Monday, July 6, 2009

Rural, Suburban and Inner-City Understanding of the Atonemnet

I was raised in dairy and farm country. I have seen animals killed individually - including "beloved" animals, those that might even have been considered pets to certain kids. I have seen the pain in the face of a father who had to "sacrifice a loved one" - and I have heard the discussion of why that sacrifice had to be made in order to sustain life.

I was educated at a liberal arts college in the East. I attended a few Divinity School classes and participated in very deep intellectual discussions about Jesus' suffering and death. I know that this is a serious over-generalization, but, in general, the Atonement was much more tangible to the uneducated kids on the dairy than to those who were studying to be ministers at the Divinity School. The Divinity School students could talk about it more impressively, but the dairy kids felt it in a completely different way. The students understood it in their minds; the dairy kids felt it in their eyes (the pain of watching something die) and their hands (the pain of sacrificing a loved one).

I have worked in the inner-cities for much of the past 12 years. Most of the kids I have worked to help have no concept of dairy and farm life, but many of them understand pain and suffering and death in ways I probably (hopefully) never will. When they accept the Gospel, many of them bring a depth of understanding that is amazing to see - far beyond my own. They couldn't last 30 seconds in a theology class, but I dare say they understand the Atonement better than my fellow students and I did. The students were divorced from death and suffering; the inner-city kids knew each to their core.

1 comment:

Jami said...

Beautiful, Ray. And especially poignant for me right now.