ironphoenix (ironphoenix) wrote,

A meditation

I wrote this in the context of a discussion in my parish's LGBT & Straight Alliance group. The question of the duality and complementarity of gender as expressed in Genesis (and referenced specifically by Jesus) was raised, and how to square that with homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderedness, etc.1 This is a rather deeper and harder question than addressing the "clobber passages" which refer specifically to various kinds of homosexual activity.

It seems to me that our mythic understanding of the world has become disconnected from our observational one. The old myths we have address the common experiences of people in societies which lived in fairly close and direct contact with nature but did not observe it with scientific methods and instruments which make it possible to see complexities and depths far beyond what is apparent on the surface. Much has changed in our society since that time: we are much less exposed to nature and live much more in an artificial environment, we have a widespread basic level of scientific understanding and awareness beyond that of people in biblical times, and we have a very wide gap between scientists' awareness and understanding and nearly everyone else's.

Many non-scientists think of scientists as almost universally non-religious, being at the forefront of what is often portrayed as religion's nemesis. This is not the case, though: many scientists are deeply spiritual and/or religious, but often have to radically reinterpret the myths given to them by the old texts in the light of their experience. This wisdom very seldom trickles out into the larger spiritual and religious community though, both because it seems to contradict the God-given stories on which we have relied for millennia and because so much of their experience is beyond what we, even in a technological society, encounter.

One characteristic of our scientific understanding is that it universally reveals a cosmos that is more awesome than what we can see without it, never less: it is the opposite of seeing "the man behind the curtain" and being disenchanted by the ordinariness behind the wonder. In Genesis, we read of a vault fixed in the heavens to divide the waters above from those below, and call that vault sky. With telescopes and even more exotic instruments (e.g. radio telescopes, cosmic ray detectors), we observe a vastness beyond the imaginings of the ancients: a void which dwarfs our world even between us and the nearest planets; a gulf so great between ourselves and even the very nearest star that light--instantaneous to the ancients, but measurable to us--travels for years to cross from one to the other; abysms yet more immense between our galaxy and others. More, we discover that even time and space are not as we encounter them in our day-to-day lives, a fixed and invariant grid against which everything else can be measured with surety, but themselves interact with the matter of the universe, bending and changing roles when matter is massive enough or moves fast enough (this is expressed in the theory of relativity). Similarly, when we look into the smallest parts of matter and life, we discover interactions and contradictions more bewildering than before. (I won't expound, though, because this is already rather longer than I had intended!)

In the same way, the diversity of our inward, psychological human experience has also (mostly) failed to be expressed in mythic terms. We have only in the past century or so become conscious of many of these psychological factors. Even the outward human diversity we encounter as we travel more widely than the biblical Jews has not been well-served by our myths: many defended racial prejudice on the basis of texts from Genesis. Here again, people struggle to match inward experience and traditional myths, and when they do come up with a way to harmonize those, the resulting wisdom is seldom shared, or else too often ignored or even condemned. We can argue about the generality of some ideas, but we cannot deny the reality of people's diverse inward experiences, including sexual attraction (or lack thereof) among many other kinds of experience (e.g. multiple personalities).

I believe that we need to accept the importance of myths in community and find how to make those myths more responsive to our developing and diverse experiences. This is a challenge for a tradition-based (let alone Tradition-based) faith, since it calls for an openness to changing the t(T)radition, and that is risky: we don't want to throw away ancient wisdom in the hopes of catching the new. Ultimately, there is only one wisdom, which is love; old and new must come together in expressing the rose-like layered complexity of the blossoming of that love in creation.

How can we build those interpretations and those stories? How can we share them? And, most difficult of all, how can we judge them, to integrate and refine a story of truth, wisdom, and love?
1: ETA; see comments.
Tags: psych, religion, science
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