2014 Religious Trends
The New Readers of Scripture: Responsive, Not Reactive
Second, the Bible is the starting point, not the end point. This is an obvious affront to the common saying among certain circles: "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!" The Bible itself, within its canonical contours, embodies an initiative function. It refuses closure at every turn. A prime example is an exodus narrative, which gets reopened again and again, unleashing new interpretive potentialities along the way. The psalmist, the prophet, and Paul all revisit the exodus story, treating it as it should be treated: a starting point in the process of divine revelation. Less obviously so, the Bible as starting point also challenges the liberal reader who stereotypically begins with the ideology and then finds the comfortable and corresponding verses to support the ideology. This, too, distorts Scripture into an end point—on a non-point! The new reader begins with Scripture and dares to sojourn wherever the sacred text leads.
These approaches, which are responsive and not reactive in nature, invite new ways of reading that are both faithful and flexible. The emerging hermeneutic honors the past generations of biblically-shaped believers, while not being held hostage to them. In doing so, it creates new possibilities for scripturally-anchored conversations around the issues that divide the church. It allows this dialogue to occur in faithful ways because it gives the Bible its proper place: as a sacramental starting point. And when this is affirmed, the Scripture becomes the common playground in which we swing and slide our way through contemporary concerns and challenges.
As the Church continues to fight over divestment strategies, same-sex marriages, and economic concerns, I hope that this new generation of readers will be invited to the table of holy fellowship and sacred discourse. These emerging readers will move the Church beyond the reactionary theologies that have truncated our interpretations and stifled our common witness to the world. Rather, they are willing to engage the Bible uninhibitedly and let the theological chips fall where they may. If invited into the ecclesial discourse, they will teach us to reverently use commas at the end of our statements. And they will invite us to keep walking together as we figure things out. Sounds promising!
Jose Morales resides in Denver, Colorado, and is about to finish his ministry as the Executive Regional Minister of the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In the fall, he begins his Ph.D. studies at Claremont School of Theology in California. Prior to his call to middle judicatory ministry, he served as the Associate Pastor at Iglesia del Pueblo-Hope Center, a multicultural Disciples of Christ congregation in Hammond, Indiana. He holds degrees from Judson College (B.A.) in Elgin, Illinois, and McCormick Theological Seminary (M.Div.) in Chicago. Jose is a DJ at a club in Denver. He is married to Rev. Daphne Gascot Arias, and they own a yellow lab named Dietrich Bonhoeffer.