This Week in God, Continued

>> Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I thought the timing of this segment was ironic given all that's been going on around me lately.

Statements that I thought were pretty rational. So rational that it almost amazes me there has to be a court case regarding this. But then, interracial marriage statutes were struck down via a court case.

Anyway, I realized I forgot a few of points that I wanted to make earlier.
  1. Sort of related to the "big tent" vs. "small tent" argument: A couple from southern California joined our church in mid-October. They seemed to be coming fairly regularly until the final "listening" group session. I noticed that the mister was nodding along to what I said when I stood up and gave my ramble. One of my dad's cousins is an ELCA minister in Cali. She said that they hadn't heard a peep regarding any dissension regarding the August decision in her parts. I'm of the opinion that this couple heard (anti-gay) things said during that meeting and decided either to not come back or not come back until pastor returns from maternity leave. I don't know which, but they were sitting next to Mrs. Unrepentant-Sinners. She's a nice lady in that she's not an axe murderer, but some of the things that come out of her mouth make my jaw drop. One such example would be when she publicly thanked some organization during church prayers for translating the Bible into Portuguese. Yeah, that's right. Portuguese! I guess she thinks the Roman Catholic church doesn't know how to proselytize because I don't know how else to interpret it. But that's the sort of thing that I don't think these people who want to leave the ELCA realize: they're making it much more difficult to gain more members. Yeah, they might gain new members in the near-future because those who are of like mind are looking for the same. But survey after survey shows that young people are more likely to not be of that persuasion. Which means those churches leaving the ELCA all have expiration dates on them.
  2. Regarding the miniature "Exodus": I was talking to the organist during coffee hour. She's not a member of the church; she's Catholic but has been the organist for 15 years or so. Anyhow, when I mentioned to her that some people didn't like the decision to stay within the ELCA and were going to leave, she said that it's pretty hard to find a congregation like this one. Which I think is a fair statement given that our congregation tends to be a bit more outgoing than some of the other congregations in the area. There's a different couple within the church who joined within the past ten years. They actually attended the church that is having a vote to leave the ELCA next week for a year, long before they joined our church. They said the whole time they attended that church that no one ever asked them about joining or ever tried to get to know them during coffee hour. Talk about cliquish. 
  3. Regarding the biblical "literalists": I've already made a few statements about how some folks are such literalists in that they take the condemnation regarding "homosexuality" in the Bible literally, yet not the execution of women who aren't virgins upon marriage. I've been reading The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia -- and How It Died for about the past month. I came across a passage that sums up biblical literalists perfectly for me:
    The Syriac churches inherited the approach to Bible criticism associated with Antioch, which demanded that texts be put into proper historical and cultural context, rather than (as in Alexandria) being used as the basis for spiritual allegories. Bar-Hebraeus saw little value in reading or hearing the scriptures unless one approached them with a view to true understanding. "As hunger is not satisfied by water, nor thirst by bread, so the Initiate, who wishes to look within the Sinaitic cloud [the Divine], gains small profit by hearing the Scriptures being read." Well into what Europeans call the high Middle Ages, scholars approached the scriptures with what seems to a modern readership like good sense. In the 1220s, Solomon of Basra responded wearily to the painful literalism with which many lesser thinkers read biblical metaphors:
    The things which certain stupid men invent, who indulge their fancy, and give bodily form to the punishment of sinners and the reward of the just and righteous, and say that there is at the resurrection a reckoning and a pair of scales, the Church does not receive; but each one of us carries his light and his fire within him, and his heaviness and his lightness is found in his own nature. Just as stone and iron naturally possess the property of falling to the earth, and as the air naturally ascends upward on account of its rarity and its lightness; so also in the resurrection, he that is heavy and lying in sins, his sins will bring him down; and he that is free from the rust of sin, his purity will make him rise in the scale.
    To paraphrase Solomon, the Bible is a complex text that makes rich use of metaphor and other literary devices, so that we hear of the gates of hell, the fires of hell, or of souls being weighed in the balance. But only an idiot understands these images in the sense of real, literal gates, scales, or fires instead of thinking spiritually how sins shaped one's destiny. (p. 89-90)
    Yup, just because the Bible says something doesn't mean you can throw your thinking cap away.


PS (PSanafter-thought) 13 January, 2010 12:15  

You are right about some churches not being very friendly and welcoming, regardless of the issue of "the VOTE." I've attended a couple of churches where I made sure that when I shook the hand of others or the pastor that I said I was a visitor. Ok, no response. My daughter attend a church where her husband was an employee and nobody ever invited her to any of the young mothers' group meetings. They weren't friendly to me either, when I visited.

Can you imagine a church that is inclined this way anyway, but then sets itself up, its reason for being, so to speak, is to be anti-the-gay-vote. How much better to be FOR something rather than against something.

BTW, I attend a Bible Study with other "older women." A few months after The Vote, one of the members realized that we all were "open-minded," and she Came Out to us. A very good question is: would this have been talked about and would she have felt safe if there hadn't been that vote?

House of Brat 13 January, 2010 15:18  

She probably never would have come out. Apparently there was a lesbian couple who attended our church for awhile but then left because they didn't feel comfortable. I have no idea at what point this was. My guess is that they attended when our previous pastor was there. He was not a people person to say the least. (Many, many members left because of him.) In fact the congregation he's currently at, which is in Hutchinson, MN, is leaving the ELCA. He probably fits right in there.

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