My Video Deconstruction
Monday, November 5, 2007
I struggled for a long time about why, whether, and how to post my Proverbs 6:16 video in the Jesus and Teh Gay post. I talked it over in advance with my Beloved, who serves as an unfailing "integrity compass" for me when I am flailing in the deep waters of my own intentions and desires. I also asked a blogger for whom I have penultimate respect to preview it and give me feedback.
Here were some of the questions I asked myself (and then asked my Beloved) -- (plus questions that my Beloved asked me that I hadn’t thought about yet) -- before I posted that video:
- What is my intention in posting this video at all?
- If someone else posted a similar video about me, would I be mad/upset or feel that they had represented me unfairly?
- Do I think this video will actually change anything, or am I simply succumbing to my “wit-demonz”?
- Am I using tactics which, if used by someone who I consider an “adversary”, I would think were incomplete in presenting a “whole idea” or "whole picture"?
- Does this video fit with my basic principles and ethics?
I do have some answers to some of these questions though -- answers that I would never have had, if I hadn't asked these questions, or had them asked of me.
Question #1: What is my intention in posting this video at all?
My intention in posting the video is for people to understand that there are many, many, many interpretations and translations of the Bible, and that one of the problems with basing an institutional, legislative, or governmental structure on such a freely-interpreted religious text is that the text itself can be used to condemn or promote nearly any behavior that you want to either condemn or promote, a theme I've touched on before.
Question #2: If someone else posted a similar video about me, would I be mad/upset or feel that they had represented me unfairly?
I know that I am willing to be held accountable to the principles which I espouse.
When I breach my espoused principles, I'm willing to have others point this out to me, and I am willing to make apologies and amends if I think I've breached these principles. So, in that sense, I don't think that it's outside my own ethics to ask people who proclaim themselves as "Bible-believing Christians" to align with the things that they profess.
If I had claimed myself as an adherent to a particular text such as the Bible, and I weren't living in accordance with that text, I'd actually WANT people to point this out to me.
Question #3: Do I think this video will actually change anything, or am I simply succumbing to my “wit-demonz”?
I have found that I do have the hope that this video will change something.
I don't think it will (necessarily) change the minds of "bible-thumpers" (but I can hope, can't I?). However, I believe that many people in US culture are affected by "vestigial biblical overflow" (VBO) without realizing it.
I personally know "inerrant-word-of-god" type Christians who condemn homosexuality, consign women to subservient roles, and entertain a host of other judgments, and who do so because they believe that they are required to do so by the Bible -- whether or not their own actions are consistent with the actual mandates of the Bible, whether or not their interpretations of what the Bible says match up with literal translations, and whether or not their life experience with gays, women, etc. give them other, observable facts that might contradict what they are "supposed" to think/do/judge.
Because it is their religion, and I respect the right of any human to believe as they wish to believe, all I can say is: "OK, so that's the path they've chosen."
However, I think that there are people who don't claim Christianity as their religion, who are nonetheless affected by VBO.
These may be people who were "raised Christian", but who had deep, troubling questions about the obvious contradictions that they observed in the religion of their upbringing. (For me, this manifested very early on, as I witnessed the Vietnam War playing out on TV and compared it to the "Thou Shalt Not Kill" that I received at church, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, and Catechism classes.)
These may be people who were raised with no particular religious focus, or in an entirely different religion from Christianity, but who were nonetheless steeped in the Judeo-Christian background noise that saturates this country's media, holidays, and basic cultural assumptions.
Example: Many of us grew up with the notion that being homosexual, or getting divorced, -- or being different in any way -- is "bad" and "wrong" (or at the very least, "undesirable" or "strange"). But how many of us were actively actually encouraged to ask the question: "Why?"
In fact, if you grew up like me, you were actively encouraged to NEVER ask the question: "Why is it bad/wrong to be homosexual/get divorced/be different? How does this actually harm anyone?"
So, at a time when there are pundits and celebrities throwing around Biblical justifications for oppression and bigotry, and bullying others with a book, I do want to post information about the many other possible interpretations that are based on literal translation of this ancient religious text.
So that people can, perhaps, begin to see how VBO might be affecting them, and how arbitrary and numerous and varied the interpretations actually are.
Question #4: Am I using tactics which, if used by someone who I consider an “adversary”, I would think were incomplete in presenting a “whole idea” or "whole picture"?
Ah, and now I come to the thorny problem.
The honest answer, when I ask myself this question is: "Yes, I think I used tactics which present a partial picture rather than a whole context."
I find a million justifications rising in my mind as to why this is OK -- but none of them really satisfy me.
I find this maddening sometimes.
In truth, I don't think that I can ever provide a complete picture. In five or ten years, the images included in that video will be virtually meaningless.
Which is the same problem I have with the Bible, or the Koran, or the Sutras -- that we're trying to create a living code of behavior from a book or writings that were pertinent thousands of years in the past.
If I'm honest with myself, this video doesn't "sit" quite right with me yet.
Yes, I think it is "fair" (if that's the word) in terms of asking people who claim to be Christian to adhere to their own religious texts.
However, if I think about how little most people actually know about the Bible, it's possible that the even the espoused Christians portrayed may not actually know that much about the text they claim to be espousing. This seems pretty evident to me when I see something like Ann Coulter claiming that Christians are "perfected Jews" (a concept which does not appear anywhere in the New Testament, as far as I can read).
I guess the biggest difficulty I have with the video is that it points attention toward these people, while I would really like to point my attention elsewhere -- to more expansive vistas.
Which brings me to:
Question #5: Does this video fit with my basic principles and ethics?
No -- and specifically, it flies in the face of one principle I'm working with a lot lately: What you resist, persists.
And another principle which I work on daily: Don't preach to the choir -- if you have a beef, take it to the person you have a beef with. (This is a bit more problematic for me, as I don't know how I'm going to manage a heart-to-heart with Bush, Cheney, Limbaugh, Coulter, Gonzales, or Rumsfeld -- but then again, you never know!)
I learned a lot in this process though, and I think that's the real point of any experience.
Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:45 PM