PARADIGM SHIFT
Renewing Orthodoxy; Supporting Life
By Kate Bishop

[October 8, 2003] Today announcements were made for the Nobel Prize winners. Among them the scientist who developed Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This was a huge break-through allowing visualization of normal and abnormal tissues in the body far beyond X-rays and without invasive surgery.

The principle on which it is based is complicated and beyond my meager educational background. The report I heard on NPR made it clear that the theoretical basis of MRI's was new and broke the commonly understood laws of physics. It was in fact, a paradigm shift in that area of science.

What is most interesting and informative relating to the present controversy and backlash from the right, is the resistance of the scientific world to accepting this new technique. The discoverer explained that his own research assistants would deny what they were seeing in the laboratory, even though it was in front of them and they were looking at it. Even though the implications were enormous as a life saving technology, resistance to change still prevailed for a period of time. Like all good science, proofing, replication and results won the day.

That may have some implications for the present struggle. One is that proving the point around biblical interpretation must be stated and re-stated. Examining what biblical interpretation means and how it has been applied historically and in modern times is an important focus of discussion.

Like a life saving device, perspective which is the filter that informs our understanding and ultimately our attitudes, values and behaviors, must be based on the message and example of Jesus and his intention for humanity which is to love each other as "I have loved you", to welcome the stranger ("love your neighbor") and be authentic ("love yourself"). The welcoming social justice message of the new testament is a constant and repeating theme. It is the foundation for understanding what Jesus wants and what Jesus did and said. He made a particular point of reaching out to the unacceptable, the untouchable and the un-acknowledged.

What are the results when these principles are applied? Basically, social revolution where inclusion is the standard value and creates a diverse and loving community. "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You", moves from a slogan to a dynamic and living community of people whose differences are seen as gifts to be embraced and appreciated, a reflection of the baptismal convenent to "respect the dignity of every human being".

The proponents of X-ray technology believed they were on the cutting edge of science, saving lives and reducing pain and suffering. Because MRI's represented the opportunity to save even more lives and eliminate more pain and suffering, they finally embraced the new understanding along with the new equipment and procedure. That is a function of hope and revisiting the initial
purpose of their community of peers to be healers and relieve pain and suffering. Those who tried the new technology consistently experienced positive results. (We will know the tree by the fruit it bears).

Ultimately, the paradigm shift that scientists were resisting was merely a different approach to the same goal. They were not changing orthodoxy, they were renewing it. We are not denying the laws and the prophets, we are bringing more water to the desert they walked and creating a landscape that supports more life and community. As Jesus spoke of relationships and insisted we enter into them in love and through him, so are we.

The MRI story reminds me of how powerful paradigms are and how determined human beings are to resist changing them. But paradigms are only tools, they are not the garden. It is how we nurture each other and ourselves which determines how this garden of humanity will grow, sustain and renew us.

While I have respect and appreciation for the pain and discomfort experienced by those who see their paradigm of faith being challenged, I am more concerned for the state of the garden than the tool. I will be patient and caring with others who do not yet understand, but they will never see the truth if I compromise it or fall silent. It is not the solution, but it is the perspective that I hold and when it is really present, it leads me to solutions, one day at a time, one person at a time and finally one community at a time. All of us in our various locations and positions in life,speaking the truth in love I believe, will make change possible. Amen

Kate Bishop, St. Aelred's Guild,
Trinity Episcopal Church, Ft. Wayne, IN

Posted with permission of the author

4/30/03 -j