Radical Christianity #5: The Struggle for Love and Affirmation
Words by Wilson Huang
Content warning: suicide
If you were paying attention: last week was my last regular article in this series on radical Christianity. For this final piece I will share with you my personal take on this subject.
To start, I will explain why I decided to write this series. I wrote an article for Honi Soit that was on the need for accountability in religion. What I did not expect quite naively was the response I was got from conservative Christians, some reasonable, but others quite frankly missing the point entirely. But I was also blown at the lack of acknowledgment of liberal and progressive Christianity.
According to Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar on The Living Word of God, fundamentalism “is obsessed with literalism and exclusion” and that “the egoic need for clarity and certitude leads fundamentalists to use sacred writings in a mechanical, closed-ended, and quite authoritarian manner.”
If you thought that was intense, you’re probably right. But what does this all mean? Well, fundamentalism is indeed about strict adherence to some belief particularly religious ones. In Christianity this is commonly attributed to the Bible, hence biblical infallibility (or, as some critics might say, bibliolatry).
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us,’ when, in fact, the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie?” Jeremiah 8:8 (NRSV)
While I am not suggesting this should be taken out of context, or literally, this especially becomes self-defeating (along with 2TH 2:11-12, 1KI 22:23, JE 4:10, 2CH 18:22, EZ 14:9 and EZ 20:25), if your interpretation is fundamentalist.
Robyn J. Whitaker, a senior lecturer at Pilgrim Theological College, mentioned in The Conversion that the Bible illustrates cultural assumptions, is frequently historically inaccurate and is not infallible or accurate on several measures.
Furthermore, the 2008 Clergy Voices Survey on United States Mainline Protestant Clergy by the Public Religion Research Institute found that two-thirds (67%) either disagreed or strongly disagreed that “the Bible is the inerrant word of God, both in matters of faith and in historic, geographical, and other secular matters.”
There is also this diagram that illustrates how the Bible contradicts itself (again stressing an especially literalist interpretation) and this page looks specifically at salvation – and points out the biblical contradictions around it.
This is where radical (and liberal) Christianity comes in. Many people have realised that they need to be critical and open when they interpret their faith. For examples, check out the other four articles I written in this series.
However, not all fundamentalists interpret the bible as strictly as they usually claim – they take some things very literal while others conveniently less so. Why?
I am going to mention queer rights here and I am going to put a question out to non-affirming Christians: Why do you still hold your beliefs despite repeated warnings from mental health organisations, human rights organisations, medical organisations, and other Christians? I do not believe it is worth my time explaining theology, but as a recent report mentioned the idea of ‘welcoming but not affirming’ is not feasible for the majority of LGBT people and “can be deeply harmful”. In a truly heartbreaking story, a 14-year-old killed herself because you felt she could not be accepted as a gay Christian. In an example of real change, her church moved to support inclusion openly, and the rector acknowledged that “enforced celibacy is cruel”. “We had to change. We had to make sure this never happens to anyone else.”
This is a point I have been trying to make for a long time.
If you want to support faith and interfaith movements for LGBT+ equality here is a list:
Equal Voices (Christian)
Acceptance Sydney (Catholic)
Uniting Network (Uniting Church)
Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (Christian)
Sydney Queer Muslims (Islam)
HRC Faith and Religion (Interfaith)