Thursday, June 28, 2007

Parables and Misundertaking

If "Jesus never opened his mouth without a parable coming out," (Matt 13:34-5), it behooves us (forgive me, always wanted to use that preacher word, and I never will again! ) to get and grasp the parabolic paradigm To think/feel, teach/ live parabolically. Any other way of life risks completely "misunderstaking"(great phrase from the underrated theologian Cheech Marin) Jesus; trusting sign instead of signified.

Capon ("The Parables of the Kingdom") suggests parables are inherently a vehicle for "left handed"...that is, right-brained,

             kenotic ,
                         surrational (HT: Mark DeRaud)

In the delightful "Parables of Kierkegaard," Tom Oden offers five reasons SK cannot not "speak in parables":

"The first... is that parable serves as a method to break away from the Hegelian idea of the System, instead focusing his writing on a more experiential logic. Kierkegaard is not simply putting forth information that fits into a tight package of reason, but is a way of rebelling against this type of logic. As Kierkegaard himself writes, 'the reader may have lost patience when he hears that our analogy begins like a fairy tale and is not at all systematic.'" - (click for the other four)

Wow, I have been accused (by some) or thanked for (by others) of being almost everything on the list: 

experiential over system,
          no tight package of reason,
                           "beginning like a fairy tale and not all at all systematic."

 Maybe there is hope for me becoming like Jesus.

Or at least like SK.

Telling, though, is that the "reader loses patience." To read Jesus's spin (Matthew 13, Mark 4..Read and spin it's shocking, subversive) on parabolic method,it would seem that this is actually the desired effect of parables;on outsiders anyway.

To baffle, befuddle; to affirm their hardened heart; 

to disarm (Robert Stein),
          to fart in the general direction  of their salon (Eugene Peterson by way of Monty Python),
                              to sizzle (Kraybill)....

so they might sell all they have and buy a right brain; 
                                  and thus be healed.

"Left-handed power is precisely paradoxical power that looks for all the world like weakness, intervention that seems indistinguishable from nonintervention" (Capon, 20)

A preference for left-handed power made perfect in weakness as opposed to the right-handed power of “might is right.” The parables, then, reflect the left-handed paradoxical power of the kingdom of heaven—power that comes from the intuitive, open and imaginative realm of reality, as opposed to right-handed power governed by logical, rational, straight-line principles.
No wonder there was head-scratching. Perhaps Jesus should have said: Let anyone with poetic ears listen! Or, let anyone with magical and mysterious ears listen! Because the kingdom of heaven is not logical; the kingdom of heaven does not add up in practical terms. -Mary Haddad

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