woensdag 29 augustus 2007

Het verhaal van de ooievaar

Het volgende verhaal is afkomstig van Hollenweger (my latest hero); Pentecostal Pastor, schrijver van de geschiedenis van de Pinksterbeweging, secretaris van de sectie Evangelisatie van de Wereldraad van Kerken, hoogleraar missiologie in Birmingham, schrijver van verhalen en vervolgens evangelist door zijn verhalen via het toneel te laten uitvoeren.

Meer van hem weten, lees dan hier een fictief interview.

Once upon a time many children were told that it was the stork that would carry little babies in a blanket wrapped around its beak to its future parents. Remember how Dumbo the elephant was brought to his mother in the animated Walt Disney film? But as time went by the children grew older and soon realized that the story of the stork was just a pretext.

Once upon a time the world was told that Switzerland was a neutral ally during World War II. And the Swiss were told that their national moral integrity was like a beacon of hope to all freedom-loving countries in those dark days of suffering and injustice. Then the almost unspeakable events of the Holocaust happened. Some helped Jews to hide or to escape the menace of National Socialism, some arranged themselves with the enemy. After the war there were upright people that pointed their finger to acts of injustice. But their voices were not taken seriously. Their opinions were drowned. Those that had made deals in the banking and
insurance business hoped that touchy issues would not be raised. Some hoped that the claims of the victims would be silenced by their own eventual death. But as the cold war ended, strategic and political considerations changed or became irrelevant. The veil of protection over Switzerland’s past was lifted. So the Swiss had to learn that neutrality and moral integrity were for some a mere pretext.

Once upon a time the churches were told that theology was to difficult for the common believer to understand, and was therefore only relevant to a few technicians of the “Word”. Some protested and said, “We too have a right to explain to each other the stories we read, and to assess the testimonies we hear.” But these people were quickly silenced and told they could not simplify such important matters and that they did not have the necessary tools to unlock the mysteries of theology. The deans and dons, the dictators of academic privileges hoped that, given time, it would become common knowledge that it would be sufficient for specialists to talk to each other. They hoped that the ordinary believers would resign themselves to uncritical teachings of a few fanciful discussions that the mass media would dish up for the entertainment of the masses.

But the times of the stable status quo changed, the big universities ran into financial trouble and they could no longer afford to maintain an apparatus for their own sake. Suddenly people began to question the meaning of theology - was it just a pretext? One day people from all walks of life began to demonstrate in the large university cities, in Paris, in Oxford, at Yale, in Pretoria, in Seoul and Baguio. They were shouting, “What good is it that we pay taxes for education? Let us close the philosophy and theology faculties if they don’t serve a common purpose. Let’s fire the history professors and the philologists.” At the same time also the people in the slums of Sao Paulo, Mexico City and Johannesburg, even the poor in the barrios of Manila went to the streets to chant and dance to the tune: “We love our God, we love our faith! What is it that you are hiding, what is it.. what is it that you are hiding?”

And so it happened that the university deans, the philosophers and theologians, the men of academic might came together to fathom a possible way out of this dilemma. They all made serious faces, their eyes looked tired and only a few helpless remarks came across their lips. “How can we tell them that it isn’t so easy?” A woman that had brought them coffee overheard that phrase and simply said, “Are you afraid because it isn’t easy? What about my daughter that needs medical attention that I cannot afford. Is that easy? Have you ever thought about the hard times my sister went through since her husband left her alone with four children? We are not afraid about things that aren’t easy. We have learned to look reality into its face.”

There was silence.

A theology professor gained his composure and said, “Well my dear lady, you and many others have hard times, so we did not want to burden you any more, with difficult speeches when you go to church...” The woman interrupted saying, “Yes I do go to church and in my prayers I can talk to God about everything that is so hard to understand. And you know what? I have learned to live with God and the difficult questions. That’s why I am not afraid to ask difficult questions about my faith. God and I have an understanding and I welcome the smallest progress I make. My faith has grown strong whenever I had to struggle in my mind, when I had to fight for the hope in my heart, even my body was strengthened when love did conquer.”

The academicians were somewhat disturbed, for they had nothing to retort. So the woman continued. “And the best thing of all is that God is present in all of this - through the power of his Spirit. Have you ever experienced the power of his leading: the way He meets needs, the way He answers doubts, the way He instills hope?” At that point the woman had to sit down, because she had drained herself of her energies with that impassioned speech.

The professors felt ill at ease. For one reason, because they thought, „We are not talking about the same thing.“ They were thinking about the intricacies of textual criticism, she was apparently talking about the difficulties of social contract. But at the same time, in the back of their thoughts, they also understood her. Again the woman broke the eerie silence saying, “I understand, I do not know Greek or what ever other language you need to know if you want to read the old Bible. I also understand that we need you to tell us what you discovered when you do your studies. But at the same time, we can offer you some help too. We have learned to pray and believe in the hardest of circumstances. We both owe each other something. You owe us your explanations, we owe you our stories.”

With that, the woman stood up, took the plate, picked up the ash trays filled with twisted cigarette butts and fatigued ashes, and left the room.

What do you think, what happened as a result of this encounter?
• Did the professors sigh and retreat to the status quo ante?
• Did the professors invite the lady back for more discussions and start a program for
interested people to get academic training called “Give them a chance!”?
• Did the people demonstrating on the streets start an alternative study program with the help
of sponsors?
• Did you as a hearer of this story start asking questions, dangerous or provocative questions?
If you ask me, I believe it is time that we begin to do theology without assuming that people only
understand tales of the stork, we are called to be theologians and ministers that reckon with the vital power of God’s Spirit and the truth that sets us free. Good theology will always serve the communication and implementation of the Gospel.

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