Since my second semester at George Fox began this week, I’ve been forced to recount most of what was covered in the fall. It then dawned on me that while I wrote a few posts about a couple of things here and there, I didn’t write one overviewing the whole term. Nor did I write one about what I learned.
What did I learn?
I learned that Hebrew is an incredibly efficient language. Despite being weird with the whole right-to-left-reading thing, it can pack so much meaning into so few characters. Once you start to get the hang of how the consonants are pronounced and how the grammar works (took me four months and I’m still learning it), it’s actually a fun language to translate. Not only do I have a greater appreciation and respect for the scholars who were picked to translate it all into English, but I have a newfound desire to learn other ancient languages as well.
I learned that if Jesus were to come again in the way He did 2,000 years ago, He’d most likely come back as an Indian. No, not an India-Indian; a Native American Indian (despite what we’re taught, being “politically correct” isn’t a high priority amongst Native American peoples; learning and respecting each tribe as its own people is). But if we take Jesus at His word in Matthew 25:31-46 (His “least of these” speech), then there is no doubt in mind He already has appeared as an Indian. We were just too busy with our Western society to notice.
Even though I took this indigenous spirituality class as an elective and it was only one credit, it was still one the most challenging classes I’ve had – not by workload, per se, but definitely by the hard truth.
What’s that hard truth?
I am part of a society that values land by what can be built on it rather than the life contained within it. I am still under the spell of consumerism – that unspoken belief that peace, joy, and happiness are found in commodities (the term “retail therapy” comes to mind). And I still find myself making judgments about people based off of what they wear, how they look, and what they say rather than what they do.
Yes, I learned that the native peoples of this land our European ancestors stole (no, it wasn’t us, but we are “down stream” of them) are more like Jesus than I ever realized before. And in many other ways, we Americans are the ones who need to change.
I learned that a little lesson in biblical criticism goes a long way – even if you have no desire of being a scholar. In my Old Testament class, we talked about how we view the Bible, how nuanced the discussion around sexuality really is, and how damaging we can be when we try to fit girls and guys into these “gender roles” that never really fit anyone perfectly, but only had the illusion of fitting. We talked about how vital is to be critical of the theologies, doctrines, dogmas, and social customs we inherit.
In my first semester of seminary, I learned that my perspective is not your perspective. Yours is not inherently wrong, nor is mine inherently right. Instead, both are valued. God values both of us – all of us – so much so that He died for us. He died for your age, your race, your gender, your sexuality, your skin color, and even your marital status just as much as He died for mine. And I (re)learned that the life of Jesus is spread by how we love each other.
Yes. I know. It’s something I have been reading in Scripture for the last twelve years. But I think (and hope) it is finally starting to sink in.
By learning a ton about others, I learned a lot more about myself. Of course, I hope to unpack all that as this semester rolls along with all the things it has in store as well (especially stuff that doesn’t deal with seminary directly; like attending a Catholic church for the first time or Jesus feminism or our gay brothers and sisters, etc.).
Hopefully, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.
P.S. Recommended readings from my first semester: Neither Wolf, Nor Dog & The Wolf at Twilight both by Kent Nerburn; Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey; and this one’s kind of random, but The Fault in Our Stars by John Green