Noah is coming out soon. At nearly two-and-a-half hours, it is clear that Noah is intended to be an epic tale. In an odd bedfellows kind of way, Muslim fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists (who have not seen it) have already panned it as corrupt. The Muslim resistance is because Islam does not allow images to be made of prophets, a group of which Noah is a prominent member. Fundamentalist Christians are upset because there are a lot of gaps filled in by midrash (a rabbinic term for emphasizing the point of a story by adding in some details- my favorite Talmudic midrash is here). Then again, nearly every sermon you have ever heard on a Biblical story contains a lot of midrash.
World Vision. Nuff said.
Theology is important. Biblical fidelity is important. Moral ethics are important. And none of that is really at stake in the debates I mentioned. What is happening is not so much an indicator that our theology is defunct. In fact, much of the blogosphere indicates that people are practicing and reflecting upon theology. The key ingredient missing in these debates has to do with emotions.
John Calvin, in writing on the usefulness of the Psalms, writes about having our emotions brought into the light of grace: “But here the prophets themselves, seeing they are exhibited to us as speaking to God, and laying open all their inmost thoughts and affections, call, or rather draw, each of us to the examination of himself (sic) in particular, in order that none of the many infirmities to which we are subject, and of the many vices with which we abound, may remain concealed. It is certainly a rare and singular advantage, when all lurking places are discovered, and the heart is brought into the light, purged from that most baneful infection, hypocrisy.”
When people confuse an emotional process (having core beliefs threatened) with a head knowledge process (seeing differing core beliefs in other people), it is easy to hide those emotions and pretend that only logic is at play. But behavior, particularly the “baneful infection” of hypocrisy, is hard to hide. Let’s be honest with ourselves: boycotts are emotional decisions. The fact that 2,000 people dropped their World Vision sponsorships in two days reveals that there were emotional decisions at play.
If I am honest, Christian discipleship hasn’t taught me how to handle my emotions very well. I have been well discipled on what to think (hence my Calvin reference). I have been well discipled on what to do. I am only on the beginning of the journey of what to do with how I feel.
In John 7, today’s (okay, yesterday’s) Lectionary passage, Jesus confronts the hypocritical leadership of essentially emotionally reacting out of fear rather than reflecting on God’s activity. Jesus ends with that familiar call to drink from the living water, and to become a fountain of living water.
I bring my emotional weariness, my fear, my disgust and my anger to the source of living water, turning to Jesus once more to heal my thoughts, my behaviors and my emotions. I can only hope with Easter expectancy that Christ will form us all into fountains of living water, so that the next scandal will be different.