I've been thinking about "scriptural gymnastics" ever since Joseph included it in a comment on my last post. What a great term! I suppose that I infer it's meaning to be basically creating an interpretation of scripture that supports one's own perspective. The metaphor indicates that you would have to do some intricate exegetical backflips in order to get the Bible to say what you want it to say.
The opposite, I suppose, is to come to the Bible with a completely unbiased perspective - a tabula rasa that is unblemished by any smudge of experience or previous teaching. Hmm, what's the opposite of gymnastics? Maybe a scriptural 100 yard dash: straight to the finish line, stay in your lane, fast as you can. My claim would be that I had full access to the Truth of Holy Scripture as God really meant it, revealed to me.
Problem with that is, none of us can claim to come to God's word without smudges on our tabulas. We are all prone to error, temptation, and sin. Or, as Mitch said in our last bit of conversation, all we can do is peek at the thing, and from our own limited perspective. So there must be a middle somewhere in between backflipping and somersaulting to make the Bible support my opinion and sprinting ahead unswervingly claiming that my own lane is all that counts in this race.
We all know the various scriptural interpretations around the issue of acceptance of homosexual people in the Church. In no particular order,
- you've got your "burn in hell" people,
- you've got your "it's the behavior that's sinful, not the orientation" people, - you've got your "if they would only repent" people,
- you've got your "hate the sin, love the sinner" people,
- you've got your "accept everybody because we are all sinners" people,
- you've got your "I don't know for sure, but I err on the side of grace" people,
- you've got your "the Bible doesn't say anything about sexual orientation" people,
- you've got your "oh forget it, let's just start our own denomination" people,
- you've got your "I'll protest: anywhere, anytime, anyhow" people,
- you've got your "accept gay people or I'll kick your a**" people,
- and there are probably a few that I've forgotten about.
We have heard them all, we know them all.
Now, which one of these interpretations is guilty of "scriptural gymnastics?" Chances are, if you answer that question, you will choose one of the myriad of perspectives that is not yours. No matter where you are personally, everyone else must be wrong, right? That is where we have been for decades, and that is why the bitter, hateful, angry fighting has got to stop.
As I wrote previously, I am not advocating ending the conversation, I am advocating transforming it. I want to talk with passion and conviction about my belief that a person with the gifts and graces for ordained ministry should be ordained, regardless of sexual orientation. I want to talk with passion and conviction about my belief that gender ought to play no role in determining whom one is allowed to marry.
I have come to this belief, not by doing any "scriptural gymnastics," nor have I come to this belief as the finish line to my own little "100 yard dash" with Jesus. Or said another way, I have neither bent the Bible to my own perspective nor had the full Truth of the Lord revealed to me exclusively. I have worked faithfully, prayerfully, and diligently to arrive at this interpretation.
And furthermore ...
So has Mitch. I know Mitch, and I know he's peeking at things differently than me. But I would no sooner accuse him of being unfaithful as I would call the sky pink. He is not simply bending the Bible to his own perspective, nor would he ever dare to claim exclusive, full knowledge of the Truth of God (I don't think). He, like me, has come to his beliefs faithfully, prayerfully, and with all due diligence.
(Thanks, Mitch, for letting me use you as a case study!)
So how to we transform the conversation? The first step, which I kind of poked fun at in my last post, is to remove those for whom this whole thing is some kind of a hateful battle to be waged. Next, the remaining conversation partners have to understand how each person has come to her or his belief, so everything can be out on the table, and as transparent as possible. That means not only understanding a perspective different from your own, but also understanding how that perspective came to be. Only then can the conversation proceed.
I don't think we are there yet. We're pretty much still just fighting with each other. We haven't let go of the rancor, hatred, and bitterness. Until that happens, things will not get better for any gymnasts, sprinters, or anyone in between.
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