Sunday, December 30, 2012

Culturally and Historically Specific

"In 2008, the elders at Irving Bible Church produced a twenty-four-page position paper on the role of women on the church, which argued that the biblical passages restricting [women] from teaching 'were culturally and historically specific, not universal principles for all times and places' and that the Bible presents 'in ethic in progress leading to full freedom for women to exercise their giftedness in the local church.'" -- from A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

I have a hard time following the Bible's teachings on all things; it was not "written by God" so much as "inspired by God and Jesus" and "written by people who wrote in a way that was culturally relevant to a specific time and place." The Bible was written over a period of years, at a time when there was no scientific knowledge, when gender equality was simply nonexistent, when there was no education to be had in the same way there now is. Using the Bible to explain evolution, the age of the earth, or other scientific matters, or to use it as a means of excluding a population from serving equally within the church, does not take into consideration the specific historical and cultural norms of the time. 

We should be using the Bible as a guide to show us how to love and care for others. We ignore the parts of the Bible that endorse slavery, or stoning, or other means of cruelty, yet many continue to use Biblical "teachings" to exclude women because "Jesus' apostles were all men." In Catholicism, women cannot be ordained because, although they could publicly pray and propesy in church (1 Cor. 11:1-16), they could not teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:11-14), since these were two essential functions of the clergy, nor could women publicly question or challenge the teaching of the clergy (1 Cor. 14:34-38).

Of course, now women are teachers all over the place. We can teach in the academic and other professional spheres (I hope, otherwise I'm damned); we can teach catechism (I hope, otherwise I'm damned); but we can't teach other adults about religion (which is too bad; I wonder if that means we can't have private discussions about religion with non-Catholics). I also wonder about definition of "publicly questioning or challenging the teaching of the clergy," since I've questioned my priest both privately and in RCIA, and have blogged about religious issues with which I disagree or otherwise question.

God gave me a mind to use; I intend on using it. I can't understand everything, and I do believe that there are things that are not ours to understand, but that will not stop me from questioning why some of these teachings that are based on a 2,000-year-old Middle Eastern culture are not reexamined to reflect a more modern cultural and historic awareness.

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