“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

You can't understand Jesus from the biased gospels

I recently wrote an article for a publication. In the end it was rejected, which is nothing new to me. Honestly? Not a big deal. I have written things that people like and things that they don't like. I have actually had an article rejected for lack of quality and then published by another journal with very little editing. So on some level it is a kind of a game.
But the criticism that led to the rejection of this most recent article I will fully embrace. I am proud of this rejection! On one level is is a clear indication of the anti Christian bias of many in the field of disability studies. I am sorry but that is just the way it is. Anyway, read the following which are a few comments from the rejection. The article, by the way, was supposed to share a Christian perspective on disability, particularly using the example of Jesus.
While I understand that the essay --- is written from an evangelical Christian faith perspective, I am concerned by a number of seemingly uncritical assumptions. One is that we can treat the gospels as more-or-less accurate historical accounts of the life of Jesus.
No bias there.
The evidence marshaled here likely says more about what the authors of these gospel texts thought about disability than about what the historical Jesus thought about disability.
So we cannot use the gospels as a way of understanding what Jesus thought because they are filtered through the gospel writers. I can only assume, then, that they do not want to understand a Christian perspective on disability.
Similarly, other faith claims are treated as more-or-less factual -- e.g., “Old Testament prophesies can be interpreted as foretelling the coming of Jesus”. On the same page, quotations from Isaiah are taken as descriptions of Jesus. The essay also takes a more apologetic tone than is typical in a scholarly context -- e.g., “These healings were evidences of Jesus being the one who had been predicted as the savior of mankind”.
Does one relate a description of their faith as simply opinion? The thing that you have dedicated your life to should be treated as opinion? I would not expect anyone of any religious faith to describe the principles undergirding their faith as anything other than fact. However, if you yourself are uninformed by faith, you will see all faiths as opinion. I can only suspect that the reviewer was someone who did not have a personal religious faith, or held the position that everything is relative (unless you say that you don't believe that everything is relative at which point you are rejected).
But to cover the reviewers tracks for the bias offered thus far,
At the very least, I would ask the writers to say more about their hermeneutics. But frankly, I am not sure this essay is of sufficient quality to warrant publication.
So perhaps recognizing that all that had been said thus far is falacious, the article was of poor quality. I have got no worries there. Criticize the quality, give me the weak areas as to why the arguments or writing are of poor quality. But don't provide biased uninformed arguments about religious faith in general and a total lack of understanding of the Christian faith and then cover your tail by saying something is of poor quality.
If I seem angry, I really and truly am not. I will dust this article off and publish it in an unbiased journal, probably with little changes. But this is a reminder to me of the field of disability studies and its hostility toward Christianity. My desire to to truly open minds. My disability studies students read the best of what the world of disability studies can offer because I want them to be exposed to different perspectives. I want them to be challenged. However, those of other persuasions want nothing to do with anyone who might bring serious dialogue and disagreement. It is those who see themselves as tolerant who are typically the most guilty of tolerantism.



Anonymous said...

"on some level it is a kind of a game."

I'll sign that.


Jean said...

Yes, the line in the sand is the name Jesus. When you say it, suddenly the most tolerant people can become quite INtolerant.

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 1 Corinthians 1:20-21

jordan V said...

I am currently working through some of these issues in my own thoughts. I am trying to decide how best to be a Christian in an academic environment. While I would say that I believe the core elements of my faith to be factual I wonder if, when I am interacting with other faiths (or no faith at all) I should be careful to acknowledge that I do not have any more "evidence" for many of my core beliefs than they do for theirs?

I also wonder if part of the issue we, as Christians, are confronting concerning bias from academia is related to our (collective) past which is riddled with unsubstantiated truth claims, bigotry, intolerance, and unfounded postures of superiority etc.

In Donald Millers flagship book "Blue Like Jazz" he tells the story of setting up a confessional booth in which he confessed to non-believers concerning the past injustices of the Church as a way to open up dialogue.

I am still working through this stuff but those are some of my thoughts thus far.

Thank you for the post and for talking through some of these issues with me personally. You are really a wise leader and I am glad to have you in the field of disability studies and as a Prof.

Jeff McNair said...

The issue here was, if you ask me to write an article called "Jesus on Disability" and then don't like the Christian perspective provided, then don't ask me for the Christian perspective. If you want a description of a Christian perspective written by a secularist, find one, however, don't fool yourself into thinking the perspective provided is one that the typical Christian would embrace.