I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Great Idea #5 Shock and Awe

This Gospel of Judas has gotten me thinking about something that has captured my imagination in the past. I have often wondered if we, as people of faith, might want to stir things up more than we usually do. Of course we make statements and sign petitions around various social issues. We preach, occasionally (sometimes very occasionally) on controversial subjects or take a controversial position.

However, how often to we really challenge the underlying assumptions of our society in more mundane ways? We usually dress, talk and act in ways that ensure we do not offend or call attention to ourselves. Most of us rarely cause a stir and when we do, we often are embarrassed by what we have done. What if we intentionally poked at these things? They may seem small but in many ways, risking our social standing is a bigger thing than we might think.

In this Gospel (which, yes, is Gnostic and I am not) almost immediately we see Jesus being rude:
One day he was with his disciples in Judea, and he found them gathered together and seated in pious observance. When he approached his disciples gathered together and seated and offering a prayer of thanksgiving over the bread [he] laughed...
This is different from the righteous anger he exhibited at the temple. Here he is being inappropriate in a small way, yet in a way that both angers the disciples and makes them think. Come on, he's laughing during communion!

Really, the whole Gospel of Judas is seen as innapropriate by many. It is rude. It challenges how we are supposed (and are accustomed) to think. I believe that if we read the Bible with fresh eyes, that too is rude. It is refreshingly blunt (Check out Matthew 10:34-40). At its best, it shocks us out of our complacency and makes our minds (briefly, alas) move in new and exciting directions before we once again slip into what Kant called our "dogmatic slumbers". I think we slumber quite a bit too much.

As religious people we need to be inappropriate. William Sloane Coffin once said,
"Every prophet has realized that nobody loves you for being the enemy of their illusions." Yet we are called to be prophets to ourselves and to others. We are supposed to point toward what is real and eternal. We are supposed to be the enemies of our own illusions, large and small, as well.

So I am thinking, really, of rudeness as a spiritual discipline. A little bit of this can be healthy for ones own faith and for others, too. I do not mean that we should cause others pain or be hurtful, but so many of our assumptions about what is important are built on sand. For example, you could try (if you live in the suburbs) NOT raking (or watering, or fertilizing) your lawn. You may have a great deal of previously unrecognised free time and you and your neighbors might have to come to terms with where, exactly, proper lawn maintenance falls in the grand scheme of things. Ministers might want to act goofy from time to time or, even, use the occasional off-color word in public. I have found that our culture has a great many taboos that exist for no reason but to limit self-expression. We have a rich language, we should use more of it.

I, at least, have tried to make this a part of my ministry. Obviously, there are times when my vocation calls for the utmost seriousness. Other times, however, it does not. It takes some work to get out of "stuffy clergy" mode sometimes and (for me) it takes even more work to get back in! However, it is worth it. Religion and faith are funny, sometimes. We should laugh if the spirit moves us.