Recently I was in a Scriptural Reasoning (SR) group lead by Dr. Peter Ochs who developed SR some twenty years ago. SR is a practice in which Christians, Jews, and Muslims come together to study their sacred texts. It is a post-liberal and post-critical response to modern readings of the texts. It is a way we root ourselves within our scriptures and engage in interfaith relationships. Unlike some interfaith circles I have been a part of that seek to form around the lowest common denominator, SR welcomes commonality and (this is very important) the sharp tensions of differing theologies. The relationship is thus much more real and honest because we do not compromise our theologies yet develop and maintain a friendship.
Think of it this way: if you want to get to know your Jewish neighbor who lives next door to you, you might invite them over for wine or dinner and host them in your house. The space of your house and the space of your conversation becomes the host of your interfaith relationship. In SR the text itself is the host. The Bible, The Qur’an, and the Tenkah become the host of the interfaith relationship. As a Reformed theologian, text is very important to me. Sharing my text and receiving the text of my neighbor is holy ground.
The other night we studied the theme of beginnings. We looked at passages from all three texts that talk about the idea of in the beginning. From the Bible we studied John 1 (we looked at Genesis 1 from the Tenkah). I am still in awe of the way we delved into our sacred texts. It was Bible study for two hours and yet it was in relationship to two other texts. It was beautiful and challenging.
I am new to this thus I should probably begin to wrap up my explanation of SR. I may be wrong. I may be misunderstanding this very cool discipline. Look to Wikipedia if you want more info. Or google Peter Ochs. Or check out my friend’s blog, here, as she reflects from our time doing SR.
But here’s the deal. I’m still holding how beautiful this study was. I’m still deep in thought about the connection of creation and chaos. I’m not sure how to articulate all that I’m holding so I want to offer a poem by my friend, Matthew*, who expresses another perspective of beginnings. If you don’t know Scriptural Reasoning, check it out. I think it may be (one of) the way(s) forward for interfaith relationships. If you haven’t read Genesis 1 or John 1 lately, do so attentively. Don’t rush it.
That which matters fell faceless
Spun out with blind
Fury into a hopeless whatever
Hit a null of inhospitable
Vacancy and shrieked
The tritonal trauma of chaos.
Wherelessness was the first God
To fall, wrists upon the threshold of
Moving, Breathing, and Having/Being.
It was good -not that it was gone.
Let there be Light.
This was the only way
To know where the Becoming
Was going to be.
How else might importance
Cease stubbing sacred toes upon Nothing?
Darkness turned suddenly with purpose and
Light blinked and blushed;
Acquaintance. And just like that
It was love at first sight.
*An emerging voice in Christian liturgical curation, Matthew Lyon discovered this art in Seattle, WA, where he served as Liturgist for Church of the Apostles, an urban Christian community engaged in the creative communication between faith, culture and ritual. He currently lives on a small island in lower New York. Follow him around on twitter: @LaserPony