Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Do miracles really matter?

It seems that a whole lot of people are insistent that miracles either really happened, or, just as equally, they insist that they really didn't. Or should I say, they couldn't happen. I really don't have much at stake in the fact or fiction of God's working against the grain of nature in order to shock the world into accepting that it is a truly strange universe. I'm not expecting any miracles beyond the one that, after years of narcotic and alcohol abuse and homelessness, I am still alive today. But I believe that statement may miss the point as badly as the insistence upon demanding proof for or against the veracity of miracle claims. I do find it interesting though, that many people who don't believe in miracles that subvert science, do intend to pray for healings and such. Some Friends apparently believe that the creator of the natural world can heal cancer or bring world peace, but can not be known truthfully in the context of resurrection.

For one, I have never believed that the world was created in six days, or that the sun revolved around the earth, or that millions of Hebrews marched across the desert for forty years. I am perfectly aware of scientific realities and the limitations of faith based upon the truth of miracles. I also have a faith in the idea that somehow, while God does not know the future, the Creator has a plan for creation and is constantly responding to human faithfulness, or human seeking, or prayer, in a manner that has real effect on our lives, and the world at large. If this is simply psychologically effective, I suggest it is no less integral to human wholeness than the same psychological effect of a sense of freedom, or liberty, or safety,; human conditions often facilitated by healthy spiritual experiences.

I also find it difficult to understand why people reject the Bible, or reject the possibility of the authority of Scripture, simply because it contains unhistorical and scientifically impossible events, or because it offends their 21st-century (or even 19th-century) social sensibilities. The truth of the Bible is not found in statements that wives must submit to their husbands, or that homosexuality is a doomed relational endeavor. The truth of the Bible is found in its revealing of a people's relationship with a God who has revealed the divine self to a people in a very specific way. That these people may have interpreted the message of the Creator in an unrealistic or seemingly immature manner is assuredly prototypical of our own contemporary relationship with any one of the many gods we experience relationship with.

Regardless of whether or not the Bible makes us feel good or bad, the Bible has been the text upon which much of the right and wrong- or the evil and compassionate - human actions are based upon. Much of our American privilege, much of the American empire, much of our American "rugged" individualism, is based upon readings of Scripture that have promoted violence and patriarchy and suffering. Many of us, especially Quakers, are particularly tuned in to the misery of such interpretations.

Yet, instead of interpreting the story in a manner that maintains the beauty of the Hebrew, Jewish, and early Christian experience, and the intensity of the creator-creation relationship that is revealed throughout, we tend to reject the text, and with it, the whole story of a God and a people who have chosen to experience the universe in covenant relationship, culminating in a reconciliation, a sense of Shalom, that will set human beings right with one another. If this is not the story of Jesus, the story that Quakers should interpret and live out, then not only those who engage in gay-bashing and patriarchy claim ownership of the text, they gain ownership of the only god most Americans have any relationship with at all.

The argument here is not whether or not Jesus walked on water. The struggle we face is one of which interpretation of the story of YHWH will give a people renewed hope for the wholeness that Abraham and Ruth, David and Mary, and Prisca and Paul all held onto as they stumbled through a similarly repressive world that was underwritten by popular religion. It is integral, however, that we reclaim the story, so as to be intelligible to the Church, to one another, and especially, to make the past intelligible to us.

1 comment:

Lorcan said...

Wonderful reflection, Scot:

As I write the above I must say I am laughing at myself ... as, I would say it is a wonderful reflection in two ways. It is wonderful in the wonderful writing and depth of spirit which I find in our fFriend Marshall Massey's writing. But, I'm laughing, as my first impression is that it is a wonderful reflection because I agree with so much of it! (Not always the case with Marshall - I say with real affection for him)

I think my own worry about the bibles are not on the grounds of their accuracy or lack there of, but the danger that they become an idol for God. In Job, as in my favorite reflection by Hillel (the rest is commentary) often Biblical writers and commentary reminds us that this is a way to describe the indescribable.

For me the revelations are the revelations of human spirit, as thee says here. However, I am less moved by biblical proofs of prophesy, as we see in the transcription of the texts in the collection of original languages, a "correcting" of those things which are contradictory to the points the institution of the church seeks to make.

However, miracle. For me, miracle is that example which brings one closer to God, rather than proof that God can break the laws of the universe. So, for example, when I was a law student, and working in a Native American government, I found myself meeting the granddaughter of Goyatla, known as Geronimo. She had been pointed out to me before. She saw my long braids, and took me for native, I suppose, and seeing the law books I carried said, "You are studding law! You are going to be somebody!" I replied that a law degree was only the good house keeping award for conformity, that no lawyer had ever stopped the sun in the sky. She smiled broadly and said, "You know about my grandfather!" I nodded and said yes.

Do I believe, as many Apache do, that Goyatla stopped the sun in the sky for an hour? Yes, and no. I believe that the depth of his spirit made it possible for he and his band to do what was needed to be done as if he had done that with the help of his faith in God. But there is a great danger in the belief of miracles, when your miracles deny the power of the miracles of others -- one reason I love your reflection here, it does not set the Christian miracles foreword at the exclusion of others.

So, prayers for intercession. I am always hopeful that I can overcome the desire to pray in that way, and to pray for the strength to accept... (Thunder storms starting ... more after they pass - must unplug the modem - and later add thee to my links on my blog )
Back soon (I hope!)