Friday, August 24, 2012

Drapetomaniacs!

I've got to give a shout out to my friend, Audrey Jordan, at Boston Rising (in Boston, of course) who taught me the term "drapetomania" two weeks ago while in Boston.  Drapetomania is an awful term that is used to describe a faux mental illness (not thought so faux by it's creator Samuel Cartwright) in 1851.  The mental illness he was trying to describe?  The state of mind that would cause people held in slavery to escape!  It's actually not that strange down through history to call something a mental illness that is really a sign of great health and well being.  A desire for freedom is not a sign of mental illness.  A commitment to act on that desire - is an act of maturity and faith.

I got interested in thinking about how the idea of drapetomania could also be used to capture the odd ways that followers of Jesus Christ see the world.  I got to thinking that if you are going to follow Jesus - it’s going to take the same type of commitment that it took someone held in slavery to risk her or his life to be free.  People are going to think you are crazy!  Jesus was trying to force the hand - or really - the mind of those who were listening - when he said things that appear in the Gospel of John like "munch my flesh."  Jesus seemed frustrated that people were following him because they thought his miracles were cool.  He feeds the 5000 and then people flock to him and he suggests that they are just there because their bellies are full.  I wonder if what he's saying is that the cool thing isn't feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish - feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish is pointing to the reality of a world that is overflowing with abundance.  But instead - all they are seeing is a cool trick - and missing the really spectacular way that God has created the world!  I wonder if he didn't feel the same about his teaching.  You can imagine that there would be folks, like his disciples, who liked repeating his most memorable teachings (like the Beatitudes, etc...) - but I wonder if he didn't tell parables because he was afraid that people were missing the point.  It wasn't the poetry of the words that he wanted them to like - but the discussions about the parables that could reveal that amazing world  Liking what he was teaching was not enough.  Living one's life as if "the meek shall inherit the earth" - is the challenge.  Seeing the world like he sees it - now that’s the ticket.


What Jesus seems to want for us - is for his life to be in our lives and his blood to run through our veins.  He wants us to look through our eyes and see a whole new world.  He wants us to see the world as he sees it - to see a poor hungry crowd and think - “what a party we are going to have.”  To see a man born blind and think - “what a great opportunity to see God’s presence and power.”  In John 4, he sees a woman at the well, a fallen woman - a woman thought of as sinful and he sees her as the first evangelist of his message!  That’s what he wants.  Such people who see the world like this might be considered drapetomaniacs.  I'd like to try.

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