Sunday, March 09, 2008

Being Blind to One's Blind Spots

Over at "Craig's Blog's", Craig refers a post made over at "The Blogging Parson", where the author discusses the way in which the Bible was read (read "misread") is the South Africa of the Apartheid era, even by those who are sincere Christians trying honestly to read the Bible. In response, Craig has asked the question "What are our modern blind spots?" It's an excellent question, and one which I decided to take Craig up on. I pointed out that the issue of homosexuality and gender roles are two areas where sincere Christians could be misreading their Bible. Unfortunately, Craig is not open even to the idea that these could be blind spots to him and other Christians who share his stance on the two issues.

Indeed, this makes me wonder just how genuine the question was in the first place and whether Craig really believes that it is possible he has blind spots. This said, this response should not be at all surprising. It is a sad reminder of the way that we are often slow to learn the lessons of history. Take for instance this quote about slavery, made during the period leading up to the American Civil War:

If we prove that domestic slavery is, in the general, a natural and necessary institution, we remove the greatest stumbling block to belief in the Bible; for whilst texts, detached and torn from their context, may be found for any other purpose, none can be found that even militates against slavery. The distorted and forced construction of certain passages, for this purpose, by abolitionists, if employed as a common rule of construction, would reduce the Bible to a mere allegory, to be interpreted to suit every vicious taste and wicked purpose. - George Fitzhugh, 1857

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? It's just like the accusations levelled at people who say that the Bible allows women to be ministers and that there is no prohibition on monogamous homosexual relationships. Surely this should give those who make such accusation stop to pause for a second. You'd hope so, at least.

The thing about a blind spot is that one is blind to it. That is, if one knew that they had a blind spot, how could it be a blind spot anymore? Of course, it is true that once something unpleasant comes into one's field of vision, one could take steps to close their eyes and imagine that it is not there. However, whether or not those who use the Bible to perpetuate a sexist and homophobic agenda are doing so in a wilfully blind manner is not for me to say. Usually, I will try to attribute the best motives to someone, and as such, I'll suggest that it is merely ignorance and not contempt for Scripture that is their fault. This said, we must be mindful of the profound damage that has been done both to women and homosexuals in the church (and homosexuals outside the church) and the name of the church itself. For this reason, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye and must actively fight intolerance in all of its forms.


CraigS said...

David, I don't know whether to be flattered or creeped out by the number of posts you have that mention me by name...

David Castor said...

I'd suggest neither unless you are both extremely paranoid and virulently homophobic. As your write more posts and I read your blog more often than those of other people, it's natural that I would refer to more of your posts.

Of course, if you'd like to make a comment of substance, you're most welcome to.

michael jensen said...

Now, just wait a minute: I am happy to acknowledge that I might have a blind spot here. Of course.

However a socially progressive reading of scripture is no less prone to said blind spots. In fact, as Retief points out, the liberationists gave sanction to violent means of rebellion from scripture too.

David Castor said...

Hey Michael,

I do apologise if I implicated you in my comments - it was not my intention. That you acknowledge that you have blind spots even potentially on these issues is something I greatly admire. I have absolutely no doubt that I too have my own blind spots and they will be revealed to me in due course. The strange thing about blind spots is that perhaps its impossible to appreciate your blind spot simply because someone points it out to you. Maybe its one of those things you have to discover for yourself.

I can understand where you get the idea that I subscribe to liberation theology, but I honestly seek to disassociate myself from liberation theology because of its connection with gun-toting South American Catholic. I'd say I am influenced more by Anabaptist schools of thought, as well as Christian Anarchists such as Jacques Ellul who see no place for violence in a truly anarchist framework.

michael jensen said...

Thanks David: I had no idea of whether you sympathised with liberationists or not. What I was trying merely trying to point out was that the blindness isn't only a matter of conservatives missing progressive elements of the Bible. It certainly goes the other way around too. In fact, I would argue precisely that the American Episcopal Church is quite blind to its own misuse of Scripture because of its commitment to a progressive agenda.