Sweet Home Chicago

An odd weekend — some very wonderful elements, some very frustrating elements, very tiring, and now with the usual delay getting back to Chicago.

The wonderful: spending some time with my sweetheart Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday morning. As Margaret draws nearer and nearer to the end of her graduate program, and as she sees that she’s done well at the tasks assigned her, the outcome of her program comes clearer and clearer, and it’s a blast to see that realization in her eyes. Likewise, we had a delicious evening with Pascale, who led us around the Dupont Circle neighborhood, chose a fantastic Chinese restaurant for us, found the nearest late-night coffee shop (all right, that wasn’t so very hard, since coffee shops are pretty thick on the ground in that neighborhood) and returned us to our hotel, full, happy, and now with more fond thoughts of an online friend.

And my meeting at the Human Rights Campaign brought together a number of my favorite people in the field of biblical studies, and others whom I hadn’t known before. Academic provides an odd variety of sporadic friendships based on conferences and occasional correspondence; any time we can spend in general conversation makes for deeply refreshing nourishment to the soul.

At the same time, I feel some conflict about my role in the project (online biblical commentary geared toward the HRC’s readership). I expected that I was on their list because the HRC envisioned a shared effort at articulating biblical interpretations that embraced LGBT identity in a theological reading that was determined by common interests; in such an enterprise, I have plenty to offer. As it turns out, the HRC and the leading LGBT scholars among us had a more specific view of the project as oriented toward a distinctly LGBT-oriented interpretive practice (“queering the text” without necessarily accommodating hetero readers). I have no question that that’s a legitimate thing to do — I’m not calling the integrity of the idea into practice — but I have a very difficult time finding a useful role for myself in the outworking of the project. I spent most of Saturday feeling even more catholic and more Victorian than usual (and some people thought that was impossible!).

There’s nothing wrong with my feeling disprivileged for once; I don’t need to rule the world, or even to participate in every discussion on an equal basis. No discussions need my input. On the other hand, when someone wants to hold a conversation to which I don’t stand to make a useful contribution, we all may as well save time, energy, and travel money by leaving me at home. No hard feelings, honest, and a more sensible stewardship of resources (I can think of numerous LGBT scholars who weren’t there, who actually could make a substantive discussion to the HRC project).

That being said, everyone was very patient and polite to me, and weekend in Washington was wonderful. I’m just eager to get back home.

[Later: When I wrote those words in the DC airport, I didn’t realize what I was getting into. My plane left DCA at 7:00 EDT, already an hour late. We got to Chicago on schedule, but couldn’t land because of the thunderstorms. After an hour holding, we landed in Detroit (by now, it’s 10:00 EDT). We sat on the runway in Detroit for a half hour while they solemnly assured us that they’d get us to a gate, then when we got a gate, they kept us on the plane. At 12:30 EDT, we took off again, and we landed in Chicago at 12:30 CDT. But that’s not all! We had to wait twenty minutes to reach a gate, and once we disembarked — the first time I’d unfolded from my window seat since I got on the plane — we had to wait a half hour for bags. I arrived at home a little after 2:00 CDT, and am having a snack, and blogging, before I collapse in a smoldering heap of exhaustion.]

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Does envisaging a commentary that is “determined by common interests” suggest some (different from before) but still singular (and so) totalitarian reading?

  2. Good question, Tim. The project firmly suggested a number of ways that the resource could be multi-voiced, aand the plan (as we left it) included each week’s comments as incorporating a group’s responses to the text.

  3. That would be interesting, there is little or no scholarly commentary that attempts any real dialogue, though most conducts a pretend dialugue with previous writers!

    As someone from the liberal end of a conservative tradition who works (half time) in a liberal institution (University School of Theology) and the other half in a conservative one (Baptist College/Seminary) I am intrigued by the ways in which both contexts consciously and un-consciously seek to silence or disenfranchise the other point of view.

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