February 20, 2011

Thought for 02.20.11

Why is it so often the case that people who offer the challenge, “Where in the Bible does it say X?” are conservative Christians who should know perfectly well where in the Bible it says X but apparently don’t know, and who when shown where in the Bible it says X immediately try to explain it away is irrelevant, immaterial, and unimportant?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

12 comments:

LKT said...

I'm coming to understand that one thing that infuriates conservative Christians about liberal Christians is that though conservatives know the verses of the Bible through and through, the liberal will look at that knowledge and wave it away. The "plain" words of the Bible are not persuasive because the liberal perceives (or at least I perceive) the mere words do not tell the story.

It must drive conservatives absolutely crazy that liberals can look at the exact same words and say, "Those are the words, but that is not the meaning." Meanwhile, the liberal perspective is that the conservative knows the Bible, but doesn't get the Bible. Which must be even more infuriating.

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

Ah, yes. It's because they are worshiping the Bible as an idol, which always necessarily requires closing one's eyes to the true nature of the idol one worships.

Ranranshi said...

They never experienced the joy of intellectual endeavor, for them thinking causes mere pain. Living with contradictions is beyond their power. That’s how the mainstream works.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

LKT, that is part of it, certainly. But I've also found that many conservatives don't really know the Scriptures as well as they think. This thought was begun by reading about a biblical fundamentalist upset at clergy making a stipend, claiming that all ministers should minister simply because of the joy of ministry. He ended the diatribe with, "Where does the Bible say ministers should be paid." Of course, one could cite Luke 10:7, 1 Cor 9:7-14, and 1 Tim 5:17-18 -- but I doubt that would convince him! If he does know of these texts, he thinks they don't count. More recently, in a dialogue in which I myself was engaged, a conservative claimed that the Bible nowhere countenances chattel slavery. When I directed him to the relevant passages in which the rules for passing along non-Hebrew slaves as property to ones children, and so on, he admitted his mistake but immediately claimed the issue was not germane! It is amazing how "flexible" conservatives can be!

Thomas, that is a part of it. I think the conservative tends to look at Scripture with a kind of intense focus on small portions of text, combined with over-broad generalization to themes not in fact present. We see this in the sexuality debates in spades. I wonder, do conservatives actually read long sections of Scripture through, to appreciate the context. I'll be saying more about this anon in response to the House of Bishops Theology Committee's Colloquy in the recent ATR.

Ranrashi, there is a troublesome anti-intellectualism at work in some circles, balanced by an overly verbose pseudo-intellectualism. Examples abound!

Marshall Scott said...

You know, I suggested yesterday that these verses from Leviticus

"9When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God. "

were a mandate for social welfare. "Remember," I said,"that for the early Israelite there was no distinction between God and the state. So, this was both a religious and a government statement." Somehow, I don't think I really changed any minds. On the other hand, I didn't get stoned (or something like it), which was what my wife feared.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Good point, Marshall. I shudder to think what a neoCon Christian Theocracy would look like given the very selective reading of Leviticus! I have a feeling these verses would be on the cutting room floor.

I took a somewhat different approach, though I did cite these extraordinary verses.

Marshall Scott said...

Oh, this was just a sidebar in the sermon, but it seemed apt to your point.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

As indeed it is...

Murdoch Matthew said...

They are worshiping the Bible as an idol, which always necessarily requires closing one's eyes to the true nature of the idol one worships.

They never experienced the joy of intellectual endeavor, for them thinking causes mere pain. Living with contradictions is beyond their power. That’s how the mainstream works.

Ah, yes -- the notorious "they" and "them." I suspect that Bushnell and Ranranshi are correct, but they're guessing what other people are like. I'm wary, because anti-gay people understand perfectly what gay people are about, since they read it in their books and hear it from their authorities. Do they know how gay people feel, or explain their lives? Not from experience.

Paradigms differ, and affect how things are perceived. I think fundamentalists are wrong, but I can't tell them how they feel.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Murdoch, that gets us into a whole world of epistemology! Does one individual ever know or feel as another person knows or feels? No, because the sensorium is part of the particularity of the individual. But one cannot rule out either understanding or empathy -- which is all we have -- to roughly approximate how others think or feel, as they communicate their thoughts and feelings. I should not tell others how they feel, but I can ask them how they feel. There will always be, in this interaction, some signal-to-noise ratio, but if I did not believe in the communicability of at least an asymptotic approach to knowing and feeling with others I would find the world very bleak and monadic.

The truth is that some people find living with contradiction very difficult, and so they seek absolutism as a way out of the difficulty. I think that's what Thomas and Ranranshi are saying, and I think they are correct, at least in some cases.

Gary Paul Gilbert said...

Tobias,

I wasn't sure how to express my disquiet with the cited statements, since both are plausible assessments of the attitudes we face. You give me a clue, because I can see a fine line between "some think" and "they think."

Murdoch Matthew

(My spouse Gary seems to have a Gmail account open.)

Grandmère Mimi said...

It is amazing how "flexible" conservatives can be!

Thanks for the LOL, Tobias. I try to be serious in the comments to your serious posts, but I can't. My waywardness gets the better of me. Sorry.