Story, Scripture, and sacred texts (1)

The Commission on the MCC Statement of Faith recently posted a very helpful and beautifully written article about the Scriptures. I particularly appreciated the following thoughts:

But we stand at a crossroads. The stories of Empire, Technological Utopias, and Suburban Dreams are not compatible with the story we are called to.
We are people who have adopted instead the story of the Bible: the story of Creation, Community, Liberation, and Reconciliation.

In this story, we meet with God, we hear God speak, and we remind ourselves of who we really are.

Since this story is so central to our identity and our purpose, it is no surprise how painful it can be when the Bible is weaponized, and especially when it is used against us or those we love. Sometimes we are caught in the cross-fire between a fundamentalism which worships the book, and a liberalism which rejects it.

In my twin religious contexts in Toronto, the Anglican tradition and the Metropolitan Community Churches, I encounter people who are willing, not only to disengage from study of the Scriptures, but also to let go of key moments in the Story.

They reject (or fundamentally misunderstand) the Incarnation of the Word as Jesus the Messiah, along with his bodily resurrection from the dead. (Other moments and doctrines flow from these two commitments, but I believe those are central.)

I appreciate that for many, this hesitancy happens because if the institutions associated with Christianity do so much hurt and harm to LGBTQ+ peoples and other marginalized groups, radical skepticism about all the other claims is almost a moral obligation. Is remaining biblically-based or creedal simply code for maintaining dead doctrines that no longer give life, but rather shore up the needs and control of the powerful?

It seems to me that there’s also a mostly-unconscious assumption that there is no such thing as Story–there are only little individual stories that may or may not actually be factual. The world as we have it is supposedly objective, but my stories are just mine. If that’s true, then I have to grant that all the stories you tell are at least as valid, unless you actually harm me, which is objectively verifiable without telling a story. (As an atheist friend of mine said to me recently, “You don’t need a religious text to evaluate harm. As soon as you harm because of a religious text, your text loses all credibility.”) I suspect that many progressive Christians believe this, or something very close to it. I also believe that this perspective has some serious dangers.

Weaponization of the Bible is a real thing, and so is capitulation to stories that do not arise from the Scriptures. (Pointedly, I would suggest that framing the Christian narrative–or a particular Christian denomination or movement–in terms of Human Rights is also a capitulation, but I know many will disagree with me.)

With these thoughts arising as one way of setting my context, in my next post I will turn to the questions that the Commission asks about the nature and function of “sacred text”:

  • How do you define/identify “sacred text”?
  • What has been your experience with sacred texts and their use?
  • What place do sacred texts have in your faith? In your relationship with God?

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