'Seek' Versus 'Seek No Further'

On one level, the ructions within the Anglican church are none of my business - as a non-Christian with only a passing familiarity with the contents of the Bible, let alone the various, often conflicting exegeses that have appeared throughout history, my first response was: 'Well, my understanding is that sections of scripture pretty much unequivocally proscribe homosexuality - therefore, if you believe that the Bible is God's word, then it logically follows that you believe that God says homosexuality is a sin. If you buy into the Bible, you're buying into homophobia.' It seemed a bit presumptuous to launch an attack on the Religious Right when, as far as I understood it, their interpretation of the Bible on this point - with particular reference to Leviticus and the story of Lot - was far from fanciful.

I guess I was prejudiced by having encountered some particularly egrerious examples of 'woolly liberal thinking' in the past. Round a friend's house I found a copy of a toe-curling book called something like 'The Street Bible'. It was every Premillenial Dispensationalist's nightmare - the word of God 'translated' into a kind of faux jive-talk. Of course I turned straight to Leviticus, to find the entire book reduced to a short paragraph: (I paraphrase) 'Here, God gets real heated up about some things he doesn't want his children to do. He tells us how he wants us to behave and what will happen if we don't.' What?! Somehow I don't feel that a Christian Conservative would feel the spirit of the words had been represented.

Now, I don't have a problem with a group providing an explanatory gloss on sections of the Bible, as long as they retain the original text for comparison. I remember a Christian guy came to our school to teach us how Christianity was 'cool'. He was called Silas, he wore a black leather jacket and he once went to jail. Someone asked him a question about what Jesus thought about homosexuality and he deflected it with a joke about sheep-shagging. (which, incidentally, Leviticus also proscribes) Everybody laughed. I felt a bit cheated, and, in my own act of stupidity, judged Christian Liberalism in its entirety on the basis of one silly man with an earring.

But it was instances like this of Liberal Christians apparently brushing the issue under the carpet, rather than directly engaging with it, that led me to believe that there was no way to reconcile homosexuality and Christianity without pretending not to notice fairly prominent sections of the Bible. It's the 'pretending not to notice' part that I'd now take issue with - Liberal Christianity
can and has reconcile the core teachings of Jesus Christ and the appointment of openly homosexual bishops; what one can't reconcile is a belief in the doctrine of Biblical Infallibility and a belief that a homosexual relationship can be a moral, loving event.
In the interests of full disclosure, I consider myself Buddhist. Listening to a dharma talk recently, the speaker, Gil Fronsdal from the Insight Meditation Centre in LA, described the difference between a 'progressive' approach to religion and a 'fundamentalist' approach thusly: (again, I may paraphrase)

'The message of all major religious enquiry is: "Seek." The message of fundamentalist religious thought is: "Seek no further."'

I like the characterisation of liberal religion as a question and fundamentalist religion as an answer because I feel they're labels that both sides might feel comfortable with. I can understand the attraction of a credo that purports to offer all the answers in some absolute, immutable form. Liberal Christianity takes the position (I generalise, of course - neither 'side' is a monolith) that the Bible is a divinely-inspired document of unparalleled importance that, nonetheless, consists of writings by fallible humans and is therefore corrigible and open to interpretation. As a historical narrative, later edicts supersede or repudiate earlier ones (most notably the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) and so no one section can be taken as absolute without putting it into its proper context. (who said it, when, to whom, and for what purpose)

The Fundamentalist position typically encompasses a combination of the doctrines of Biblical Infallibility (the Bible is the Word of God and is totally correct on issues of faith and practice) and Biblical Inerrancy. (in edition to being correct on faith and practice, the Bible is factual accurate and does not rely on metaphor - ie the world was literally created in seven days) If one accepted these doctrines as true, then it's not hard to see why the Liberal position would feel like such a threat. It doesn't require a loathing for homosexual acts per se - although I don't doubt that such repugnance exists amongst many in the Christian Right - it's the fact that, if we make an exception for one element of scripture, we are accepting the Liberal position of Biblical Fallibility, and consequently the Bible is no longer the 'absolute answer' promised by Conservative preachers.

So how to respond to this artistically? Umm... I'm hoping to be divinely inspired.


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