Monday, August 20, 2007

Biblical Authority

My assumptions about the bible are that it is not an inspired text but does contain some inspirational readings within it. Perhaps (although I don't know) my understanding of the nature of divinity is quite different. In a sense, I can agree that our knowledge of divinity is quite limited inasmuch as that which IS is so much greater than any one of our perspectives can fathom that we rely on our loving discourse with one another to begin to paint pictures of TRUTH with our shared and often paradoxical stories. In this sense, cross-cultural perspectives, gendered perspectives, etc. are very important. A proliferation of metaphors is essential not only for establishing a compassionate community that honors diversity but also to allow each individual room to experiment and move within their God-talk. One metaphor stagnates and retards. Multiple metaphors give a soul room to play. Ever watch a child play dress up? None of it is real any more than any of the gods and goddesses are real but there is value in the play and experimentation. I believe that through experience, contemplation, observation we each have direct knowledge of the divine but have been trained to doubt our embodied knowledge. In large part, I believe outside authority retards our intrinsic and natural ability to recognize the divine.
The reason why I am here is because I believe that the Christian perspective is so well integrated (often unconsciously) into the Western perspective that to ignore it is deadly. That's my negative take. My positive take is that as a neo-pagan, I have acknowledged that my ethics come from a liberal Christian background. As an individual, I make assumptions about how the world works that have deep roots in a personal, family, and cultural tradition of Christianity. And that isn't going away no matter how pagan I become. So I agree that there is value in understanding the bible as a text that has had deep meaning to millions of people, in different ways over thousands of years. That's powerful. It has been healing and beautiful but it has also been destructive and violent as hell.
My thing is that although I know the bible pretty darn well, I do not find it authoritative because I believe that the only reason it is more authoritative than other texts is because it enforced its authority. The patriarchal family and capitalism have also been deeply meaningful for millions of people but I reject their authority in my life too. Some of the bible is lovely and inspirational (although not exceptional) and some of it is loathsome. If it is not the origin of western misogyny, it has been its most effective vehicle. I accept its critical cultural impact but deny its spiritual value...at least in my own life...as an authoritative text. Jesus is cool but he was not a god and I've found equally cool statements made by Ghandi and Matilda Gage and my grandmother. I'll quote Jesus when it suits my purpose. He's one of the good guys and I'm not above drawing from those deep, historical waters. I'll quote Susan B. Anthony too because other feminists like her even if I think she was a...Anyway....
I think I will always find meaning in some of the text, in the history of the religion, in the stories of faith and the tenderness and love I find in my christian friends and family. I had to stop being a Christian because I could no longer accept that idea of an authoritative canon, the divinity of Jesus, or the authority of any congregation. I still believe in many of the key liberal Christian principles and ethics but I find them in other 'sacred' texts. I am interested in the bible and its dynamic history but it represents a religious perspective that remains a construct for me that grew powerful in large part because it silenced other peoples' spiritual perspectives and human rights... and doesn't give me room enough to play.

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