Archive for December, 2013
Was it gay bashing or freedom of speech? Was it posturing or proclaiming the word? Was it clear and concise or was it not well thought out? And probably the most important question, did it deserve the backlash it received from either side. Phil Robertson made a series of bad choices that led him to a crossroads he may not have foreseen. The first was to be candidly interviewed by GQ magazine. As strange as that sounds, it has a strong resemblance to Jimmy Carter being interviewed by Playboy Magazine and expecting to be seen in a positive light when asked about impure thoughts. When walking through a mine field it is best not to tap dance.
Another bad choice was to discuss racial history and how another race did or did not act. How could his understanding in high school offer any value? At the very best he could have dealt with this topic by saying he was naïve at the time and was not aware of problems. But frankly why interact on the subject at all if he was that naïve? If he could not help the situation by offering true insight, why engage? What is the real point of asking any celebrity their view on things they are not experts on? And why would they answer? As confusing as this may sound, this wasn’t the real firestorm in his interview.
The next bad choice involved answering questions on homosexuality. One side is saying his statements are hate speak and another says it was freedom of speech. In reality, it was neither. Phil tried to make light of the concept by equating an anus to a vagina. This is ignorance. Diminishing the importance of sexuality in our culture to a choice of human orifices shows that he is unable to speak cogently on the subject. His next set of statements regarding sin and the slippery slope idea that homosexuality somehow leads to bestiality and multiple partners or group sex is no better. The only thing that Phil proved is that he should not speak on the subject. His attempt to use scripture to support his view showed only that his ability to communicate biblical truths in complicated areas is not a strong skill.
Why do we feel that truth is delivering every thought that is in our mind? I think plenty of things that make me incredibly smart. Not the thoughts themselves, but knowing when to keep them internal and not say them. The biochemical and neurological events that interact with our sensory organs cause information to enter our brains. Our ability to perceive that data properly is based upon a variety of factors ranging from education, experience, physical health, vitamin deficiency or excess, and amount of sleep. The ability to coherently formulate a complex argument depends on all of those things working together well so we can filter the data that our senses provide. Basically just because we think something, does not make it right, viable, worth saying, or even a good idea. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Popularity does not make this process easier.
This issue is not about free speech or about hate speak. It is about a man put into a situation where he made statements that should have been filtered better. And because of that, people are choosing to be very, very opportunistic and throw stones at each other. Both groups are saying in a way that the other side hates them. When are we going to get to a point where we can put aside our differences and realize that everything thought does not need to be said in order to be truthful. When can we start to bridge the communication gap and get past the intolerance, on both sides? When will be able to reach out and tell a person that God loves them and we do as well and truly mean it? When will we be able to talk openly, respect each other, and not claim hatred over petty words? When will we begin to see that God does not care so much what we think, but cares greatly what we do?
I sat and watched her fidget and do menial tasks when she was clearly upset about something. She was a fellow student in seminary who had dreams of pastoral leadership and quite frankly was far more gifted than I in several disciplines. But something had clearly rattled her. When I asked she told me about a man in one of her classes who made broad statements to her about how she would be unable to perform certain duties within the church because she was a woman. I told her that was interesting; I didn’t know we had had a clairvoyant in our school but realistically the only thing that would make him correct is if she believed he was.
I think she understood my point but the truth is that the problem here was far larger than my angled quip could solve. There is so much history and tradition infused in the interpretation of the actual text that sifting through it just to reach consensus seems arduous at best. It confuses and angers both genders and at times has even split churches. What I can’t figure out is why.
I guess that is not quite true. I understand the history and see how the pieces to the puzzle have built the labyrinth we now have, I just don’t understand why we don’t tear a few walls down to let the people trapped inside out. Should we blame the old boys club or the male dominated denominational structures? How about blaming women directly for accepting the roles? How about blaming society for adopting a model that the church echoed so easily? How about we blame the Apostle Paul for his misogyny and self centered directions? For that matter, why don’t we just blame God himself, after all it is his book we got it from? Or better yet, how about we take the blame off the table, we re-evaluate, re-vision, re-think, and somehow build a model that not only gives the people hope, but helps heal the evils of the past.
The first step is to understand what the scripture really says. I am not going to attempt a full commentary on Paul or even list out the parts in Ephesians, Galatians, or Corinthians that address this. I don’t think that is needed because there is a larger hermeneutical issue here. The biblical text was never intended to be used in the support of a categorical syllogism to limit the ability of a gender to fulfill their desire for service to God. We cannot take Paul’s statements in one book, add them to statements in another, and conclude that he was misogynistic and that the church should not allow women to lead. This process creates a philosophical and hermeneutical error before we even begin. There is no code in the text and it is not a puzzle to be solved. As clearly as I can put it, if you have to stand on an old chair facing north east while thinking of something angelic to get the meaning out of the text, you are doing it wrong. Instructions given to the church on how to administer the church were aimed at specific churches with specific problems. Whereas that may give information that should be used in modern churches to help administer them, it cannot be taken as a singular contextual statement aimed at the church model 2000 years later without understanding the individual churches in a holistic manner.
Paul’s work was aimed at the unification of believers around the gospel of Christ. He was not setting up a universal church structure. He traveled from town to town and delivered the gospel. That was his focus. He wrote to the churches he had been to with corrective action and support for the furthering of that gospel. He was almost annoyed with administrative items. His statements about those types of items were curt and simplistic. It was almost that he was trying to get past the arguments with the first idea that came into his head. If we take those as direct mandates from God as how women are to be viewed, then not only are we contradicting other scripture that clearly shows equality, but we are placing our own selfish desires in front of God’s and denying his overall requirement to seek justice and love mercy.
We have done such a disservice to God in this arena. I have heard so much heretical garbage proclaimed in the name of tradition that has caused people to accept the inexcusable as the norm. And when we do try to push against it we end up with solutions that are almost as offensive as the problem. I have heard pastors proclaim that Paul was actually elevating the status of women from their even lower place to where we claim he said they should be. That kind of reminds me of a support for slavery from the 1800’s. Sometimes I feel more passion against the church than for it.
We have got to stop defending our traditions and understand that God cares more about our actions. The person who should be leading the church is the best qualified person, regardless of gender. If a man says he cannot learn from a woman, then the problem is with him, not them. Don’t get me wrong, there are clearly different roles intended for men than women. I will never be a mother nor have the nurturing skills that mothers have. But that in no way says that a woman should be silent in church. Simply put, those that feel women should be silent in church should do so themselves before they ever consider speaking.
Changing the world starts with changing ourselves. If we are unable to see through our own walls we build, the image of God we want to show cannot be seen by those on the other side. Sometimes we need to tear down the walls to find truth.