Move beyond the “first naiveté”(Ricoeur)
The first naïveté refers to the interpretation of scripture (or religious belief) where everything is taken at face value. This is the same as saying that the person in the first naïveté believes everything about his religion literally.
A socio-political reading of the gospel.
To be “good news” the gospel must be contemporary, speak to us in our historical situation.
The mighty symbols of the birth stories—Herod,no room at the inn, following the Star are in Michael Dowd’s words “night language”, spectacular images of emotional truth. They are metaphorical, not to be read like “day language” of everyday discourse. Here is my latest attempt. It reflects Jesus under occupation as he was in antiquity by the Romans. Today Jesus alive in the oppressed Palestinians lives under Israeli occupation.
These prose-poems I have penned for over 40 years are consistent in that they take seriously the idea that the Christmas stories are not for children. Christians have for far too long treated the Infancy Narratives as either myth or as pretty harmless legends for kids. They are anything but. They are evangelical dynamite, brilliantly polished nuggets brimming with radical theological import. They challenge the Roman claim that the powerful Emperor Augustus is Lord and rules as “dominus et deus.” a common inscription of the time. In an absolutely outrageous claim, the evengelists point to the itinerant rabbi, murdered by the state as “dominus et deus.”
Roman writers of antiquity could not grasp the dynamic spread of the Jesus Movement. Men like Tacitus quoted here, were beside themselves as the exitiabilis superstitio (pernicious superstition ) continued to make inroads in the vast empire long after Jesus’s public execution. The description of, this great Roman historian, is typical of the time—shocking disbelief that a “dominus et deus” could come out of Galilee, part of a backwater Roman province.
My prose poems attempt to unpack the good news for our time. In the words of the great German theologian Johann Baptist Metz, these are “dangerous” stories. I have simply tried to let them speak to our era. Each year demands a new interpretation. If the four gospels do not reproduce a “fifth” for our age, they are simply “old news” and not “good news.” I have tried to be faithful to the contemporary manifestation of the Spirit, the Divine Disturber. I am indebted to my great teacher in England, Hubert Richards who set me on this path in 1971.
Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
And on the way they came upon the “apartheid wall”.
Dumbfounded they asked Samir who was weeping nearby in his destroyed olive grove.
“See for yourselves,” he said through his tears, ”twice as high as the Berlin wall, criss crossing Palestine, 4000 miles of concrete hatred.
It rips neighbourhoods, isolates us from friends and family, steals productive farmland and water supplies—all illegal under international law.
We are imprisoned in ghettoes much like Lodz, Lublin and Vilna were in the Shoah.
Settlers from Russia and America are connected by “Jews only” roads, free to travel to loved ones—1660 kms. Such a democracy!
Our holy city Al Quds is encircled by this monster squeezing us into 5 ghettoes.”
Repression continues. Herod has not died. But the baby lives and his Spirit surely will cut through this wall.