Friday, April 13, 2012

pondering unclean theology

It's no secret to anyone who's read this blog for any amount of time, that I'm a fan of Dr. Richard Beck's writing.  His book Unclean was especially thought provoking.  Whether you read the book and would like a bit more, or you haven't/don't plan to read the book but are curious as to the "gist" of his points, I invite you to to visit Unclean Theology.

To whet your appetite:


When Jesus encounters sociomoral disgust at work in the gospels he does the opposite of what is expected, and in so doing, reframes Israel’s notion of sin.  Instead of focusing on people as unclean, Jesus focuses on the boundaries between people as unclean.  The Old Testament prophets had a similar message, claiming that God despised Israel’s religious rituals because of injustice. 
This displays tension between the “priestly” and “prophetic” traditions (or, as Beck terms it, tension between “sacrifice” and “mercy”).  Beck claims that these two ways of thinking are inherently incompatible.  Jesus resolved this tension by siding with the prophetic/merciful tradition.  Rather than negativity dominance (one drop of poison ruins the whole drink), in Jesus, the clean cleanses the unclean.  Jesus overturns the locus of purity in the Jewish world.  Purity is now an attitude of the heart; purity is mercy.  Like Israel, the church tends to deal in terms of purity, holiness, and sanctity.  Because of the tension inherent between mercy and sacrifice, when we appeal to the notions of mercy, love, and hospitality we are asking our churches to do contradictory things.  There is no “both/and” – more of one means less of the other.  It is hard, then, to make decisions.

1 comment:

Gail Spach said...

Hi Michelle,
I read this book which I found as a result of your blog (I clicked on your link to Experimental Theology) - I got immediately because I have been thinking a lot about this subject recently. The book was fascinating. I think he's really on to something! Thank you for drawing attention to his work. I'm also reading Purity and Danger by Mary Douglas.