Trelawney handed out a handout and I was looking at it and thinking, "This seems really familiar." Then I realized it was the mini-chapter that accompanies the DVD&introduction we did last time. Which, shock, I went home and read afterward. Trelawney said she thought we'd spend 2 sessions on each chapter (DVD one night, reading next night), unless people just wanted to do the DVD. I said the chapter had some really good stuff in it. However, as we read it, I was reminded of just how much I disliked it.
At the top of page 2 we read:
Most people don't even realize that there are two flood stories in Genesis: the familiar one where God has Noah collect the animals two by two, and the other where they are collected seven by seven. We only hear about the first story because seven by seven would clutter up the simplicity of the illustrations in children's books and murals.
We go around in a circle reading aloud and Andrew (seminarian) read that paragraph and editorialized "Unless they were unclean, in which case it would be five of each...."
"I love you Andrew," I said.
My primary concern was totally the condescending attitude, though. I mean, there's a lot of power in the symbology of pairs. But I didn't even get into that aloud.
Then on the top of page 4:
Then there are all the stories that don't "sync": two creation stories (Genesis 1 & 2), two flood stories, (and imagine the surprise of Victorian scholars who discovered the same story elements in the Genesis flood story lifted from a Babylonian flood epic!)
::splutter:: 'Cause the possibility that there was an actual flood and lots of people wrote about it is so far beyond the realm of possibility?
Down at the bottom of page 2, we read:
One might get the impression that in order to be a Christian they have to (in the words of Mark Twain) "believe twelve unbelievable things before breakfast." (p. 2)
I read that paragraph aloud and said that it's an incorrect citation, that it's Lewis Carroll, "six impossible things before breakfast," and also that this makes me lose so much respect for the writers' scholarly credibility. Trelawney said "Well maybe Lewis Carroll said it, too." At that point I just shut up 'cause it wasn't a big enough point worth arguing. However, I Googled the "twelve unbelievable" line two weeks ago, and the only results one gets is the LtQ material. Plus, what is this "said it too"? I told you a different number and adjective.
On page 5, they talk about how "born again" comes from a mistranslation, that John 3:3 is in fact born "from above" (anothen in Greek). They argue that "Born again" has come to mean a once-and-for-all experience of God's grace and love. [...] Being born "from above," however, implies a process, an orientation, or a way of life.
Am I the only person to interpret "born from above" as just as one-time as "born again"? I could see how one could use birth as a metaphor for a continuous journey, but my default interpretation is as a one-time event (with implications of radical change, to boot).
Further down on page 5:
Maya Angelou was asked if she was a Christian. She turned the question back on the one inquiring of her: "Are you a Christian?" The person replied, "Why, yes, of course!" Angelou exclaimed, "already?"
Being there already is unlikely for many of us. Besides making us totally insuffereable to be around, it would also prevent us from opening up the Bible and looking at it again with the openness, thoughtfulness, and critical thought necessary to help us along the way.
This annoys me. I mean, Jesus was There Already, no? I think of Christian as defined as an effort to be Christ-like, so being all the way there would be Christ/God.
I do like the Maya Angelou story itself, though, for the emphasis on the fact that none of us is all the way there.
Returning to page 2:
"Well, if the Bible is just the product of humans, then what sets it apart from all the other ancient texts and holy books?" In short, two thousand years of people's experiencing its contents as a means of grace and as a life-changing window into the divine.
Two weeks ago, I cited this, though with mention of caveat-having, as one of the bits I liked. Now, let me get to the caveats. I agree that a long history of something resonating with people is valuable evidence that there's something to it (though one can point out that hey, lots of people thought slavery, or insert your evil of choice here, was a great idea, so reliance upon tradition is problematic). The implication here, however, is that Christianity is the only way through which one can access the divine, etc., and I find that so problematic. It's also interesting that in a program that's so all about the journey yadda yadda they don't question that Christianity (of some stripe) is The Way.
I also found the following from page 3 problematic:
Hebrew Scripture Professor, Dr. Harrell Beck, used to stir up a lot of people with the exclamation: "The Bible is NOT the word of God -- but the word of God is in the Bible." It's in there, but don't get caught falling prey to worshipping the Bible the way many faith communities seem to have done. Many people cling to the unspoken cultural belief that the origin of 'Holy' scripture is somehow the result of a series of some sort of supernatural events.
I mentioned when we first started this chapter that I worry it's all too easy to pick and choose the parts you like, the parts you are comfortable with, the parts that don't challenge you too much.
After we finished the read-aloud, Trelawney said that people were going to agree and disagree with different things [this was much in the vein of what she said last time, and given her emphasis on this being a safe space, it wasn't a surprise] and that we should take care not to be "sarcastic or caustic." Yeah, I rather suspected that was directed at me. I thought I could make it through the discussion without being caustic but didn't think I could manage without being sarcastic; it's hard enough for me to articulate my problematics on the spot, so with those additional restraints I stayed quiet the entire discussion time (I think I made one comment).
Thankfully, Mike had many of the same problems I had with the general theme (though as discussion progressed I learned that his problematics have a somewhat different root/trajectory than mine) and he's always so articulate.
He raised the question of if there are too many caveats (sociohistorical moment, interpretation over time, etc.), is there anything left to value?
I said that process and journey is good and all, but you still have to give your congregation something in the Sunday sermon, that you can't just hand them a Bible and say, "Here, journey." A number of people talked about how Christianity isn't supposed to be something limited to Sunday morning, which I agree with, but I also think (though I don't think I actually said that) that it's really important to give people something on Sunday morning that they can take away, not least because Sunday morning is often all you get from a lot of people. It occurs to me now, that there's a lot of talk in these types of circles about "meeting people where they are," which I very much advocate, and that we totally ignore that by eliding the issue of how to get (people) from "one hour a week" to an 'all aspects of daily life' mentality.
Trelawney talked about Andrew's sermon that previous Sunday on forgiveness, using it as an example of a sermon that challenges the listeners -- that a sermon doesn't have to be a pat easy takeaway lesson. I really appreciated being given a concrete example that responded to my concern in a real way.
Eric said that leaders should give and give and give, and I kinda wish he had been able to explain that more because of course I have hesitancy around that idea, being familiar both with people who voluntarily give beyond their means (I'm thinking mostly drain on one's emotional energy etc. though of course it could be monetary as well) and those who are pressured to do so. He said he comes to church to be fed, expecting to be fed. I think it was Andrew who gave him props for that, because church should feed you.
Trelawney talked about devotional vs. critical modes of engaging with the text (I'm not sure I could compartmentalize like that, but I can understand that) and talked about finding a middle way between the all-or-nothing dichotomy of literalist vs. "worthless lie" ("many people are afraid that if they admit there are contradictions in the Bible then the whole thing has to be dismissed as a worthless lie" - p.2).
Trelawney talked about the power of certain stories behind the sometimes-conflicting details , using as her primary example the Christmas story. My immediate (unspoken) response was that the story acquires a life/power of its own from the years of tradition and people investing power in it, so it isn't necessarily that Christ is powerful and true but just that Christmas has accumulated all this baggage (for lack of a more positively connoting word) in which we expect miracles, expect people to take time out of their busy/daily lives and have moments of charity and grace. My major Lit Major interest is the endurance of stories -- though I focus on how they change and are played with -- and of course I'm into what endures behind/beyond the symbols
Mike said that there had been a lot of talk that night about relationship and that, to use that metaphor, he felt betrayed (by religion/Christianity); that he used to believe being gay was wrong and hurt people because of that and feels terrible about that now. Gotta say, that was one of the most powerful things I've ever heard.
* Trelawney said that I was clever, that she cracked up like 3 times at dinner because of stuff I said.
* Michelle said I light up as soon as she comes into a room, that it really makes her feel appreciated.
Her Affirmation for Trelawney was her shirt. Trelawney said she had hoped someone would Affirm it, said she'd been having a bad day so this was her "see you in hell" outfit. I was next after Michelle and said that I had already been planning to go the shallow route and affirm her shirt and boots. (She was wearing all black except for a red silky overshirt, and high-heeled boots. My first thought upon seeing her when I walked in was to compliment her on her outfit, but I didn't have a chance to talk to her before/during dinner.) Eric was the last to do Affirmations, and for Trelawney's he said: "You are so hot! I'm so glad I'm married to you."
* I mentioned the Noah's animals thing in my affirmation of Andrew and he reciprocally Affirmed my geekiness. Michelle asked if that was more like nerdiness. I said I've seen various arguments about geek vs. nerd vs. dork and everyone defines them differently.
* Mike echoed Trelawney and Affirmed my wit. I continue to find it interesting how I'm perceived differently in different settings -- and of course how you are perceived affects how you behave, and there is is also the issue of being used to thinking of oneself a certain way despite perhaps having changed in actuality.
* Eric said I was like a leadoff hitter, like Johnny Damon [Michelle objected to the comparison, of course ;) -- wiki,
uncyclopedia] . He said that I crack open the discussion with really good questions. I thought, but did not say, that while this was accurate last time we did LtQ it really wasn't accurate for that night.
Michelle said (approvingly), "And then you sit back and watch." I said normally I engage more but that this time I didn't think I could articulate my problems without being "sarcastic or caustic" so I just stayed quiet. Trelawney said something like, "I appreciate that."
(I felt good about the Affirmations I gave people, which made me happy after the shoddiness of the ones I gave last time.)
I talked about my Joyce class over dinner.
Megan said, "Now you know you don't like Joyce. Which is what you wanted, right?"
"I can now make an informed statement about my opinions on Joyce," I agreed. I had actually forgotten about that purpose of taking the class, which is ironic 'cause really that was the major reason I took the class (as a part of that whole Shoud Have Read mentality).
During another conversation, Trelawney said that in France it is a crime (punishable by imprisonment) to deny the Holocaust and that the French government recently made denial of the Armenian genocide similarly punishable.
I of course have huge problems with laws like that (and was glad to hear I was not alone in being troubled by that). I wiki-ed and wow, like a dozen countries have such laws.
"scholars have pointed out that countries that specifically ban Holocaust denial generally have legal systems that limit speech in other ways, such as banning hate speech." -wiki
That connection makes a lot of sense.
Yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater is a bright line, but I generally get very uncomfortable around suggestions of outlawing certain types of speech; Free Speech just seems so crucial to me. [And wow, the case from which decision that Oliver Wendell Holmes line comes seems far less of a bright line to me, and I agree with its being overturned.]
Afterward, I hung out at Davis to wait for Ari. Phoned briefly with Emma, and again regret never having taken a Philosophy class. Ari showed up early (so I was glad I'd hung out rather than going home). Was good to get to meatspace vent. And generally good to spend time with her, of course. She said one of the Coming Out chapel services included "joyful girl" and she thought of me. ♥!