…the kind of imagination it will take to re-invent the world.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes said that the words “wild” and “woman” create a fairytale knock on the door of heart. Theologian Paul Ricoeur convinced us that words create worlds. “Deplorables” as a word used to describe a group of people with heartbeats who pay taxes and love their children is unacceptable, too.
Words create worlds and we are all wondering what kind of world we will wake up to on Nov. 9th. Whatever that world looks like, the reality is, it will be up to us to re-invent it and it will require a great deal of imagination and care for the words we choose.
The truth is, as much as I am reluctant to admit it, one whose very profession is studying the nature of God in the world,much of our impoverished imagination comes directly from the ways in which we have interpreted Bible.
Depth Psychologist C.G. Jung said that in order to understand the American psyche, one must read the Bible. And what he meant by that was that America was built largely through an early partnership between politics and church. My own denomination, Methodism, was the largest Protestant sect in early America, forming towns, cities, schools, hospitals and was the a great center of the civilizing force of our country. Ulysses S. Grant said that there were three great political parties in America: Republicans, Democrats and Methodists. The best selling book in the world, the Bible, still has major game and influence when it comes to worldview.
The wake up call for us is that the Bible’s social and political framework for a delivery system for the Word of God was patriarchy, and not necessarily the benevolent kind. The stories that narrate our faith world and have formed the psyche of a nation, the stories that make up the best selling book ever in the world, the stories that tell us who we are as a people are often hostile to over half of our national population. That said, even this realization hasn’t hindered individuals and faith communities from practicing the Bible’s mandate of unconditional love, it just doesn’t seem to make the daily news.
What we realize, faith communities who choose to re-imagine faith in the 21st Century, is that just because the Word of God came to us in the framework of a social and political system beginning over three thousand years ago known as patriarchy, doesn’t mean faith communities are confined to a system that is oppressive for many people. In fact, even Jesus challenged to reform by saying to his followers “you will do greater things than me.” And we all know he was a liberator of those oppressed by the system, particularly women.
And just because the candidates for leaders of the free world (one of them Methodist) may lack imagination in the words they use to describe one another doesn’t mean we have to go and do likewise. In fact, we can do better.
Our world will only be as good as we can imagine it to be. Because imagination is actually our built in communication system with God, we can even re-imagine our interpretations of Bible. Because there are also stories that tell of a counter-narrative, hidden in the Bible’s unexplored territories in which women rise above their status as property and become leaders: warriors, prophets and military heroes.
We don’t have to throw out our old traditions in order to grow to a place that creates an environment of flourishing for everyone. In fact, that would be tragic. We hold on to the traditions that help us move forward even as we let go of the ones that hold us back. Tradition pulls one way, progress pulls the other, and we arrive at a third way forward. That is how we grow. Because love is always preferenced as the way of God in the end and to love is to allow people to grow. Too much emphasis on either tradition or progress causes stagnancy or deterioration. We learn to grow best in the tension. Our democratic system is actually built for positive movement forward, that is, if we can only imagine it.
On November 9th, we will all have a new reality no matter who is elected and the truth is, we will all have a big job on our hands, the re-imagination of our world. Perhaps the true leadership is in our hands and our hearts and yes, even and especially in our faith communities.