Obedient Slaves, Silent Women and Understanding Biblical Literalism

First off, this picture is courtesy of a Tony Jones post. The comment thread on this post is worth the price of admission. Never a dull moment over there.

Last week William Reeser left the following comment on my post, The “Marginalization of the Christian Right. While that post was not directly about marriage equality, because it was the focus of both pastors’ sermons, this is a fair comment.

You can “nit pick” at words all you like, (marginalization v. losing influence, etc. ) but the sadness of the matter is, to say the Bible supports homosexual marriage or that Jesus would think homosexual marriage is a good thing, is just Biblically WRONG!  Please read Romans Chapter 1.

And my response was as follows . . .

Okay. the whole Scripture passage fight usually leads nowhere, but I might be willing if you can help me understand how you approach Scripture. I do not know your tradition so what’s your perspective on the Hebrew Bible versus the NT? How do you take historical, contextual, text, authorship etc. issues into consideration?

For example, please let me know how you look at these two passages:
Colossians 3:22, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” and 1 Corinthians 14:34, 34, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission,as the law says.”

Heaven knows that I am no Biblical scholar. I am a pastor with a seminary education who believes that Scripture holds God’s inerrant truths, hopes and intentions for humanity. That said, I do not believe we get to that Truth by interpreting Scripture literally. Scripture holds authority over my life, not only guiding how I live and love, but how I believe God acts in the world. Make no mistake, however . . .  as a progressive, sometimes liberal person, I take Scripture very seriously.

I know that some believe that those of us who use various critical methods of Biblical study are taking something away from scripture, that by looking at the context of the day or examining its literary strcuture, we are somehow eisegeting (reading our own views into the text) rather than exegeting (hearing what comes out of the text absent of our own views). In other words, there are some who think that by examining the text from multiple viewpoints and lenses we are twisting and turning Scripture so it will say whatever we want it to say.

Fair critique. I’ve def seen it and have probably done it myself. At the same time, I also think it is impossible to read ANY text without doing so through the lens of one’s particular life . . . but that’s a post for another day.

The alternative for those of us who to believe that the Bible should not be read literally is to believe that context, structure and other variables have had no impacted what is written and how it has been interpreted over time. After studying Greek and Hebrew in seminary, examining many different translations of the Bible and seeing how different people communicate, there are simply too many variances in scripture for me to take it as literally as others do. But yet, I do know that when it comes to some passages, especially the ones many call the “Clobber Verses” around homosexuality, the “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” mindset is strong.

As of this posting, William has not responded to my response, so if you are one of these folks who resonates with William, I would love for you to take a stab at it responding to my response. I hope that others will listen, maybe challenge a bit, but remain respectful all the while.  Again, help me understand how you look at scripture, how do you interpret these two passages and then maybe there can be more fruitful conversations. Again, here are the two passages . . .

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.- Colossians 3:22 (TNIV)

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. – 1 Corinthians 14:34 (TNIV)

I look forward to your response and please to pass this along to any folks who you think might fit AND claim the “Biblical Literalist” position and might be willing to engage.

In the mean time, if you want an excellent resource about the Bible, Church and Homosexuality, please see Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church by Jack Rogers. His chapter where he unpacks the  Clobber Verses is right on, though the entire book is solid.

Pastor Worley and the Slippery Slope of “Speaking the Truth in Love”

[Photo By davidz]

Every time I blog about homosexuality and the church, I get at least one email or comment that says that I am either wasting my time or sowing dissent.  As a straight, married, Asian American Presbyterian, I agree . . . this is getting old. I dread the fact that issues of gender, race, economics and sexuality are still issues that the church must struggle with in order to fully be who I hope the church to be.  And I dread that some of us feel the calling to use whatever privilege we may have to keep fighting on behalf of those who are and have been excluded from community and call and subjected to violence in word and action.

I will also receive a comment or email that also says, if I – or the occasional “you people” – would just stop talking about X, then it would go away. This I do not agree with, for silence in the face of oppression is sinful, and while we will all justify times of silence in defense of our own safety and comfort, most of us who enjoy the privileges that our heterosexuality avails, we really do not risk much by speaking up for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

Like many folks, I was appalled by the recent sermon preached by Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church calling for LGBTQ folks to be gathered in an electrified pen until they died off from lack of reproduction. I encourage you to watch the video if for no other reason than to hear the words from the source.

Of course, Pastor Worley has every right to preach whatever kind of hateful rhetoric that he feels called to preach. Likewise, he must deal with the consequences of those words. As a person of faith, not matter how much I may disdain his theology, he is discerning God’s movement in his life, and as a Reformed Christian who believes in the sovereignty of God, I have to trust that somehow, in some way, God is working in thru all of this.

That said, it would be easy to dismiss him as some radical, fringe person that should be given little attention or thought. After all, no reasonable and faithful person would ever think these things, let alone say them.  Some, like my friend, Eugene Cho in his excellent post chastising Worley and others says,

No matter where you stand on the issue of gay marriage, there are some boundaries of human decency that should never be crossed.

For the most part I agree, most people who think homosexuality is a sin, probably do not think that LGBTQ people should be rounded up until they die off. And then I think back to some meetings/debates among those whom I would consider “thoughtful and faithful” communities in my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). When it came to homosexuality, the slippery slope argument was always busted out, “homosexuality will lead to . . . [insert perceived sexual “deviance”].” After an awkward moment of “Whoa, did he just say what I think he said?” most of us would simply dismiss these folks as fringe, after all, the slippery slope argument is unwinnable . . . and what does it matter anyway?

And then you hear people like Worley and others who do in fact verbalize what we know already happens, people take anti-LGBTQ thought, theology and rhetoric and walk down that slippery slope to the point of killing people who are gay. I am generally not a slippery slope kind of person, but in this case, I will borrow a page from some of my brothers and sisters in Christ who believe  that the affirmation of of homosexuality, as choice or creation, will lead to the destruction of all that is good and holy and say this:

You can wrap your theological position in all the “speaking the truth in love” or “hate the sin, love the sinner” rhetoric you want, but if you hold the idea that affirming homosexuality will lead to the destruction of societal “norms” then you had better claim the other side: anti-homosexuality rhetoric will lead to the death of human beings because they are gay.

Again, for many of us, we have been able to stand outside of much of this without really risking anything. Sure, some us us get nasty notes and people berate us for being theologically  bankrupt, but that sacrifice pales in comparison to what my LGBTQ friends must deal with every day when simply making choices about how they act, what they say or who they love.

There is no comparison.

Likewise, those of you who continue to give life and validation to anti-homosexuality thinking must know that you have been given the privilege of being thought of as reasonable and faithful. This protection has given you a false security that your words, no matter how diametrically different they may sound from Worley’s, do not lead to violence.

They do.

And then you hear things like this, from the Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III as he speaks about same-sex marriage.

Theology like this is the antidote to the Worley’s of the world: those who call for violence as well as to those who stand by and allow this rhetoric to go unchallenged. I for one don’t care how tired we all get talking about this “issue” because, as long as people are being killed because of their sexuality, those of us who have the privilege of thinking about LGBTQ bothers and sisters as “issues” in the first place, must choose to speak out against the violence or risk continuing being part of it.

If you care to be part of a public action in NC this weekend, please see Kimberly Knight’s post, Following Jesus to Maiden, NC.