This is why I make critical observations about my inherited culture, and why I critically examine how it fosters confused identities.
Over the last eight years I wrote a commentary on Mark’s Gospel. It is now with the publisher and I am very excited to see it released at some point.
The commentary format called for explaining passages in Mark and then discussing how contemporary Christians might practice them.
A unique feature of Mark is the very negative portrayal of the disciples. The disciples almost never do the things that Jesus says disciples should do, whereas many “outsider” characters do the things disciples are supposed to do. The disciples are called “disciples” but they don’t act like they are, and other characters are not called “disciples,” but they act as if they are.
This raises all sorts of questions, and that’s the point. Mark’s narrative is designed to unsettle Christian audiences, challenging them to examine how and why they are not doing what Jesus has taught. They have become complacent.
Over the last eight years, then, I have had to write explanations of passages in Mark and then turn to examine myself and my inherited culture in this light.
In Mark, Jesus calls disciples to join him on the way to the cross and to resist the appeal of power. This has focused my mind on all the ways my inherited culture craves power and influence.
In Mark, Jesus instructs disciples to welcome the marginalized and put them at the center of their communities. This has focused my mind on my inherited culture’s prejudices and bigotries, all the ways it excludes the already marginalized.
In Mark, Jesus’ preaching draws huge crowds, which Mark portrays negatively. They are an obstacle to Jesus’ ministry. This has caused me to reflect on why my inherited culture tries to draw big crowds and sees popularity as a sign that ministry is being carried out.
In Mark, Jesus routinely warns people not to tell anyone about him. This has caused me to reflect on why I was taught to talk about Jesus as much as possible.
In Mark, disciples who want to be great in the kingdom become servants. This has focused my mind on all the ways my inherited culture encourages leaders to seek prominence and prestige.
I could go on, but this is just to say that I have come to see clearly the great distance between my life and Mark’s portrait of the life of a disciple. And I have come to see the great distance between my inherited culture and what Jesus says we are to do.
This has shaken me profoundly.
I do not write critical observations about my inherited culture as one who has it figured out and is condemning from on high.
I write as one who is troubled by the thought that, according to Mark, I have little claim to be a disciple of Jesus. I have taken some small steps to close that gap, and I feel that talking and writing about it will open up for me further options for continuing to do so.