Thanksgiving Blessings. I keep thinking of what a blessing it is to have this conversation. While some are emailing frustration for not receiving sufficient answers to the scientific data challenges they’ve given to Understanding Homosexuality, I’m thankful that we’re hanging in with this conversation. I too would like to hear more about how you reconcile the challenges to Narth and others, but I’m also glad because we’re moving on to the area of theology, an area where I have many questions and much to learn.
I have three issues to bring up on this writing. The first is simply to put a question mark on your discussion that finishes, “our true identity is heterosexual, for this is the way God created us.” My question is this…Why we can’t be open to understanding that the true nature of a numerical minority segment of our population actually is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender? Why does the heterosexual majority need to describe the minority as sinful and against the will of God?
Which brings me to my second point of discussion.
In your last blog post you refer to Scripture and Theology as an “objective reality.” In your book you share the vivid example of crossing the Rocky Mountains on I-80 and the great high plateau that separates the waters and the oceans to which they flow. If I understand correctly, you’re using this analogy to distinguish between two worldviews.
A subjective view of reality (experience based) that understands scripture as a kind of congealed human wisdom, a conglomeration of experience.
An objective view of reality (revelation based) that understands scripture as revealed from God.
I understand you advocating for an objective view of scripture, for the Word of God revealed in Scripture, and for a literal but not literalistic interpretation of the biblical texts. (Chapter 5 of Understanding Homosexuality, Pages 60-66)
I lean more to the subjective worldview, placing the 2,000-year-old Christ story in the broader context of the Hebrew story in the broader context of a 10,000-12,000 year old agricultural worldview, in the broader context of hundreds of thousands of years of hunting gathering worldviews that preceeded the time of crop cultivation and writing. (Straight Into Gay America: 136-143, and 223-229.)
One of my abiding questions is this:
You and I are both educated in the same Lutheran tradition. Yet we take differing starting points for our views of reality. And the difference between the two of us is exemplified throughout our ELCA Lutheran Christian tradition as well as across many other denominations. This is why it seems good to me for us to be having this discussion.
What makes some of us adopt an "experience-based, subjective view of reality?"
What makes others of us adopt a "revelation-based objective view of reality?"
You write (pg. 66)
“We need to comprehend that the authority of Scripture is the Continental DivideNot too many years ago, I might have taken these up as fighting words and tried to strike back. And these would be the reasons why.
in the homosexual debate. We are either dealing with a view of biblical
authority that sees the human interpretation of the text as the final word—and
with the setting up of this alternative authority the Scriptures can be made
finally to say something quite different than their normal and simple meaning—or
with a view that sees Scripture as God’s revelation to us whose authority rests
within itself because it is given by God. Either there is or there is not
a revelation from God.”
- To say that human interpretation of the text sets itself up as the “final word,” has a harsh edge to it. I’d much rather see human interpretation as a humble view of seeking to do the best we can with our context and tradition.
- To say that human interpretation can take us away from the normal and simple meaning of the text seems justifiable, but I’d like to consider that this can happen whether the worldview is based on experience or revelation. Who gets to decide what is normal and simple? If I were to believe in an objective view of reality and revelation, would I suddenly be equipped to understand the scriptures better? If Jesus, Peter, and Paul had been dealing with normal and simple interpretation, I don’t believe we’d have a Bible to read today. There wouldn’t be any tension in it, any grist for shaping our constantly evolving world. Those three gentlemen were dealing with hard-edged issues of how compassion, grace, politics, and power fit together, and they were coming up with very unconventional answers. Jesus gets booted from the synagogues because his interpretations aren’t the normal and simple ones of the synagogue leaders who held to the standard revelations of their day. In the book of Acts, Peter is faced with whether non-Jews could be part of the emerging Christian Community. In Paul’s letters he deals with an unending stream of issues for how the new Christian understanding would fit into the existing structures of religion and politics.
- To say “the authority of scripture rests in itself, because it is given by God” still leaves us with the subjective job of deciding what to say about the meaning of these scriptures, whether we’re advocating for human interpretation or God’s revelation.
- “Either there is or is not a revelation from God.” This may or may not be so: The reality may be less dualistic than this. Still, whatever the case, humility and truth seem to beg us to admit that asserting a Revelation from God cannot be an objective truth - it is a subjective statement of faith.
More and more, though, I’m simply interested in what makes us hold to our different worldviews.
How is it that we have come to be who we are?
This leads to my third point of discussion in this blog post.
I’d be content to leave our conversation at this level of philosophical pondering except that claiming God has revealed homosexuality as sin has had such devastating consequences for LGBT people, their friends, their families, and their faith communities.
When you say in your blog, “homosexuality is a behavior, and not an identity.”
When you write “homosexuality is a pseudo-identity.”
When you write in your book, “the only alternative to heterosexual marriage is sexual abstinence.” (168) and “Ought the church bless same-sex unions? No.” (173.)
And when you write in your book. “Even if 90% of the population were exclusively homosexual, that would prove nothing about whether it is right or morally neutral.”
Then, in the light of these statements, I question the interpretations about homosexuality as sin that are ascribed as revelation from God.
Yes, if 90% of people are involved in some evil such as murder, then its still an evil. But as you’ve agreed to with me, many homosexual people are simply looking for the peace and freedom to live a loving caring live with a person of the same gender. Many are faithful members of churches, and caring members of society. If we don’t listen to those stories, then, if there is a revelation from God about homosexuality, I’m afraid we’re missing it. Jesus, if anything, seems to me to have been a good listener.
A close listening would also seem to raise questions about the desire to make our churches stand against the celebration of love and the blessing of that love.
A close listening would hear homosexuality as more than simply an act, a behavior, and a pseudo-identity.
My own statement of faith is that the foundation of Scripture, the foundation of my Jesus understanding and my God understanding, the foundation of my world-understanding, the foundation of my people relationship is centered in one word - compassion. And compassion includes the openness to changing one’s views based on the experience at hand. Compassion without the possibility of being changed seems dangerously close to coercion.
This is my interpretive dynamic, and because of this dynamic, I find it easy to listen to the stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. I sense I’m finding authenticity rather than pseudo-identity in these stories. Since I believe these stories to be authentic, it follows easily for me to advocate for equal rights so these people can live with the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as Anne and I and our children have.
So, I’ve added three issues to our little conversational campfire.
- Understanding that the heterosexual emphasis in Scripture can just as easily be open to INCLUDING lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identity. In fact, the Old Testament major emphasis on hospitality to strangers might be a good way of acknowledging the heterosexual numerical majority as well as the need for welcoming and full participation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender numerical minority.
- My ongoing question of what makes us take up and keep the worldviews we hold?
- My distrust of ascribing to any “revelation from God,” that is not woven inextricably into the web of the world’s experience. In the case of homosexuality, my distrust of calling homosexuality a revealed sin.
As I’ve said a number of times, there are scientific and data questions in your book that still haven’t been answered as deeply as I’d wish. And now we’re moving to Scripture and God. I’m excited, but I’m also a little scared, as always, when discussing faith, scripture, and theology. Personally, I hesitate to use the word God anymore. So often the term seems to bring up more questions than it answers and to cause more division than communication. It will be good to have as many comments as people feel inclined to make. Hopefully they will help keep us grounded as we move forward.