Holy Envy: Coming this September

by | Aug 29, 2021

A Fresh Look at Worldview: Emerging Worldviews 1 … Colson Center

September is the traditional month for back-to-school. The school supplies and clothes sales began a couple of months ago in anticipation of a rush to dress and equip children for the occasion. So it’s an excellent time to stock up on office supplies even if school never ended while the days were longer and hotter.

I remember an often used ice-breaker from the decades when I attended school was to answer the question, “What I did during my summer vacation?” Of course, I’m sure our answer varies greatly depending on the community where you live and the socioeconomics of your family. Nevertheless, reflection is a skill that children deserve to learn.

So it seems appropriate for me to ask a similar question to anyone who chooses to tune in to our September series at Asbury. My version goes like this — “Where have your beliefs taken you during your time away?” Admittedly, this question is loaded with ambiguity and begs for more clarity. Nevertheless, this is what makes holy envy an excellent topic for a series.

I borrowed our series title from author, teacher, preacher, and spokesperson for the religiously curious, Barbara Brown Taylor. Her book, Holy Envy, provides the background for much of our content. Barbara writes from her personal struggles with answering our essay question.

Barbara credits the phrase “holy envy” to a former Dean of Harvard Divinity School named Krister Stendahl. In writing about the topics of other religions, Dr. Stendahl suggests that we need to allow room for holy envy when we try to understand other religions. Another way to think about holy envy is to consider how our own beliefs might be richly informed by the beliefs and practices of others.

Holy envy may seem more like an affront than a practice to admire when we are heavily invested in a particular set of beliefs. Worse, if someone else points it out to us, we worry that our friend may be tempted to turn away from shared beliefs searching for greener pastures. Never mind that Christianity is rare in our insistence that everyone should believe what we believe.

The greater temptation is participating in a favorite pastime that I call “creating God in our own image.” In this exercise, we gravitate towards beliefs and rituals that reinforce and agree with our lifestyle. Christians pick and choose particular translations and specific verses to support our choices and condemn the choices of others.

We punctuate our argument with a claim of biblical inerrancy. Our claims quickly become more than a claim that our holy scriptures are God’s Word and thus universally true. In reality, we claim that the translation from the original manuscript (which we no longer have access to) accurately reflects the mind of God. Moreover, we argue that our interpretation of what God means by the text is the correct one.

How arrogant!

Furthermore, we often pick and choose specific laws listed from scripture that we lifted from the beliefs that Christianity grew out of that fit our attitudes and opinions. All the while ignoring other laws so we can order bacon or ham with our eggs. And we charge interest on loans to our friends and justify laws that allow for excessive interest rates on loans to persons who need them the worse. We call this smart business. There are too many examples to list them all.

It is no wonder that younger generations equate Christianity with hypocrisy. The same charge that Jesus levied against the religious experts of His generation for similar reasons.

In Holy Envy, we take a look at just a few of the beliefs and practices of other worldviews that may be worthy of envy. But, more importantly, we start with the strong likelihood that we don’t have all the answers. Then we hope to open space to view others with a bit more admiration and a lot less fear and worry.

Our Book Club plans to follow along in Barbara’s book during our series if you want deeper discussions on our weekly themes. We have a few books available, or you can check with the library or order your own copy from several sources.

The latest variants of COVID are more contagious. As a result, there is a resurgence of new infections among the unvaccinated. It’s time to come out of whatever fears or biases keep you from being a part of the solution. Get vaccinated!

I pray that you will join us each Sunday morning at 10:30 am. We share our weekly explodes live on our YouTube channel. We go live at 10:30 am. You can find these links along with more information about us, or join our live broadcast on our website at FlintAsbury.org.

Pastor Tommy

1 Barbara BrownTaylor. Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others. Harper One, 2019.

A Community in Love with God, Each Other, and our Neighbors.