Black “subversive” sheep of the family

Years ago I was involved in a discussion during a student conference. I could not for the life of me recall what the subject of the debate was about. My only recollection was the discussion was heating up and I raised a question. And then some one said, “Why do you always have to be the black sheep of the family?” That was the end of the discussion. I still remember the hurtful feeling vividly. I found no words to response appropriately. I almost cried. I was not trying to be difficult; I was just trying to make things better by asking what I deemed an important question. I was much younger then and not knowing the way the world works. I subsequently realized many people disdain anyone who disturbs the status quo.  

During my years at college we had a class studying the Pentateuch.  Beside the Wellhausen Hypothesis I remembered little. However, I was reminded at a reunion later that I was remembered the one who always raised the difficult question. The one I asked most was “Why does this symbolize (fill in whatever you want whether it is Christ or the Church)?” The reason I asked that question a lot because we were studying the law, particularly the cleansing part, mostly we talked about how those are a “type” of something in the New Testament. Most of the class just accept it, and accept it piously if I may add. For some reason I did not. I believed there is more to the Old Testament than a “type” or preface for the New Testament. I am sure my questioning was a nuisance for some of the class, and may even be perceive as apostasy, rebellious, renegade, marginal, subversive…

As I grow older I have learnt to subdue my questioning, not stopping but just subdued. (Stop questioning never worked, I did try but that raise more questions.) More precisely, I learn to raise them at more appropriate time instead of whenever I thought of them. (i.e. at the “teachable moments”) I also learn to phrase the question less pointingly to avoid being snubbed by the defensive system. (I did find encouragement from an article called “I was just wondering” by Philip Yancy years ago which raised questions like “Why was the Old Testament preached so little?” and “Why did so few Christian read Walker Percy?” I believe the piece was included in a book of his collected essays by the same title.) However, I find it hard to stop question. It is like it is a vocation for me.  A few weeks ago, Pastor Nolan preached a sermon on Psalm 150. At one point he said,”We provide an alternative that people can realistically choose.” He was saying this within in the context of choosing praise instead of complain. I resonant with that because it is exactly why I question. I want people to realistically choose and not accept things at a superficial level and just accept it as inevitable. I believe this should be the vocation of every Christian. To help people to seek the seemingly improbable but inexplicably the reality. Yes, Jesus is really about being real ultimately. To get that we must QUESTION what is just façade or illusion.   

I recently have been hearing the word “subversive” used a lot. I came to the conclusion that this word is “in”. Spence burke called grace subversive (A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity, “What is grace? For me, it is a subversive and scandalous twist in human history – an unexpected and revolutionary turn of events that offered a new way of relating to the sacred and each other.”), Rob Bell talked about subversive preaching, Eugene Peterson published a book called subversive spirituality. If it is not subversive, it is not “in”.  Finally, I may be “in”, ha…


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