Friday, March 12, 2010

Our (Pregnant) Talk about Pregnant Texts of the Bible

Sacred and secular texts about sex and violence are pregnant:
heavy with emotional and religious implications;
heavy in that many tend to misread or ignore these texts.
-- Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Kirk

Problematically, contradictions between biblical themes of justice and those that distort and devalue Black humanity, along with narrow evangelical, oppressive interpretations adapted as good news, produce spiritual death....  Unfortunately, prophets for justice often demonize women to show Israel/Judah their errors.  Wisdom literature, especially the Psalms, provides a liturgical corpus....  The Gospels examine Jesus' life, times, and teachings....  As an African Diasporan biblical scholar, I work to expose white supremacist interpretation, debunk oppressive ideologies, and avoid romanticizing the text and its problems.
-- Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Kirk

David Ker and his African students in Mozambique "live in a culture torn by war and driven by the same ethnic impulses that drive the narratives of the Old Testament."  So the white American teacher does not want any one black African pupil to focus on verse 9 of Psalm 63, the very violent, very vengeful verse that the learner wants to highlight and to make into a song:

9Mas aqueles que procuram a minha vida para a destruírem,
irão para as profundezas da terra.

9Enemies seek to destroy my life,
but they will descend into the depths of the earth.

Ker explains, "I asked one of my students, a choir leader, how he would go about setting this Psalm to music."  And he gets at his student's forceful point by asking, "How would you do it?"  The answer:  "Procurar um verso forte.  [Find force in a verse]."  Ker later notes:  "There’s very little metaphorizing of the Scriptures here in Africa." And he explains:   "My hope is not to get African believers to discount the revelation of the First Testament but to see that 'better things relating to salvation' await them in Christ."

So exactly what's a white evangelical Christian male teacher to do with this violent, vengeful First Testament verse, or with this First Testament song, or with the First Testament?  

Ker does not first turn to the black womanist Christian female scholar Cheryl A. Kirk, who writes what are the epigrams of this blogpost here.  (He does know her work, some of her writings from a book we've been reading together, a book he very kindly sent to me from which the second epigraph above comes:  The Africana Bible: Reading Israel's Scriptures from Africa and the African Diaspora.  I don't know if he knows her collaborative book from which the first epigraph above comes:  Pregnant Passion: Gender, Sex, and Violence in the Bible.)  Instead, he initially turns to bibliobloggers, all white men each far from Africa:  "I tag: Darrell , John, Doug, d. miller, Bob, J.K, (I’d also like to hear what Peter thinks.)."  He reminds us of his audacious, "controversial claim that the Gospel is more important than the Bible" and returns us to "this topic from a slightly different angle":
 What do we do about the curses, the bloodshed, and the vengeance found in the Old Testament? The answer is very simple: we skip it.
Jesus did it, Ker shows us.  Look how Jesus Christ would "tend to misread or ignore these texts" of vengeance in the First Covenant as an example for us and our brothers in Africa and his brothers in Jerusalem.  And so the biblioblogger brouhaha begins.

If you go back to Ker's first and second post on this topic, you can see some very interesting responses.  The most interesting responses come from Jay Seidler, who says:  "There is an assumption that because texts such as the ones that support genocide or inequality towards women are part of the Holy Bible 'Our Bible', that they must somehow in the end be interpreted positively."

I myself have already said way too much over at David Ker's blog.  But over here I mainly want to point out that it's mainly a bunch of white Euro and Euro-American males talking over there and around the so-called biblioblogosphere so far.  (One "Dana" is as far as I can tell the only woman in the conversation to date.  And there are no black African or African-American males or females yet in the dialog).  I don't think (by telling what we might offer Ker or what he might offer his African students) that we see the half of it.  I don't think I've begun to see -- and yet how we'd all be better for seeing -- how this conversation "Our Holy Conversation" is, nonetheless or therefore, as Cheryl A. Kirk puts it, pregnant.

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