Those of us who no longer live in oral cultures may have
lost respect for storytelling as a vehicle of moral authority. Just give us the
facts, ma'am. We're data people, and we like it in writing. For us the
parabolic arts may be fine entertainment, but they're an unnecessarily messy
way of getting at the truth.
Pastoral ethnography is a strategy for listening to church members in a disciplined, attentive way. As a researcher, the pastor strives for a neutral attitude—which promotes honesty and greater understanding.
In C. S. Lewis's Studies in Words, the best book of his that you've never heard of, he describes the original meaning of the Latin term natura as something like "sort, kind, quality, or character." "When you ask, in our modern idiom, what something 'is like,'" he says, "you are asking for its natura."
The dream of a ladder linking earth to heaven is surely
among the most familiar images of biblical literature. From "We are Climbing
Jacob's Ladder" to "Stairway to Heaven," the idea has been deeply embedded in
our collective consciousness.
The United Church of Canada has decided to proceed with the review of Gretta Vosper, an ordained minister, that could lead to her being defrocked. Vosper openly says that she believes neither in God nor the Bible, going against the denomination’s ordination vows, which include belief in a triune God. Her lawyers have submitted 1,687 pages challenging the review, but the judicial committee responded with a terse, one-page response saying it saw no reason why the review, not yet scheduled, shouldn’t proceed. Vosper’s Toronto congregation is standing behind her. The review was initiated after Vosper sent an open letter to the church’s spiritual leader following the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. In the letter Vosper argued that belief in God can motivate people to do bad things (Canadian Press, March 31).