"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

12.21.2005

eat a lot of peaches, try and find Jesus

Underwood's speech sets up the words of theologian Stanley Hauerwaus as a sort of foil -- that's who he quotes on the issue of community and interpretation. It makes for a pretty good basis for a counterpoint. Except. My pastor points out that that's not really a correct reading of Hauerwaus's thought, because Hauerwaus intentionally overstates his point to emphasize that Enlightenment individualism has totally taken over, at the expense of communal faith identity. The quote comes from a 1993 book entitled Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America that deals with just that.

Someone who knows more about this stuff than me (ahem, Brian) needs to comment on Hauerwaus, but I still think Underwood said what needed to be said. There are definitely people at Baylor who are part of this growing trend in very conservative evangelicalism who do not accept the priesthood of the believer. Many of them are natural law theorists, and, much like the former ultraconservative Episcopalians with whom I have dinner once a month, they tend to follow a path away from Protestantism altogether. If you believe that scripture can only be interpreted in light of 2,000 years of tradition, it's almost inevitable that you have to convert to Catholicism, because not doing so (in that framework) becomes an exercise in intellectual arrogance. And countering that trend is so important if Baylor is going to remain true to its Texas Baptist roots.

God gives us minds for a reason. The ability to speak directly with God and to follow God's call in one's life does not mean that we are not faithful to Christian community. It does mean that we are free, as Underwood points out, to challenge great injustice, even (and perhaps especially) when church hierarchies accept and defend injustice. It's always dangerous to limit God's right to speak and to reveal. I think it's also dangerous to attempt to live outside the tensions of our faith - that's why fundamentalists are so disagreeable to the rest of us. It's too easy. Faith -- real faith -- only thrives in the space where community and the individual, mercy and justice, love and anger, and peace and the sword are all present and in tension with one another, because it's in the tension that God gets our attention and that we start to hear our calling. Thanks be to God for that amazing gift.

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