Monday, January 28, 2008

Family Theology

Theology is not generally considered a creative process although those of us who take theology seriously. We tend, as a group, to consider God as ultimate Creator, primary progenitor, parent par excellence, but fail to consider theology as a creative exercise. We are studying the Creator, not participating with the Creator. It is very hard for preachers, teachers and church leaders to be creative. We tens to be legalistic and canonical whenever we have issues and struggles that threaten to divide us. The truth is that Anglicanism at her best, is a creative rather than dogmatic, theological model. In her best moments, her round, soft, pliability has made it possible for her to take root in new cultures, enjoying and inviting, its tongue, its food and its music. They become her language, taste and sound. At her worst she becomes an angry matron, abandoned by her children, unable to adjust to adjust to their emerging individual identities. Each child, in turn, has used their mother’s anger, has paraded as the self-righteous parental authority, and in turn, has been found wanting. As no one child holds all the genetic material, inspiration, beauty or capacity of their forebears, so too, can no one parent expect any one child to honor and know all tradition, suffering and beauty. To claim only one way of knowing and being is to limit not only the capacity and experience of the God bearer but to declare that multiple and diverse expressions must be stillborn. Rivers overrun their banks and we cannot contain them. God, who created all doesn’t view all flooding as danger but as a dampening, a moistening, a preparing for new crops in strange lands.

I believe that we are on the brink of a most creative and teachable moment. The well has been empty for so long. Tensions over a single way of being one family have come to the forefront. We have been aging war, a sibling war, a rivalry of most familial kind. Oldest ambivalent offspring are set against the hungry, driven and unsure lower birth order children. A mother has woken up to the fighting in these her later years. She is elderly, unable to function without multiple levels and kinds of support. She wants to be young and vibrant again and jumps into the fray with her brittle body. Her children are no longer able to hear her clearly, over the distance and culture, her words are hesitant and rigid, casting back to an era and expressions long gone. The younger children never knew her supple beauty. They never knew her youthful scorn and impetuousness. They know her stiffer, more practical maternity with many and multiple surrogates. They tasted milk of a franchise, a secondary, modified offering. They want their sustenance to be understood as purified and corrected. One was milk mixed with blood and tears, the other were milk reconstituted after the violence.

In every Bible story we receive, God’s work is not complete until the one child redeems the others. God’s work is not complete until Joseph redeems his brothers and their families and his father. God’s work is not complete when might or right wins out but when redemption and reconciliation are complete. The story of the Prodigal son is about the older brother and the work he has to do to know God’s activity in his life. Son, everything I have is yours. The redemption and reconciliation of all God’s children is everyone’s work and no one can say we are not family. We cannot cast one another aside as accidents or mistakes of misguided parents.

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