Unpacking Suitcases

Up in the Air

Up in the Air

Ryan Bingham: [on getting through airport security] Never get behind old people. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left. Bingo, Asians. They pack light, travel efficiently, and they have a thing for slip on shoes. Gotta love ’em.

Natalie Keener: That’s racist.

Ryan Bingham: I’m like my mother, I stereotype. It’s faster.

Life is messy. And complicated. And sometimes, to make sense of it all, we tend to want to stereotype or generalise. It’s faster.

I see this in Christianity too often. We like to take complicated (and often messy) ideas or truths, and compress them into neat little packages. Sometimes this can be helpful, but not always. As NT Wright writes,

“Slogans and clichés are often shorthand ways of making more complex statements. In Christian theology, such phrases regularly act as ‘portable stories’—that is, ways of packing up longer narratives about God, Jesus, the church and the world, folding them away into convenient suitcases, and then carrying them about with us. Shorthands, in other words, are useful in the same way that suitcases are. They enable us to pick up lots of complicated things and carry them around all together. But we should never forget that the point of doing so, like the point of carrying belongings in a suitcase, is that what has been packed away can then be unpacked and put to use in the new location. Too much debate [has taken] the form of people hitting one another with locked suitcases. It is time to unpack our shorthand doctrines, to lay them out and inspect them. Long years in a suitcase may have made some of the contents go mouldy. They will benefit from fresh air, and perhaps a hot iron.”

I really love this metaphor!

And it applies to so many other ideas and truths, not just in Christianity, but in life! Truths that we like to carry around, and occasionally hit one another with, but rarely unpack:

Justice.

Love.

Sexuality.

Community.

Religion.

My hope is that all of us can learn together how to unpack these suitcases and rediscover what we really mean when we use these words. For that, I believe, is where the most important and constructive and healing conversations can be found.

And so, what are some of the ‘suitcases’ you would like to unpack?

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2 Comments on “Unpacking Suitcases

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