The title of this blog, Technoracism, is as far as I know, a word that I invented. Technoracism is the cultural attitude which underlies the modern era in Western History. It showcases the 2 most significant cultural achievements since the end of the Middle Ages, race and modern technology. But since I am currently writing a dissertation on the topic then it might not feature so strongly in my blog. Instead I want to start by talking about me.
I grew up Christian in Texas, and that right there says so much about me. It sets the tone of my cultural influences and my terminology. If you ever heard me speak, and I teach for a living, you would detect the cadences and rhythms of a pastor’s sermon in how I present my ideas. I remained very much a part of the church well up into my late 20’s. Of course by the way I am writing you might suspect that this story has an unhappy ending where I lose my faith, become an atheist liberal and start carrying on about the inherent racism in Christianity.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t go that way, or at least it hasn’t yet. I find that racism is not a strictly Christian, or even strictly American, problem, although it is a problem. As for my faith, I do not know if I have lost it because I am not looking for it. I am not searching or seeking, at least not in the way I did in my early twenties. That doesn’t mean I now have all the answers, but I do have a good set of questions I like to ask. I just no longer look to the various institutions of organized Christianity to find those answers.
To be fair I still have many friends who are a continued part of the Christian church. I have family members who very much believe in the answers that Christianity has provided to the deeper questions. I still believe in some of those answers myself, but what I find myself at odds with is the methods use to get those answers.
I value philosophical thinking, and I value discussion and discourse when we want to determine what is true. I could talk about Plato here, but I think you get what I am saying, truth is arrived at through thinking, questioning, and talking to each other. I like science too by the way, though I also have issues with scientific methodology. Yet my issue in this post is with religious, and specifically Christian theology.
The simple answer that most Christians give for the basis of their theology, at least most protestants, is that they believe firmly in the inerrancy (meaning flawless perfection) of the Bible. That is, the Bible to them is no mere book, it is the perfect word of God and everything in it is, to borrow a poetic phrase from their rhetoric, God-breathed. What this effectively means is that every time a Christian makes any claim to know anything about anything, then whatever they are saying has to be something that references, relies on, or is backed up by the Bible. It also cannot be something which might cast doubt on, raise disagreements about, or contradict the Bible. This works well when Christians are talking about loving their neighbors. It even works well when Christians try to locate themselves in the universe and determine the importance of all historical events based on how they fit into their own Christian narratives.
Yet a quick trip down memory lane, and a brief discussion with a few well meaning Christians, will reveal that the Bible has quite a lot to say about a number of things which the institution of Christianity disapproves. So I can find you verses in the Bible which prove that women are inferior to men and should be subordinate to men in all spiritual and communal matters. I can find you verses which prove that homosexuals are the worst people to ever walk the planet and that their sin is unforgivable. I can find you verses which talk about why Christians should never: drink alcohol, dance, sing, play music, have non-christian friends, question the authority of their pastor, question the authority of the government, or use curse words.
Now some Christians will respond to that by saying “Fuck it, you don’t get it. All that stuff you mentioned only happens when someone misinterprets the Bible.” They then proceed to show me how those verses are really meant to be understood. This is sometimes quite simple, or else it is incredibly complex. Either I am told that the meaning is obvious and then told what the meaning is, or else I am given a song and dance routine involving words like Hermeneutics, Orthodoxy, Koinonia Greek, The Masoretic Texts, Context, Apostolicity, and Truthfulness. There does not seem to be a third option, unless you count the option of “I don’t know”. Barring that a theologian could explain to you that the meaning of biblical passages is well understood, at least it is to those who use the right method.
You can go to a seminary and learn the right method, or take a college course on Christian Theology. They will teach you the method, so here it is:
- Step 1: In order to know the true meaning of a verse in the Bible one must know its context. So one must read the verse within its chapter and within its Book. One must further understand how that book fits into the Bible, and what type of book it is. Some books of the Bible are meant to be understood literally, others figuratively.
- Step 2: One must read the verse in its original language. Since translations of the Bible always pervert the true and pure meaning of the original words as they were recorded in the ancient languages, then we must have a comprehensive knowledge of the ancient language in which the verse was originally written. This requires one to know ancient Greek in order to read the New Testament, and also Ancient Hebrew in order to read the Old Testament.
- Step 3: One should interpret the meaning of a verse as simply as possible. This basically amounts to accepting that the most obvious meaning of a verse is likely the correct meaning.
- Step 4: One must take care to properly apply the message of the verse to one’s own life. A major component of Christianity is that all of the verses in the Bible are useful for teaching. Thus every verse can be applied to our modern lives. This means that there is a message each of us should take to heart and act on in order to say that we have truly understood the meaning of that verse.
There may be quite a bit more than this, but that is the method I was taught. I ended up having many problems with this but let me just give you the simplest one.
In order to know how to read context, interpret an ancient language, find the simple meaning, or make proper application, I must rely on the existence of a fully formed Religion complete with a history of abuse, scandal, and manipulation. The method of proper theology is not one that you will find explained anywhere in the Bible, though there are several hints about it. Instead that method was largely invented by Christians. Yet before there could be a method, there already were Christians. The religion of Christianity had to be invented before Christians could tell you how to properly interpret their sacred book so as to justify their existence in the first place.
I like Christianity, and in many ways I guess I am still very much a Christian. Yet I am deeply skeptical of theology and of organized Christianity.
I leave you with this, there might not be a way to get to a pure and perfect method. If that is the case we should admit our bias and our blindspots. Yet, I have not found that religions are willing to do this. Instead organized religions all make the same claim, “we are infallible, because we are right.”