25 April 2024

Interpret according to modern perspectives

Probers 5:3-5: "For the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol."

If you're reading a theological blog post, you probably know that women are marginalized throughout the Hebrew Bible, aka the Old Testament. This quote refers to a loose woman, but rest assured there are no loose men in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, women can be loose, but men cannot. Men can be weak and be unable to resist those feminine wiles, but men are typically not held accountable. The great King David sent a soldier to his death so he could take Bathsheba, and David's infant child died for that, but David's horrific selfishness is ignored afterwards.

At worst, in the Hebrew Bible, men punish women for their tempting ways. Men who lose battles are insulted by being compared to women. Men inherit land, women do not (with a few exceptions that are notable because they are exceptions).

Before I go on, I must agree that the Hebrews valued the institution of marriage highly. The husband was in charge, but adultery was bad. Jesus was able to stop the crowd from stoning the adulterous woman because the men in the crowd were just as bad. Nevertheless, ancient Israeli society was patriarchal, sometimes to the point of misogyny.

In 2024, it is simply wrong to treat these verses as explicit wisdom for the ages. The Bible doesn't tell us that God wants men to rule over women even to the point of violence. Men seduce and men lie, as they always have, just like women and queers and every other homo sapiens. Act righteously, and justly toward other demographics.

11 April 2024

And we wonder why church attendance is lower...


The Atlantic reported in 2023 that church attendance in the US is declining because that's "just how American life works in the 21st century." It's true Americans like to be seen as individualists responsible for their own destinies, but that has always been the case. Contrast that with the belief that after WWII, we Americans came to be believe our system is exceptional and we owe the world our leadership, although that has been tempered by recent isolationism. Still, I don't think isolationism is what is impacting church attendance. Covid had a catastrophic effect on attendance, so we must keep trying to get back to where we were back in 2019.

We churchgoing Christians certainly need to look inwardly, as well. Just as Christmas has taken on a materialistic life of its own regardless of its religious origins, churches have allowed the commandment to love our neighbors to be eroded by the desire for secular accomplishment. The kids participate in multiple activities and the adults are in constant contact with their work lives. Partisan politics infects all levels of community involvement. IT's hard to make time for church.

Adults have failed to instill a sense of mature moderation in our kids. I believe I am supportive of diverse gender identities and lifestyles, but we should push back a little when a person's only objective seems to be to support a fluid sequence of lifestyle choices. OK, so let's say a person spends a couple years, 24/7, proving it's OK to be queer ... now what? The person still has gifts that can be used to meet meets needs the person discerns. No one can fix everything, but it's always possible to find something that can be fixed.

Some people don't feel accepted at church, and that's painful. Churches need to start from a position of inclusiveness and acceptance. There is little Scriptural support for the notion that Jesus taught we should hate trans people in 2024. Individual members of churches need to get on board with the communal starting point of inclusiveness, and there is Scriptural support for that.

Sometimes, an individual encounters, at church, political and social perspectives that can't be reconciled. Churches need to do the best they can to publicize their positions so frustrated Christians can find a new church home rather than to stop attending.

Christians need to evangelize, not by Bible-thumping, but by doing God's work in the world. If I hide in my pew and don't use my gifts to help others, then that makes for a pretty boring religion.

If my clergy and hierarchical leadership have acted sinfully but are accountable only to civil courts, then I need to push for more accountability. If my church supports excommunication and the invalidation of baptisms, then I need to vocalize the lack of Scriptural support. Certainly, some people commit evils that are hard to redeem in civilized society, but there is no commandment that says, "Love my neighbor unless I decide the neighbor doesn't deserve my love." If my church assigns a different value to a fetus, the mother and the father, I have to realize those value judgments will push people away.

Churches communities are a rare sort of environment in which the successful can sit next to the up-and-coming, and help each other out.

gocekBlogGary: In the footsteps of Paul in Corinth, Greece

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