Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Sacred sites in Australia?

I am (absolutely loving) teaching a class called Sociology for Ministry. An essential part is providing students with a whole range of tools by which they might read culture, in order to make them better Incarnational missionaries.  To date I’ve used tools including family photos, demographics, contemporary fiction, poetry, film and music.

This week the tool is sacred places.  Theologian Philip Sheldrake defines place as a “space that has the capacity to be remembered and to evoke what is most precious”  …. [It] “is always tangible, physical, specific and relational.”  If so, Sheldrake argues, then Christianity must consider place, for the Incarnation impels us to consider the layers of identity, relationships and memory. (Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory, and Identity)

When I was teaching a similar type of course in New Zealand (Being Kiwi, Being Christian), I had a crazy idea, of teaching not in a classroom, but through a road trip.

The course would start in Bay of Islands – to contemplate Samuel Marsden and early mission; travel to Waitangi  – to consider the Treaty of Waitangi; then to Rotorua- to look at stained glass windows of the Maori Jesus; then to Parikaha – a site of Maori non-violent resistance; on to Christchurch – to the sculpture outside the Art Gallery and the journeys that bring all people; then to Waimate – to stand in front of an Anzac Day War Memorial.

At each of these places we would discuss what shapes us as New Zealanders (identity, relationships, memory) and ponder where we see the traces, and absences, of God.

But this in Australia.  So all week I’ve been wondering what are Australia’s sacred sites? If you were putting together an Aussie bus trip, what places would you visit and why?

Posted by steve at 10:26 PM

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Job as poet: a “sensitive-in-suffering” and post-colonialist reading

There is a superb reflection on the Biblical book of Job, in Sacred Australia, Post-secular Considerations (2009). It comes from an Australian poet, Peter Boyle. Whether he is of faith is unclear. Irrespective it is a creative, absorbing engagement.

The first window is the note that Job is a poet, describing his inner world in the deep experience of suffering. We glimpse authenticity. Which, in relation to Job, if we are honest, none of us seek, given the experiences Job describes.

My links: Such a window saves Job from being exclusively religious or Christian, because the Bible is the gutsy narration of human experience.

The second window is the note that other poets have suffered and in their suffering, like Job, have accused God.

My links: Such a window saves Job from being exclusively religious or Christian, opening a dialogue between the Bible and the literature of any, and many, who name pain.

The third window considers that Job is wealthy, and asks the question as to where Job has gained his wealth from. Could it be that his wealth has come as the expense of others? If so, Job becomes like so many Westerners, well to do in a world in which others suffer. At which Peter Boyle offers one of his poems in which he offers a way forward.

  • Be silent in the face of suffering, willing to let the oppressed speak until they also are silent.
  • Give back what we have taken.

What a treat – a reading of the Bible which accesses themes of how to live in a suffering world.

Posted by steve at 10:46 PM