Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My Trip to Eden

As I mentioned, I took a trip to my seminary alma mater last week for their Herbster event. This is an alumni continuing education gathering offered to graduates their first five years out of school. I could tell you all the stories we shared, but I'll stick close to the Official Program and let them trickle in. The thing about blogging semi-anonymously is you don't know how much is too much.

Well, the theme of the gathering was how church and culture interact.

So right off the bat, we discussed The Da Vinci Code. In a larger sense, The Da Vinci Code was the theme of the week for me, since the movie opened last weekend. Every news channel had a good amount of discussion devoted to this stupid book, I had several conversations with my in-laws about it later in the week, and I even heard a sermon about it on Sunday. I'm going to see it for myself on Thursday. Just between you, me, and the entire public who reads this, I'm not that excited to go see it. I wasn't that excited to read it. I think all the hype and all the religious 'OMG faith destroying~!' nutballism has ruined this piece of FICTION for me. Yeah, I broke out the caps lock, bold AND italics for that. Get a grip, people. Seriously. Somalian children are starving and this is what you get hot and bothered about.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, so I went to Eden and we talked about this FICTIONAL story and its effect on church and culture. So we talked about the nutballism as well as how this book has inspired laypeople to open their Bibles and read for themselves. Yep, mainliners do that. Rock on. We also compared this book's effects with the hype around The Passion of the Christ, talked about how they're both interpretations, how they're both presented as fact in their own way (nutballism*), and American Christianity's reaction to/endorsement of each one.

The next morning was spent talking about liberals and conservatives and how we should be in dialogue and not shun each other, etc. I really can't bring myself to elaborate on that, because I'm sure most or all of my readers have heard it before. However, I will say that the method of presentation was a little different. Our presenter, Dr. Michael Kinnamon, used 1 John. This book is part of my 'canon within a canon,' so I looked forward to what he had to say about it, even though I thought that this would be about loving those you disagree with or something like that. What it turned out to be was what preachers call 'preaching against the text,' as he focused on the exclusive nature of the 1 John community when the writer refers to those who have left as antichrists and outside the truth. It was a great presentation, 90 degrees out from what I expected.

And the afternoon was spent talking about the pastor as spiritual leader, in contrast with pastor as therapist, talk show host, or CEO. It was an abridged version of any basic spiritual direction course, offering suggestions for contemplative disciplines one may take on to maintain a spiritual life. At one point during the 'pastor as...' discussion, someone asked about pastor as shepherd. I've been thinking about this one since the other Sunday when Jesus the Good Shepherd showed up in the lectionary, since no one is called a shepherd in that passage but Jesus. We're all sheep. The woman sitting next to me wrote me a note that said as much: 'Jesus is the one Shepherd. Pastors are sheepdogs.' I found that really helpful.

So that was the official program of the gathering. There was plenty of time to talk about what's going on in our churches and what we're thinking about ministry now that we've logged some field time, eat frozen custard (you've missed out if you visit St. Louis and have never sampled Ted Drewe's), and generally catch up with friends we haven't seen in months.

And someone caught us in this candid unplanned situation near the end:

It was a relaxing couple of days, followed by a few more relaxing days with my wife's family. And then I came home. But that's another entry.

*Nutballism is my term. No one used it during the presentations. But's FICTION.


Unknown said...

No kidding? It's not a true story?


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! So I'm not the only one who gets all riled up when people try to pass The DaVinci Code off as being truth.

I enjoyed the book, although Angels and Demons is better (by the same author). But I enjoy them just as they were written---as FICTION.

Visit my blog (a few days ago) to see my rantings on it.

~ Mon

Rainbow Pastor said...

I did some ranting on this topic too, having seen That Movie...

The question for me is, do people really understand that it's fiction? On one level they do, but deep down inside, do they think, "well, it's in print, it must be true."?

And it's not even GOOD fiction!!

Anonymous said...

The big thing I took from Deb's lecture was the thing Passion and DaVinci Code had in common - that they touched the need people have for "the truth about religion," whether that means the Roman Catholic Via Delarosa in "original" Latin and Aramaic, or the "hidden truth" that "must" be somewhere under the floorboards of a church somewhere. People are hurting for authenticity, for the whole story, the facts, and are still not so ready to live with mystery. That's the itch I think The Da Vinci Code scratches - a claim on "the truth about religion." Something to grasp. Even though IT IS FICTION. Same thing with the initial buzz about the gospel of Judas - "finally, the truth comes out!" Never mind all of the arguments against that one. Anyway.

-That girl from Chicago
(and sorry for all the "malicious bunnies")

Anonymous said...

When I read the book, after everyone said it was SOOOO GREAT, I was really let down.

Now, the movies is reputedly so silly I'm not even going to see it (or, must I see it in order to make such a claim?)

Grr. When will it be summer with some GOOD movies?

Anonymous said...

I didn't read the book, but I have seen the movie. People have urged me to read the book, but I will not. The movie was LONG, took too many turns (as any thriller will) and just wasn't interesting to me. What did I miss?