In my last post I made clear that my theological outline is not based in an ‘liberal’ understanding of theology or society. If you are still following at this point I am guessing you know I won’t draw on many traditionally conservative resources. This is true. This does not mean it is not worth clarifying the ways in which patriarchy continues to exert itself forcefully within the church and its theology.
After Salem has brushed his teeth and we have read him bedtime stories he gets a little bit of quiet time in his room to play before bed. Salem is a very active and talkative child but during this time he is settled and plays quietly. He also appears to be reflective during this time as he will occasionally shout out a question or comment that he has been pondering.
Last night from out of his room he says,
You know when you do something bad and haven’t told anyone and you feel like you need to tell someone? I call that ‘Yahweh stabbing your brain.’
Salem was looking at the Brick Bible at the time. We had started reading him stories from it until we realized very quickly that the stories skewed heavily towards the more violent images of the Hebrew Bible. The hook then is to see the child-like and nostalgic materials of Lego being taken up in some of the most horrific scenes in the Bible.
And because Yahweh is an active agent in many biblical stories there is a depiction of Yahweh as an old bearded man in white. And when it says that Yahweh does something, well Yahweh does something.
Now of course on one level this is terrible and entirely inappropriate for Salem to be reading. But it gave me real pause to pay attention to tension I feel between this simply being blasphemous transgressing the prohibition of making an image of God on one hand and having to face and see the material imagery of stories that are intentionally sanitized and excluded from graphic representations of the Bible (i.e. children’s Bibles).
So when Salem tells me this experience is like Yahweh stabbing his brain I assume that he is somehow trying to articulate how our conscience (or super ego) can afflict us and perhaps in this way it actually becomes easier to talk about the limitations, changes, and need for revising how God has been understood over time and how that continues to affect us in the present. And in many ways the representation of Yahweh as an old white man is appropriate as it is many of these stories that have formed the patriarchal structure of our faith that need to be dismantled. Though the Brick Bible may actually contribute to a more textured and meaningful engagement with our faith tradition, for now I think I will slip into his room as the unseen all-knowing hand from above removing it from him.
My national denomination (Mennonite Church Canada) has engaged the national body of congregations in two major processes. One dealing with an ethical and exegetical matter the other with the overhaul of our organizational structure. These processes as well as my increased involvement with the national church body have heightened my sense of two conflicting ways of being church in the midst of potentially divisive processes. Now what follows is admittedly simplified but I want to take a stab at clarifying at least one basic factor in the division and conflict that we are experiencing. Mennonite Church Canada (as well as many other churches I am sure) is currently a tale of two systems.