I spent Friday evening and most of Saturday with Marcus Borg. Well, Borg and several hundred other inquisitive Christians. Many years ago I leaned heavily into Borg’s book “The Heart of Christianity” to help guide one of my congregations through a growth spurt. One member of that parish actually told me that such books should never be allowed in church. (Seriously). I appreciated, as did most of the people in that study group, The Heart of Christianity. I think it helped us have a language to articulate what we were experiencing in church. That said, I also found it a bit repetitive and about half way through the book it began to wear on me. Of course this was about eight years ago. As a result I went to these presentations wondering if they would be engaging or if I would begin to feel bored.
All in all I sat through four presentations by Borg. Each of them was based on his book, “Speaking Christian.” So, if you have read that book you have an idea of what he was talking about. For the most part I found him a bit too hooked into duality – the “Conservatives” and the rest of us. On the other hand, that is a paradigm that most people understand. I just think it’s a bit more nuanced than a simple duality. I do appreciate that he describes “Conservative” as a response to the modern world – which began in the 1600’s.
Prior to the developments of the modern world (science, industry, printing press, etc) the Bible was viewed as a metaphor. No one wonder about the veracity, the factuality of the Bible stories. Instead people embraced the truth of those stories, took them to heart, as they told of pain, suffering, struggles, hope, despair, love, life, God. The truth of the stories was deep, profound, mystical, told by firelight, from memory.
Friday night began with a reflection on how Christianity was understood in its hay day of the 1950’s:
Jesus died for our sins so that we can be forgiven and go to heaven if we believe in him. Doing the right things in order to win our place in the after life was the primary motivation, for we all wanted to ensure that we would spend eternity in heaven.
Post 1964 that understanding of faith, God, Jesus, church – has become unpersuasive. And the stories of the Bible now need to be proved, or believed as truth, like the sun rises every morning and sets every night. Night and day truth. All of this hinges on what we believe. As if “to believe” is a set of concrete principle and rules.
Borg burst open the believe concept by reminding us that believe comes from a root word that means “belove.”
Do I believe in God? or do I belove God? In my mind, given how we have used and abused the word “believe”- the concept of “belove” pretty switches up everything.
…and, that was just Friday night.