NEW Hybrid Model of Worship!
Both ONLINE and In-person.
We are now running a Hybrid model of worship, where you can fully engage and interact in either the online version or the in-person worship at the church (with restrictions). We encourage you to decide which you are most comfortable with. All are welcome!
Theme: Are we influenced by Disney Princess Theology?
Bible Reading: Luke 10:25-37
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Hybrid Worship, both ONLINE and in-person at the church
– 6:30pm, Sunday 12th July, 2020
Watch the Live Stream at https://www.facebook.com/turramurrauniting/live
Offering Link – https://www.turramurrauniting.org.au/offering/
A few weeks ago, I was scheduled to preach on Black Lives Matter and to help us wrestle with issues such as institutionalised racism and how we engage and work for change in this area. If you remember, we didn’t actually do this service because I felt that maybe I wasn’t the right voice to speak on this and maybe we needed to do some listening and unlearning first.
Well tonight is part of this listening and unlearning journey.
My plan is to do this in three parts:
- Firstly I wish to explore an idea I have stumbled across called Disney Princess Theology that might challenge us why we might have the need to do some unlearning.
- Then as a way of listening … we are going to watch a video of Indigenous leader and Uniting Church pastor Ray Minniecon opening up our bible reading for tonight … the story of the Good Samaritan … from his perspective.
- Then lastly, I am going to invite you to engage and possibly respond as a way of wrapping this up.
How does this sound? Let’s pray and then we will jump in.
Lord open our eyes to see, open our ears to hear and open our hearts to respond. Amen.
Disney Princess Theology
When I was at theological college, for the first half of my time there I had a great Bible Lecturer who was great at bringing depth and insight into the Bible. But about halfway through my studies, the college appointed another Biblical Lecturer who happened to be Tongan. He was also great at bringing depth and insight into the text, but he also brought a perspective that I just had never considered before. He would see things in the text that neither my other biblical lecturer (who was white-anglo) and me just didn’t see. It was a bit of an epiphany on how my ethnicity, upbringing and place in society could have an impact on how I read and interpret the Bible.
I remember saying at the time that I didn’t think I was reading the Bible wrong … it was just that I was not seeing some of the different complexities or perspectives in the text that others could see.
In my last year at college I made the decision to read and learn about feminist perspectives and liberation perspectives and minority perspective or any other perspective that I could get my hands on … because I felt it was giving me a broader and more helpful understanding of scripture.
However, in my prep for my sermon a few weeks … I came across this quote that was another epiphany for me. This quote from Erna Kim Hackett (who for context is an Korean American) took this a step further and challenge me to think about the personal side of how my ethnicity, upbringing and place in society could have an impact on how I read and interpret the Bible.
I did put Erna’s quote in all my advertising for tonight (because I wanted to give you time to sit with it) but I will read it again:
White Christianity suffers from a bad case of Disney Princess theology. As each individual reads Scripture, they see themselves as the princess in every story. They are Esther, never Xerxes or Haman. They are Peter, but never Judas. They are the woman anointing Jesus, never the Pharisees. They are the Jews escaping slavery, never Egypt. For citizens of the most powerful country in the world, who enslaved both Native and Black people, to see itself as Israel and not Egypt when studying Scripture is a perfect example of Disney Princess theology. And it means that as people in power, they have no lens for locating themselves rightly in Scripture or society — and it has made them blind and utterly ill-equipped to engage issues of power and injustice. It is some very weak Bible work.
Ok … any immediate responses to this? Please comment in the comment section or you can come out the front here and share if you want…
Do you get the idea of what Erna is saying? Disney writes their movies so that you will always see yourself as the hero or the main character … we are Jasmine or Aladdin, never Jafar or Saluk. Erna is saying that it is human nature to want to be the hero or the underdog who succeeds but when we start to think about who we in our current thoughts, actions and social position are most like … then it opens up a whole new world.
This little exercise brought it home for me. I asked myself, who in the Bible do I most identify with. Who is the person I would say that I am most like? (You can play along too if you have an answer … write it in the comment section or you can come out the front here and tell us all).
When I was thinking about this question, I came up with 3 Biblical characters:
- Joshua … Joshua was my go to person because he is young and naïve and yet God used his faith and willingness to do amazing things.
- Peter … who was impulsive and passionate and yet God used him to do amazing things.
- King David … who was very good at admitting when he mucked things up and wanted to make a difference for God.
But then I did some reflection on this … all three are seem as the “biblical heroes”. All 3 where in the inner circle of power and influence. By selecting these people am I suggesting that I want to be the person in the middle of power who hopes that people see me as a hero? Wow, that is a little to close to home.
We will come back to this in a moment … but in the light of this, Erna’s point became very powerful. If I am a person of power and like to be in the middle of the circle of influence … then am I equipped to understand the complexities of a story such as the Exodus … or can I truly relate to the leper that was healed? By saying that I am like the tax-collector praying in the temple and not the Pharisee … is that some very weak Bible work? As I said, this was getting personal.
And this was at the heart of my not proceeding with the BLM sermon I was preparing. How can I speak with insight about people who have been standing against institutionalised racism when I mostly relate to people who are in the inner circle of power? I am not saying I can’t … I am just saying that maybe first I need to take a step back and do some listening – like I did in my final year of Bible college – do some listening of people whose experiences and perspectives and positions are different than mine. And maybe I need to do some unlearning of the assumptions that I have made, or the way that default to seeing things.
Which brings us to step 2. I cam across this short reflection done by Common Grace about the Good Samaritan – the bible reading we had tonight. Before we get to that, can I go out on a tangent just for a moment and talk about Common Grace.
Common Grace is an online Australian Christian movement for justice. They exist to inspire and organise Australian Christians to think, speak and act like Jesus for a more just world. Their website tells us that they seeks to be a gracious public Christian voice that is both provocative and compassionate, and one that helps to reframe public attitudes toward Christianity.
Common Grace is a movement of Christians from different churches who … in their words:
We reach across denominational, theological, and political lines to find common ground. At the centre of what justice means in an Australian context is truth-telling about our history and therefore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders are fundamental to all our work.
You just got to look at their front page of their website to get a bit of a hint of where they are coming from:
- A call to take action on Aboriginal Deaths in custody
- Christians together for Climate initiative.
- A conference for climate pastoral care
- Resources for NAIDOC week
Check out their website, Facebook page, Instagram etc
One of the things that Common Grace has been doing has been to help amplify the voices of people who might come from a different perspective, especially indigenous voices or minorities. They in conjunction with the Bible Society produced different reflections at Lent and Advent. One of them I would like to share tonight.
This reflection comes from an indigenous Uniting Church Pastor Ray Minniecon. Ray is a wonderful Christian leader whom I have been personally blessed by over the years. Ray even had a small part in me going into ministry.
Ray is reflecting on our bible reading tonight and can bring us wisdom and insight into this familiar passage that I in my experience and position can’t. So I am handing it over to Ray.
Pastor Ray Minniecon – Love Thy Neighbour.
Any reactions to this? Comment in the comment section or come up the front.
One of the things that I found powerful was that he was quick to associate the church with the Priest and Levite. I guess it makes sense, but so often we would want to say that the church is the Samaritan – the hero of the story. They church is the one who is out there caring and helping aren’t we? Or is that just the Disney Princess Theology kicking in again.
But Ray is also encouraging and saying that the church can be the Samaritan – that we can be the one who is actively working towards … how did he put it … healing the gap.
I just want to let Ray’s words sit with us, so I am going to finish up, but I did want to give you a challenge … or homework so to speak.
I grew so much in my last year of college because of the simple fact that a Tongan biblical lecturer was part of my life. How can we try and include some different voices in our lives?
Here are three ideas:
- Follow or like some people in your social media feeds that are different from you. Maybe choose some BIPOC people or activist so that your feeds will include some different views or perspectives.
- Like the Common Grace social feeds or have a read through their website. Watch some video (or other videos that will help broaden our perspective)
- When we read the bible next … take a moment to consider the story from the perspectives of all the different characters. Be honest about who are we most like and what God might be revealing to us if we take a more honest position. Remember the bible is alive and God can speak to us through it.
I am not saying I am an expert on this or that I have all the answers. I am just as much learning as you are. I admitted at the beginning that I know that I have to put aside some assumptions, I know that I need to do some listening and do some unlearning.
Now we just have to keep moving from good intentions to people where this sort of listening and reflecting and learning is a normal part of who we are. And as we do that, I am sure that God will not only help us but bless us in that. Amen.