Keeping a diary calls for more discipline than I can manage, but after yesterday I’m tempted to try (again). I wouldn’t know what to title it: Triumph? Bewilderment? Either way, I had a red letter day.
Under “Triumph” I would write this. Yesterday the Consultation on Common Texts held their annual meeting. For those of you who have not been following my blogs, the CCT is an ecumenical body of scholars and liturgists who created and oversee the Revised Common Lectionary. The RCL is used by many Protestant denominations, so that across the country on any given Sunday, people will hear the same readings from the Bible, be they Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, or others. In short, the RCL influences a wide swath of people.
Last year I attended the annual meeting of the CCT and shared with them my concern. That is, when we church-goers hear texts that stereotype Jews and Judaism negatively, it can shape our attitude toward present-day Jews and Judaism, creating a permissive atmosphere for anti-Semitism. To their everlasting credit, they did not dismiss me as a crank, but considered my concern seriously.
Yesterday we saw the fruit of their consideration, viz., an entire day devoted to “Wrestling With Tradition: Christians and Jews in Dialogue about the Revised Common Lectionary.” That alone made it a red letter day. Then add this: it was the best attended annual meeting ever. That says to me the concern is wide-spread. Yes!!
Under “Bewilderment” I would have to add this. Only a few shared my specific concern. Most people sincerely wanted to know how they or their parish could correct the false impression created by the readings, but actually to change the readings themselves, or correct them, no. Apparently that would be going too far.
Why not? The CCT has already chosen readings so as to leave out passages detrimental to women. Or when it comes to tampering with the translation, think how far we already are from Jesus’ words: from Aramaic to Greek, from Greek to English (or sometimes with Latin in between).
A link to the webinar will be available soon. I want to listen again to others’ points of view. The thoughts came too fast. I couldn’t take in the deeper places they were coming from. I’ll pass along the link for those of you who are interested when it comes.
In the meantime, we are approaching one of my goals: consciousness of the issue is not only being raised, it is being talked about. I am swirling around in my mouth, as it were, the sweet taste of effectiveness.
Mission Drift, as a concept, I caught on to right away, though the term was new. Most people know the experience of starting out with a focused purpose, then gradually letting the purpose pull them into some unexpected eddies. That’s my story now.
My clear, focused, starting purpose simply aimed at ending the practice of reading, in Sunday morning church worship, polemical texts from the New Testament which stigmatize Jews or Judaism. I couldn’t get beyond the conviction that reading those texts creates fertile ground for seeds of anti-Semitism that might be blowing in the wind. It seemed unconscionable, and still does, to keep up that practice.
The drift came about from reading David Nirenberg’s recent book, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition. Suddenly, just stopping the trickle of invective did not seem like enough. All those centuries, during which Christendom scapegoated Jews, have polluted our language and infiltrated the concepts we use to think.
For instance, haven’t you heard “jewed” used as a verb? Check the dictionary. Mine reads, “PHRASES jew someone down - bargain with someone in a miserly or petty way.” My heart sinks.
Earlier this month I had lunch with Dr. Phil Cunningham, Professor of Theology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and Director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations for the University. He mentioned in passing something he had done to further respect between Christians and Jews.
On the Sunday leading up to a Jewish holy day, he would put something in the church bulletin, reminding parishioners that their neighbors, the Jews, would be celebrating, say, Passover, and asking that God would bless them. What a direct way to remind us Christians that the Jews are also precious to God! Their faith is in no way a threat to ours!
So now, I plan to continue to rail and work against the practice of reading those toxic texts aloud in worship, but I shall add to it ideas for eradicating the toxic aftermath of that practice. My next blog post will offer specific suggestions.