I convened and guided the Seekers Class this Sunday morning in church around the day’s topic, the Lord’s Prayer, and challenged some common Christian interpretations as well as Marcus Borg’s more liberal ideological interpretations in his book “Speaking Christian,” the consensus text the group has been working through.
We covered this part of the prayer, presumably taught by Jesus: “Our Father who art in heaven hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven …”
* Challenge One: The gender of the holy name - how is it that anyone can adduce from the mystery of a divine a gender and make that gender’s name holy. Christian differences are sharp on the gender question.
* Challenge Two: Why the necessity of “on earth as it is in heaven.” If heaven exists, why is not “earth” created as part of it.
Why the need, thus, to go through struggle at the human level? How could an omnipotent God devise such a cruel separation of two places, one a milieu of pain, violence and injustice contrasted to a place presumably of bliss and peace? Borg is silent on that question and insists “heaven” in the prayer is not about an “afterlife,” his interpretation, which is a speculation, just as conservatives speculate that it does address an “afterlife.” To him, it’s about working for the “kingdom” via justice-efforts for God’s vision and compassionate feeling toward the world.
Really? God’s vision and compassion? Again, what does this say about God.
One theological thought is that God is not omnipotent after all; another, that in order for there to be choice and free well, this was the only way creation could be devised. There are other rationales as well, including one that makes the divine egotistical -- God wants us to choose “him.”
* Challenge Three: “Your kingdom come …” Even if one takes a progressive peace-and-justice on earth understanding of a “coming” worked through by efforts here; or in contrast, one particular conservative understanding that speaks of the “coming” as a “second coming” that lifts humans out of suffering, the word “coming” is operative. Or a third, that speaks of the afterlife in its interpretation that “comes” when we die and will thus be free of misery.
But why a “coming” and the wait, and the necessity to toil as part of the “coming”? Did God choose this way for humanity? To suffer? Again, the question of divine power and intention.
* Challenge Four: Ideological differences among Christians -- how disparate are they when humans amidst these different understandings do similar work among suffering humans (in fact, it might be that conservative Christians do more “kingdom” work among the poor and the disenfranchised on person-to-person levels than liberals, and have a more cooperative communal way to operate and share despite Borg’s assertion that those of this ideology are prone to stress “individualistic” ways of living and understanding the teachings and its promises. I haven’t seen that individualistic stress so pronounced at the ground level where the word “sharing” is noted. Both liberals and conservatives, though, proclaim their ideological bent at times amidst this work, though. Really! Who’s more wrong in the efforts to persuade about an ideology?
* Finally, the person of Jesus as the Christ. What does (my term) “Jesusness” mean in the struggle and the work? If liberation theological Christians say “we are part of Christ and work to foster our liberation from oppression as part of the Christ of the Poor” on the one hand, and conservatives do similar work because they have “accepted Jesus as their Savior” who compels them to do this work, what does the presumed difference mean, or how different is it?
This is a short résumé about the morning hour’s conversation, which was more subtle that I’m able to summarize in this short space.
The Seekers meet Sunday mornings in the basement of St. Luke United Methodist Church in the Stuart Heights section of Chattanooga TN. I get a chance to guide it once in awhile.