In my latest post I asserted the creative power of collision between Scripture and reader. What I said was that the act of reading involves ‘two worlds colliding’ with each other – the world of the text and the world of the reader – and my claim was that every act of reading Scripture therefore adds something new to the church’s collective understanding. Thus, I concluded that the message of the Scripture expands every time we read it and by reading it we make its message relevant in our contemporary world. The ‘crisis’ that arises from these thoughts is that it reveals the church’s obvious unwillingness to let all people add their understanding to the narrative of Christianity. Consequently we must acknowledge that there is an imbalance in our understanding of both the meaning of Scripture and our understanding of who we are as ‘the body of Christ’. Although we can state with certainty that things have changed during the course of history, this ‘crisis’ still remains strong. This is clearly seen in the structures of the historical churches with popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, and so on, but my claim is that this structure of power more or less is at work within most churches.
The so called ‘free church movement’ were a reaction to this overarching system of church governance but unfortunately I suspect that it is here, rather than in the historical churches, that the structures of power and exclusion is the strongest today. In many of these churches you will hear the pastors confess themselves to be ‘just ordinary people’ and not different to the avarage churchgoer in any particular way, and for some reason people seems to accept this idea, but there is at the same time a strong emphasis on not questioning these ordinary people that ‘God has placed in authority’. Hence, the self-proclamation of being ‘ordinary’ serves as a legitimation to rule the church in an authoritative manner (while also earning a quite substantial paycheck).
The picture I’m painting here is a general one, but I don’t think that it would be very hard to find a whole lot of people that can recognize churches that fits this description. The big problem I see is that the ideology at work in these churches divides people as ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ which amounts to that everyone who criticize how things functions per definition becomes ‘outsiders’, hence the ‘insiders’ will not contemplate the critique but rather see it as ‘a spiritual attack’ of some sort. There will of course be those who recognize the ‘fishiness’ of it all, but then they’re faced with the risk of loosing family and friends if they speak up so many will keep it to themselves, and if that’s not enough, maybe the psychological fear of ‘the burning lake’ will shut them up.
My thesis is that these churches are the same one’s that proclaims that there is one specific reading of the Bible, or to put it in another way, that the Bible speaks with one single voice. This voice, I claim, is the voice of an oppressive ideology that defines people according gender, ethnicity, social status, and so on. This is also the voice that keeps the ‘outsiders’ on the outside by preaching a clear and definitive message of ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘saved’ and ‘damned’, ‘virtues’ and ‘monstrous’…
I believe, as I have written before, that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was a definite and final critique of this system of power and exclusion, hence it’s with a sad heart I conclude that both people and churches who claim to represent him in the world are working their asses off to protect the very same ideological structure the Christ-event unmasked and proclaimed defeated. This is why I’m so passionate for a Biblical hermeneutics that allows for Scripture to speak with more than one voice and I truly believe that such an approach can take the power away from these people and democratize the way we understand God’s revelation.