Mr. Bumble of Oliver Twist is one of Charles Dickens many quirky characters. Bumble is a meek little soul, dominated by an overbearing wife. But, when the magistrate informs him that he is legally responsible for her actions, that “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction,” the brow-beaten Bumble replies,
If the law supposes that … the law is a ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience.
Dicken’s insight has lately been pricking at my thoughts regarding the recent spate of teen suicides, focusing our attention on bullying and teen angst over sexual identity. We have repeated former ELCA presiding Bishop Herb Chilstrom’s challenging question here several times already, but here it is again:
What will you say to your sons and daughters, sisters and brothers and others in your churches when they tell you they are homosexual?
“What would Jesus do?” is ‘90s speak for discerning God’s will. Torah, as broadly understood, is the divine will revealed for the benefit of humankind. More narrowly construed, Torah is law. Jesus repeatedly castigated the religious authorities for allowing the letter of the law to interfere with its spirit. To some, myself included, it is painfully obvious that many who would speak for Christendom offer the letter rather than the spirit, offer Torah as law rather than revelation, offer hurt instead of healing. My post earlier today contained such an example in the words of the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who pontificated that in spite of the evidence of teen struggles over sexuality … “The church cannot change its understanding of the sinfulness of homosexual acts unless it willfully disobeys the Scripture and rejects the authority of the Bible to reveal the truth about sin and sinfulness”.
Does this Christian leader really believe it is the will of God that our gay youth should be brutalized in body and spirit even to the point of suicide? For the sake of upholding the authority of Scripture? Here the voice of Dickens sounds like a clarion, “if the law supposes that … the law is a ass”. Is it time to step away just a bit, as Bumble implores, from high minded talk of word alone and allow the eye of the law to be “opened by experience—by experience.” The experience of our gay youth is begging to be seen.