Below are two questions that I'd like some input on. If you have any answers to either these questions, please type a response in the comment section. Or feel free to email me at Nathancharlesbranson@gmail.com with your thoughts. I am looking to start a conversation about these things, whether online, via email or in person.
Question 1: Writer James Kunstler gave a TED talk in 2004 (The Ghastly Tragedy of the Suburbs) in which he spoke about the problems that the suburban lifestyle creates in America. His spent most of his talk making fun of architecture and landscapes in America.
Yet he ended his talk urging the audience to stop referring to themselves as consumers. He said "Consumers are different than citizens. Consumers do not have obligations, responsibilities and duties to their fellow human beings."
I want to go ahead and say that I believe that consumer culture in America today is having a seriously negative effect on our lives in hundreds of small ways. I'll go ahead and assume that you agree with me on that, since many people from various perspectives can agree on that. However whenever you reject something like consumerism or come to a conclusion that it isn't working out, you have to have something to replace it with another idea or method. If we no longer want to consider ourselves consumers, what should we think of ourselves instead? I think Kunstler is correct in saying that we need to think of ourselves as citizens rather instead. I think that's the answer.
So my first question is------if we should consider ourselves as citizens, what does that look like on a day to day basis instead of consumers? Should we think of ourselves as citizens of a country. What is required of a citizen of America? Or North Carolina? Of Davidson County? But mostly, what does a citizen do in contrast to a consumer?
Question 2: This past year I studied the book of Matthew. I've enjoyed studying the life of Jesus. One book of the Bible I studied before this was Philippians. When reading something like Philippians it is a letter, so it has a cohesive purpose because it is addressed to a group of people and has lines of thought on specific themes. However when reading Matthew sometimes the line of thought was hard to find. For instance, in Matthew 18 Jesus (1) encounters a child and speaks about children (2) speaks about temptation/warns adults not to be careless with children (3) tells a parable about sheep/love of God (4) gives instruction for resolving conflict, confronting people who are doing dumb things (5) answers Peter's question about forgiveness. There are lines of thoughts in Matthew 18 (I could tell you about two lines of thought in this chapter, but I'm curious about this question). I guess I expect the line of thought to be extremely clear, for whatever reason.
At a glance it seems like Matthew, the writer of this book, is skipping around from topic to topic. But on the other hand, it seems like he is chronologically going through the actions, stories and words of Jesus. This makes sense. However at times I am like "OK, what is the central theme here?" because sometimes the events are connected, but then other times they are not connected.
What is a method for understanding the narrative or structure for the Gospel of Matthew? Some of you are probably thinking I am over-complicating all this. But since I am an English major, I think about what structure the author was going for in contrast to typical reading habits casual habit of "skim internet articles" or my teacher (thesis driven essay) style of reading. Is there a method for connecting the dots in Jesus parables, along with Matthew' chronological style?