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Monday, August 17, 2009

Letters, we get letters . . .


From time to time, I get letters - more and more these days, they arrive by email - and most of the time I ignore them.

I actually have a file with the FBI and Homeland Security. Nothing has been added for several years but at one point, I had ten letters, a poster of Hitler someone sent me (you know, what every good Progressive Christian needs for the wall in her office or home), and a coupla handfulls of roofing nails that were thrown all over the parking lot of the church - especially near my car.

I have come to ignore the ones that are from fundamentalist folks who want to know why I believe what I believe, but mostly they want to tell me that if I don't stop believing what I believe I am going to hell.

Except, of course, for those who figure I'm "so far gone" (read: confident enough about my faith and articulate enough to write convincingly) that they just need to tell me that I'm going to burn in hell for eternity.

You know. Because they figure I need know that. Actually, what they really want me to know is that THEY are going to heaven and they sure are relieved and thankful to God to know that while they may have to put up with my sorry excuse for an existence on this side of Paradise, they rest secure in knowing that I won't be in spending any part of Eternity with them.

How "bad Christian" of them. (You'll understand this term in a minute.)

Once, I entered into an email exchange with a man named "Otis" - that was his real name. Said he was in his 70s. "Cradle Episcopalian" who had left the church over the ordination of women. His wife still attended the Episcopal Church where they were married and their kids had been baptized and married, but now, now with all this stuff about homosexuality, he just knew he'd never be able to go back to church.

He was writing me, however, because he knew his time on earth was drawing to a close and he wanted to get "right with God" before he left. For the sake of his wife and his children and grandchildren, he wanted to be able to have his casket borne from the family church and have his funeral there. Not for him. For them.

So, he wondered if he could ask me a few questions. You know, as a pastor. To help him. For the sake of peace and unity in his family. Especially in their time of grief. Could I please spare a few moments to answer a few questions from a dying old man?

Pretty good, huh?

So good that, unfortunately, I took the bait. For the next six months, about twice a month, Otis would send me questions and I would spend hours answering him.

Long story short, the next thing I knew, I was at a gathering where I met up with Bob Duncan, then the bishop of Pittsburgh, who told me that our friend Otis had met him at the airport and handed him over 300 pages of our email correspondence. Turns out Otis, a good Foot Soldier for the Lord, had been doing some 'intelligence spying" in enemy territory.

I remember writing an essay about it, which I titled "Mr. Otis Regrets"

Well, that betrayal taught me a coupla very important lessons which led me to develop some rules for myself.

1. Never trust a skunk. Oh, they are soft and cute and furry and it's not that they mean any harm. It's just in their nature to pee on you whenever they feel the need to defend themselves.

2. Skunks don't change their stripe. Nothing you can say or do will move or change anything they believe.

3. Never enter a conversation, dialogue or debate with a skunk about scripture. They really don't want to know what you know or think or believe. They just want an opportunity to show you what - and how much - they know and think and believe. (See lessons one and two above.)

Okay, so that was then, and this is now. Yup, I'm going to break my own rules.

I got a letter from someone who describes himself as a graduate of a Bible College who lives in the Heartland. I'll call him "Mike." He wrote me what appears to be a very earnest email, asking sincere questions about why I believe what I believe.

I've promised "Mike" that I would think and pray over his letter and that I would answer it, but before I do that, I would like to ask your help.

I'm going to reprint the bulk of his email here, stripping it of identifiers. Please read it and give me your best advice about how to answer and/or your answer to his questions.

I'm going to ask you a few things, first. A few "new rules":

1. Suspend your natural inclination to suspicion and assume that "Mike" really wants/needs answers to the questions he seeks.

2. Treat him with utmost respect - the kind you wish you were shown those times that you have engaged in this kind of exchange.

3. Try to keep your answer brief. This is not about debating facts. This is about faith development.

4. Respond to one point at a time. Just answer The One Thing you are most passionate about. (See 'keeping your answer brief' above.) If you are passionate about two or three of Mike's questions, please answer them separately - and, as briefly as you can.

5. Be as generous, kind and patient as you know how to be - as Jesus would want you to be with one of His own whom He loves as much as He loves you and me.

And, He does. Love us. Very much.
In other words, please show "Mike" that you are truly, honestly, fully the follower of Jesus I know you all to be.

Okay - here we go. Here's the letter from "Mike":
Hello, my name is "Mike", and I was just reading your blog.

First off, I have to let you know -- I am completely against just about everything you believe in.

BUT: Here's what I hope sets me apart from a lot of bad Christians -- I am not going to fuss bitterly with you or be mean about it. Instead, please let me tell you why I feel that it is important for me to contact you.

First off, I am an independent, fundamental Baptist, and I was privileged to acquire a Pastoral Degree from ***** Baptist Bible College in May of 2009. I attend the Southwest Baptist Church in ***, **, and I love it there. Okay, now to get to the point. :)

I am truly, humbly wanting to understand where you are coming from in some of your beliefs. I have a couple of questions to ask you. I hope this doesn't strike you as rude or mean or anything odd -- I am sincerely wanting to know.

The first question: I believe the Bible (I read the King James), and I interpret it literally (I am a victim of pious hysteria, I reckon ) and historically.

While I understand that there were certainly some culture differences that we would definitely say "no way" to (you mentioned slavery and polygamy, which, although they existed, we know that they were never intended nor supported by Scripture, although we find that God showed grace in these situations), I have always interpreted Romans chapter one as being very clearly against same-sex relationships, without any room for cultural misinterpretation. It appears to really denounce the homosexuals that indulged in what the Bible calls "vile affections" and so on.

So I suppose that's my first question: How do you interpret Romans chapter one? To me, it seems that to for us say, "Well, that was the culture then" or "Well, that's Paul's bigot opinion" really kind of discounts the Bible's perfection and infallibility, you know? I mean, if we fall back on that excuse, then we might as well throw the whole Bible aside as just a now-culturally irrelevant book for our society. So that's where I'm at with that question.

The second question
: I have always wondered this, and, admittedly, at some times with a certain amount of dogmatic condescension -- If one of the qualifications for a pastor in I Timothy 3 is to be the "husband of one wife," and women are commanded not to teach in I Timothy 2:12, then how does a woman (whether straight or L/B/T) justify being a pastor?

Please, please, PLEASE do not misread my tone in asking that question. I am not asking it with an "Ah-HA! Got you THERE!" tone. No, I am sincerely asking, because I cannot see any way around it.

Therefore, seeing as you are an intelligent person who, from what I gather from your blog, can hold her own in a discussion and provide good reasons for her beliefs, I hope you won't be one of the many who just say, "You bigot! Don't you know anything? Blah, blah blah...!"

Rather, I anticipate you giving me a reasonable rationalization as to why that verse apparently doesn't mean what it says, you know?

My third question would be as follows: On the issue of the "patriarchy," I can definitely see where your position is, and I can see where you come from. However, I read in the Bible that the woman does indeed have a certain role (that is no less important or significant, only different) to play in God's plan.

I disagree STRONGLY, SO STRONGLY with that arrogant person who said something to the effect of "well, when a woman gets beat, it's really HER fault..." No, the Bible clearly lays it out that, when there are problems in the home, the leader (in the patriarchy, I suppose that would be the man) is to blame, and needs to take responsibility.

So, here's the question: How do you interpret the instruction of the following passages: I Corinthians 11:3 (well, pretty much the whole first half of the chapter), Ephesians 5:22-24, I Timothy 2:9-15, and I Peter 3:1? It seems lucid to me that God (through His human instrument, Paul) is telling us how to go about this "patriarchy." So I would like to know what your take is on that.

I have a BUNCH of more questions regarding the Anglo-Catholic beliefs (I suppose it would be called "High Church?" Is that right? Not sure...), but I don't want to waste your time with those. I really just wanted to ask you some of the more "Kaeton-centric" questions.

Ma'am, thank you for reading this email, and I hope you realize by now that I am just sincerely wanting to know what your position is on these passages, and how you interpret them. I know that, by now, you have probably encountered a lot of zealous people who fling down a lot of "fightin' words" and start in on their Bible preaching and, well, condemnation.

But I want you to know that I am not writing you to do that. I have no intention of picking a fight; instead, I just want to know how you can read the same Bible I do and yet believe so differently, you know? As you know, I am quite firm in my beliefs in the Bible, as I am sure you are, too.

I just hope to get some answers to my questions from a woman who seems to know how to defend her side of the issues.

Again, thanks for taking the time to read this, and I really, really hope to hear from you soon.

For His sake,

"Mike"
I've written to "Mike" telling him that I've asked my friends for some help before I respond to him. While he waits, I offered him this story which former President of the House of Deputies, George Werner, recently posted on HOB/D.

It's from Archbishop Donald Coggan from the '76 General Convention.
Today, I offer Karl Barth's recurring dream. Barth was a fascinating character. During the thirties he taught in Germany. When he didn't like what he saw with Hitler and the Third Reich, he spoke up often enough that we was deported (banished, exiled) to his home country of Switzerland.

Later in his life, when he was often toasted as a significant theologian, he would tell of his "Recurring Dream." he would find himself hurrying desperately to get to the gates of heaven. He was pushing a library cart in front of him filled with his books, papers and life's work.

When he looked up, he realized that both sides of his path were filled with multitudes of angels, laughing uproariously at the notion that anything he had on his cart could make a difference in gaining him access to the Kingdom.
Okay - so, off you go then. How would you respond to "Mike"?

24 comments:

James Joiner said...

To the 1st Question, in Brief:

"para phusin" is the phrase used in Rom. 1: 26 for "contrary to nature," but that's actually not the best translation. It also appears in Rom. 11 for God's activity in saving the Gentiles. In other words Paul describes these relationships as "para pushin" or "beyond nature", much as the grace of God is beyond nature.

I don't doubt that Paul saw some vulgar things- I've seen some vulgar things myself in the gay community and straight community alike. But that doesn't have anything to do with faithful relationships between people of the same gender, and if Paul saw any model of those in his time, I'd imagine he'd call them friendships.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

How do you answer someone who takes the Bible literally when you don't?

I'm really not sure anymore.

I, too, grew up in a fundamentalist church in which the KJV was the only "approved" version. What I learned about the construction of the KJV--and the history of the Bible as a *book* in general--made it impossible for me to take it literally. (FYI--One good resource on that last is Luke Timothy Johnson's lecture series on "The Story of the Bible," from the Teaching Company. You might be able to find it at the public library if you look...)

What finally did me in was having someone whose deep faith I admired greatly tell me, "The Bible is not the 'word of God.' JESUS is the 'Word of God.'"

If Mike had written to me, I would want him to answer a question first before I spent a lot of time answering his. And that would be:

Why is it so important to you that the Bible be LITERALLY true? Would you lose your faith in God if it wasn't?

I know the answer to that for myself. I am currently having a discussion on my own blog about my belief in the miracles of Jesus (it's in reaction to a discussion I had last week about your former Bishop, Elizabeth), but it wouldn't change my faith if someone could "prove" to me that those stories weren't "true" in a scientific sense. That's because I FEEL them to be true. As Mimi said in the comments "It's too lovely an idea not to be true, and if it's not, then it ought to be."

I hope it won't sound snarky when I confess that I feel a bit sorry for people who can't let go of a need for the Bible to be "true" in that scientific sense. It seems to drain all the beauty and mystery and poetry right out of it--and to put the infinite God in such a small and uncomfortable box.

I am relieved to have reached a place where I can take the Bible seriously but not literally. It has made it so much more meaningful to me and has made it possible for me to embrace faith in love and joy, rather than in fear.

I think it's lovely that you are engaging Mike in such a positive way, and I hope he finds something useful in the exchange.

Pax,
Doxy

Suzanne said...

Dear Elizabeth,
Sorry that this isn't a contribution to the Mike's letter response.
I just wanted you to know that I have wanted to write you a letter for quite some time to say thank you for your courage, transparency, and honesty. You challenge me, inform my thinking, make me laugh, and let me know I'm not alone. I cannot put a price on such gifts and hope to be half the priest you are someday.
God bless you!

DeanB said...

My response is somewhat irrelevant, since I'm not Christian at all, and what I consider the Bible doesn't include the parts 'Mike' is mostly asking about (i.e. NT). It goes right to 'Mike's "I mean, if we fall back on that excuse, then we might as well throw the whole Bible aside as just a now-culturally irrelevant book for our society." We (or at least I) don't need an all-or-nothing, inerrant or useless, view of the Bible. Even if we think the Bible was written over a long period of time by a lot of human beings and edited by a lot of others, with various levels of inspiration, containing a mixture of history, myth, fiction, and political propaganda along with spiritual insights, it's the most important document, or set of documents, we have about the development of our civilization. We can study and love the Bible, and be inspired by those parts of it that resonate with us, without thinking it's inerrant.

Matthew said...

Maybe we can recommend a stack of books? And, I do admire you for all the time you spent responding to Otis. But, I do think questions of this sort involve a semester long course, with lots of scholarly journal articles and books. Some questions from a total stranger are appropriate for email -- like, What is the cost to rent your church for a wedding -- this is not.

Caminante said...

"I believe the Bible (I read the King James), and I interpret it literally "

I'd quit after this statement. But were I to engage, I'd say:

The KJV is a TRANSLATION, Mike. It cannot be interpreted literally because the words in English are not necessarily the words in the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. Any translation is at best, a copy or shadow of the original, sometimes able to get nuances, more often than not, unable.

In English, how to deal with the changes of the language over four centuries? Words even in one language evolve. Even the OED updates entries.

As for the biblical text, consider just a few examples from the Torah:

How, for example, to render the wa consecutive of Hebrew into English? It changes the tense of the verb to its opposite, present to past, past to present but not quite really the present or past.

How to deal with the garbled Hebrew text of Genesis 3.15 where the pronouns are not clear and can be taken in several ways?

Some of our favourite psalms (including the 23rd) are not clear in Hebrew.

We understand through a glass dimly (translation), then we shall see face-to-face (original text).

+++

Having said this, after your previous experience, though, I'd probably not answer.

danielj said...

I am retired from ministry and the church, but still keep appraised on TEC matters through reading episcope eyes left. I have never posted to a blog, but was touched by your asking for input

regarding this man's letter. Please accept these humble words.

- this man is asking you, ever so nicely, to justify your interior affections and outward vocational
calling, by means of a religious framework that is his...but not necessary yours. Respond from your framework.

He asks you for your interpretation of inerrent Pauline texts to justify who and what you are. I do not think this is possible, and I would not attempt to do so.

- He seems very adament about his view of scripture, and i would not attempt to change his views

- He seems sincere on wanting to understand how you can be - for that he must understand that not
all expressions of Christianity are the same.
-some see the bible as the inerrant word of God...others see Jesus as the word of God, though not inerrant.
- some see systematics as the primary thing...others see the reign of God as the primary thing.
-some see statis as primary, other progression; some see law, others grace; some Word, some Spirit etc etc

-If you want to engage him scripturally, point to Jesus...his attitude toward women; his silence on sexuality, but not on faithfullness. His teachings that grace, mercy, and compassion trumps law (we have that in Paul as well)

Basically what we have here is two different forms of the same religion; he may not accept the
validity of forms other than his own ...but perhaps he can be reminded that the Kingdom of God is a big mustard bush; large enough to give safety and shelter to " all the birds of the air"
blesisngs Dan

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed to this discussion thus far.

James, your Greek is very helpful. I don't have my Greek stuff here. Thank you.

Doxy, I went over to your blog and found the discussion very helpful, as I found your questions:

Why is it so important to you that the Bible be LITERALLY true? Would you lose your faith in God if it wasn't?

I'm sure to use it in my response to him, giving you credit, of course (Well, your blog identity.)

Suzanne, thank you. How very sweet of you.

DeanB - I think your response is more relevant than some from many Christians. Thank you.

Matthew - You know, I think this is not so much a conversation as an entire course. In fact, I think seminaries should offer such a course. Wouldn't that be great training for "the real world"?

Caminante - In some ways, talking with a fundamentalist is like two people talking about Jesus in two very different languages. We are constantly talking past each other about the same thing. I am going to try to respond to him, but probably not in the way he asks.

Thank you, Dan, for your wisdom. I deeply appreciate your comments here. Please don't be a stranger.

IT said...

During the local Pride Parade, we marched with the Episcopal Cathedral . The route passed a gang of haters: you know, the ones with signs that said we are all going to hell. They were particularly incensed at the clergy who marched.

"If your God doesn't hate, then you don't know God!" one of them shouted.

We learned from the Dean that at one point in the past, a gang of "Christian" protesters actually invaded the Cathedral during the Eucharist, interrupting it, and demanding that the presiding clergy drop everything to address Romans 1.

Basically, I don't think you can possibly engage these people in any meaningful way, and certainly as danielj says, you can't do it in their framework. Are they interested in hearing yours, honestly, or just in scoring points in some religious game?

They strike me as the sick obsessive in Robert Browning's poem of the Spanish Cloister:
There’s a great text in Galatians,
Once you trip on it, entails
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails:
If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure as can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell, a Manichee?


But as we all know, I'm a suspicious cynic.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You may be a 'suspicious cynic', IT, but you are one of the more intelligent and delightful of that genre that I've ever known.

Thanks, as always, for your wisdom and insight.

Barry Fernelius said...

Dear Mike,

You started off by saying, " I believe the Bible (I read the King James), and I interpret it literally (I am a victim of pious hysteria, I reckon ) and historically." If this is how you approach the Bible, your questions are not that surprising. The Bible is very important to the life of the church, but it's easy to misunderstand what's written in it, particularly if you rely on a translation from Hebrew and Greek into a version of the English language that is over four hundred years old. The language of the King James Bible would have been familiar to Shakespeare, but I don't always have an easy time understanding it without a great deal of work. Since the seventeenth century, there have been substantial changes in Biblical scholarship and theological thought, and these ideas aren't reflected in the King James Bible.

I'm so sorry to hear that you're a victim of pious hysteria. When you interpret the Bible literally, you are in danger of elevating the Bible to the same level as God. This is idolatry, a grave theological error. That's one of the reasons that most of Christianity doesn't interpret the Bible literally. I don't see the Bible as merely a book of rules; instead I see the Bible as a map. Don't confuse the map with the territory that it describes!

For these reasons (and many more), I don't worship a book. Instead, I believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe in the Jesus, the Word made flesh. My understanding of God comes through Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. To understand what people in other times and other cultures thought about God and Jesus, I read the Holy Bible, in Hebrew and Greek, as well as many different translations into English. When I read the Bible, I sometimes read it literally, but I most often find myself reading it poetically and metaphorically, with an understanding of its cultural context.

Until you open your mind to the possibility that the Bible is too important to be limited to a literal interpretation, there is simply nothing more that I can say that will make any sense to you. I'll be praying for you as you undertake your spiritual journey, and I hope that you can do the same for me. May the peace of God be always with you.

JTurner said...

What a tough situation!! Can you just send him all the info you sent Otis? Since you took the time to write it all out once already.

But I think Barry F. nailed it--you don't take the Bible completely literally. Mike does. And thus, there will be differences of opinion.

JimMollo said...

Yikes. I gotta tell you. I wouldn't respond. I don't think he wants to hear your answers. I think he's collecting information that he hopes to use against you in some way.

Perhaps you could agree to answer some of his questions if he would answer some of your questions first. Does he believe it all literally? Has he ever not suffered a witch to live? Does he eat pork? shellfish? Yes, it's a little sarcastic, but I mean it seriously. He's picking and choosing the rules that are important rather than living into the Golden Rule.

His note does not strike me as one that is looking to understand so much as to ask a question so you see he is right and you are wrong.

I know. I didn't follow any of your rules... maybe you shouldn't post this. Seriously. I'm just concerned this guy is using you.

Or perhaps... just perhaps... God can soften his heart through you... in the same way that God hardened the Pharroh's heart.

Grace said...

Mother Kaeton,

Hi, how are you? I think it is possible to engage these brothers, and sisters within their own theological framework, and really make an impact.

For me, the difficulty does not so much lie in the authority of Scripture, as it does in coming to the correct interpretation, and application of the Scripture.

I don't think that Rom. one is really addressing the issue of people who are constitutionally gay, involved in life-long committed relationships at all.

And, it's speaking of people who have given up the knowledge of God, and who have turned to idolotry. How does this reference gay, and lesbian people who love the Lord with their whole hearts?

Here is an excerpt from "Evangelicals Concerned," how some scholars view these verses in Rom. Maybe this will help. Hope it is not too lengthly. Maybe you could just draw out some concepts here, and cut it down abit. :)


In Romans 1, Paul is ridiculing pagan religious rebellion, saying that the pagans knew God but worshipped idols instead of God.

To build his case -- which he'll turn against judgmental Jews in chapter 2 -- he refers to typical practices of the fertility cults involving sex among priestesses and between men and eunuch prostitutes such as served Aphrodite at Corinth, from where he was writing this letter to the Romans.

Their self-castration rites resulted in a bodily "penalty." Catherine Kroeger comments in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society that 'Men wore veils and long hair as signs of their dedication to the god, while women used the unveiling and shorn hair to indicate their devotion. Men masqueraded as women, and in a rare vase painting from Corinth a woman is dressed in satyr pants equipped with the male organ. Thus she dances before Dionysos, a deity who had been raised as a girl and was himself called male-female and 'sham man."'

Kroeger continues: "the sex exchange that characterized the cults of such great goddesses as Cybele [Aphrodite, Ishtar, etc.] the Syrian goddess, and Artemis of Ephesus was more grisly. Males voluntarily castrated themselves and assumed women's garments. A relief from Rome shows a high priest of Cybele. The castrated priest wears veil, necklaces, earrings and feminine dress. He is considered to have exchanged his sexual identity and to have become a she-priest."

As such, these religious prostitutes would engage in same-sex orgies in the pagan temples all along the coasts of Paul's missionary journeys.

Paul's conception of homosexuality," as Thielicke points out, "was one which was affected by the intellectual atmosphere surrounding the struggle with Greek paganism." Says Scroggs: "The illustrations are secondary to [Paul's] basic theological structure" (Cf. 3:22b-23, Paul's own summary), and Furnish adds:

"--homosexual practice as such is not the topic under discussion."

Doesn't what Paul says in the beginning of Romans better describe these pagan orgies he meant to ridicule than it does the mutual love and support in the domestic life of lesbian and gay male couples today?

Could address these other verses, and concerns, too, but don't have the time right now.

Hope you are well, Mother Kaeton. The post about your vacation sounded wonderful.

God bless!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jim - well I've been a worse fool for Christ. I'm going to give this my best shot. It may not be good enough, but it will be my best.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Grace, thanks so much for your help in this. I especially appreciate your conservative perspective.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Barry,

"Mike" is reading these comments. Thank you for speaking directly to him.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JTurner - Yup, it's a very difficult situation. I'm going to give it my best shot. Probably sometime on Wednesday. Thanks for your comment.

Two Auntees said...

I was going to suggest that you send "Mike" a copy of the responses you had received on this blog but since he is reading them he will have the benefit of the different views and comments.

"Mike" and I come from the same religious background. His questions are ones that I had in the past. There was a point that I began to search for information to answer those questions. It was not a quick or easy search

I think that a giving him a bibliography (there are plenty of books out there) and suggest that he find a group who are geographically near him that are willing to discuss these issues with him would be most helpful.

This is a struggle that he must be willing to engage within himself over time. Struggling for him will not give him answers. If he is sincere in searching for answers he will follow through and he may or may not change his views.

MarkBrunson said...

You cannot change such people. You can only overcome them.

Don't trust them. Even their sincerity is a lie.

czarina911 said...

EK- my darling girl, i'm not prone to leaving comments on these blogs [mostly cause i enjoy our convo's on a different medium], but seemed compelled to say a few words.

you of all people should know that i know about the bible as much as i know about space travel - i haven't done the latter, nor read the former, and quite frankly have no interest in either.

but from a different perspective, a legal one, if i might indulge, the only thing i believe in is equal rights. while ur bible may speak of homosexuality or ordaining women, or not, or slavery, etc. mike chooses what he would like to excuse, i.e. slavery as what is clearly wrong, versus, what he doesn't want to excuse, i.e. refraining from ordaining women, etc, as a complete lack of the basic civil rights every man, woman and child is entitled to.

may i assume that "mike" lives in the US, and be he a christian, good or bad, he is still an American who, if nothing else, should believe in the one thing this country, as diverse as it is, stands for - freedom! and while, his literal interpretation of the KJV may be just that, TOO literal, my cynicism leads me to believe that he doesn't truly want to hear ur answers in guiding him or helping him understand you or your beliefs, so much as he wants to continue the conversation ad nauseum of how he and his version are correct and u are a heretic - a lesbian female priest!

i don't know much about the bible, KJV or any otherwise, but the one thing i DO know is this: you are positively fabulous, one of the most intelligent, caring individuals i've had the pleasure to meet and adore, and DA BOMB!

so, should you choose to engage, be ever so careful not to allow ur good heart and gentle nature to lead u into another "otis" situation, lest we're forced to track mike down and tar and feather him WITH his KJV lol

ever urs! czarina!

Two Auntees said...

I myself was engaged in dialogue with someone who was in a Theology School to become a minister, he was married, he said, and wanted to discuss why I 'choose to be trans'. After several lengthy tit for tat exchanges, I bombarded him with a bibliography of the book that Kay and I had read and studied about other biblical views. If I remember right, I provided book by author and chapter and page. He stopped challenging me and quit sending email. Never will know if he took my reading list to heart.
Sarah

Jim said...

I too, had trouble getting very far in reading the letter. The paradigm in the first paragraph stopped me.

Mike,

Here is the truth. No one 'iterprets the Bible literally.' No one. What we all do, and this includes every preacher is choose to read parts of it and then say that as we read them, they are literally saying what we see there.

I am not impugning your or your preacher's motives: I am simply telling you what happens. How in the world can we 'read literally' the Song of Solomon and come up with the standard cop out that it is about God's love for the church? It is SEX poetry. And that is but one example.

There is a Latin pun and proverb that says "translator is traitor." It works a bit better as a pun in Latin but the point sticks. The KJV is no better and at times much worse than any other.

Mike if you are really interested in the Bible you might want to look into the oldest manuscript known. It has two books of Maccabees in it, but not our books one and two, rather our books one and four. Some look at the canon as settled and that is optimistic. The churches do not all agree on what is in the Bible!

Jesus is the Word, Mike. The Bible is a priceless record of God's searching love for us including the ministry and salvation works of His Son. Not a book of rules, not God or even God's Word. In the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Let's be literal for a moment. John did not say the Word became books.

The key to my thoughts is this. If we did not have the Bible, if every manuscript had been lost: we could still have the faith. Jesus transcends the books. The faith predates the books.

Good fortune in your searching.

FWIW
jimB

F. Harry Stowe said...

Send mike to me, fharrystowe.blogspot.com.
I am wrestling with the same problems he is (if he really is)and he may find my conclusions and arguments helpful, as I am sure I would find his questions.