The gift of ambiguity…

Jonny Baker posted a batch of quotes from Walter Brueggermann, mostly from this book (which I promptly ordered.) They lit me up, as they would most people who write poetry. Here they are (thanks Jonny);

The overriding reality of the prophets is that they are characteristically poets. Poets have no advice to give people. They only want people to see differently to re-vision life.

Everything depends on the poem and the poet for our worlds come from our words. Our life is fed and shaped by our metaphors.

The enemies of the poem are the managers of the status quo.

The poets want us to re-experience the present world under a different set of metaphors and they want us to entertain and alternative world not yet visible.

These poets not only discerned the new actions of God that others did not discern but they wrought the new actions of God by the power of their imagination, their tongues, their words. New poetic imagination evoke new realities in the community.

We lose vitality in our ministry when our language of God is domesticated and our relation with God is made narrow and predictable… Predictable language is a measure of a deadened relationship in which address is reduced to slogan and cliché.

It is always a practice of prophetic poetry to break the conventions in which we habituate God.

Every centre of power fears poets because poets never fight fair… only a poem

I was also reading something on the blogosphere about the latest Mars Hill spat – Mark Driscoll throwing his weight around and playing power doctrine games. From the perspective of post post Christendom UK it all seems a but like a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

But this is a kind of muscular, dogmatic, controlling Christianity that exists here too. Some of the abusive manipulative religion mentioned here is sadly very familiar to me.

It is that truth thing again. All the effort put into right belief (as defined by our powerful leader.) I hate it because it is such a destructive, corrosive form of belief that may attract followers, but then tools them up with weapons of mass distraction.

Because it is all so un-Jesus like.

Jesus who taught in parables, so that people would find the kind of truth that sets us free, rather than chains our souls.

Who infuriated the religious leaders of his day because he broke all the rules – but broke them in relation to a higher, more loving way of being. Not rules, but principles. The greatest of all being LOVE.

Who constantly talked to people about some kind of mysterious ‘New Kingdom’.

All of which brings be back to poetry. Poetry as spiritual practice, as prayer, as celebration, as anger, as doubt, as mission, as worship and above all, as question.

At it’s best, poetry opens up, it does not close down. It wraps itself around questions, and rests within them, allowing the possibility of mystery, uncertainty and encounter.

So here are a couple more of Jonny’s quotes;

Poets speak porously. They use the kind of language that is not exhausted at first hearing. They leave many things open, ambiguous, still to be discerned after more reflection.

Very often people who hear poets want an explanation, which means to slot the words into categories already predetermined and controlled. Such an act however is the death of the poem… Good porous language does not permit itself to be so easily dismissed. It intends to violate and shatter the categories in which the listener operates.


6 thoughts on “The gift of ambiguity…

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