Sunday, December 4, 2011

A New Genesis: the Second Sunday of Advent

This is the second of a series of posts on Advent. See the first one here

As we wait through the Advent Season it's worth our while to ask ourselves the good old fashioned newspaper reporter questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. For many of us we've heard this story (along with many of the biblical texts) so many times that they have become wooden, in service to a status quo (or remnant of a disappearing past age). Instead I find the story of the Nativity to be a wild counter-story, not just to the dominant Roman/Temple-State Judism of its day but the consumeristic/nationalistic/individualisticone of our own.

So with that in mind I wanted to share to really great pieces on the Biblical stories as Anti-Empire counter-naratives. As I'd say some of us are desperately in need of a new story
I'd like to suggest that the Genesis and God's new Genesis - that is new beginning - among humanity in Jesus are just the kind of texts we need.

First I wanted to point you to a discussion on Genesis 1-2
led by Wes Howard-Brook, a writter and educator (and aquaintance of mine) from the greater Seattle area [this one is part of a retreat at Holden Village]. His premise is that the Genesis story was written as a counter to the Babylonian Enûma Eliš with it's warring gods, with humanity as an afterthought (vs. cooperation and humanity as the culmination of creation "Let us make man in our image") and the city being the height of perfection (vs. the pre-agricultural garden). Enûma Eliš is a story that feels a little stylized for us moderists but seems like a not so distant cousin to our contemporary fairy tale called "progress".

Similarly in the Advent story we can see the resistance to the Roman/Herodian claims of kingship maintained by quid pro quoes, threats and force when required. A bastard baby of a refugee causing kings to get nervous about their status is an amazingly empowering story in my mind.

Welcome to the new Babylon. It's easy to buy into the Western European/North American civil religion with its gods of militerism, nationalism, industrialism and consumerism (and indeed many of us have and some of us struggle with it daily). Jesus spoke of a "Kingdom (Empire) of God", Paul and the other NT writters appropiated Roman immperial language (words like Gospel and Church) to show that this kingdom was something in direct controdiction to the current order.

(Part 4 of 7 of a discussion with Biblical Scholar Richard Horsley on Bible Study. I'd recomend the whole thing but in this part he covers some thoughts on the radical nature of Christmas)

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