Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori gave a sermon, which presented a rather different view point of a text, and conservatives are in an uproar. Oh, dear. From the NY Times:
Her text was Acts 16:16-34, which includes the story of a slave woman and fortuneteller whom Paul encounters in Philippi, Macedonia.
As Luke, who Christians believe is the narrator, tells the story, the woman “had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortunetelling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ ” After many days, “Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.”
This story has historically been read as a tale of exorcism, in which Paul delivers the woman from some sort of indwelling spirit — or, alternatively, strikes a blow for monotheism against local beliefs in plural gods. But as Bishop Jefferts Schori interpreted the passage, Paul was guilty of failing to value diversity, to see the slave girl’s beautiful “difference.”
“Paul is annoyed at the slave girl,” Bishop Jefferts Schori preached. “She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves. But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness. Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.”And, conservatives are up in arms that she dare read this text differently. The PB seems unfazed
But Bishop Jefferts Schori pointed out, in an interview Friday, that elsewhere in the Bible, Paul appears to condone slavery. Her sermon was thus part of a necessary, continuing tradition of interpretation.
“If the church had never reinterpreted Scripture,” the bishop said, “we would still have slavery — legal slavery.” Scripture must be read “in our own time and our own context,” because prior generations had “a limited view,” she said.
“They had to have a limited view, because none of us is God.”
What do you think? Can a text take a re-interpretation, to give us meaning that perhaps even the author didn't consider? this is not just about Biblical interpretation, of course, but is an on-going question in literary criticism. If texts are static, unwelcome to interpretation, we'd never be able to set Shakespeare in anything other than period dress with white actors.