Story as Inheritance

Story as inheritance. Reverence for tradition.



[[[Attitude to tradition. Even if we want to understand the tradition we cannot go back in time. Even if we want to remain faithful to the tradition, we are not fed by what that tradition meant to our forebears.


Some animals or birds feed their children pre-digested food, but I am not aware of any human beings who do this. Once we are weaned, we have to eat our own food and digest it for ourselves, for it to benefit us. It is only the foetus in the womb, or the baby at the breast which eats food that someone else has previously eaten. If I tried to feed my family food that I had eaten and partly digested myself, they would be disgusted. It turns my stomach just to think of it. ]]]


What keeps tradition alive is the process of continually reinterpreting it. (the axe of my forebears in Terry Pratchett) We drink from our own wells. We find what it is in the tradition which is life-giving to us in our present context. To do this, we have to look honestly at both the past and the present. We have to interrogate both and think imaginatively about both. Knowing what is life-giving is not enough. We have to know why it is so. And we must not be satisfied with other peoples’ answers to these questions. Because other peoples’ answers will never actually satisfy us.


[[[In the post colonial context, Christians indigenous to a particular region have had to learn precisely what it is in the Christian tradition that is life-giving for them. Distance themselves from the theology and practice of colonial Christianity so that they can sift the tradition. What serves them? What feeds them? What needs to be let go?


New churches in any context have to do the same. Fresh expressions of church, emerging churches. Renewal movements within the inherited church. Exaggerated version of the reassessment that we all do as we grow up. We receive the tradition, interrogate it, reject parts of it, end up re-expressing it in new ways. For it has formed us. Even by its absence, it has shaped the way we see the world. Shaped by that absence.


Inherited church reluctant to do this. Living off the resources of the past. Other peoples’ answers. Accepted what others have told us Christianity is and what it can be. Ask ourselves what it is for us, here and now. Answers may not be as radical as those in new/emerging churches. But does not matter. What matters is that they are vital. Life-giving. So that the future will be life-giving. So that there will be a future.]]]

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