ricky bobby, part deux
I recently received a note from a rural reader asking just what exactly it is that I am saying. In an effort to reach out to our rural participants, especially those I may or may not be related to, I thought I might fill out some of the thoughts I had about Ricky Bobby.
Dear Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant, so cuddly, but still omnipotent. We’d just like to thank you for all the races I’ve won and the $21.2 million, LOVE THAT MONEY!The great thing about Ricky Bobby's prayer is that he makes Jesus look like who he wants him to look like, and so the prayer is a hysterical mish-mash of ideas: "Eight pounds six ounces and omnipotent", the love of money, contractual language, etc. And here's the rub:
Our own prayers are not so different from his. We each create a picture of Jesus, a picture that draws on our own experience and interpretation. How do we know if our picture is right or wrong? Ricky Bobby's prayer seems to miss the mark, but how do you know it?
The first answer, and a good one, is probably something along the lines of, "His prayer contradicts scripture," but the problem is that there is not one clear final interpretation of scripture. In fact, Creflo Dollar might agree with Ricky Bobby, and one look at some of the Psalms might convince you of the same thing. This is not to say that the basic truths aren’t clear, but it is to say that everyone, even the most educated scholar ultimately can only state opinion. After all, if scripture were so clear why there are so many interpretive battles?
This doesn't mean that there are no wrong answers either, it just means we must go to great lengths to discern if our own answers are wrong. We have to know where our blind spots are. Ricky Bobby seems to have some blind spots in consumerism and money, a fair assessment of the blind spots for a lot of western Christians.
If any of this makes sense, then the natural question is “How do we discover our own blind spots?” Leslie Newbigin, a missionary/theologian I admire for more than just his ambiguously gendered name, argues in The Gospel in a Pluralist Society that it is cross cultural exchange that show us what we cannot see. It is in conversation, dialogue, and exposure to other points of view that challenge the assumptions we cannot see, and the possibility is raised we might be a bit wrong! And so we must look out side our ministries, churches, families and systems to leanr what it is we are unable to hear on our own.
You see the problem is how to see more than just what we want to see when we read scripture: how can scripture teach us something beyond what we already know? There is a way that to rightly interpret scripture and apply it, we need to see it as strange; as foreign, as something alien to how we think so that it can challenge us instead of confirming what we already wish to believe. Certainly the Holy Spirit directs us, but history thus far has shown that the "Spiritual" discernment and interpretation is not something to be done alone, but in conversation. We need to cherish the disruption that comes from people seeing things differently than we do, without giving away the convictions we hold true. In this kind of honest confrontation, the Spirit seems to work most clearly.
go figure. The question I'm left with is, "How much do I want to know where I'm wrong?"
Everybody needs someone to tell them:
"Mr. Dennit, with all due respect, and remember I'm sayin' it with all due respect, that idea ain't worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin' it on."