I've been meaning to interact with you a little bit for a long time.
Most people for whom the Bible functions as light, mirror, and compass, are not going to give you the time of day, as you must realize by now, because they hear you saying that the Bible is darkness, profoundly distorting as an instrument of self-examination, and in need of a "strong reading" from the outside in order to render it innocuous.
That is, it seems to me, exactly what you are saying when you claim that what you refer to as “sexism in the Bible,” as it works itself out in precept and teaching, is equivalent to the waterboarding of women (here).
Elsewhere, on these very threads, you have been quick to point out that the “love patriarchy” of Ephesians 5 is still “patriarchy” – which is true. But according to you, the “love patriarchy” of “the Pauline economy” is no better (and perhaps worse) than that of Aristotle.
I disagree with you on all counts, but I applaud your honesty as you develop your point of view "over against" Scripture from a point of view (desde) external to it.
Furthermore, your questions are my questions, no matter how differently we answer them. So I am happy to go back and forth on things.
As far as I can see, you come at scripture with axe in hand. If the options are:
(1) that the Bible is God's word and its teaching perfect and infallible, just what God intended, or
(2) the Bible is imperfect and fallible - except for the parts we like based on some external criterion,
I will go with (1) every time. I see you going with (2). Correct me if I'm wrong.
But it's not (1) or (2), sic et simpliciter, for those who consider Augustine's De Doctrina Christiana - a treatise on scriptural interpretation - to be a helpful point of departure.
In De Doctrina, Augustine first deals with "discerning the subject-matter of Scripture, defining it as the love of God, expounding it in terms of the rule of faith, Trinity and incarnation" (Frances Young, 2008: 473).
The result, in an Augustinian perspective, is that "the context of Scripture" within a hermeneutic of love allows for the possibility of reading an individual passage against its own grain, as Jesus did when he relativized Moses' teaching on divorce, in light of the whole counsel of God contained in Scripture as he (Jesus) understood it.
Augustine goes on to discuss language, tropes, and allegory, the need for grammatical analysis and inference, the difficulties of reading a text in translation, and so on.
But the really important thing is that Augustine sees Scripture as norma normans (the norm that norms all other norms) which nevertheless gives rise to norma normata (norms normed by it and derived from it, such as the Nicene Creed) which in turn serve to focus and provide criteria for the interpretation of the norm.
Is the traditional way of reading scripture a virtuous or a vicious circle of interpretation? With exceptions, I would say that the circle has been virtuous.
It's also possible to enrich the traditional circle by allowing, if only provisorily, an external criterion to stand in judgment of scripture: that might be Marxism, feminism, post-colonialism, queer theory, etc. I believe in this kind of enrichment, so long as Scripture is also allowed to stand in judgment of the external criteria, and have the last word.
If it is not given the last word, then its authority has been vacated. Which is fine, for a non-believer. But I don't see how a believer can make this move - though it happens all the time, empirically - without compromising his or her commitment to a particular faith structure in which scripture, and tradition based on it, are by definition the primary reference points, as opposed to a contemporary “ism.”
Where am I going with this? I am absolutely fine with the politics of location to which you appeal, and with the notion that the personal and the political intersect. See my recent post on a poem by one of the greatest poets of the last century, Dahlia Ravikovitch.
But I will not apologize for my political location, to the extent that it is not “feminist” as you define it. At the same time, I am happy to concede that my point of view is partial and in need of integration with others. As Cyprian said to ideologues of his day: extra ecclesiam nulla salus: “outside of the church [that diverse, contradictory, frustratingly conservative and intolerably lax collection of sinners headed up by individuals obsessed with power] there is no salvation.” Outside of that church, of which Augustine rightly remarked: “How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!” (Homilies on John, 45, 12), there is no healing, but rather, an escape from the very possibility of healing, which is social, or it is nothing.*
Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu: a person is a person through other persons. Even and especially through the ones we contend with.
In short, unless awareness of partiality is reciprocal, talk of "political location" is nothing more than another, yes another, power play.
So far, my impression is that you are unwilling to go down the path of reciprocity with those who are not feminists after your own heart. You do not want to be part of "a number" that includes them. Thus, you speak of "bibliobloggers" on the one hand, and "feminist" bloggers, a category you identify with, on the other. Never mind that there are bibliobloggers in the current lists who self-identify as feminists - including yourself. That you developed this binary opposition in the context of a defense of Obama's pro-choice positions is striking. I look forward to a discussion by you of LXX Exodus 21:22-25. After all, the pro-life stance of ancient Judaism exemplified by that translation and conserved by Christianity after the parting of the ways saved the lives of countless unborn children, some of whom probably figure among my ancestors and yours. I accept that people today, and Christians, too, hold very different opinions on abortion, Obama, and many other subjects, with defensible reasons in each case. The tone in your relevant post suggests that you may not.
Frances Young writes in favor of "ethical reading." She remarks, "Such a reading requires that readers do not simply exploit texts for their own interests, refusing to examine their own presuppositions, but attempt to be open to the 'other' and to listen, acknowledging difference, recognizing that the author has something to say and endeavouring to hear that, while reserving the right of challenge and differentiation, of the refusal to be taken over" (2008: 107-108).
Furthermore, she points out, if we have a commitment to the Christian tradition, when reading scriptural texts, we will "respect and accommodate them . . . and seek a hermeneutic of appropriation" (110).
In the process, it will be important to respect the alterity of the texts, their non-feminist alterity included.
If you don't, I submit, you contribute to creating an environment in which Bible readers who do not share your passionately chosen brand of feminism will feel free to ignore and even disrespect your particular alterity.
Frances Young, Lewis Ayres, and Andrew Louth, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008 )