Hearty Heresy


Mandate Thursday
April 5, 2007, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Jesus, Religion

It’s amazing what you’ll learn if you actually read about the history of Christianity (rather than thoughtlessly accepting tradition). For example, one little tidbit I picked up in the Borg & Crossan book I’ve been reading (The Last Week) is the meaning of the word “maundy” as in Maundy Thursday. Here’s what they say:

Finally, we note calling this day “Maundy Thursday” is based on John’s story: “Maundy” derives from the Latin word for “mandate”–the new commandment–that Jesus gave his followers in John 13:34; “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Another unnecessary mystery about Brand Xianity solved! It seems that so much of what I’m uncomfortable about when it comes to traditional Christianity is what Borg & Crossan call our “preunderstanding” of the events described in the New Testament, the tendency to have our interpretations be influenced by mixing everything together from the Gospels and other sources (hymns, popular culture, etc.).

The challenge for me is to decide how much time I want to put into clearing away the brush of “preunderstanding” in order to get a clear picture of the landscape of the teachings of Jesus. I’m definitely susceptible to positive reinforcement (like finding out that Maundy Thursday is about loving one another). But there’s a lot of negative stuff out there that keeps me from wanting to spend too much time hacking away at the mess. I really understand what one former Christian said about the image of Jesus: “I’m afraid that the story of Jesus and his life is no longer something that can bring me to a greater understanding of the spiritual dimension. It is to me like something surrounded by a thicket of brambles—the stiff and unbending theology that was pounded into me as I was growing up. I can’t get past that barrier.”

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3 Comments so far
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I am definitely there with you about brushing away the preunderstandings. I am always asking my wife (also a minister) what is it about the story that is redeemable? Do we ever completely overthrow the stiff and unbending theology of childhood? We have lots of cheery discussions around these two questions.

Comment by pastorofdisaster

It took me a long time to siphon through the mess that the churh has made of the story of Jesus and to discover who Jesus really is.

A quote you might find interesting that someone through my way yesterday: “The church has been busy teaching a theology of damnation while God has been busy working out a theology of new creation.”

It takes a long time to get from the first to the second, but thank God it does happen!

Comment by j4jesus

What is it about the story that is redeemable? An excellent question, and certainly one that I keep asking. Part of me thinks it just the good advice giving by folks like the Dali Lama and Joseph Campbell–stick to your own tradition. Another part is just plain attracted to the potential for personal and social transformation contained in the teachings of Jesus. Jason’s quote is right on target. If I believe in any sort of God, it’s an endlessly creative God.

Comment by heartyheretic




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