The blogosphere has responded vigorously to Ross Douthat’s recent NY Times editorial, Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved? In the piece, Douthat repeats a familiar conservative argument that mainline church membership is declining because what we offer is too indistinguishable from secular liberal politics. Now, I’m skeptical that doctrine should be put to a popularity contest in this fashion. There are just as many evangelical mega-churches that pander to their congregation with prosperity-gospel preaching and American jingoism, as there are liberal churches that massage the ears of the aging Democrats in the pews. But I have long shared Douthat’s concern that churches lose their unique “value-add” when they downplay the actual living presence of God in human affairs.
An interesting gloss on this editorial comes from Fare Forward, a new journal of arts and religion started by a group of young Dartmouth grads. Taking its title from T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”, Fare Forward appears to have a conservative/orthodox but interdenominational perspective. Andrew Schuman’s sympathetic response to Douthat’s argument includes a definition of liberal Christianity that got me thinking that I don’t fit well in either camp:
…In his response to Douthat’s column, theologian Steve Holmes helpfully clarifies the root of liberal Christianity. His characterization of liberal Christianity, and much of the discussion below, is particularity apt as a description of European liberal theologians, but it does not, perhaps, fully capture the nuances of on-the-ground American liberal Christianity in, say, the civil rights era. Nevertheless, Holmes’ response serves as a useful starting point for discussion. He puts forward two core commitments for liberal Christianity. The first is a dedication to take seriously the challenges coming from modern philosophy, namely Kant’s rejection of knowledge of the noumenal world and the hermeneutical skepticism of Biblical higher criticism – both of which cast serious, if not fatal, doubt upon traditional accounts of God’s revelation in Scripture. The second is a commitment to a new grounding for religion (in the place of revelation) based on Schleiermacher’s “shared human religious experience.”
But here’s the problem: a religious reason founded in human experience, instead of revelation from God, will always struggle to retain its primacy over social identities and agendas. By virtue of its epistemology, such grounding is first concerned with human realities (i.e. social realities), and then divine realities. It is firstly anthropological, then theological. In other words, liberal Christianity will struggle to keep its religious reason for existence central because the core of its approach to faith is based first in self-examination and inference, not examination of the eternal realities of revealed truth.
In his work The Priority of Christ, theologian Fr. Robert Barron places at the center of liberal theology the concern with some “grounding experience deemed to be transcultural” instead of “the stubbornly particular Christ.” This move, for Fr. Barron, necessarily resulted in a lower Christology, in which Jesus is no more than “a symbol for, or exemplification of, a universal religious sensibility.” This low Christology had the ironic effect of reducing theology’s ability to engage with the world. As Fr. Barron puts it:
“It is precisely the epistemic priority of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, that warrants the use of philosophical and cultural tools in the explication and propagation of the faith, since these means come from and lead to that very Word. Because Jesus Christ is the Logos incarnate–and not simply another interesting religious figure among may–signs of his presence and style are to be found everywhere, and he can relate non-conpetitively to them. The paradox is this: the lower the Christology, the more problematic the dialogue with philosophy and other cultural forms becomes; the higher the Christology, the more that conversation is facilitated.”
And so liberal theology, in grounding itself in experience, anthropology, and a symbolic Jesus, empties itself, over time, of the theological resources necessary to dialogue with culture and philosophy, and sustain social reform…
Much to unpack here! “The eternal realities of revealed truth” is the kind of phrase I used to wield until, say, 2008, and that now makes my oppression-detector go “ping”. How humbling. More about that momentarily.
My second reaction was, I guess I’m not a liberal Christian, because I don’t define my difference from the conservatives along the natural/supernatural axis, but rather the diversity/unity axis. The rationalism of liberal Christians has pained me because it invalidates my experiences of God’s revealed presence. At several key moments in my life, I have felt love and wisdom coming to me from outside, in a way that the liberal philosophies summarized in this quote simply cannot accommodate. I also worry that liberal intellectual skeptics in the pulpit discourage needy people from seeking out this life-changing power, and make them ashamed to talk about and believe their experiences of it.
At the same time, the “eternal verities” rhetoric is too often code for a privileged subgroup’s resistance to hearing revelations from the margins. It allows the current priestly class to pretend that the Bible is not a human document produced and interpreted by societies where only certain types of people were allowed to speak.
In theory, as Schuman seems to be saying, the particularity of Christ’s revelation should make Christians more sensitive to cultural diversity, as opposed to an imperialistic liberalism that homogenizes by pretending to be transcultural. (Stanley Fish’s version of this critique of liberalism paved the way for my conversion in the late 1990s…full story coming in the next post in my “40 Years of Book Love” series.) However, at least in America, conservative Christians are not exactly known for their cross-cultural sensitivity. Either the doctrine doesn’t have the effects he’s claiming, or Christians are failing to act on its implications.
Moreover, what is the goal of this dialogue? Is it simply to translate our own “eternal verities” into language that will be more palatable to nonbelievers, so that eventually they believe exactly like us? Or are we also open to changing our beliefs in response to their testimony about what the Spirit has shown them?
I think I must be a postmodernist Christian, neither liberal nor conservative, skeptical of the ahistorical universalizing claims of both “reason” and “Scripture/tradition”. Belief in revelation is what distinguishes me from liberals. Where I part with the conservatives is in my belief that revelation comes from plural sources and evolves over time, and that we must be sensitive to the real-world inequalities embedded in and reinforced by interpreters’ authority.
One last question: is it even coherent, psychologically, to say that a religious belief is “founded in human experience, instead of revelation from God”? How does revelation get into our brains except through someone’s experience? How is this not simply code for “trust the experience of people who lived 2,000 years ago, but not your own”?
This is not a rhetorical question. I really would like to find a non-cynical answer. Readers, your thoughts?
This is a wonderful piece of writing, if only for positing the question: “Is it even coherent, psychologically, to say that a religious belief is ‘founded in human experience, instead of revelation from God'”?
If you continue to read Father Robert Barron (http://www.wordonfire.org), you may become convinced, as I am, that in no way can Christianity be founded on human experience. There are many New Age disciplines founded on human experience but not Christianity, whether its followers are conservative or liberal.
You also point out correctly that “in America, conservative Christians are not exactly known for their cross-cultural sensitivity.” This is very true for many conservative Christians but not for all. It’s fairly easy to condemn conservative Christians who refuse to accept ethnic minorities because they are “different.” At the same time, conservative Christians can truly be faulted for condemning homosexuals when their faith does not condemn the homosexual, only homosexual behavior, an extremely difficult distinction that most homosexuals do not accept and many Christians do not understand.
Sadly, nothing will ever change the Natural Law that Christians, both ignorant and intelligent, ascribe to. For example, t has always bothered me terribly that the Natural Law gives the homosexual no choice in life but to live in chastity without intimacy. It is the one thing in Christian belief that bothers me always although I understand and accept the teaching. But if I make it to heaven, it is the one thing I want to ask God: “Why are homosexuals offered no acceptable way to live an intimate life and not be in violation of the Natural Law.”
The only parallel that I can think of are those people born with either no interest in sex of any kind or are born impotent or permanently frigid or otherwise physically incapable of having sex.
I have no problem with your deciding not to print this comment because it will probably upset many of your readers. But your piece got me worked up about a subject I care a great deal about–a Christianity that is based on revelation rather than individual human experience with all of its vagaries.
As I have said before, you often sound like a closet Catholic even though I know that you are a faithful Episcopalian.
Continued good fortune in completing this series.
Although I am hardly competent to even comment on this subject, I enjoyed your reflections and your dilemma, as usual.
As I read down, before your fuller discussion of the problem, I was wondering just how one obtained “revealed truth”, and whether the source of that “truth” might, at the very least, be compromised by our human experience and, certainly, by our understanding (or misunderstanding) of that experience.
I’ve always thought that so called “liberal” Christianity seems based more on the reported first three centuries of that step-child of Judaism, i.e. more on “good works” and communal support and assistance.
Then, that the later Church(es) became more authoritarian and institutional, and so more like the old Hebrew patriarchial model that the early Christians struggled against; all thus diminishing the original (i.e. liberal) Christian spirit in the process.
It always seems to me that Western religion particularly, is essentially authoritarian and “tribal”, which certainly seems to describe our “evangelical” churches today. It seems popular, so there must be some essential human need for that. Perhaps these folks have SUBSTITUTED their church for their god, and are satisfied.
I value the diversity of views on this blog! I will publish all respectful comments, whether or not I agree. Donal, could you expand on your comment that “in no way can Christianity be founded on human experience”? I agree that unlike, say, Buddhism, the doctrines of Christianity couldn’t be deduced from observation of this world, but had to come from a revelatory event – the incarnation and resurrection. But aren’t all revelations experienced by someone? And if so, mustn’t we treat human experience as somewhat reliable, in order to believe them?
Your question is a valid one. My response may be unsatisfactory and that is my fault because it is difficult for one to explain what is obvious to him or her but not obvious to another. Here goes:
For me, and for Roman Catholicism, Revelation has one meaning only. Over the centuries–and more so than ever since Martin Luther–different human beings have interpreted Revelation in different ways. There can be only one truth in Revelation, not many truths advanced by the “human experience” of people.
We have today 23,000 sects in Christianity, each claiming to be the true church based on its interpretation of the Bible, the “home” of Revelation.
Different sects rely on a bible that Luther stripped of at least 7 books–the Book of Tobit among them, as well as Maccabees and others. They criticize the Roman Church for giving equal weight to Tradition as well as the Bible. But there was no “bible” until the end of the 4th century when the final canon of books was agreed upon by the bishops of the Roman Church who at that time had sole input because there were no other sects, save for a few “heretical” groups that may have existed at the time.
For the first three–almost four–centuries, Christianity did not rely on a bible because they had no bible. They relied on Tradition, which led to the final canon of the Bible in the late fourth century.
I am a Roman Catholic because of the gift of faith received in infant baptism. Despite an often despicable life, I have always believed that Jesus Christ lived and died for me (and others) that I (we) might realize salvation. My belief in Him alone, however, will not get me to heaven. I have to deal with the 10 Commandments, not the 10 Suggestions. My response to those 10 Commandments, along with my faith, will determine whether I make it to Heaven, depending on the mercy of God.
I remain a Catholic today because of my belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. It is my belief that only the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and a small “Polish Catholic” church have priests today validly ordained to consecrate the Eucharist. These priests can trace their ordinations back to the 12 apostles. I don’t remember the events that led to the invalid ordinations in the Anglican Church but the “facts” are available. Anglican and Episcopalian priests today cannot trace their ordinations back to the apostles and therefore cannot consecrate a valid Eucharist.
Another reason I am a Catholic is because of the Magisterium of the Church. Nothing has changed in the Church’s interpretation of Revelation since the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Some people say, how come Catholics now eat meat on Fridays. The meatless Friday rule was a man-made rule that did not come from Revelation. It came, one might say, from “human experience” which can always lead to change unlike Revelation, which remains solidly intact since given to man by God.
I hope I have insulted no one with my
Well, one still pretty viable option is the liberationist which avoids the individualism of liberalism by looking towards the experience of the oppressed throughout time and history and essentially sees the biblical record as a key to this not only in the times that the bible was written or refers to (the two not always being the same, of course, although oral history can extend back quite far) but in other times including our own. I like this in that it does give an important role to scriptural revelation but still priortizes the experience of the poor (the so called preferential option for the poor is the popular catch phrase). I also think this is a pretty accurate take on scripture especially when we keep our eyes and ears peeled for the places where scripture is most surprising (one could also say ‘queer’..) in its cultural context like the year of jubilee or the sermon on the mount for example. There is not much surprising, for example, about the household codes of Titus and Timothy and everything surprising about Paul’s claim that in Christ there is no male and female.
I do have some caveats about this approach. It can be fragmentary so that we have minjung, mujerista, womanist, feminist theology etc. There can be richness to this if there also space for dialogue and common reference points if not always univocality. I would hope (and do believe) that scripture provides this as long as it is trully allowed to speak as of course do the sacraments as long as they are not treated as something you have to pass a purity test to receive.
Another common critique is that there is too much reliance on Marxist analysis. While I’m sure its true in some cases I don’t think it always the case nor is it always wrong as a helpful tool though there are definite limitations.
Overall I find myself more sympathetic to the Christian anarchist strand of the tradition by which I mean Jacques Ellul, William Stringfellow, Vernard Eller and also the New Monastic movement which seems to be influenced by it. I don’t think its perfect and I think both other strands of liberationist thought and liberalism and traditionalist orthodoxy have something to bring to the table provided all are willing and eager to stay at the table as is not always the case.
I guess I would also say that Jesus isn’t just a principle of incarnation. It matters very much what Jesus did while he was on earth. If we believe he was the Son of God then how he lived his life should matter more not less. In all the Gospels Jesus is the friend of sinners, the outcast (which and poor), and women. He shows no deference to the purity codes of his day. There was no incentive for the gospel writers to make this up especially as concerned women (Judaic and Greco-roman culture both being concerned with Gender Roles) so I think we have to take it seriously both for practice and theory within the church.
Thanks for your clear statement of Catholic fundamentals. I’m interested in unpacking the assumption that “unchanging” correlates with “reliable”. I used to make this connection more strongly, but I think now that that came out of my own need for stability in a family ruled by emotional chaos and capriciousness. With more experience of religious communities across the spectrum, I have seen both mindless change and mindless resistance to change; both responsible “holding the line” against peer pressure and responsible revision of views through hearing others’ stories.
Let us not be so resistant to change that we pull the church out of history and disentangle the two strands of divinity and humanity that the Incarnation entwined.
My original question about revelation versus experience was hastily phrased, so let me re-try: Doesn’t all revelation come through someone’s experience? When we believe the gospel accounts, for instance, we are relying on the disciples’ five senses, their intellectual comprehension of Jesus’s words, and their inward encounters with the Spirit. Same for Paul’s conversion, Peter’s vision of the unclean animals on the sheet, etc. There’s no other way for this information to get into our heads. And if so, why should our own physical and mental sense-perceptions be categorically unreliable (“depraved” as some Protestants would say) as a source of ongoing revelation, within responsible limits? Why did direct access to Truth stop with the early church? Why must it be mediated through church tradition and priests now?
I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean when you say “why should our own physical and mental sense-perceptions be categorically unreliable (“depraved” as some Protestants would say) as a source of ongoing revelation, within responsible limits?”
I think, however, that Catholics, if not other Christians as well, believe that Divine Revelation is now complete but I could be wrong. I honestly don’t know how Protestant mainline churches or fundamentalist churches view Divine Revelation–whether it’s complete or ongoing.
You also ask, “Doesn’t all revelation come through someone’s experience?”–and you cite the disciples’ five senses.
Again, I can only speak for Catholicism in saying that Catholics believe that the Bible, both Old Testament and New, is Divinely inspired and reflects the Word of God and not the word of his disciples even though they may be speaking in His behalf or, better, God is speaking through them. I would not have much faith in the Bible if I thought it was Peter talking rather than God talking through Peter.
I don’t know why “direct access to the truth,” as you put it. stopped at a certain point. But in matters of the Deposit of Faith and the Natural Law, it did stop since neither can be changed, subtracted from or added to, although both can probably be better explained in some instances than they are now.
Church Tradition is not the “mediator” of the Truth. Tradition is simply viewed as equal to the Bible as a repository for the Deposit of Faith; and it is the Church. through the Magisterium, that deciphers and explains truths through its bishops to its priests who ideally are then expected to pass those truths on to the laity. Ideally, this should mean that any Catholic priest to whom you put a question about faith and morals should give you the same answer, albeit maybe in different words. This is not true if you were to ask pastors in the other 23,000 denominations said to exist. Their responses often vary in substance.
As to the “two strands of divinity and humanity that the Incarnation entwine,” Catholics don’t view those two strands as equal since they view Jesus as a Divine Person with two natures–divine and human.
I honestly feel that I am speaking beyond my capacity in trying to respond to your excellent questions. Before the Vatican Council, I would have suggested that you could sit down with almost any priest and you would get an accurate response even if you did not agree with it. I would still think that it would take an orthodox, well-educated priest to answer your questions, which is something that I cannot say that I, despite my best effort, have done. Your questions go beyond my knowledge. I would encourage you, however, to identify a Catholic priest you respect as a person and put him to the test. I hope he is up to it. I have dabbled in exchanges like this, on and off, all my life and I don’t recall anyone with questions the quality of yours.
The Andrew Sullivan Time magazine article about Christianity that came out recently offered an interesting perspective which was anti-theocratic; he emphasized a Christianity that was neither politically liberal nor conservative but apolitical (I think I read him right). I haven’t quite digested the Douthat Debate, but I found the Sullivan piece somewhat encouraging.
I believe Andy is citing this Newsweek article from April, which is definitely worth a read. Unlike Sullivan, I do see Jesus as political, but this may be just semantics – I agree Jesus is calling us to renounce the practice of domination that is what passes for “politics” most of the time. But this is a political stance because it means taking the side of the oppressed, and refusing to idolize the powers of this world. That’s why they killed him!
I like Sullivan’s acceptance of mystery, too. This is another way of renouncing domination, because don’t we typically use dogma and intellect to avoid hearing the Other (our neighbor or God), thinking we already know all there is to know about him/her? When I get lost in thickets of theological doubt, I go cuddle my baby, whose access to God is simple and without shame. (Yes, cue the tiny violins here…I am female.)
Christian simply means follower of Christ. This means we accept Him as God, since He proved this claim by the resurrection. He appointed His apostles to write and speak on His behalf. These people were first hand witnesses. He, through His apostles, makes it clear that we are all sinful people who need His forgiveness. He offers this to us freely if we confess our sins, not rationalize them and teach others that certain sins are not sins. Our personal experiences are tainted by our choices to interpret them the way we want. Christ did not teach us that when society begins to accept certain behaviors which were previously unacceptable, that these behaviors are now ok. This type of thinking led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. “Liberal Christians” tend to take God’s grace for granted and disregard God’s desire for His righteousness, trusting their own idea of right and wrong, picking and choosing what they will accept as truth. “Conservative Christians tend to forget they are just as much in need of God’s grace and are prone to becoming judgemental and hypocritical. It doesn’t matter what you or I or anyone else thinks is right and wrong, it only matters what God says. In His infinite wisdom, He chose to speak through His chosen apostles in their time and place and culture. It is very clear what God considers to be sin and He despises it. He loves the sinner though and as Christians we are to love what God loves and hate what He hates. Christians are to correct their fellow man when they see them making a mistake out of love. If I see my friend speeding and urge him to slow down because I do not want him to get hurt or hurt someone else or have to face the judge with a ticket, that’s not being judgemental. I have sped on occasion myself, but realize that doesn’t make it right. We all give in to temptation from time to time, but should never accept it as ok. You’re either all in or you’re not a true follower of Christ, but God is eager to forgive you for all of you sins. Even if we have difficulty understanding the mind of God and why He views things differently, we must accept what He says as true. He is, after all, God.
David, I appreciate your logical and respectful tone, though I imagine we disagree on how to interpret the Bible on certain issues. If you read the actual Scripture text about Sodom and Gomorrah, however, it doesn’t say anything about these cities “beginning to accept certain behaviors which were previously unacceptable”. It’s a story about rape and violations of the law of hospitality. I don’t get the impression that Sodom was known for its tolerance and diversity.
Taking the story on its own terms, why was it (presumably) more acceptable that the intruders should rape Lot’s daughters rather than the male guests? Are we going to say that *this* is the unchanging principle that God wants us to uphold — that rape of women, because it’s a heterosexual act, is less offensive to God than consensual sex between men? Jesus certainly set more store on women than that…even when he had to defy the religious beliefs of his day.
You say, “Our personal experiences are tainted by our choices to interpret them the way we want.” Yes, and so are our readings of Scripture. Like relativism, the argument from bias is self-undermining. I’m also very concerned about the way that the invalidation of personal experience enables abusers to silence victims. Conservative Christians haven’t shown me that they have effective safeguards against this, or even recognize the problem.
Unlike speeding, consensual same-sex relationships between adults do not hurt one’s self or others, so I don’t think that analogy is effective. If you disagree, please check your sources carefully before posting a reply. All studies purporting to show such harm have been rejected by mainstream scientific and psychological organizations.
I agree that there are different ways to interpret certain parts of scripture. Still, some scripture leaves little room for interpretation. The first chapter of Romans talks about people who turn away from God and worship idols and that this leads to sexual impurity. I am not saying that all homosexuals turn away from God, and that Paul is referring to all homosexuals as being God haters. He does, however, describe the act of homosexuality as being impure and shameful. Not being homosexual myself, I can’t fully understand what its like to desire sexual relations with a man. I do understand the sexual desire I have for women, and if that desire is as strong for homosexuals, I understand their difficulty in accepting it as wrong. It really doesn’t seem fair. Our desires aren’t always right though, no matter how strong or even if we think we are hurting no one. A husband may decide to have an affair, a natural human desire, which he believes hurts no one since no one will know. As I said before, God decides what is right or wrong. Suppose Christian homosexuals viewed their desire as wrong, such as Christian alcoholic or adulterer. They would likely act on their desire anyway and feel shame like Adam and Eve. They would hide it as in the past. There is no hope except for God’s grace, as for everyone. This is God’s plan, to offer hope and forgiveness for all of us sinners through grace. The response from conservative Christians would be more compassionate and understanding for the homosexual instead of ridicule and judgment. There would be no division in the church. But the conservative church cannot reconcile the idea that homosexuality is not a sin with what the Bible says. And it cannot offer forgiveness for sins not confessed. In fact the conservative church sees the homosexual movement as teaching and encouraging others to accept and embrace this sin as permissible. This is where the intolerance lies and is the real issue that divides us. Even if a Christian homosexual believes it’s ok to act on their desires, can they be sure God thinks so? Should they teach others contrary to the most obvious interpretation of the Bible? I do not question the salvation of Christian homosexuals or God’s love for them. God is our judge. But they should present all the facts to others when discussing homosexuality with others. I challenge them to present Romans chapter 1 to anyone who is considering this lifestyle.
I’m disappointed that you have sidestepped the questions I raised in my last comment. I could continue to challenge your interpretation of the clobber passages but that wouldn’t advance the discussion I want to have.
Do you really think that adultery hurts no one unless you get caught?
And that a relationship based on deception and lack of mutual commitment
is really analogous to a loving marriage between two Christians who
happen to be of the same gender?
You are making a large and questionable assumption when you say St. Paul describes “the act of homosexuality” as categorically “impure and shameful”. First, St. Paul had no concept of sexual orientation as we understand it in light of modern scientific and psychological discoveries. He wouldn’t have been able to envision that same-sex relations wouldn’t be “contrary to nature” for everyone. Second, it’s debatable whether St. Paul was referring to all same-sex intercourse regardless of relationship context, or merely the pagan sexual worship practices that he is citing (almost in passing!) to make his main point about the unwarranted pride of his co-religionists.
The former interpretation only seems like “the most obvious” to you because you belong to the heterosexual majority. You’re not faced every day with the searing conflict between two teachings that Christians expect you to believe: that God is a God of love, but that He would make you defective and forbid you from knowing love in your own life, through no fault of your own.
This touches on my real concern that conservative Christian Biblical interpretation is an abuse-enabling system. Abusers operate by convincing you that your own feelings and perceptions are unreliable. They expect to be credited for their loving intentions, but ignore your feedback that their “love” hurts and oppresses you. The God you describe reminds me of an abusive parent. If the best that your God can say to homosexuals is “Sorry, life isn’t fair”, don’t expect me to agree with you that this is love. Belief in such a God primes people to be abuse victims or to minimize the abuse of others. I’m trying to keep this discussion respectful, but I’m not feeling too inclined to give you credit for compassion that doesn’t translate into action to alleviate the suffering that your own system causes. Jesus privileged compassion over purity, every time.
For me, it’s almost heartbreaking to read your replies to David Miller who presents the response of an orthodox Christian, not necessarily Catholic, to your earlier position on homosexual activity.
Although I might phrase things differently than David because of my background, I probably would end up saying essentially the same thing.
In your first response you said something to the effect of “how does a relationship between two people of the same sex harm anybody?’ Whether they harm anyone or not, it is clear to most Christians from Scripture that God disapproves of homosexual activity while he indeed loves the homosexual. Although I do not understand the “plight” of the homosexual who is obviously asked to lead a lifetime of chastity, that is what Scriptures require for David and me and many other Christians.
I wish I could say that I follow your reasoning in terms of Scripture but don’t accept it but I have to say instead that I do not understand your reasoning as a Christian.
I did not plan on saying anything else on this matter because I truly though it would be uncharitable to do so in light of your beliefs. But I understand David’s reasoning.
I continue to admire your defense of the the homosexual even if I don’t understand your defense of homosexual behavior. I find it much easier to understand and admire your advocacy for people in the prison system. On that, all should be able to agree.
It’s past time to move beyond the predictable liberal/conservative binary in Christianity, so thank you for showing a possible way forward as a postmodernist Christian. I share your experience of feeling God “from outside” — and having this experience disregarded by some liberal Christian friends.
I also share your “liberal” views on Sodom and Gomorrah. What you wrote about Sodom and Gomorrah seems sensible and actually rather eloquent. Apparently in those days it was not considered “rape” when Lot offered up his daughters for sex with the visitors — because as women they were his property. Lot was the one with the power to give consent, not the daughters, even though it was their bodies. I shudder to think of it.
In later parts of the Bible such as Ezekiel 16:48-50 the sin of Sodom was clearly named as inhospitality. I often wonder how people can ignore that part of the Bible. But I think it’s because inhospitality is so rampant in our society, much more than homosexuality!
FYI, here are a couple of valuable links about inhospitality at Sodom: