Wednesday, 19 September 2007

'Lisa the Iconoclast' - Episode 16, Series 7

Fans of ‘The Simpson’s’ will know from the title, that I am following much the same theme here as in my previous post: ‘Who do you think you are?’

Today’s episode of The Simpson's was from Series 7, Episode 16 ‘Lisa the Iconoclast’ – in which Lisa discovers that Jebadiah Springfield, the towns cherished founder was in fact a murdering pirate who tried to kill George Washington.

Both programs led me to consider the theological balance between the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith.

‘The Simpson’s’ have pushed that thinking forward a bit.

When Lisa stands in front of the whole town during the parade, she was unable to tell them the truth of her discoveries - and when asked by the town’s historian why she couldn’t, she replied ‘the myth has value too’. She looked down at her friends and neighbours celebrating and sharing together for the common good of the town, and she found that the myth had a positive and uniting impact way beyond that which the historical truth could offer.

In 30 minutes of cartoon existence I would agree with Lisa, that if nothing but good has come from the myth, then go ahead and perpetuate it – but real life is not like that!

Pick, for example, Atonement doctrine: the belief that after being created perfect, humanity ‘fell’ and was in need of redemption and thus Jesus was sent to pay the price for our sins, and in his resurrection we find forgiveness.

There are those who would say that this theory / myth has a positive impact on the world. I, however, would disagree for a number of reasons and I would much rather we expose this myth to critical biblical analysis and then dethrone its sway over peoples spiritual and psychological selves, as I know how damaging it can be.

Whilst I appreciate the pastoral responsibilities of ministers and theologians to Christians in general, and also the difficulties of saying anything theological with too much confidence – I think there has to come a point where the line has been crossed; the line between blind faith based on conjecture and absolute empirical truth – the line between that which informs our experience of God and that which dictates it.

How much do we have to learn of the historical Jesus before we will start to adjust our doctrines and liturgies so that we might more closely experience the Kingdom of God?

Perhaps I will have to accept that our Christian myths do, for many, give a glimpse of God – as I know that we can only expect to catch a glimpse and I should be thankful for it. I am unsettled because, for me, much of traditional doctrine does not reflect the God of my experience and I want others to share with me, a glimpse of God from within life’s experiences – not doing the opposite by imposing a pre-defined God onto our lives.

I am sure we know that we are ultimately talking about and experiencing ‘faith’, and that this is a very individual and personal thing – but we seem to very easily call each other ‘heretics’ when we do not conform and believe exactly the same things.

I think that now is the time for Christianity to name those themes that unite and encourage us; those things that build us up and that form the basis of faith in God and in Jesus the Christ. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that any theory or doctrine that tries to tie down our beliefs, does nothing more than tell us who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’.

Given the inclusive nature of the gospel, I find exclusive pronouncements about the detail of faith to be profoundly un-Christ-like and damaging to the diversity and breadth of humanities experience of the divine.

Who said ‘The Simpson’s’ is not theological!!

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