Absurdity as a default setting

Perhaps a biblical ethic is an ethic of absurdity.

The gospel is

absurd on its face when one reads the claims made in the Sermon on the Mount, or the manner in which Jesus feeds crowds of 5000 from a few loaves and fishes. Stories of resurrections may or may not be absurd, but belief in such stories most certainly is. Yet, if an ethic is to be Christ-centered, I propose that it must have two qualities at the very least: that the particulars of the Christian ethic must be gleaned from a faith community’s reading and discussing Scripture together, and that those communities bust be brave enough to have faith that even the absurd produces possibilities that the most radical kinds of faithfulness are the most fruitful. If one believes in the resurrection of the messiah, one must live as though it is true and embody the meaning of such.

Morally “acceptable” outcomes influenced more by legislation than absurdity indicates that the church, both laity and leadership, have found it increasingly difficult to embody a Christian moral vision according to an ethic that others will agree is produced by a thorough reading of the text. Love of enemies is an absurdity, especially during war, so much so that it is rare that one will hear prayers for enemies during services. Of course it seems right to pray for healing of relatives and safe travels. Yet, if we are biblical in our thinking, why not pray for blessings to be bestowed upon our enemies and the enemies of the nation-state? Then, we must ask how our reading and interpretation of the Bible are so thoroughly embedded in cultural understandings, and even more so in our social and economic well-being, that any reading that suggests the absurdities of the Sermon on the Mount are normative for Christian ethics are rejected out of what we all recognize as “common sense.”

Yet, this is exactly what we must be aware of – how culture and stability get in the way of reading the text in a manner that prioritizes faith over pragmatism. Therese Okure leads the way by recognizing that “culture is one aspect we must look at when we talk about finding truth in Scripture. Truth does not mean what is true as opposed to false. It means that which is, what is real.”

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