Thursday, July 16, 2009

The way we think

I was watching the Sotomayor hearings this week. What struck me was that the argument going on between the two parties over the now famous "Wise Latina" comment. It is the same arguments we have in the church over scripture. I suspect that when we vote on bishops and pastors we want to know these same kind of things. How will they interrupt scripture? What will be the basis for their conclusions? In the post Modern world our background and history is not insignificant. It has been argued in certain Biblical circles that we can not read the text without interjecting our own prejudices, life stories, and experiences. I grew up as rather middle of the road white guy from New Hampshire. That influences my reading of the text. However, I have been blessed in life to be around people with different experiences then me. In seminary I was blessed to serve in a Latino congregation and an African American congregation. My first, call was to a church surrounded and filled with diversity. I met Haitians, Dominicans, Asians, Indians, African Americans, Pakistanis, and just about any other nationality one could think of. It was interesting to hear their interpretations of the text. It was interesting to see how their life stories influenced what they thought the Bible meant.
Don't misunderstand me I think the Bible does have a message. In fact, it is a very clear message that must be heard. However, I know that this message comes to us in different ways. It is always filtered through our particular experiences. We are only human there is no other way we can experience the living word of God. But this is the point not everyone sees it that way. Many good religious people would disagree with what I just said. They would argue for a reading of the Bible that has no bearing on our human perceptions. They would argue God's word came from God and therefore it does not matter what culture or background you come from there is only one way to understand, translate, and interpret the text. I would say that the Bible itself argues against such a reading. The church and the people of God have always saw God through there very human understanding. Think about the disciples even with Jesus right in front of them they do not understand what he is saying. The early church saw Jesus only through there own Jewish heritage rejecting the inclusion of the Gentiles. It is only through revelation that they eventually come to see that a Gentile understanding of Jesus Christ is just as good as a Jewish. This movement did something astonishing. It changed the church. It made it into a growing living institution. I would argue that when we allow others to speak their truths we are better able to hear the living word of God. We are better able to see Christ working in and through others. Of course, I have a post modern mind. I guess I would never be confirmed as a supreme court judge. I will have to settle for being a pastor who has the privilege and honor to preach and teach the living word of God.

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