So what do you think should be included: top 7 stories of the old and new testaments

Ok here is the challenge:  as a post-modern culture, we have moved so far from holding ANY set of moral/ethical norms in common that our only touchstone is... the marketplace!  As noted last week, NY Times columnist, David Brooks, shared his take on this reality on 5/24 in the column, "The Service Patch."  His observation rings true with mine:
Many people today find it easy to use the vocabulary of entrepreneurialism, whether they are in business or social entrepreneurs. This is a utilitarian vocabulary. How can I serve the greatest number? How can I most productively apply my talents to the problems of the world? It’s about resource allocation. People are less good at using the vocabulary of moral evaluation, which is less about what sort of career path you choose than what sort of person you are.

In a word, Brooks notes that we have lost a moral vocabulary:  today the only way many know how to talk about the common good is in marketplace images.  He continues: In whatever field you go into, you will face greed, frustration and failure. You may find your life challenged by depression, alcoholism, infidelity, your own stupidity and self-indulgence. So how should you structure your soul to prepare for this? Simply working at Amnesty International instead of McKinsey is not necessarily going to help you with these primal character tests.    
   
Furthermore, how do you achieve excellence? Around what ultimate purpose should your life revolve? Are you capable of heroic self-sacrifice or is life just a series of achievement hoops? These, too, are not analytic questions about what to do. They require literary distinctions and moral evaluations.
When I read the Stanford discussion thread, I saw young people with deep moral yearnings. But they tended to convert moral questions into resource allocation questions; questions about how to be into questions about what to do.   
    
It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck. You can spend your life on Wall Street and be a hero. Understanding heroism and schmuckdom requires fewer Excel spreadsheets, more Dostoyevsky and the Book of Job. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/opinion/brooks-the-service-patch.html?ref=davidbrooks)

Today NY Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, weighs in with his take on the same theme in an article he calls: Markets and Morals.  His insights springs from a recent book by Michael Sandel, What Money Can't Buy, in which Sandel argues that our reliance upon the market has diminished our capacity for fairness.  How far down this path do we want to go?

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Kristoff continues:

Does it bother you that an online casino paid a Utah woman, Kari Smith, who needed money for her son’s education, $10,000 to tattoo its Web site on her forehead? Or that Project Prevention, a charity, pays women with drug or alcohol addictions $300 cash to get sterilized or undertake long-term contraception? Some 4,100 women have accepted this offer...

The marketization of everything means that people of affluence and people of modest means lead increasingly separate lives,” Sandel writes. “We live and work and shop and play in different places. Our children go to different schools. You might call it the skyboxification of American life. It’s not good for democracy, nor is it a satisfying way to live. Do we want a society where everything is up for sale? Or are there certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honor and money cannot buy?” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/opinion/kristof-markets-and-morals.html?ref=nicholasdkristof)
This is our reality:  good people - and I mean truly good people - have lost a common language for talking about moral and ethical decisions.  We have become so enslaved and addicted to marketplace thinking that we don't know how to talk about the common good without inserting entrepreneurial concepts.  Forget the Paschal Mystery, forget the Cross, forget compassion; we have lost the ability to imagine anything greater than the bottom line.

So after lamenting this tragedy and grieving it - something I think has some merit a la Parker Palmer's "politics of the broken hearted" - I think the wisdom of the German mystic, Miester Eckhardt, is in order:  "Reality is the will of God - it can always be better - but we must start with reality." Rather than roll over and simply accept this reality, the prophetic challenge is how to offer an alternative. In my case this means an alternative born of Christ's grace and compassion because anything less would be hopeless.

Enter my summer 2012worship series:  THE SEVEN TOP STORIES OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS.  What I have discerned is that most people have either lost touch with the alternative vision of Christ and his kingdom or never have heard it.  So I'm going to jump start a community conversation re: God's alternative to the stifling and demoralizing status quo.  Each week I will share weekly insights into key stories from the word of God in scripture so that we might embrace a quiet revolution.

First, we'll talk about these stories on Sunday. Then I will ask people to take them home and discuss them as a family or with friends.  And when we regroup the following Sunday, I will invite people to share what the Spirit has brought them during the week

So here are my TOP 7 in each category.  NOTE:  I had to put a limit of some type on how many stories to explore and thought I might as well go with the sacred and holy number of God's perfection: seven (as in God rested on the seventh day, Sabbath, etc.)  I would be curious to know what stories you might include besides these in your top seven:

+ Top 7 OT Stories:  the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, Tower of Babel, Moses/Exodus, Abraham and the Covenants (sounds like a band, yes?) and the Great Prophets (Jeremiah/
Isaiah/Micah)

+ Top 7 NT Stories:  the birth and baptism of Jesus, Sermon on the Mount, Key Parables, Stories of Table Fellowship, Passion of the Lord, Ministries of Peter and Paul, the meaning of the Church Year

My hope is for two things to happen:  we find a common language for talking about God's vision within human reality, and, we learn to share images and insights that go deeper than the bottomline of the market place when it comes to serving the common good.  There is an old song that goes:  we have ANOTHER world in view... Let's see what that might mean for us throughout the summer.

Comments

Dave Comstock said…
This is a great post, James. Much food for thought.
Black Pete said…
What? No "Job"? That's Got to be in the top 10 Hebrew Bible stories! :0
Black Pete said…
Ooops: I meant "7"! :)
RJ said…
I'm with you re: Job, Peter - what do I take out?
Black Pete said…
Don't take any out: it is clear to me that you are looking at moral discourse and what in the Hebrew Bible supports the idea of a moral-based faith and a God who is just and wishes us to behave justly to one another (although the Garden of Eden story is about 45 degrees to the north of that, maybe).

Job throws a monkey wrench into the "just God" idea. I see it more as a balance to the "just God" as we tend to think of a just God (important distinction). I would see looking at Job afterward, and reflecting on what it is we think of a "just God" in light of Job's story.
RJ said…
Ok, I think there are a lot of moral ambiguities in these texts, too. What I'm trying to explore is 1) What do the key stories of our tradition suggest about personal integrity as well as serving the common good; and 2) Is there a source of strength beyond ourselves that empowers/encourages us towards compassionate living - especially in the face of great odds?

My take on Job - a story I value - is that it speaks of the suffering that happens regardless of our faith commitment: shit happens - sometimes horrible shit - and it has no relationship to our faith or morals. AND that an intimacy with God's presence can still be realized even within the pain.

So I like your idea... more thinking to do.
RJ said…
Ok, I think there are a lot of moral ambiguities in these texts, too. What I'm trying to explore is 1) What do the key stories of our tradition suggest about personal integrity as well as serving the common good; and 2) Is there a source of strength beyond ourselves that empowers/encourages us towards compassionate living - especially in the face of great odds?

My take on Job - a story I value - is that it speaks of the suffering that happens regardless of our faith commitment: shit happens - sometimes horrible shit - and it has no relationship to our faith or morals. AND that an intimacy with God's presence can still be realized even within the pain.

So I like your idea... more thinking to do.
David said…
My take on Job is that it is about living in intimate relationship with a mysterious and sovereign God and the rejection of a God who can be controlled or manipulated by either human virtue or human vice. In the end, Job shouts at God and lets God have his anger with both barrels. God listens patiently and fires back with a hefty "who the fuck do you think you are anyway?!" When the dust settles God and Job are just sitting quietly holding hands. The three boring theologians have been sent packing.
RJ said…
Thanks, David, re: Job - I am a big fan your words are close to my take, too.

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