Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A UU Seminarian in Bibleland

I can say with great certainty that the vast majority of my classmates (and most of my professors) are biblical literalists. It's interesting to see the thought processes if one must work within those confines.

In Pastoral Care last night, we were reading a bit of Genesis, the part about "male and female, he made them." The context for this was that we were about to embark on a discussion about the physiological aspects of mental/emotional problems.

The conversation segued into a bit of theology, as someone questioned how it was that God made both male and female, before the woman was made from man. Now, this was not a UU conversation ... remember, it was between biblical literalists, so the feeling is "This happened, we just don't know how to understand it." The conversation weaved a bit, with one person timidly asking if in Adam, there were both male and female aspects, and the professor saying NO, that male and female are very different, physiologically. And then a young man (well, in his late 20's, probably), pointed out that the male is born with X and Y chromosomes and it is he who decides the sex of any children he fathers, so maybe this all fit. And even the professor got a "Hey, that's true" look on his face.

So, it's very interesting for me, a biblical non-literalist. These are intelligent people, trying hard to understand and make modern sense out of ancient words.

But I have to admit, that there are occasions during these long conversations when to me, it all feels a little ridiculous. And Zell Miller begins ranting in my head, "Don't yew know what a metafer is???"

And no, I didn't bring up Lilith.


ms. kitty said...

Woowee, that would be a huge challenge, to sit there and not say a thing! It does get tedious sometimes.

goodwolve said...

But then again - doesn't this prepare you to meet people where they are spiritually without seeming superior? This might be even better then being surrounded with UU's - especially if you plan to do pastoral care in a more public setting.

Granted I would be smirking and rolling my eyes - it is a terrible affliction of the non-believer.

Lizard Eater said...

Moxie -- absolutely. There is an assumption in our UU churches that fundamentalists are incurious, not educated, etc. For the most part, that hasn't been my experience here. Here at school, they feel comfortable with being open about their struggles to make sense of it all.

And yeah ... good practice in listening with seriousness. While biting my tongue.

I'm a total minority here -- religious, gender, and race. And that alone makes it worth it.

fausto said...

Do they even talk about the Documentary Hypothesis and the, um, possibility that Gen 1 and Gen 2 are two separate stories from two separate cultural sources?

Steve Caldwell said...

On Pearlbear's blog a few years ago, she quoted the following from one of her seminary textbooks:

"The appearance of a talking snake should alert even the most unsophisticated reader to the fictional nature of the story."

Lizard Eater said...

Fausto -- this is a Pastoral Care class, not theology, so, no, not in this venue. We'll see what happens when I take Old Testament next fall. (Taught by a Southern Baptist prof.)

Steve ... I'm still giggling. Thanks for the quote.

Steve Caldwell said...

Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh wrote a paper for one of her M.Div classes on pastoral care and transgender issues.

Here's a brief section from Sarah's paper that addresses Genesis and transgender issues:

"The goal of reclamation is the healing of the diminished self-esteem and the fractured self-concept of the self, both direct results of systemic oppression. Central to this healing, for Chinula, is the revelation that we are all created in God’s image. This particular revelation is tricky for transgender people, as the very text from which it is drawn, Genesis 1:27, has been invoked to deny transgender people’s legitimacy. 'So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them' (NRSV). Oddly, this text has also been used to deny intersexual people’s legitimacy, justifying plastic surgery on newborns with 'mixed' genitalia, as if their genitalia were created by anyone but God.

The key to unlocking this text and using it for liberation rather than subjugation lies in both debunking the assumptions behind oppressive interpretations and reconstructing an image of God. Helping to demonstrate how this God-ordained 'naturalness' of the social norm was human-created, not God-created, is a first step in liberating God from oppressive interpretation. But in re-imaging lies the more powerful message. God, in whose image both male and female are made, is beyond gender or comprises aspects of female and male. God, in this sense, is transgender. Imaging God as transgender is both biblically accurate and theologically sound. People who are transgender are, then, created in God’s image, just as much as non-transgender males and females."

The rest of Sarah's paper can be found online here: