Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 14, 2007
Retell the biblical story
But we need new metaphors and a new language
Fr. Paul Hansen
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Redemptorist Father Paul Hansen has been a priest for 38 years. In all that time, he has never heard anyone confess the sin of idolatry.
"Yet idolatry is the sin of the Scriptures," Hansen said in an interview. "The sin of the Bible is idolatry - 'You shall not have strange gods before me.'
"This tells me that maybe we are not biblical people; that maybe we are not really disciples deeply, deeply stirred and moved by the biblical journey and we need a re-conversion, we need a recommitment, we need a retelling of that story."
Hansen, chair of the board of the Kairos-Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, was a keynote speaker at the May 3-5 Social Justice Institute at Newman Theological College. He also gave a workshop on the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Retell the story
Hansen spoke with the WCR following his talk in which he said the biblical story has to be retold for our times.
The biblical story - a story about a journey from captivity to freedom - was written in a context and we have to find ways to make it relevant to our times, the Toronto priest said.
"The biblical story speaks very highly about justice; the biblical story speaks very strongly about idols and in our day to day we have idols - the market, commodities and structures."
In the interview, Hansen said, "The Christian Scriptures are basically about the death and resurrection of Christ.
"What does it mean today?" he asked. "What does a life believing that look like today? How do we develop a moral theology with that as the central piece?"
Hansen said when he asked his 86-year-old father what redemption meant to him, the man said, "Coupons in a store. You redeem those coupons."
The priest said his father's response is a sign that biblical stories "need to be retold in new metaphors and in new language.
"The core of the story remains but how it is told has to change, how it's named has to change."
The Bible also speaks about war, he said in the interview.
"What the Bible says is 'Thou shall not kill,'" he said.
"Now down through the years we developed theories such as the just war theory and the just revolution theory. But what the Bible basically holds up to us is that war is wrong, just like capital punishment (is wrong)."
What's going on today in the world is basically the biblical story, he said. "Here we are struggling with questions such as does the state have a right to defend itself or does a person have a right to defend himself.
"Those are those moral questions that are sometimes difficult to answer, but the Bible suggests love your neighbour, do good to those who hate you," he said.
"The Beatitudes should be for us, as Christians, our moral code: Love your enemy, do good to those who hurt you, turn the other cheek. That's what the Bible is holding out to us - a culture built on those Beatitudes as inspiration."
As Christians we have to follow the example of the Good Samaritan and assist those in need. "However you won't be able to see the one in the gutter unless you are a reflective, prayerful human being," Hansen said.
Letter to the Editor - 05/28/07