I’ve written before that as Christians, despite what cultural Christianity or the religion of it all might imply, we are not to behave as the World does. Reminds me of Austin Powers, international man of intrigue, when he says, “Oh, be-have!” Anyway, left or right, conservative or liberal, the way society or politics deal with troubling issues and the ways people behave towards one another are not the ways we in the Church, “conservative” or “liberal,” are to behave. We need one long, loud, and consistent, “Oh, be-have!”
Despite the claims of many, there has never been a single, consistent, or “handed-down-for-all-time” interpretation or understanding of scripture and its application. There has been an always occurring process as we go year to year, decade to decade, century to century trying to understand and apply scriptural principles to life as God intends. Certain understandings and interpretations have become “official” and carried forward, but before they became “official” they were enmeshed in controversy influenced by different cultures and the way the different cultures infused the various interpretations and application. The Creeds are examples of the process – centuries of process and progress. In new controversies will probably follow the same process – whether schism results or not.
Yet, the way we deal with each other is of primary importance and will mark the difference between Christians and non-Christians. We all have failed, terribly. During these recent years past we have failed the experience of Anglicanism, terribly. I have to ask myself how am I to deal with those with whom I disagree despite how they deal with me. How have I dealt with them? How do I take their concerns, their beliefs, their proclivities, what I consider to be their misunderstanding or mishandling of scripture, or their opposition of me and my beliefs – how do I deal with them all as Christ would deal with them – in honesty, in forthrightness, in sincerity, with compassion despite how I feel, with integrity?
The Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul, during the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, addressed the issues of Gene Robinson and homosexuality in a rather long press conference. Here is the weblink to the videos of the press conferences. Listen to what he says – you will need to click on the reports on the ENS website separately.
Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul addresses the media, Part 1 (07/22/08)
Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul addresses the media, Part 2 (07/22/08)
There was a question asked by the Brazilian Episcopal Church press reporter concerning the place that cultural plays in the hermeneutical process of understanding scripture. The Archbishop replied:
“It is not the Bible that should be changed by the culture, but the Bible that should change the culture.”
Well, ideally yes, but… Either he does not understand that culture does and cannot but influence us as we interpret scripture or he knows and does not care or he refuses to admit that his own culture does effect his understanding and interpretation of scripture and how it is applied in the same way that American (Western or Northern) culture(s) affect our own understanding and interpretation and application of scripture.
His opinions cannot be dismissed, nor can they be excused. If I want to wrestle with it all honestly and if I am to respect the dignity of every human being, then I must respect his dignity, his opinion, and deal with him in ways that move beyond identity-politics, political-correctness, therapeutic-models, or culturally derived impressions and influence – I must deal with him as a fallible human loved dearly by God in spite of my own proclivities and fallibility. How? I feel no animosity towards him, although I definitely think his is wrong and his interpretation of scripture and its application are damaging concerning our pressing issue(s). How do I live with him – even if he will not live with me? He has seen more trouble, oppression, danger, heartache than I can imagine, yet…
This thing, this being a Christian, is not easy. Sometimes is just sucks. Funny how some think it is just a crutch for weak-willed people.