March 6, 2014
First-world believers are "right-handed" readers interpreting a message written to the spiritually and socio-economically "left-handed.”
While I agree wholeheartedly with the need to guard against anachronistic readings, I do wonder whether the author overstates the case a little. As well as books about and aimed at the oppressed, a great deal of Bible content was written by, for and about educated, rich, privileged people such as Abraham (a rich nomad), David & Solomon (kings), and Paul (an oppressor turned apostle).
We must absolutely stand up for the oppressed and we must absolutely interpret the Bible carefully.
Thanks for your thoughts, Jonathan. You make a fair point. To read the whole bible from the vantage point of the oppressed would be to make the same hermeneutical mistake, just in reverse.
We need to interpret carefully, and asking the questions "with whom do I identify in this story?" as well as "where is prejudice and privilege at play both for the characters in the text, as well as for me as a reader?" are important for careful readings. I recall a professor at seminary observing that perhaps we make a mistake if we read the story of David and Goliath and assume that we are "like David" in the story, facing the "Goliaths in our life" by faith (worse yet, with the "5 smooth stones of prayer, fasting, etc...) His challenge was to consider that we might better identify with the cowering Israelites in the story: threatened by the enemy of God's people and in need of a Savior. The person we identify with in the story matters very much.
I think it is also fair to note that certain characters sometimes write from different perspectives in different seasons in their lives: there was a time when David wrote from the ultimate position of power and privilege as King (Psalm 23), but also Psalms he wrote when he was a fugitive and afraid for his life (Psalm 57). A nuanced hermeneutic should respect the context of both those Psalms.
My goal in this piece was to highlight that just as I had been unaware of the prejudices at play with right-handedness until I was confronted with a left-handed daughter, so too I'm learning that I need to be alert to hidden privileges and prejudices which may be at play in my reading of scripture.
Thanks for your comment. I couldn't agree more: "we must stand up for the oppressed and we must absolutely interpret the Bible carefully".
Thank you for your kind response, Bronwyn. I can truly say that we are in complete agreement! Really fascinating post.
For the record, I have two kids and have no idea about their handedness. I didn't know that iPhones were right-handed. Weird.
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