Regulations And Story Telling
We are very much the product of our modern belief in a Weberian bureaucratic and managerial framework in which any challenge is dealt with through increasingly detailed regulations and which asserts an ever increasing power to enforce them thanks to the capillary (and frightening) control afforded by digital surveilance.
Regulations of course are unavoidable, but only if they do not lead us to overlook that real and long lasting solutions are not those imposed from without, but those that we are patiently helped to discover and nurture within. External enforcement and internal adhesion are not the same. In both cases I perform the task expected from me, but only when it has become a matter of personal conviction can my action be energized by desire and imagination.
We need leaders both in our society and in the church who truly understand this, and instead of showering regulations from above on us start displaying empathy, encouragement, and look for ways of inspiring us.
Of course, there is no shortage of regulations in Scripture – suffice to think to the book of Leviticus. When we read some of these regulations however, like the hysterical prohibition to eat shellfish, we might legitimately wonder whether attributing them to God is not just yet another all too human trick to increase their coercive power. God however seems willing to play this game, at least for a time, and with only one aim in mind: helping us to see the difference between a religiosity based on regulations and the faith announced by Jesus Christ, who frees us from the law and give us the freedom of the children of God.
Christians as no libertarians, of course. Rather, they try to learn from their God that a just society is based not just only on negotiated compromises but on sincere reciprocal care, patience and solidarity. Moralists often are very frustrated with Jesus’s unwillingness to give clear rules and his predilection of tell stories instead. Story telling is better suited to a God who became one of us because he wants to save us by sharing the slow, messy, tentative meandering of our daily life. He knows that we only trust those who can demonstrate that they really know us, understand our difficulties from inside, and know the words that truly resonate with our situation and for this reason have the power to touch and comfort us.
More than ever in the present circumstances, we will show that we are Christ’s disciples not just through the scrupulousness of our prescription and observance of regulations, but rather through our willingness to share each other’s burdens and learn a bit more to imitate our God’s compassion and caring love for us.