Thursday, December 9, 2010


10th in the "Unsettling Advent" series: Through whose eyes do we read the Bible?

Reading the Bible "through third world eyes," as Robert McAfee Brown puts it, dramatically changes--i.e., restores--perspective and understanding of its most basic stories and movement.

Dare we attempt to consciously, contemplatively, seriously put ourselves in their shoes, inject ourselves into their hurts and hopes, accept their crushing conditions and heart-felt aspirations?  Instead of reading our norms, conditions, concerns, fears, needs and wants into the Bible, dare we set aside (as best we can) ourselves and try to tune in and listen to its dynamic history and pathos-filled people?

What was the real social and economic experience of Mary?  What had occurred in her history and heritage that would have found her in the situation the birth narratives of the Gospels place her in?  What was the political condition of her people at the time she received a startling visit?  How would she have received and interpreted such news?

Through such eyes, Mary's response, included in Luke's version of the story, is not the finely-turned stained-glass soliloquy it has frequently been made out to be in Western literature and music (and depicted in the first graphic, above), but a gut-wrenching diatribe, what E. Stanley Jones has called "the most revolutionary document in the world" (perhaps more likely depicted in the second graphic, left).

You have to drink a lot of institutional and ideological Kool-Aid to water down the Bible to merely a prescription for personal soul salvation with its antecedents--health, wealth and prosperity.

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