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Sexuality and Christian belief (Was: Homosexuality and the Bible)

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Which is a common move, to separate personal identities from the actual constitution of the world - when in fact, as PTC has often pointed out, what you are describing as a "homosexual orientation" is the abstract manifestation of and experience of a wide array of genetic, family-of-origin, social, and environmental factors. These factors also happen to be the very factors that construct any other identity: the addict, the gambler, the coal miner, etc...
The "very" factors, eh? For the second time in as many posts you've also referred to homosexual orientation and then grouped it in a list of sinful, debilitating habits. This is a very common religious conservative line. Except there's no substantive evidence that homosexual orientation is a manifestation of any environmental or social factors.

But to single out the "homosexual orientation" as something that has a certain sort of privilege by which it escapes the criticism that can be leveled at every other "identity" that is constructed out the same mess of factors is irrational.
It deserves a different approach for several reasons. One, as I stated earlier, sexual orientation is closely tied with identity in a most primal sense. It is indeed a fundamental component of who we are, how we relate with the world and how others view us.. and in that regard, it's unique on your list. Also, homosexuality has historically carried with it a degree of societal bigotry, animosity and hatred that is unparalleled. The stigma and level of prejudice that's perhaps second only to the issue of race in this country. Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Which is a common move, to separate personal identities from the actual constitution of the world - when in fact, as PTC has often pointed out, what you are describing as a "homosexual orientation" is the abstract manifestation of and experience of a wide array of genetic, family-of-origin, social, and environmental factors. These factors also happen to be the very factors that construct any other identity: the addict, the gambler, the coal miner, etc...
The "very" factors, eh? For the second time in as many posts you've also referred to homosexual orientation and then grouped it in a list of sinful, debilitating habits.

Those sinful coal miners. ;)

[Just trying to lighten the mood. Carry on. This is fascinating.]


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Greg P wrote:

: Except there's no substantive evidence that homosexual orientation is a manifestation of an*y environmental or social factors.

Oh, I dunno about that. I think we've already mentioned the rampant bisexuality in Greco-Roman culture, etc. Perhaps only 2-3% of the Greco-Roman population was of the homosexual "orientation", as seems to be the case in our own culture. But who even thought in terms of "orientation" back then? People did what they did -- and what they were encouraged to do.

: Also, homosexuality has historically carried with it a degree of societal bigotry, animosity and hatred that is unparalleled.

Except, of course, when it has been *encouraged* by society. (Though again, some things were more encouraged than others. As I believe some have noted already within this thread, being the "active" partner was perfectly fine in many societies -- and even today, in prisons etc. -- but being the "passive" partner was not so fine. The ancient biographies of the Roman emperor Commodus complain that he let his partners penetrate *him*, when it should have been the other way around. Likewise, some guys will talk about making other guys their "bitch". Your masculinity was not necessarily called into question if you wanted to f--- another man -- only if you wanted to *be* f---ed by another man.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Peter T Chattaway said:

:On top of all that, the fact that Paul links homosexual activity to idolatry has led some people to wonder if Paul has particular sexual cultic practices in mind, while others have pointed to the fact that pagan culture in general accepted a certain amount of de facto bisexual activity, which raises the question of how applicable his comments in that context might be to our own current context.

Greg P said:

:Except there's no substantive evidence that homosexual orientation is a manifestation of any environmental or social factors.

That text in Romans is interesting, in the sense that, as Peter mentioned it isn't the clear cut non-acceptance of homosexuality that so many make it out to be. It also quite possibly could be directly related to cultish practices, but even then there is no clear distinction (that I can see) where cultish practices of homosexual behaviour are separated from non cultish practices of homosexual behaviour. In other words even if it is disagreeing with cultish behaviour that doesn't mean that it isn't also disagreeing with a non cultish practice of homosexuality.

But another interesting thing about this text is that the main gist of the text isn't about sexuality, rather it is Paul describing a certain understanding of God's wrath. This being that God's wrath allows a person to follow their own ways into sin whereby they suffer the consequences. While this happens God is waiting in longsuffering for them to learn their lessons and come back to him in his mercy. Which is, of course a very loving and benevolent view of God. Some argue that after being a violent Pharisee and becoming a Christian Paul began to view God and faith through the lense of Christ's life (Christ being the full representation of God- I also realize that Paul didn't personally know Jesus) and in Romans he is expressing his new and adjusted understanding of how God's "wrath" functions.

No matter where his views came from this text is interesting in that it isn't just talking about God's "wrath" against an individual but also against a collectiive (or possibly culture) of people. It's talking about God's wrath allowing people to go their own direction, when they refuse to pay attention to "the way" written into the fabric of creation, whereby they are allowed to go down a "slippery slope."

Of course, controversially I'm sure, the passages about homosexuality happen later on in this progression. Being that it is considered a later stage in God's so called "wrath" process of correction. But I'd again note that the text mentions that God is longsuffering in his love waiting (and drawing) for people to come back to him and to his mercy. No matter how we interpret what is going on here... God still loves them.

So what are we to make of this all in light of current culture? For instance, according to a certain way of interpreting scripture, the part about how God's wrath functions could be Paul's understanding of a divine concept whereby he later describes this, using his own viewpoints, and therefore the passage about homosexuality is Paul's view and not God's.

Or some could say that when a culture starts to go down a slippery slope this is one of the places where they end up, where they have fallen further away from the course of "the way" written into creation. The fact that homosexuality is now more prevalent after the continuation of the sexual revolution might seem to argue for this view. But then another argument would be that it isn't actually more prevalent, but rather that because of the sexual revolution more and more gay people feel free to come out of the closet.

Yet. My wife works at an inner-city school where an awful lot of the teenagers are experimenting with homosexual behaviour, but are, near as she can tell, not gay in any sense of specific orientation (they're so often very much bi.) They are simply reacting out of being raised in a culture where sexual experimentation is acceptable and even encouraged. So this would seem to align with the "slippery slope" idea. Under this idea humanity has fallen under the lie of the sexual revolution and we are suffering the consequences and learning our lessons about the sanctity of sexual activity within marriage alone. We're supposed to be learning the folly of the sexual revolution and its slippery slope.

But then. Could it be that what is happening is a bit of both. That some people do have a specific orientation towards homosexuality for various reasons, but when it becomes more prevalent in society others experiment with it, and it becomes normal amongst those who don't have that orientation in the first place .

Thus the Bible encourages humanity to abstain from homosexual behaviour altogether, but with the encouragement that God's love and help is towards all unconditionally, and they should choose to appropriate it into their lives.

Edited by Attica

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Attica wrote:

: Of course, controversially I'm sure, the passages about homosexuality happen later on in this progression. Being that it is considered a later stage in God's so called "wrath" process of correction.

Not *that* late, though. The "wrath" passage doesn't really begin until v. 18, and the first Bad Thing that people do is the idolatry described in vv. 21-23,25, which is immediately followed by the "sinful desires" to which they are given over in vv. 24,26-27 (and note how idolatry and sexual depravity are woven together, with an idolatry verse, i.e. v. 25, coming after a sexuality verse, i.e. v. 24). And *then* Paul says people were given over to "a depraved mind" in v. 28, which is followed by a list of *other* Bad Things in vv. 29-31, which in turn is capped by a statement in v. 32 that the people who do those *other* Bad Things "deserve death". And then the immediate next verse (2:1) says, "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

So the bits about sexuality actually appear almost in the exact middle of the "wrath" passage -- and at the beginning of Paul's rhetorical crescendo, I would argue. As Marcus Borg once put it, Paul seems to be nodding along with his Jewish readers and saying, "Yes, those Greeks sure are awful," and then he produces that other list of Bad Things and pulls the rug out right from under his own readers' self-righteousness.

I suspect Borg and I would disagree about how to apply our various understandings of sexuality in the *modern* context, but as a basic analysis of what Paul was doing here, I think we can agree, as far as that goes.

Incidentally, one other fun thing about this passage is that it seems to borrow quite heavily from the Wisdom of Solomon, which is part of the Orthodox and Catholic Old Testaments but not the Protestant Old Testament. So this passage has implications for all sorts of *other* evangelical assumptions, too.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Peter T Chattaway said:

:So the bits about sexuality actually appear almost in the exact middle of the "wrath" passage -- and at the beginning of Paul's rhetorical crescendo, I would argue. As Marcus Borg once put it, Paul seems to be nodding along with his Jewish readers and saying, "Yes, those Greeks sure are awful," and then he produces that other list of Bad Things and pulls the rug out right from under his own readers' self-righteousness.

I suspect Borg and I would disagree about how to apply our various understandings of sexuality in the *modern* context, but as a basic analysis of what Paul was doing here, I think we can agree, as far as that goes.

I've never heard this interpretation before, but I like it quite a bit. I think it would apply just nicely to some current Christian attitudes. I also don't necessarily think that it takes away from the slippery slope interpretation, but rather just adds another element to the proceedings. In this light it could be saying, "you think they've gone down the slippery slope, but take a look at yourselves", after all doesn't Paul later say something along the lines of, "Don't think for a minute that just because your a believer, that this process of God's so called "wrath" won't happen to you".

:Incidentally, one other fun thing about this passage is that it seems to borrow quite heavily from the Wisdom of Solomon, which is part of the Orthodox and Catholic Old Testaments but not the Protestant Old Testament. So this passage has implications for all sorts of *other* evangelical assumptions, too.

I'm currently reading this book which touches on Paul's use of the Wisdom of Solomon. The book touches on how the apostolic writers were borrowing from different places and even changing the meaning of several old Testament passages, which seems to have been consistent with Jewish exegesis in the 2'nd temple era.

Of course one of the main examples touched on was Jude's use of the book of Enoch, which so far as I know isn't in either the Eastern Orthodox or Catholic canons (but is in the Ethiopian Orthodox canon.) So with this in mind I'm not sure if Paul's use of the Wisdom of Solomon gives a definitive argument either way.

But, judging from some of your other posts I'm fairly sure you'd align with one of the book's conclusions. It gives pretty much unshakeable evidence that the Bible is indeed Holy writ, but nevertheless not inerrant, at least according to the common understanding of inerrancy.

Edited by Attica

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I've seen so many arguments over the *meaning* of the word "inerrancy" that I basically don't subscribe to the concept. I don't see what's to be gained by appealing to it, except as some sort of tribal marker.

Incidentally, one other point that I think is worth keeping in mind, with regard to Paul's epistle to the Romans, is that the Jews had been expelled from Rome during the reign of Claudius (this is mentioned both in Suetonius, I think, and in Acts 18:2), and I'm guessing they were only allowed back after Nero became emperor in AD 54 -- and Paul was writing his letter to the (mostly Jewish) Christians in Rome around AD 58, so only a few years later. The Jewish Christians who received this letter had a very recent memory of being displaced by the Gentiles of Rome, and it no doubt coloured whatever resentment they may have felt towards their Gentile neighbours.

That doesn't touch directly on the sexuality debate, but to the extent that Romans 1 reflects a "Yeah those pagans sure are awful, but you Jews shouldn't feel so superior" kind of rhetoric, I think it's a helpful bit of background to keep in mind.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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But to single out the "homosexual orientation" as something that has a certain sort of privilege by which it escapes the criticism that can be leveled at every other "identity" that is constructed out the same mess of factors is irrational.

Am I misunderstanding you here? Or are you basically arguing suggesting homosexuality is not sin or wrong or suggesting it does not belong in a list of vices is irrational?


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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The "very" factors, eh? For the second time in as many posts you've also referred to homosexual orientation and then grouped it in a list of sinful, debilitating habits. This is a very common religious conservative line. Except there's no substantive evidence that homosexual orientation is a manifestation of any environmental or social factors.

I think you glossed over "coal miner." Unless there is some reason coal mining is to be accepted as a sinful behavior. I suppose someone speaking from an environmentalist perspective could make that case... (See what I did there?)

And these days one must read "environmental factors" consistent with the literature - as a term that encompossases our genetic structure and the various environmental influences on how it is expressed in a specific genome. You may have missed this, but a very recent and well-received study ("Homosexuality As A Consequence of Epigenetically Canalized Sexual Development") suggests that homosexuality is epigenetic rather than an expression of a specific inheritable gene. Google around for some layperson descriptions of the findings. In essence, the use of terms such as "environmental factors" in a biological sense has an empirical basis in controlled investigation and has the helpful side-effect of indicating that people who find themselves experiencing a "homosexual orientation" are experiencing something biological in nature.

But to single out the "homosexual orientation" as something that has a certain sort of privilege by which it escapes the criticism that can be leveled at every other "identity" that is constructed out the same mess of factors is irrational.

Am I misunderstanding you here? Or are you basically arguing suggesting homosexuality is not sin or wrong or suggesting it does not belong in a list of vices is irrational?

Good question, Thom. I will try to be as clear as I can: It is irrational to consider a "homosexual orientation" as immune from criticism given that this orientation arises or emerges from the same biological and psychological development mechanisms that lead to other proclivities or orientations (alcohol abuse, addictive behaviors, athletic prowess, geekiness, etc...).

I do accept Paul's description of homosexuality as a disorder that belongs in a list of vices, as in Romans 1 (a list that also includes "disobedience to parents" and the "invention of evil things..."). But the basic impulse of the gospel is that we are people before we are an identity. So I am trying to avoid two errors here: privileging homosexuality socially as something immune from the criticism that can be applied to other "vices" / holding homosexuality at arms' length as a sin par excellence that cannot be addressed pastorally the way other struggles should be (in a community of grace and wisdom, with humility and transparency).

Edited by M. Leary

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The "very" factors, eh? For the second time in as many posts you've also referred to homosexual orientation and then grouped it in a list of sinful, debilitating habits. This is a very common religious conservative line. Except there's no substantive evidence that homosexual orientation is a manifestation of any environmental or social factors.

And these days one must read "environmental factors" consistent with the literature - as a term that encompossases our genetic structure and the various environmental influences on how it is expressed in a specific genome. You may have missed this, but a very recent and well-received study ("Homosexuality As A Consequence of Epigenetically Canalized Sexual Development") suggests that homosexuality is epigenetic rather than an expression of a specific inheritable gene. Google around for some layperson descriptions of the findings. In essence, the use of terms such as "environmental factors" in a biological sense has an empirical basis in controlled investigation and has the helpful side-effect of indicating that people who find themselves experiencing a "homosexual orientation" are experiencing something biological in nature.

This is a very new twist on nongenetic cause (December 2012) but I know nothing about the initial finding's reception in the scientific community to date. The study does however dispute some other long-held, nongenetic theories about same-sex orientation, namely "reduced androgen signaling" in fetal development and birth order.

It is irrational to consider a "homosexual orientation" as immune from criticism given that this orientation arises or emerges from the same biological and psychological development mechanisms that lead to other proclivities or orientations (alcohol abuse, addictive behaviors, athletic prowess, geekiness, etc...)
What do you base this conclusion on? Certainly not the study you cited. Can you provide a single accepted mainstream study to support this belief? Or is this just a theological conviction?

Comparing it to the proclivities you mention is a false equivalency. Homosexuality orientation is unique-- again, I have already given a few reasons why it is so-- but even so, I dont think it's "immune" from criticism. It certainly is worthy of thoughtful and considerate exception, given its innate uniqueness, the frequency with which it occurs in the general population, the nearly universal bigotry leveled against it and the reality that it finds expression in private between consenting adults.

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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The study does however dispute some other long-held, nongenetic theories about same-sex orientation, namely "reduced androgen signaling" in fetal development and birth order.

You go to great lengths to sidestep moments in which people in this thread agree with you.

What do you base this conclusion on? Certainly not the study you cited. Can you provide a single accepted mainstream study to support this belief? Or is this just a theological conviction?

It is possible for someone to have more than just theological convictions, as is evidenced by the holistic nature of this entire thread. (Though your disdain for "theological convictions" seems largely unaware of the profoundly interdisciplinary nature of how "theology" is currently practiced.) What specific issue do you have with the statement?

--

"But the basic impulse of the gospel is that we are people before we are an identity."

Worded this poorly. A basic impulse of the gospel is that our identies are constituitive of who we are, but they are not the sum total of who we are.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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It is possible for someone to have more than just theological convictions, as is evidenced by the holistic nature of this entire thread. (Though your disdain for "theological convictions" seems largely unaware of the profoundly interdisciplinary nature of how "theology" is currently practiced.) What specific issue do you have with the statement?

"this (homosexual)orientation arises or emerges from the same biological and psychological development mechanisms that lead to other proclivities or orientations (alcohol abuse, addictive behaviors, athletic prowess, geekiness, etc...)" You present this statement almost as an assumed fact. On what specifically do you base this conclusion?

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Greg, I assume M would also say it is irrational to consider "heterosexual orientation" as immune from criticism.

Right. I assumed that as well.

I posted earlier, I don't think homosexuality should be immune from criticism, but it is worthy of exception in terms of categorization as a vice or sin that needs to be overcome and conquered. This is the sticking point with most conservatives. And so the question for conservative religious people is, can we or should we make exceptions to our moral codes or cultural biases based on someone's genetic predispositions or innate orientations and the behavior that may extend from that? Is morality—and specifically “traditional” sexual morality-- something that’s ever even remotely flexible?

I'm hesitant to even bother asking that rhetorically among Conservative Catholics, whose teaching on sexuality is probably the most medieval, unreasonable and intolerant of all. So gays shouldn’t feel slighted. After all, the condemnations by the Catholics extend equally to heterosexual marriage, with many basic, healthy and loving sexual practices that hetero couples engage in, receiving harsh judgment from the Church and from God Himself.

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Is there a Cliffs Notes version of this thread available somewhere?


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Is there a Cliffs Notes version of this thread available somewhere?

it is still about 16 pages long.


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Greg P said:

:Is morality—and specifically “traditional” sexual morality-- something that’s ever even remotely flexible?

Here again I'd bring up grace. One of my friends once told me the story of his father who was a devout Christian, who smoked like a chimney. Then one day he sense Holy Spirit saying to him something along the lines of "ok, now I want you to work on quitting smoking." So God's grace was with him in this while he was sorting through other things and just living his life in general, but then there came a time in his healing process (which we are all continually working through) when it was time to work on his smoking.

The thing is. People in the church can look at a person smoking and think about how "terrible" this is, why don't they just quit. But maybe that wasn't what Holy Spirit was pointing at, maybe Spirit was working on something else. God is working on us all individually according to his wisdom and understanding of us and our lives. Meanwhile God's grace is there in our weakness and errors.

What God is dealing with in a person isn't necessarily what others would like dealt with.

So why can't the same concepts be applied to homosexuality in the idea of flexibility. Maybe this is just such a sore spot in a person because they have been persecuted and abused that they aren't able to sort through it at the moment (coming from a view that healing would be needed.) God understands their hearts, lives and motivations. God's grace is and can be with these Christian folks until they are ready to deal with it, if ever.

This runs contrary to what we often think, because to many peoples minds surely this is what God would want to deal with quickly. But it doesn't necessarily work that way. As said, God is working in all our lives in different ways and God's grace is with the Christian.

So in grace, I'd think there is flexibility, just as my friends father had the flexibility of smoking, when it is obviously bad for us (in this I'm not directly comparing homosexuality to smoking.)

We're on a journey.

What I'm saying here doesn't necessarily deal with the part of genetic dispositions, but what I'm trying to get at is how God deals with Christian people, in general. I don't think that homosexuals are any different.

:I'm hesitant to even bother asking that rhetorically among Conservative Catholics, whose teaching on sexuality is probably the most medieval, unreasonable and intolerant of all. So gays shouldn’t feel slighted. After all, the condemnations by the Catholics extend equally to heterosexual marriage, with many basic, healthy and loving sexual practices that hetero couples engage in, receiving harsh judgment from the Church and from God Himself.

Oh. Oh. Here the debate starts again. wink.png

Edited by Attica

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To me, the book’s tenderness, respect and defense of true love could easily include both straight and gay couples. Just my poetic, not literal interpretation…

FWIW, the phrase "defense of true love" seems to me to best refer to something that we may be interested in, but that the author of the Song of Songs would not even understand, such concepts having developed in the form suggested by that phrase at a much later time.

I would call the comments above a reader response interpretation. A reader response interpretation, of course, can be anything at all.

In Catholic exegesis, the various non-primary or spiritual senses of scripture (allegorical/typological, tropological/moral, anagogical/eschatological) are all predicated on the primary sense, which is the sense intended by the human author to be understood by his audience within the context of their shared symbolic world. (Somewhat confusingly, this is traditionally called the "literal sense," though it doesn't refer to the literal meaning of the words. For example, the literal sense of "I am the vine and you are the branches" is not that Jesus and his followers are literally plant matter, but that Jesus and his followers share a close, life-giving relationship expanded upon in the larger passage.)

This essential, primary sense of scripture is thus closely bound to the cultural context or symbolic world in which the texts were written. A reading that, given what we know about the cultural milieu, we can reasonably conclude would be understood as alien to the text by the audience as a whole and presumably by the author as well, is not a reading with any real grounding in the text. We can still use the text as a springboard to make the points we like, but at that point we're talking about ourselves, not the text.


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The thing that always gets me about Song of Solomon is that according to the Bible, Solomon had 700 concubines and 300 wives. OF COURSE he's going to write about pleasuring a woman! The dude could have sex every day for three years and never have the same partner twice.

No disrespect intended. I know the Song of Solomon is ultimately the Word of God, and should be treated as such. I just find it kind of funny that it always pops up in all these evangelical books as a celebration of physical intimacy, and it's like, OF COURSE! Solomon was a playah.

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The thing that always gets me about Song of Solomon is that according to the Bible, Solomon had 700 concubines and 300 wives. OF COURSE he's going to write about pleasuring a woman!

Ha! I'm hesitant to take a hermeneutical stab at Song of Songs,because I've never really studied it, but the language is certainly extravagant, with interactions that seem very free and seriously eyebrow-raising ("i put my hand in at the door and my fingers dripped with myrrh" or "I will ascend his palm tree", etc) Whatever prophetic significance may be in the text-- and I'm inclined to think the answer is "zero"-- the body fluid-rich sexual experiences described definitely don't depict pragmatic, efficiency-minded coitus, but certainly hint at reckless, passionate sex-play between lovers. Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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If you don’t mind a comment from a non-evangelical....

People who would identify as "evangelical" are a distinct minority here.

To me,

This being the operative phrase...

the book’s tenderness, respect and defense of true love could easily include both straight and gay couples.

Can't help but think of this:

Specifically, a section of the third movement that begins around 5:44. It did make me a wee bit self-conscious, back in the college concert choir, to sing those lyrics at the top of my lungs. It wasn't a total shock to learn, years later, that the composer was in fact gay.

Anyhow, I'm with SDG: such interpretations may tell us something about the person making them; they don't say anything about the text itself.

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

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I would call the comments above a reader response interpretation. A reader response interpretation, of course, can be anything at all.

Steven, the last thing I want to do is get into this thread, hijack this thread, or get into a debate with you about semantics. I would like to say, though, that the above, while a common popular notion, isn't really an adequate or accurate representation of Reader-response theory or criticism as espoused by or practiced by any reputable critic. It is, however, a straw man itself.

I understand, too, that you are not saying this is a good, correct, or academic example of reader-response criticism but one (and a bad one) that could be practiced by some people who claim they are doing it [reader-response criticism], but then your use of the phrase reinforces that that is what the thing actually is, and as an academic who teaches (and practices) reader-response criticism, I object to that characterization in the same way, say, a Roman Catholic might object to my saying, well, it's a Roman Catholic interpretation, and, of course, a Roman Catholic interpretation can mean whatever the priest says, which means, of course, it can be anything at all.

Edit: Of course, I acknowledge it is also quite possible that you are using the term in your own sense and don't mean it to be conflated with what is called reader-response criticism in academia. If that is the case, I suggest picking another term, one without a history of meaning already attached to it. I would not, for example, but an icthys on my bumper sticker and expect people to think that what I'm saying is "I'm a fisherman" because that symbol (or those words) has already been attached to a particular (range of) signifier(s).

Edited by kenmorefield

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God is not mentioned in the book,

Ah, but he is.

Set me as a seal upon your heart,

as a seal upon your arm,

for love is strong as death,

jealousyis fierce as the grave.

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

the very flame of Yahweh. (8:6)

interactions that seem very free and seriously eyebrow-raising ("i put my hand in at the door and my fingers dripped with myrrh"

Rather less lascivious when read in context ... there is in fact no physical contact between the lovers in this passage (5:4-6).

or "I will ascend his palm tree", etc)

It is specifically the female lover's body (not the male's organ) that is compared to a palm tree in 7:7-8.

the body fluid-rich sexual experiences described definitely don't depict pragmatic, efficiency-minded coitus, but certainly hint at reckless, passionate sex-play between lovers.

Perhaps, although deliberately misinterpreting verses to make your point doesn't strengthen your argument any.

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Perhaps, although deliberately misinterpreting verses to make your point doesn't strengthen your argument any.
"Deliberately" misinterpreting is an attack on my motives. You're dead wrong if that's what you intended to say, but I take no offense.

Are you suggesting that the lovers' allusions to dew, fruit, dripping, vineyards, gardens, goblet, springs, honey, fawns, scents, mountains, remaining until the break of day (2:17), keyholes, hands on knobs/locks, cakes, sweetness, reclining, etc... are intended to be non-sexual?

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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