Monday, March 06, 2006

Sex Sells (Biblical Version)

Interesting and not-snide article from the Kansas City Star on the Song of Songs. Apparently, some people -- meaning some US evangelicals -- are rediscovering the naughty thrills of the Song, and using them to draw crowds.

I know these thrills well. In a long-gone Confirmation Class, my lay catechist described it as "the Bible's dirty book," and said that in some pious households the pages were glued together to keep children from reading them. Always an oponent of censorship, I rushed home and read the thing start to finish.

Honestly? I was a little disappointed. Great poetry, but not the easiest stuff to read. There seems to be an underlying narrative, but the details are awfully hard to figure out. Readers usually wind up imposing their own heavy-handed interpretations on the text. (To judge from the Star article, the Kansas evangelical preachers choose a narrative that is very, very different from my own. I see -- and have preached -- a tale of forbidden love, love outside the boundaries of social convention, perhaps even the law. They seem to see a married couple on the honeymoon. Well, as we said in the Seventies, whatever gets you through the night.)

But here's something interesting: several of the editors and professors quoted for the article mentioned that they had never seen (or presumably heard) a sermon on the Song. Okay, the Song is one of those books -- like Esther -- that lectionary committees have traditionally skipped over. So it's an understandable omission for those of us who use the lectionary -- but passing strange in the free-church world. This is great stuff, and powerful stuff, and if you spin it jussssst right, it can even be stuff that speaks clearly about God's love.

Here's my proposal: Let's make 2006 the Year of the Song. I challenge my free-church readers (there must be one) to lead a summer series on it. For the rest of us, perhaps a mid-week Bible study. Or thinking about it in relation to our appointed texts -- surely a creative mind can find in the Song some relationship to St. Mark's Gospel.

Yes, there will be a few repressed pew-sitters who wig out. But there always are -- if not over this, then over a sermon explaining that torture is bad, that the poor need our help, or that God is not actually in the White House. And isn't that always one of the joys of priesthood?

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