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Welcome to Homodoxies & Heterodoxies: Reading the Bible Differently

The idea for this blog had been brewing for awhile in my brain, but it fermented (if you will) as the result of an intense discussion on Facebook with some folks.  My friend Andrew (http://attitudevicissitude.wordpress.com/) posted a link to an article on patheos.com about attitudes toward the ordination of women and LGBT folk. It provoked a civil yet passionate exchange about the notion of Biblical authority.  I created this blog in the hopes that we might continue the conversation and start others about our differing understandings of Scripture.

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How to have the conversation

I am taking a break from grading exams (60 more to go) in order to pay some attention to our conversation and to keep things moving along.  I have some reflections thus far that I would like to share with the group.

First, I think that we are off to a good start, in general.  My impression is that everyone feels respected thus far in terms of our conversations.  I am hopeful that we can continue in that vein.  Androop (aka APD or Draper) found a very “on point” blogpost that I suggest that each of us read: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/richard-beck-traditional-church-gay-community)

Secondly, I do think that we need more structure to our conversations and that we need to decide on a clear focus of the blog.  The two Andrews engaged in an exchange about the relationship between politics and theology and while I do think that it is impossible to truly separate the two spheres, I think that we all agreed that theology would be the main focus.

Lastty, I am thinking that it will be helpful for each of us to articulate our initial interpretations of Scripture on the issue of GLBT issues as well as other sexual topics (perhaps, divorce, masturbation, and sex outside of marriage).  Might I suggest that we each comment on this post by completing the following sentence: “My current understanding of scripture on the topic of LGBT issues is that ______.”  This sentence will be followed by a statement about your understanding of sexuality: “My current understanding of sexuality is that it is ________.”  I will start with my statements below.  Try to keep it short and sweet (you super smarties who like to use mufti-syllabic words).  From there I suggest that we proceed with the discussion of a particular Bible passage.  I am open to other suggestions so please feel free to comment.

Tribal Tribulations and Tribadic Tribunals

I apologize for the title, but I think at a blog called “Homodoxies and Heterodoxies,” you can’t blame me for being seduced by clever juxtapositions.  And I would justify it this way: our ways of organizing ourselves into tribes does bring us into apocalyptic kinds of conflicts, not unlike the Tribulation of certain Christian eschatologies, and these conflicts drive people to pass judgment on each other, to the point where entire spiritual destinies (not to mention the harmonious coexistence of entire communities) hang in the balance, based on precisely what one does with one’s penis or vulva, and precisely who one does it with.

To start with one example of what I’m talking about:  there’s an amazing anecdote from Brian McLaren’s blog that I just read that speaks to this:

…years ago, I spoke with disdain about a “mainline liberal” writer – my attempt to bolster my Evangelical credentials and seize middle-moral high ground by throwing “a liberal” under the bus. I had actually never read anything he had written, but people I respected thought he was dangerous. So I echoed them, needing to bolster my reputation to my right, a sign of my immaturity and insecurity on my part. Again, things I’m not proud of.

Some time later, I was asked to speak at the same event as this person. He was easy-going and gracious. I suppose he knew what I had said about him, but he didn’t throw it in my face. Anyway, at the end of the event, there were long lines of people waiting to talk to us and get books signed. His line was much longer than mine.

So when my line dwindled away, I had the chance to eavesdrop on what people said to him. Person after person said, sometimes tearfully, “Thank you. If it weren’t for your books, I wouldn’t be a Christian,” or “Through reading your book, I became a Christian,” or “I left the church 30 years ago, but when I read book X, I came back.” That’s pretty moving for an Evangelical to hear, you know? I realized that this fellow was actually an evangelist, reaching people for Christ who never would be reached by my more conservative friends, or by me!

The lesson of the story is not, of course, that “more liberal is just better,” but that somehow intraconfessional discussions where there’s a lot at stake (like this one, and the one we’re having as soon as we talk about NALTs) need to be conducted in a way that’s not about throwing anyone under the bus, but is about tapping into the ways in which Christendom can be diverse as opposed to divided.

Another occasion I had to reflect on this was when Obama chose Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.  I was struck at the time by the parallels between the frustration of the gay/lesbian community with Obama for his inclusion of Warren with the frustration in the evangelical community with Warren when he had included Obama in an event at Saddleback church.  I was struck by how hard it was for us to maintain membership in our “tribes,” without making our alienation from certain outsiders part of our tribal membership.  This to me resonates with Mclaren’s description of how he felt obliged to throw the “liberal” under the bus in order to demonstrate his own faithful membership in the evangelical community.  An extraordinary footnote to the whole story was that, in the aftermath of the highly tense battle over Proposition 8, Melissa Etheridge and her partner reached out to Rick Warren and refused to demonize him, and he attempted to reciprocate.  (If you want to read more about this, I wrote about it here.)

I don’t really have an overall point here, I just know that conversations like the one we’re having run aground without any acknowledgement of the way tribal memberships, and not just a heartfelt desire for truth, compel us to ask certain questions and pass certain judgments on each other, and I kind of wanted a chance to talk about that underlying dynamic.

Our first discussion topic?

Thanks to Andrew D for finding this post.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/12/13/the-perils-and-potential-of-n-a-l-t-not-all-like-that/

What do you think of Dan Savage’s argument?

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