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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Experiential Truth Test

I've noticed a trend in evaluation processes. Generally it's in evaluation of biblical content. Let me give you some examples and see if you can find the trend.

The argument is that Christianity is a bloodthirsty religion, responsible for much violence and hate and generally a mean-spirited religion. Why? "Well, look at history! There were the Crusades and the Inquisition and the witch hunts and the religious wars and the Christians taking life and land from the Native Americans! Isn't it obvious?" Or "If you question whether or not Christianity is a religion of hate, just look at the Westboro Baptist Church. 'Nuff said."

Ongoing now is a debate in Christendom between the complementarians and the egalitarians. The complementarians say, "There is a difference between male and female. Each is made for different roles. Both are of equal value, but God has made male and female for different tasks and purposes." This, of course, lends itself to patriarchalism. Indeed, one of the primary reasons for the term "complementarianism" is that it is not "patriarchalism" because that word carries a lot of negative baggage. "It's wrong," the egalitarians will tell us. "God has not made male and female with differing roles. They are of equal value and there is no difference between male and female in the eyes of God." Why? Well, we can all list problems that have occurred with patriarchalism. Men in charge treating women as inferior, without respect, without care. Bad news!

As more and more voices in the world call for "marriage equity" meaning "redefining the concept of marriage to include those who were not before ... as long as they are the ones we approve", more and more voices associated with Christians are rising to agree. Their objections are not biblical ones. They are experiential. "How would you like it if you couldn't marry the one you love?" "Christians have for too long abused the homosexual community." "Look at what Christians did in the name of Christ with interracial marriage. It's the same thing here."

Okay, a few examples. What's the trend? Well, the obvious trend is "Experience trumps text." That is, it doesn't really matter what the Bible says about it. If experience says something else, experience is right. But I see another underlying trend here. There seems to be a tendency to judge Christian doctrine and biblical claims not on their truth value -- "Is it true?" -- but by whether or not it has been abused. Think about it.

Christianity is a bloodthirsty religion not because that correlates with anything in Scripture or matches up with anything remotely "Christian". No, the primary command throughout Scripture for interpersonal relationships for Christians is "Love your neighbor." Not violent or hateful. No, it's a bloodthirsty religion because people have abused Christianity and Scripture, twisting it to say things it doesn't say so that they can do things "in the name of Christ" that don't match up with Christ. And here we are, much later, still carrying the onus of things that aren't Christian because someone abused Christianity. Complementarianism and its logical conclusion, patriarchalism is dismissed out of hand by so many not because it's not biblical, but because it has been so abused. "Well, maybe you can get that from the Bible," they may say, "but I've seen too many overbearing men as fathers, husbands, pastors, and leaders who abuse their perceived power and mistreat those around them." Yes, okay, I agree that people have abused it. But does that mean that it's not true, that it's not biblical? No, no, don't ask that. And it's clearly the same with the question of "same-sex marriage". Marriage itself has been so abused over the years that calling for its defense is becoming nearly as meaningless as the idea of marriage. It has been twisted, torn, gashed, cut, abused and dismissed by society in general and even by the church. "And now you have the audacity to try to keep a minority segment from having it?" Why? Because it has been so abused that no one seems to even know what it is anymore. Not, "What is the truth about marriage?" but how has it been abused and how have people incorrectly mistreated fellow sinners in the name of Christ?

It seems to go to a lot of the questions today. Should wives submit to husbands? Bad husbands make that a difficult question to answer in the affirmative. Should women be pastors? Bad pastors have made that harder to answer. Should children be spanked? Abusive parents unclear on either love or child-rearing have made that a tough one. And just because there are clear biblical answers to questions like these and so many more doesn't mean that people -- even Christians -- are going to accept them. "The Bible says" carries less weight these days than "I've seen too many bad versions" or "In my experience ...". Even for too many Christians.


Craig said...

"As more and more voices in the world call for "marriage equity" meaning "redefining the concept of marriage to include those who were not before ... as long as they are the ones we approve..."

A local venue has put up a billboard in support of the vote no on traditional marriage. The text of the billboard suggests that they would like to see no restrictions on marriage and the marriage equality should be extended to everyone. I suspect that as is usual with these folks that this is not the case. There are multiple groups who they would discriminate against in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.

Stan said...

Wow! Quite a statement! "Vote no on traditional marriage!" Actual opposition to the longstanding, traditional concept. "Put it away. It is of no use anymore. It should be abolished. End marriage now!" Quite a position.

I'm not sure which is more frightening to me. There are the loudest voices seeking "marriage equality" ... for those they approve, as you point out. They don't seem to see that they'd be just as quick to deny it to others. But there are also growing voices that seek "marriage equity" by abolishing marriage in any real sense. "Do away with monogamy. Eliminate the whole idea of adultery and make it normal. Who cares who you are having sex with? Have as much as you can and those of you who are too narrow-minded to think that monogamy is a good thing can just go away!" Now that might just be scarier.

Craig said...

If you do a quick Google search to see what many of the pro gay marriage folks are saying it's pretty interesting.

If you listen to the Dan's of the world, or the recent TV spot up here, it's all about how it is wrong to deny gays the opportunity to have a stable loving mutually respectful relationship/marriage. Which sounds so loving and reasonable. Obviously one needs to ignore the fact that it is certainly possible for gay folks to have all of that right now.

However the aforementioned Google search reveals that there is a significant movement to redefine such things as fidelity and monogamy out of marriage. As much as some folks would argue, I see a movement to redefine marriage beyond simply sanctioning marriage for same sex couples.

On top of that we must ignore the fact that all of the argumenst being made for gay marriage apply equally well to incestuous and multiple marriages as well.

Stan said...

I've been somewhat surprised (although I likely shouldn't be) how many arguments are (not "may", not "theoretically could") being made to eliminate fidelity and monogamy, coming both from same-sex folk as well as heterosexual. Some have expressly indicated that the end purpose of sanctioning marriage for same-sex couples is to eliminate marriage entirely. Not making this stuff up.

Nor is it a "slippery slope" argument that "If you do this for gay marriage, you'll have to do it for other types", as that, too is already being tried. Canadian courts are already hearing cases trying to legalize, on the basis of legalized "gay marriage", other "marriages" such as polygamy and polyandry. Again, not "may", not "theoretically could", but already happening.

David said...

It feels like it was no less than a year ago when those in favor of traditional marriage were warning of the slippery slope of allowing gay marriage opening the way for just about any marriage, and then be shouted down because that just wouldn't happen, you're being alarmist. And yet here we are seeing the very thing that was predicted.

Stan said...

Yeah, the ol' "slippery slope" dilemma. They call it a fallacy, but it's only a fallacy if it doesn't happen.