One day, an Australian seminary student met a teenager living on the streets of Melbourne and struck up a conversation. As he tried to share the Gospel, the boy asked pointedly, “What is God like?”
What a loaded question! The seminary student had one chance to share the Good News and felt pressured to come up with just the right answer. His mind raced. Reflecting on what he’d learned in his recent studies, he replied, “God is like a father.”
Without hesitation, the teenager snapped, “Well, if he’s anything like my old man, you can have him,” and walked away. Later, the student learned from a social worker that the boy’s father had repeatedly beaten his mother and raped his sister. The word “father” had dredged up all kinds of emotions and terrible memories, and the door to sharing the Gospel had been slammed shut.
This story vividly illustrates the relationship between the impressions left on us by our earthly fathers and our perceptions of God. Because this teenager had a bad experience with his own father, he was unable to grasp the goodness, kindness, and loving nature of the heavenly Father.
In this portion from Neaners' reflections below, it amazes me how differently this tattooed former gang leader reads the scriptures.
For instance, in these "judgement texts" from the prophet Jeremiah, Neaners does not hear it as confirming his own judgments against other religions. Nor does he seem uncomfortable, hearing a "vengeful God" tone. Instead, he hears God speaking directly to him about dropping gang allegiances! Who'd have thought? And he, like Jeremiah, feels a burden and call to share this with his own people. Gangsters he can influence.
The greatest beauty, to me, is what Neaners again expresses at the end: that he is not afraid of God's anger, but rightly hears the ache in God's heart. He relates to God! As a man in solitary confinement coming to terms with his own anger and violence, allowing the Spirit to reveal the true love and hurt beneath his rage, Neaners is able to empathize with God's feelings. His reflection here puts the light on God's hidden love and hurt. I believe this is the heart of the prophetic: viscerally feeling God's heart and then speaking it.
So far, this is some of the deepest commentary on Jeremiah or the prophets I've ever read (and right on part with the Jewish theologian A.J. Heschel).
Homie check this out. There’s this part in Jeremiah 1:14-19, but mainly 16-19--
14 The Lord said to me . . . 16 I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.
17 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 1
I read it like he’s saying to the homies, us, que we’re messin’ up, like he’s telling me, “Neaners, tell your homies to stop worshippin’ a number or color. Quit leanin on other homies when they should be leanin on me.”
Then he talks about kings, priests, the officials will be hatin’ on Jeremiah.
8 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
That’s like when we start changing an' doing good, cops don’t believe us. Or in us. People think "he’s just juicin’ the church" or something. Y active homies don’t wanna hear what we gotta say. You feel me?
Also, as it goes on, God sounds super pissed off at Israel, callin ‘em prostitutes y so on. That’s how I sometimes feel when I’m forgotten. When the visit didn’t show up. When [my sister] says she’s gonna do algo but forgets. I don’t call her but I’m hurtin’ inside. Maybe there’s a lot of people who can relate to his [God’s] hurt/anger.
Simone Weil, a French-woman born in the twentieth century remains a hidden treasure among many philosophers of her time. Her works, published after her death, contain jewels of contemplative, spiritual, pedagogical and political insights. More recently, Weil has emerged as an icon of peace, with many recognizing her immense wisdom and strength. Director Julia Haslett is one such admirer who was featured in Vancouver's Doxa Film Festival held this past May. Her documentary, “An Encounter with Simone Weil” (2010) tells Haslett’s own journey of suffering, while attempting to interact with the inspirational, yet tragic life of Simone Weil. Haslett draws her viewers to the life of Simone Weil through personal and historical narrative, and helps each to wrestle with the truths of suffering on an individual and global scope.
Julia Haslett’s artistic and personal efforts are undeniably honorable in this film; despite this, “An Encounter with Simone Weil” leaves somewhat of a bitter taste in the viewer’s mouth. The film is more about Haslett’s experiences of suffering, longing and questioning, rather than the tremendously enigmatic life of twentieth century philosopher, educator and peace-activist Simone Weil. Haslett explores larger questions such as, “How do we respond to human suffering?” or “How do we remain engaged without ultimately destroying ourselves?” Yet, I felt somewhat dissatisfied with her limited interaction around questions such as “How do we become more whole beings?” and “How does faith inform action?” Of course, my own journey leads me to these mysteries of life, and I honor Haslett’s pursuit of her own personal understanding, despite feeling disappointed at the narrow scope of her exploration into Simone Weil. With very little recognition in the discipline of philosophy since her death, Simone Weil is boldly celebrated in this film, becoming a beacon of mystery and inspiration for not only Haslett, but also viewers alike. I respect Haslett’s attempt to treasure Simone Weil in this documentary. I join with her in her efforts to make Simone Weil known to others, hoping that Weil’s life may offer wisdom, truth and hope for our fragile world.