Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Questions within Questions

I love questions. Although I prefer asking them instead of answering since I have trouble relaying my answers without thinking about them for some time. That and of course I'm not the best public speaker. This is why I enjoy taking Rabbi Rami's classes at MTSU, although I noticed a few of my peers, who are new to his teaching methods, were a bit unsure about taking his class.

Yesterday was the first day of class in my last semester at MTSU. This is also the first and only semester I'll be taking more Religion classes than Audio engineering which will hopefully reduce the amount of homework stress and increase the amount of thinking, questioning, seeking. During my first class, The Bible: Origen and Content (I wonder if the Rabbi's misspelling of 'origin' on the whiteboard was a Freudian slip), the Rabbi was his usual comical, friendly self as he introduced himself and skimmed through the syllabus. Due to technical issues with the dvd player in one of MTSU's hightech smartrooms, we 'circled the wagons' and began discussing Rabbi's first provocative question of the semester: What are your thoughts on the Bible? Instead of giving my middle of the road "we can read the Bible spiritually and metaphorically without it being literal and still receive truth" answer I was more interested in the responses from my peers and the possible ensuing conflicts.

I was honestly surprised that more and more Christians were actually questioning the literal view of the Bible than I'd witnessed in previous semesters. There were a few skeptics (either Agnostic or Atheist, I could not tell) and of course since we do reside in the South, quite a few (I'm guessing at least half) Born Again, Testifying Christians. Of these there were a couple who no longer held firm to the Literalist's view and were wrestling with some of the conflicting verses of the Bible. This is when the conversation became heated.

"How is that being Christ-like?" responded one young lady to another classmate's struggle as a new Christian who did not take every word of the Bible literally. She continued stating that to be Christ-like is to believe what Jesus believed and since he (Jesus) believed in the OT Prophets then there should be no doubt to the authenticity and literal interpretation of the text. The Rabbi asked the young lady if that included accepting the view of a flat earth, which she wholeheartedly rejected. The conversation moved onto how one can take the scripture (all scripture) metaphorically while still bearing truth. Question after question, I could tell that about half the class were truly interested seekers, wrestlers while the rest were either unsure what to think or were offended. But why should honest questions be so offensive? Is it because they are challenging, thought-provoking, do they bring us out of the shade of blind faith and force us to wrestle with the question itself? Do we fear that we may learn something new from our struggle which may contradict our previous beliefs? What then do we do with this new knowledge: toss it out and ignore it, learn to live with it, or implement the change into our lives?


Al said...

For me at least, (and this question is one I am happy to think about, and even talk about, but not ready to out myself on), I think the offended ones are worried that removing or reshaping one pretty big foundational concept might make the whole structure topple.

In other words, they (I) might be worried that my whole system of beliefs is a house of cards, everything hangs on each other. If I back away from literalism and/or inerrancy, I might be easily convinced that Jesus wasn't God, or the end of the world won't be next week, or God loves gays. So, it's safer to hold tightly to all of my often contradictory beliefs, and pretend the sky isn't falling.

Unknown said...

Yes, I agree it is safe. And (not to offend) it was difficult, at least for me, to reshape my system of beliefs after knocking down my house of cards with a bat. I didn't want to believe in something under the threat of eternal damnation, but I sought (and continue) to explore the vast expanse of the Divine from under my previous comfort zone. Do I know what the Divine is? Will I suffer eternal consequences for questioning the system? Am I building a new house of cards? I don't have the answers to any of these questions, nor (at the moment) do I think I would be satisfied with easy answers. Wrestling with the questions themselves offers spiritual growth and understanding I (personally) could never have found locked away in a Truman Show-esque bubble. Yet there are those, from my "outside looking back in" perspective who've found spiritual growth and understanding. Thanks again Al for your thoughts and comments.

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