Friday, 3 July 2015

IS GOD WHITE?

I was doing Morning Prayer and found in incredibly boring (still do most times). The best part was the daily Scripture readings. I often went way past the allocated verses, simply because I’d never read the Bible and wondered what came next.  Trust me, the juiciest parts are seldom in the lectionary.

The Open Door Retreat had drawn me into the dual discipline of praying and meditating. Moreover, we’d formed such strong bonds that we decided to meet for a 6.30am Eucharist on Wednesday mornings and to continue our sharing.

There was also those Old Testament and New Testament classes. They turned out to be official modules for a theology degree so my journey into Anglicanism had assumed a new dimension.

What a relief to learn that the Bible was not a direct dictation by God to various obliging scribes. There was no way I was ever going to take Jonah and the Whale literally. 

I would also quickly learn two more words to drop at cocktail parties – exegesis and eisegesis. The first is what brought the Scriptures and, eventually, Jesus sharply into focus for me. The second is what I believe makes it so easy for us Christians to be judgemental, self-righteous and downright cruel.

Exegesis literally means ‘to lead out of”. It requires careful and objective analysis of the Scriptures.  Who was the author? Why did he feel compelled to write? Who was his audience? What was the writer’s agenda? What was the social and cultural context in which it was written?

In short, exegesis requires careful, objective analysis that leads to a conclusion.

Eisegesis literally means ‘to lead into’. It involves subjective non analytical reading. It’s what enables us to make the Scriptures mean whatever suits us. Frightening stuff!  It has been used to justify, among other things, homophobia, gender discrimination, apartheid and slavery.

As we learned to exegete texts there was a natural progression to liberation theology and black theology. That’s when I knew I’d hit a home run. This stuff was really working for me. It was also when I realised that no matter how weird Anglicanism seemed at times it was also wonderful.












I’d also been taught Lectio Divina. A Latin term for ‘divine reading’ it is a way of reading the Scriptures whereby we gradually let go of our own agenda and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. It is a wonderful way of listening with the heart and can be very calming when life is hectic. 

But let’s get back to exegesis and eisegesis. I am still gobsmacked at how a Church that claims ‘reason’ as one of its main pillars has allowed itself to be so divided by varying degrees of the two conflicting approaches to Scripture.  

Part of the problem in Southern Africa anyway is that we Anglicans dropped the ball on theological education. This is now being taken very seriously and technology is playing an increasing role. But we did have a very dry spell and too many of our preachers resort to eisegesis to make their point.

I digress. Back to my journey.  

I was living in three worlds. My ANC comrades used the term ‘liberal’ like a swearword. My upmarket suburban parish was primarily white and feeling unappreciated in our new political dispensation. My clients were over eager to capitalise on what they perceived as my political connections.

On the religious front I was increasingly bothered by how ‘European’ the Anglican Church in Southern Africa was. Yes we’d had Desmond Tutu as archbishop. His successor, Njongonkulu Ndungane, was also black but it was still a very long way to meaningful transformation.  Worship in the suburbs was worlds apart from the vibrant township services. Black Anglicans who relocated to the formerly ‘white’ suburbs, felt like foreigners.

But even in the townships I found a very white God and a Jesus who looked as if he’d been born in England. Clearly our early Christian missionaries - convinced that white was right and superior – had branded their product accordingly and imposed it on Africa. For them conversion involved Westernisation.

Years later, when I was ministering in Soweto I would ask kids in Confirmation class to give me a word picture of the holy threesome. This was invariably an old white man with a long beard seated next to a younger version of himself.  The Holy Spirit ranged between a bird and a white angel.  

(I’ve just carried out the same test on my Xhosa builder, my Malawian gardener and a black friend who manages properties and all in their late twenties, early thirties. It yielded almost the same result.)
 
 But.......
The BBC commissioned a picture of what the historical Jesus probably looked like

Back to exegesis. 

It was in those classes that I had my first inkling of how liberation theologians had used it to reinterpret the sacred texts in order to give preference to the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed. They had brought new meaning to sacred texts that had for too long been used to justify slavery, apartheid and gender discrimination.

It is an ongoing challenge.


  

Congratulations! Vivian Boyack, age 91, and Alice “Nonie” Dubes, age 90, who have been together for 72 years. They tied the knot shortly after same sex marriage was legalised throughout America. How sad they had to wait so long.!  http://bit.ly/1pI0wvE

7 comments:

sunflowers and khakibush said...

I thoroughly enjoy your blog Loraine, and can identify with a lot of what you write about. Concerning "Is God white"? Well, Jesus has certainly been portrayed as being white, although coming from that region of the world, he probably looked more Arab than anything else, with dark hair and swarthy complexion. I have become very anti all the pictures of Jesus posted on Facebook. Every time I see one, I scroll down very quickly. I don't think that one can portray Jesus or God or Holy Spirit this way or that way. Perhaps the Holy Spirit can get away with being seen as a dove, or wind or fire, but as for Jesus and God, they are what they are, a mystery, a feeling, a sensation, something unfathomable, and for me rightly so. I actually like the way God is portrayed in the Book of Revelations. Very powerful.
By the way, the Open Door Retreat looks really good. Where can I find it? Can I google it?

sunflowers and khakibush said...

I thoroughly enjoy your blog Loraine, and can identify with a lot of what you write about. Concerning "Is God white"? Well, Jesus has certainly been portrayed as being white, although coming from that region of the world, he probably looked more Arab than anything else, with dark hair and swarthy complexion. I have become very anti all the pictures of Jesus posted on Facebook. Every time I see one, I scroll down very quickly. I don't think that one can portray Jesus or God or Holy Spirit this way or that way. Perhaps the Holy Spirit can get away with being seen as a dove, or wind or fire, but as for Jesus and God, they are what they are, a mystery, a feeling, a sensation, something unfathomable, and for me rightly so. I actually like the way God is portrayed in the Book of Revelations. Very powerful.
By the way, the Open Door Retreat looks really good. Where can I find it? Can I google it?

sunflowers and khakibush said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sunflowers and khakibush said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loraine Tulleken said...

Ideally it should be run by someone with experience. It is on Google but perhaps your local Catholic of Anglican priest would know

Loraine Tulleken said...

One of my favourite replies to "Is God white" came from Face Book friend David Levey:
Noo She's black!

Peter Nickles said...

Educational! Your journey has been nothing if not eventful.