Telling the Truth: Preaching about Sexual and Domestic Violence

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John S. McClure, Nancy Jean Ramsay
John McClure, 1998 - Religion - 162 pages
Virtually every congregation in North America has victims, survivors, or perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence in its midst. Pastors and church members unambiguously support marital and family bonds, but many lack the skills and experience needed to help both the abused and their abusers to recover.
Telling the Truth gathers the wisdom of experts from across disciplines and denominations - including Wendy Farley, James Poling, and Marie Fortune - to provide pastors and laity with the theological and ethical grounding from which to preach, teach, and minister to both the abused and those who have victimized them. Presenting practical, hands-on resources, and encompassing biblical and theological perspectives, pastoral helps, and preaching strategies, this comprehensive volume also provides several sermons as effective models for ministering to victims and perpetrators alike.

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103. Tellin the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale, by Frederick Buechner. 97 pages. Pastor Roger McQuistion tossed me this book during one of my church meetings with him. It is written from the POV of a writer who is also a preacher. I found it captivating because it uses literature to make its points. He begins wit Pilate as a cigarette-smoking nihilist who has a picture of Tiberius in his ‘office.’ When Chris is brought before him, he asks Jesus, “What is truth?” Of course, Jesus responds with silence. This is the only real, possible response because words are inadequate to explain n truth, or love, for that matter. What we ‘say’ using words in speech, writing, and literature is only our pathetic attempt to articulate that which is quite inexpressible, he suggests. As the author says, “Be silent, and know that even by my silence and absence I am known. Be silent and listen to the stones cry out.” I loved how this author used literature to make his points. In King Lear, for example, clothes are removed; people are naked. The word of the play strips us all naked and “to that extend Shakespeare turns preacher because stripping us naked is part of what preaching is all about, the tragic part. Clothed in our own “accomplishments, our reputation for wit, our eloquence, knowledge, and dignity, people hope to be illuminated by a life-giving word. In King Lear, images of clothes and nakedness abound. As in our own lives, we “wear clothes as essential to survival because we cannot endure too much nakedness any more than we can endure too much silence (God), which strips us naked.” The preacher must remember the ones he is speaking to, who beneath all of the clothes thehy wear, are poor animals who labor under the burden of their own lives, let alone of this world’s tragic life. The author further reminds us that it is the worldly-wise ones who are utterly doomed, the central paradox of King Lear. In the Brothers Karamazov, Aloysha suddenly sees the world abandoned by God, then finds the world so aflame with God that he rushes out of the chapel where his dead friend lies and kisses the earth, the craggy face wherein God, in spite of and in the midst of everything, is. The author alludes to Father Mapple preaching in Moby dick as well, charging all preachers not to shrink from facing and proclaiming the dark side of truth: “Woe to him who seeks to please rather than appall. Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness.” Melville would appall us by speaking the tragic truth of a tempestuous world where even the whiteness of a great white whale is ambiguous: standing for beauty, gladness, and holiness, and also for the whiteness of sharks.” Not so much a color, he writes, as the visible absence of color…a colorless all-color of atheism from which we shrink.” But the author also finds the gospel comedic. We all face the darkness of death and life in a world where God can only be seen from afar; though laughter, like the announcement that Abraham and Sarah will have a child at the age of 100, we come to see that although the tragedy of our lives is inevitable, the comedy is frequently unforeseeable. Of all the people God could have chosen to be his holly people, he chose the Jews, who before his words ended were dancing around a golden calf. Apart from the comedy of Jesus himself, there is the comedy of the word he speaks: parables. Because his understanding transcends the medicine of words, he uses the language of images and metaphors. Consider the story of the prodigal’s son, a caricature of all that is joyless, petty, and self-serving. The joke is that his father loves him more than all of his other sons who are blind to comedy, trapped by their own seriousness. This is all, the author suggests, the sad fun of Jewish ghetto humor. The comedy of God saving the most unlikely people when they least expect or deserve it is what King Lear glimpses at the end of his tragic life, when the world has done its worst, he says to the daughter he 

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About the author (1998)

2005: John S. McClure is Charles G. Finney Professor of Homiletics Chair of the Graduate Department of Religion, Vanderbilt University. He was Frank H. Caldwell Professor of Homiletics and Liturgics at Louisville Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. He has tested collaborative preaching with several congregations. His published works include The Four Codes of Preaching: Rhetorical Strategies; Proclamation 5, Pentecost I, 1994; and numerous articles in preaching journals.

Nancy J. Ramsay is the Harrison Ray Anderson Professor of Pastoral Care at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

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