justice and, eventually, egalitarian democracy. 

Because of that, the other great influence on me in those years, the various liberation theologians, those from Latin America and elsewhere - mostly Catholic- and the Black liberation Theologians, especially in the United States and South Africa - mostly Protestant - seem to me to be entirely more important than all of the academic historical-critical stuff put together.  

I do think that history demonstrates, subtly, the truth of what the entire line of Hebrew prophesy, from Genesis to the last people who wrote in the Second Testament said.   The closer that contemporary religion stays to that message, the better off it and we are.  I think one of the most important things that Vatican II did was to emphasize texts from the First Testament in the liturgy.   

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