Kevin DeYoung’s Hermeneutic

Some time has passed since answering DeYoung’s 40 questions. What my friends Keegan, Tapji, and I noticed was that one must accept DeYoung’s hermeneutical framework in order to answer his questions. Each of us, I am sure, felt a sense of emotional exhaustion due to accepting this hermeneutical framework. Likewise, I felt that the who point was that one would throw up their hands and just not do the 40 questions, and in that way, it would make DeYoung’s questions look unanswerable (and in my mind, that seems like a tactic of “look my questions have stumped those liberals!”). John Short offered an alternative 40 questions that get somewhat at some of my own questioning throughout answering the questions. But I just wanted to offer a reflection on answering those stupid 40 questions.

At this point it seems like a broken record, since I have asked this question continually but it is worth repeating, in that listening to a record repeatedly, for me, indicates an important message: conservative Christians focus so much on their queer antagonism being accepted as a legitimate part of Christian tradition, yet rarely speak out against other forms of queer antagonism. There is a significant disavowal on their part that their emphasis on “traditional marriage” (whatever this term really means) they do is marginalize a whole group of people. Yet rarely do they speak out against other forms of oppression against queer people.

Here, I think about the fact that queer people are more likely to be in poverty or homeless than their cisheterosexual counterparts. Moreover, there are more cases of drug abuse, and mental illness, which in my mind correlates with the ways in which society excludes and marginalizes people. Also insert issues like job discrimination, housing discrimination, or the fact that queer people of color still face police brutality. Or that queer immigrants face violence against the US state in detention centers, as Jannicet Gutierrez recently protested before President Obama. I cannot help but think about the racist and transphobic violence inflicted against CeCe McDonald, and that because she defended herself against this violence she still was deemed guilty by the judicial system. Transwomen continue to be murdered. Pastors will say that queer people need to caged up, and unsurprisingly conservative Christians either offer a tepid response or none at all.

These are all issues conservative Christians are often silent on. None of them deal with same-sex marriage. To be honest,  I care little about Same Sex Marriage because of all of the issues enumerate by Dean Spade and Craig Wilse. Nevertheless, it is difficult for me to accept conservative Christians who say their opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in Christian tradition alone (as if religious tradition is somehow exempt from producing bigotry or enforcing it). Why? Because they’re silent on all the other forms of oppression that queer people face on a daily basis. It is as if their opposition to same-sex marriage symbolizes their opposition of the moral goodness of queer life and culture.

What does not surprise me is that DeYoung asks if one will support Christians who will face bullying and the potential lack of religious freedom. This willfully ignores the violence faced by many queer people today. So it is not just that DeYoung has a rather myopic hermeneutic, but he is also a revisionist, ignoring the actual violence and oppression faced by queer people, as this huffington post article critiques about Christians “being oppressed.” Again, unsurprising because many conservative Christians frame their struggle as somehow akin to the struggles faced by minorities under Nazi Germany (again ignoring that LGBT people were among those persecuted and sent to concentration camps by the Nazis, or even that Nazi ideology was buttressed by the anti-Jewish teachings found in Christianity).

Here is where DeYoung and I differ hermeneutically. The Haggadah plays a central role during Pesaḥ, recounting the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt. The exodus is central both to me personally, and functions as the national founding myth in Judaism (to the extent that Rashi wonders why the Torah begins with creation not the Exodus). The exodus plays a central role in my political imagination, and in my desire to see the liberation of various groups of people. For Christians, Jesus is the image of God’s character. For me as a Jew, it is through the liberation in Egypt and the desire for new ways of life. As Moses says, החיים והמות נתתי לפניך הברכה והקללה ובחרת בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך “life and death I have set before you, a blessing and a curse and you will choose life so that you and your offspring may life” (Deut 30:19). Here, I take life not just to mean a physical way of life, but the way life is conceptualized, in the hopes that lives that are typically not valued will be valued, and advocating for a society that values the lives of those who are marginalized.

Lastly, I think our hermeneutic differs to the degree that Judaism has put more stock in historical experiences than Christianity. For many Christians, it always comes back to “doctrine.” Jews have overwhelming supported SSM, at least I believe, because of the lived experiences of oppression. This in part ties into the experience of exodus, but it also ties into the anti-semitism that Jews have faced in Europe and the United States. As Yitz Greenberg notes, “Judaism is a midrash on history.” Thus, lived experience plays a central role in how one practices Judaism, and lives faithfully to God.

I am sure that these interpretations do not adhere DeYoung’s hermeneutic, but then again, I find his interpretation of Scripture to be rather bland, simplistic, and lacking a depth of flavor like mayonnaise.


the muting of gutturals in a “heaven” of labials

These are things I’ve been talking to Sean about, and others, my friend Andrew at the School of Theology. I think people are tired of hearing me talk about these things. Too bad I will likely continue to do so.

Under the ideology of fiscal conservatism, former president Ronald Reagan is held to be both a saint and a messiah. However, like any president, we should distinguish between the rhetorical claims that they make and the policies they actually enact. The reality is, I think that most people who consider themselves conservative today are not conservative. Conservatism in the United States is dedicated primarily to classical liberalism. It is not, like we might wish to believe, in any way connected to Burkean conservatism. The two, in reality, conflict with each other. In Burkean conservatism, there is a preference for social hierarchy, tradition and custom, and organic unity. Social hierarchy, as understood by Burke was a social hierarchy that was an organic outgrowth of the community. Therefore, as long as the hierarchy was “natural,” it was legitimate.

American conservatism is suspicious of any authoritarian movement, whether it be political, governmental, or religious. Classical liberals would be suspicious of tradition and custom, and hierarchy if it infringes upon the natural rights of the individual. Fiscal conservatism is an outgrowth of a distrust of large governments. The issue is, most polticians who regard themselves as fiscal conservatives are not advocates of either free-market principles nor small government.

Corporations in the United States of America rely on the idea of a strong central government, only this strong central government is supposed to benefit the rich. When we look at the Bailout enacted by the Obama administration, we can see how our strong federal government works: we hate socialism, but we’ll bailout the rich. In other words, the bailout enforced an idea in our country of “socialism for the rich, capitalism for everyone else.”

Of course, I sympathize with the Tea Party in that the bailout was problematic. Where I do not sympathize with them is by the fact that the Tea Party is not run by the people. We can ignore the fact that Corporate interests finance the movement, or the fact that Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck make up a priesthood or aristocracy of elite tea partiers. The fact that the tea party advocates the very policies that will harm us in the long run are proof of this. Furthermore, to be sure, if a Republican or Tea partier had been in office instead of Obama (let’s forget for a moment that Republicans and the Tea Party are, for the most part, the same thing), they would have done the same thing as the Obama administration.

It is in the same way that during the 1984 election, Democrats and Republicans switched positions on political issues. Democrats advocated fiscal conservatism and Republicans advocated Keynesian growth. Republicans are critical of the Obama bailout and can blame him and criticize him for it because the Democratic Party controlled Congress. However, what no one is saying is that if John McCain had become president, the McCain administration would have advocated precisely the same thing. The Tea Party is direct evidence of this: they advocate for smaller government, but the policies the advocate will do no such thing.

Reagan advocated a larger government, a strong central government. Furthermore, Reagan protected the interests of the corporate class through policies advocating protectionism, economic interventionalism or regulatory policies. All of this is directly in the face of free-market capitalism and small government. Republicans are going to do the same thing. Big government is good, argues the business and corporate class, so as long as it protects the iterest of the rich and the powerful in this country. When businesses and corporations are subject to regulations, big government is evil. Even if regulation is limiting the power of a group of people who do not have the welfare of everyday Americans in mind. Free-market capitalism is acceptable so as long as the business and corporate class in the country is not subject to it. It’s bad when everyone is subject to it. In other words, I am trying to understand how we can advocate fiscal conservatism when we have never had it.