hermeneutics, certainty, survival, compassion
I think this is a very necessary, lively thread -- it has been fascinating to read its diverse and often heated posts. I think often about these things, and offer this post just as a doorway into some of my thoughts on the matter ...
What people discuss here is the hermeneutics that we each bring to scripture. In other words: who were the authors of the Bible's words, what were there intentions/identities/levels of authority, and what does this say about our attitude towards the text we proclaim as Holy? Taking this a bit further, we ask: to what extent does our relationship with the Holy and our ultimate destiny rely on our interaction with these texts? How, in the end, are we to read and value the Bible?
Several observations come to mind:
1. Many mainstream protestant denominations including my own (Lutheran) church are massively divided on the question of hermeneutics. The issue is becoming more and more divisive.
2. While it is true that the debate about gay and lesbian inclusion/ordination raging in many mainline denominations divides itself along approximately the same lines as that of the discussion about which hermeneutic is correct, I think that the two are not really related as a matter of logic, but rather (as some here have hinted) as a matter of CULTURE and PSYCHOLOGY. In other words -- I believe that the literal interpretation of the Bible and the exclusion of glbt flow from the same place, but the one is NOT usually the result of the other. (To see this, note that very very very few biblical literalists insist on the implementation of ALL mandates and laws recorded in the Bible and those that do are considered by most people to be extremely dangerous.)
3. It is my observation that what what those who insist on a literalist interpretation of the Bible AND those who demand gay and lesbian people be excluded from the life of the church seek above all else is the feeling of moral certainty.
4. Striving for this feeling of "moral certainty" is the means by which we all attempt to advance what I would call our own "cultural survival". In other words -- through our lust for certainty, we are crying out that: our way of living is the right way of living, we are justified in living in this particular way by power(s) larger than ourselves, God (the parent) approves of our way of living, we belong (in a tribal sense) to a collection of culturally alike people. Freud etc. would have related this to the drive to obtain parental approval or attention. Others would relate it to the instinct that a society (tribe) has toward survival and propagation. In a global world, these drives are increasingly vestigial, but still extremely powerful, and very much alive in all of us.
5. It is interesting to me how we Christians often refer to our church as a family (we are the children of God) and also as a tribe (Israel, the chosen people). Is it surprising then that our ancient instincts about belonging, authority and parentage apply powerfully to this body, and to the book which we all proclaim as the word of God?
6. Thinking about these issues in this way helps me: when someone insists on the "authority" of a text, or the "absolute" nature of a law, what they are seeking is essentially their own psychological survival, the survival of their family and the survival of their own way of life. They feel threatened. In a similar way, that is why many gay marriage opponents say that the institution of marriage itself is threatened by gay marriage. Like many assertions that seek to uphold certainty above all else, this is not a logical statement at all. Logic does not enter into it: it is not marriage itself that is truly in danger, but rather the self-image of the person advocating for certainty.
7. For me, this understanding leads to a kind of compassion. As a gay person, I'm very aware of what it feels like to not belong, to feel my identity shift beneath me, to want more than anything to be standing on some solid ground. So I can understand where these drives come from, and this helps me be in conversation and community with those who differ radically from me in these ways.
Anyway just a few thoughts, I have and could add many more ... any reactions?