Cleaning out the Attic
There are times in our lives when we need to clean out the attic, basement, closet, or garage and have a rummage sale. When we returned from Europe our basement was too cluttered, dirty, and wet for me to use it to apply the water-based lacquer finish on the three stringed instruments I put together earlier this summer, so I began the task of cleaning, sorting, and drying. The process was like an archeological dig which uncovered layers of our life together over the past 16 years. I was forced to deal with the remnants of many projects I had completed over a decade ago, and some I have never yet finished. We began to give away bicycles and furniture, make trips to the recycler and junkyard, and fill trash cans. There were tiny life preservers our girls used on canoe/water outings, leftover plumbing and electrical parts from rewiring and replumbing our circa 1900 house. Fifteen years ago I would come home from an evening meeting, the girls would go to bed, then I would change into my jeans and work on plaster until 11:30 and get up at 6:00 a.m. the next day to start all over again. Now I'm fortunate to stay awake through the 10:00 news, and to slog up the stairs past our girls' empty bedrooms rather than fall asleep on the couch.
Phyllis Tickle writes that the Christian Church as a whole is cleaning out its attic and having a big rummage sale just now (as we do about every 500 years), and will soon emerge stronger, leaner and more focussed. Some of its old theology will be abandoned, and some will be affirmed. One of the biggest questions in the church, she says, is "What is the basis of authority?" The exponential growth of science, the moral failure of high profile clergy, pedophile priests, the abandonment of Biblical literalism to embrace the ordination of women and homosexuals, and many other factors have raised the question of authority. "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11: "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head." (King James version) Yet even in very congregations who insist on literal Biblical interpretation, women seldom come to worship with hats on. We do better to ackowledge that Scripture requires interpretation and discernment in order to be understood and applied and that some parts of Scripture such as the teachings of Jesus, are given more weight than others. There is a true basis for authority but it is always more ambiguous and complicated than fundamentalist Christians will admit. It is my opinion that in times of rapid social change many people cling to simple Biblical literalism out of fear of losing the order and authority in their lives altogether. The church is having a huge rummage sale and it has not yet appeared what we shall keep as honored tradition and what will be re-cycled (retraditioned) and what will be discarded. We are confident, above all, that God will keep us, every one mainline, evangelical, doubter, fundamentalist, seeker. Love,