April 11, 2012

The Myth

Out of College Station, TX comes a book for my 86th birthday present: Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul.  I've been reading it bit by bit.  This morning in the quiet time came understanding: it's a myth, the biblical myth, the American myth, yours and mine.

Great Britain was Egypt;
The Pilgrims were the Chosen People;
America was the Promised Land;
Like the first Chosen People they messed up in a hundred ways.
Roger Williams was the Prophet;
They banished him, just like the people put Isaiah in the cistern.
He told the future;
He brought Democracy (of a sort!).

But the myth goes on: layer by layer, bit by bit.
We are the Remnant.


At 10:09 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Among Pendle Hill's collection of 17-18th Century pamphlets I found one reporting a debate between Roger Williams and a Quaker preacher. (Might have been Bownas, whose journal I was also reading at the time?)

Anyway, I'm afraid it was pretty acrimonious, both parties referring to the other as "liars", the religious ideas of the time not leaving a whole lot of room for such concepts as "honest difference of opinion."

"Myth": == "what story are we-all playing on this stage?" ?

That is, "context"? Not just: "What's my next line?" but "What's the script?"

Who is the "we" you're seeing as "the Remnant?"

At 2:04 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

Forest, yes Williams despised Quakers; the Quakers of his day were easy to despise: dirty, uncouth, arrogant; I could go on and on looking at Quakers from the conventional mind.

Williams of course had very far from a conventional mind, but like the rest of us he was conventional in many ways.

Re our myth: think about it: born in innocence, bent by experience into many flaws. Still we consider ourselves special, specially favored by God (unrealistically! I'm speaking for myself if not for you.

Like He did to the ancient 'Promised People' God forgave, and forgave and forgave. At some point there's a moment of Enlightenment you might say we 'grow up' and realize that we're part of a brotherhood; we belong together in a community, and finally comes the day "
when the Roll is called up yonder.

A myth is a structure of meaning, usually shared by more than one person.

Thanks for your critique.

At 10:51 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Since I'm not used to thinking of events in terms of "myth"-- I haven't been so much doing "a critique" as trying to work out "What this mean?"

Like the people of ancient Israel-- this nation was not so much "born in innocence" as "born in denial." Committing evil against weaker neighbors because we could, justifying it by dubious rationales. As we continue to do to this day.

I consider that I've been "favored by God" but as the Bible makes clear, there's nothing in this condition that implies superior moral worth. God helps those He can help, as opportunity occurs...

This nation doesn't seem [to me] so much "favored by God" as-- like the Babylonians in Israelite history-- an instrument that's proved useful for bringing redemptive suffering to others. When a nation in that role wears out, there's always another available, eager to take its place.

Okay, so there's more than one person out there still buying into the USian myth you describe. It gets deeply ingrained in us, can take many decades of life before it really sinks in: "We really aren't the Good Guys, never were!"

Or as William Stringfellow was saying, we can stop ~construing the Bible in an American way, and start construing America Biblically.

At 11:50 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

To emphasize my unsophisticated interpretation of talk about "myths"-- The essential aspect of this is the assumption that the universe can be appropriately viewed through the lens of a particular myth.

Does the history of ancient Israel-- distorted and tendentious as that sometimes got-- fit into our story? Or do we, and our story, fit into theirs?

Obviously we don't get to accept theirs uncritically. But the basic outline-- that God wants to Talk [but we're so dense!]-- looks like a far better fit to the data.


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