Monday, July 09, 2007

Having recently returned from a week at a family reunion (as far as I know, all of whom are still conservative Christian), the topic of recovering from fundamentalism seems more relevant than ever. The problem, though, is that I can't think of anything to say that won't sound ridiculously obvious to anyone who wasn't raised that way. Which brings up the question: are these posts even worth writing? You can tell by the sparse number of posts over the last few weeks that I've been asking that one a lot. Hmmm. Well, they are for me. The process of writing the previous posts about inerrancy made me much more confident about my opinion. Even though I ended up editing out most of the arguments, a lot of thought went into that. Usually when I go to family events it takes weeks for me to recover-- they really throw me off center. But this time I didn't feel that much at all.

The main thing I noticed is that none of them believe strictly in inerrancy, either. At least some of them would protest vociferously about that if they were to read this. But in practice, I really think it's true. Though there were a number of prayers, none of the women covered their heads (I Cor 11:5). None of the men raised their hands (I Tim 2:8). And those are just the obvious examples. Others would be much more subtle.

For me, once I started thinking about inerrancy, it just didn't hold water. Fundamentalists are fond of phrases like: "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!" As if everything were perfectly clear. But the reality is that scripture is always interpreted. You read I Tim 2, the most problematic chapter in the New Testament if you ask me, and there are parts of it that just can't be right. Women will be saved through the bearing of children? (v. 15) How in the world does that fit in with grace? (Ephesians 2:8, among many others) So everyone tends to ignore that verse. but then the one that is most often quoted to justify banning women from positions of authority in the church is just three verses earlier: "I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." (v. 12) That one gets quoted all the time.

I don't think you can have it both ways, so to me inerrancy is an untenable position. But you know, there are plenty of people, millions of them, that don't see that as a contradiction. They work it out in their own minds somehow (or maybe they just ignore it) and they're fine with it. Does that mean that belief in a particular theological point is more a matter of personality than anything else? You believe what you can live with? With the way my brain works, I can't accept the contradictions raised by I Timothy 2 (and others, that's just the most obvious), so I can't buy inerrancy. Ha. I've always thought of fundamentalists as people who like to have things black & white, no gray areas. But apparently they're just fine with gray areas when it comes to inerrancy, and I'm the one that can't tolerate them. How can you say that all scripture is the literal Word of God, but then pounce on one verse while ignoring the one that occurs three verses later?

But that works just fine for many. Maybe it just comes down to your comfort level with the way you were raised. If you had a happy childhood and you respect your parents and the leaders of your church, you're not likely to want to question their opinions and want to leave.

I'm not sure. I'm starting to believe that religion is more about choices, choosing the way you want to interact with your experience, than it is about ultimate truth. If the way you were raised works for you, you stay with it, even if it has some rough edges. If it throws up too many barriers, if it just refuses to match up with the way you experience life, you start looking for something else. Some other way of thinking about, interacting with your experience.

hmmm. more thought required.


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