Monday, 10 September 2012

A pastor's letter about the church and abuse

I find this letter very interesting. It's from the pastor of a full-on every-word-of-the-Bible church in America, admitting a specific way in which they have got things wrong.

I have a few friends (non-Christians) who reproach me with what they see as my unBiblical views. They say they have more respect for the Bible-thumpers who condemn homosexuality for a phrase in Leviticus and women's ministry for a phrase of St Paul. They think all my explanations are just a fudge, a weaseling out of the details of what I profess to believe. I can sympathise with their desire for the absolute; but I also find this attitude thumpingly naive -- like Bertrand Russell's idea that children left to themselves are sweetness and light, or those teenagers who think sex is a physical act with effects only on the physical plane.* I believe that the Bible is the word of God, but the word of God refracted through humanity. As light gets distorted by water or scattered by dust, or coloured by a shadow or a by a puddle of oil, so human mediation distorts truth. It is an obvious folly to concentrate attention on the tone, the texture of the glass's effect and not to seek to get at the pure light behind it.**

The great Methodist campaigners against slavery knew this. I could pick out phrases in the Bible to suggest another attitude -- "Slaves obey your masters" said St Paul -- but they knew that slavery was intensely transgressive of a deeper Biblical message, and they acted on that. The pastor of this church has discovered for himself how an attention to a literal interpretation of sentences can impair attention to the spirit. I'm sorry that people suffered for this to happen, but I'm glad he wasn't too proud to learn the lesson.

* Excellent XKCD cartoon.

** This isn't my metaphor, it's George Herbert's:
A man that looks on glasse,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it passe,
And then the heav’n espie.***

*** Interestingly my Granny was recommended something very similar, in fact an alternation between the two, to improve the strength of her eye muscles.

No comments:

Post a Comment