Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany - Year B

bust of two faced man

This week's Lectionary readings are:

Having skipped blogging last week because I had a migraine, it's very tempting to skip this week too for no reason at all. Funny how that happens. We skip one of our useful, good, regular practices for a good valid reason, then we use that as internal justification to drop that practice for little to no reason. If we only did at our best, the bare minimum that we can eek by with on our worst days, we clearly wouldn't be living up to anything close to our potential.

As for the lectionary, I know I tend to be too hard on Paul (particularly here, because you can't tell from this blog but I actually think he's written some beautiful stuff), but I really find his attitude in 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 to be extremely two-faced. It's one thing to play on your commonalities. I have friends who have no interest in or understanding of large portions of my life beyond the fact that it's something I enjoy, believe or participate in. (And vice versa.) I don't think it is necessary to point out every area where you may differ in belief or practice from someone. It isn't necessary, for instance, to point out that you are a meat-eater at a vegetarian dinner (although you will sometimes find it necessary to say you are vegetarian at a non-vegetarian dinner to keep to your diet and/or beliefs.) But it sounds to me that Paul is advocating out and out lying about who you are and what you believe in order to garner converts. And that's just wrong! Sure, you can argue that potential converts may not have the context to understand parts of your faith and need to be introduced to it gradually. I can buy that. Anything looks crazy if you take small parts out of context. Context building is fine, saying I need to explain this to you first is fine. But I truly believe that the most effective way to share your faith is to live it and you can not do that if you are lying about what you believe and living someone else's faith so that you can blend into their community to start converting them. Blending into their culture and community to the extent that it does not conflict with your faith, sure - that's a perfectly fine way to get to know a new group of people in a new community. Hiding your faith? That's a valid (and in my opinion honorable) survival stratigey. It is absolutely backwards, wrong and unethical as a conversion strategy.
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