Liberal, conservative, moderate… orthodox, traditional, progressive, contemporary… we use our labels and our jargon to say who is worthy, who is not, who has it right and who doesn’t.
I think we like to dwell on labels because we simply do not believe: We don’t believe there is anything that we can actually do about human suffering, so we argue about how God feels about the gay couple next door. We don’t believe there is a solution to hunger and poverty, so we talk about whether or not women are supposed to be ordained. (Still? Yes, still.) You can really start a ruckus by calling God “She”—go ahead, try it!
One fellow not too long ago nearly spat in my face, “I would rather stand on God’s word!”
“Standing on the word of God” is often code for taking God’s word literally. What bugs me most about this idea of taking God literally isn’t the fact that the holy writs were discovered, collected, translated and compiled by men of power and a particular class (though I invite you to think about these things as you read the word of God).
No, what bothers me the most about biblical literalists is that they rob God of being creative, poetic and metaphorical. This approach doesn’t bring God down to the level of humans—it takes God lower than us, because when any of us refuses to allow God to speak metaphorically, creatively or poetically, we are rejecting the artistic nature of God, rejecting one of the many ways God can speak to us.
A child that colors outside the lines is more a reflection of God’s nature than the pompous and certain nature of assuming to know exactly what God meant in every verse of the Bible.
Does thinking that way make me liberal, traditional, moderate, progressive or contemporary?
Inez Torres Davis is director for justice, Women of the ELCA.