Well...the new year has started and that means another Bible study "course" started up last week. The title of the session was mysteriously called "Restoring Relationships"...but I do not get why just yet.
What I got out of the session last week was that there are three narratives to the Bible. Basically, most stories that you find in the bible will follow these narratives: Forgiveness and Sin, Bondage and Liberation, and finally Exile and Return. I'll go over each of these and how I see them right now.
Forgiveness and Sin
I see this most when it comes to the New Testament. When people are meeting Jesus or talking to Jesus, the idea of forgiveness and sin comes up a lot. Seems that every time someone comes up to Jesus to be cured, sin comes into play. If I were to look a bit deeper, I would almost say that Jesus isn't curing leprosy or sickness, he is curing sin. What I see in the New Testament is that Jesus was a healer of sin, not some miracle cure guy you called on when you sprained your foot.
An interesting point came up for discussion regarding Forgiveness and Sin. Out of all of the narratives, Forgiveness and Sin are THE most emphasized in modern Christianity. "You are a sinner"... "You must be forgiven"...yadda yadda. The Catholic church goes so far as to say you must be forgiven for your sins...and, yes, they insist that ONLY a priest can help you do that. Yes...a middle man is required to give your message to God. How... convenient..for them. One has to wonder why we only concentrate on the narrative of forgiveness and sin when the other two might be more applicable. One also has to wonder why the church insists that you need them for forgiveness in the first place.
Bondage and Liberation
This is probably my favorite narrative of the Bible; the narrative of Bondage and Liberation (...no...not that kind of bondage you dirty little monkeys... ;)). The most obvious story in the Bible of this type is the one of the Jews under Pharaoh...the whole Moses story. I haven't gotten to this part of the bible yet, so I'm quite weak on the details right now. From "memory", it's the whole part of the bible were Moses goes all "Let my people go" on the Pharaoh.
The most interesting activity we did was try to come up with examples of things or events that we have encountered or seen that follow this narrative. For example, a teenage girl may be held in bondage from the fashion industry to "stay thin" and "look good". She needs liberation from that image. We see this narrative everywhere actually: in our jobs, our family, our friends, our churches. Marcus Borg actually brought up the point that the very idea of being socialized in society is a form of bondage due to the expectations it puts on us (...how to look, how to act, etc...).
Another point on this one. We kind of need bondage and liberation in our lives, don't we. What is the first duty of someone who finds themselves in bondage of something? To escape. To liberate ourselves. To become better than what the conditions of that bondage dictate. How would we ever improve or strive for something better if we didn't have something resisting that change in the first place?
Exile and Return
This is one that I'm not too familiar with and speaks to me the least right now. Again, I think the most obvious story for this one is the Moses story. Actually, even more famous than Moses would be the prodigal son story. The story of someone leaving for long periods and then returning is a very popular narrative in movies and books these days as well; Lord of the Rings has a whole bunch of them.
So...there you have it. Again, I think one of the weaknesses of modern Christianity (...especially in North America...), is that we apply the one narrative of Forgiveness and Sin to situations where it does not apply. Someone in the group brought up the example of a father in Canada who can't get his daughters out of Haiti. Does the narrative of Forgiveness and Sin speak to him? No....but the other two might. So, we need to always evaluate how the Bible speaks to us and stop using specific parts of it as a hammer for every nail we see.