Monday, March 08, 2010

Domesticating the tradition

I ran across an interesting concept in a book I am reading, When the Church Was a Family. Hellerman calls it "domesticating the tradition". It refers to taking the difficult, culturally unacceptable teachings in the Bible and "domesticating" them:

Think about the word “domestication”. Domestication is what we do to otherwise wild animals so that we can bring them home and keep them as pets. The English word “domesticate” comes from the Latin word for home – domus. “Domesticate” means to make an animal safe enough to take home.

This is precisely how we treat the stories about Jesus when we reduce what is clearly behavior in the Gospels to priority of conviction. We domesticate Jesus. We “de-fang” the biting edges of Jesus’ more radical pronouncements in order to make Jesus safe to take home – to our American Christian homes, that is.
(When the Church Was a Family, p. 56)

I think that is a great point. Hellerman is referring to Matthew 10: 34-38 and Luke 14: 25-27. Those are hard passages to understand in our culture so perhaps we file down the rough edges so that the Scripture can fit into the neat and tidy package that we have created called "Christianity". Whether it is calls to self-sacrifice or eschewing private property or calls to non-resistance or doctrines like election and an eternal hell, we find ways to "domesticate" what Scripture said so that it doesn't interfere with our traditions.

Very interesting concept and very true.

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1 comment:

Alan Knox said...

I'm glad you're reading this book. I can't wait to read more of your thoughts about it.