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Earnest and Determined, but Tilting at Windmills
on February 22, 2013
Five generations back, my grandfather was a Methodist circuit preacher in Indiana. If he could suddenly appear before me now, I could only imagine his shock and condemnation about our culture, how far the church has changed from Wesleyan holiness, and the vigorous rebuke he would give to me about my lack of piety. But that whimsical encounter is not going to occur, because in whatever form his good soul exists now, he no longer sees thru a glass darkly, and he would know and understand more today.
Karen attests that she received and accepted the (standard liberal) theological consensus taught at Drew Seminary and elsewhere by academics. But in 1994, when her formerly gay seminary friend "Joe" visited and told her how he had been converted to heterosexuality, this started a change in belief wherein she renounced the academic and theological consensus, and converted to "inerrancy" and defense of scriptural references, including those against homosexuality. And ultimately . . to this polemic book "Forgetting to Blush".
My own "liberal" seminary experience was wonderful. I went to evening school after work. The proofs about biblical scholarship and criticism I found absolutely convincing, and brightened my core beliefs in the Gospel considerably. At 10PM, I would get into my dark car, after a long day of work and then school, and I remember multiple times, that I would sit in the dark and rub my hands in glee. I was so elated and so grateful and the implications of what I had learned. I no longer had to worry about whether God commanded the genocide of the Midianite children. The slaughter of Canaanites, Amorities, people of Bashan, annihilation of Sihon's people, et al on and on ---- all of that which appears to be attributed to God ----- all the bloody butchered animal sacrifices --- no longer were reliable attributions. Since seminary, I have been a better more confident believer (and more faithful in daily OT and NT reading, and prayer) than I was before.
There are plenty of other elements about inerrancy to debate and sort through, other than just scriptural references pivoting on homosexuality and genocide. We don't have Alfred Kinsey to blame for that. As Karen knows, the modern scrutiny and variety of biblical criticisms started in Germany a century earlier.
Karen's extended attack upon the veracity and reliability of Kinsey revealed nothing I didn't know about. Most of the behavioral scandals and statistical compromises are well known, adequately covered even in the 2004 biopic starring Liam Neeson. Karen notes American men had already begun to challenge convention, "perhaps because of their or their friends' exposure to more relaxed European morals while fighting overseas". If Kinsey had not appeared, eventually medicine and science would have still gotten to the same determinations. The American Puritan oasis would have fallen due to birth control and scientific advancement. (Unless enforced by Zealot takeover, as dramatized by Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale", her Republic of Gilead, with scaffolds & gallows built to enforce the sexual darkness that is attributed in God's name).
Freud and Shere Hite also had impaired sampling and statistical issues. Yet this has not overturned most of their findings. Paul Gephardt and Vern Bullough reconstituted Kinsey's data in the 1970s, purging what was statistically biased or unreliable. The result proved insignificant in undermining Kinsey's theorems. Kinsey remains "well regarded by the scientific and psychiatric communities".
Galileo was also guilty of some error and bias - his theorems on tides (one tide per day) wrong as he stubbornly refused to concede Venice had two tides daily. Einstein said some of his verdicts were "fanciful". But it took centuries for the Church to admit, that in general, he was right: contrary to scriptural inerrancy the earth does move around the sun. Kinsey's subject and findings cannot compare to the innovative advances that Galileo made in mathematics, physics, and astronomy. But let's face it: Kinsey's detoxification of the core doctrines of Sexual Shame are FAR more threatening to the Church than Galileo's (or Darwin's). For many, like Augustine who hijacked Christianity, sexual piety and unnatural asceticism is the crux and entirety of religion.
Maybe I should be more wrapped around the axle, in terms of the shame and guilt of sexual pleasure --- maybe then I might still agree that sexual intoxication is the work of an external Serpent --- or that Paul's anti-sexual contempt (not just anti-homosexual) was inspired by God. But I don't. He wrote some great things and was a dedicated martyr. But it is clear that there was disagreement and dispute with his peers about his ministry. And Paul's explanations about taming sexual appetite certainly bring to my mind "absurdity", and absurdity was Wesley's stated exception to departing from Scriptural rule.
Since the UMC Book of Discipline is governed as much by laity delegates votes, and not dominated by ecclesiastical or theological expertise, of course it is bound to continue to reflect more conventional or conformist viewpoints . . . and potentially become out of phase with other more progressive denominations. With the continued influx of delegates from the Philippines and Africa, preserving the anti-homosexual rules appears assured.
Despite the last general conference victory, I expect that Alan Chambers defection at Exodus International, disputing reparative therapy, and other developments, will continue to make the going tougher for those that would prefer to Blush about Sexuality.
And, about that title: Jeremiah's crusade was aimed against Baal / cultural and religious blending, dishonesty, child sacrifice, cheating. Adultery was included, but in the context of poor integrity. While a loner and ascetic in attitude, Jeremiah has NO Paulist rants about lust and contempt about sexuality.