393. language is fuzzy (part 4) – sharks and same-sex marriage

In the previous post, I tried to make the point that just because language is fuzzy (since words are like containers that hold multiple meanings), that doesn’t mean that language has no meaning at all.

To illustrate this idea, I used the example of the Rubin vase illusion.

I talked about how people can disagree over whether the faces or the vase is more prominent, but no one can make a credible case for the idea that what we’re looking at is a picture of a rainbow.

I used that example to try to make the case that Christians can disagree over what the Bible has to say about same-sex marriage in the same way that people disagree over which image (the vase or the faces) is more prominent in the faces/vase illusion. At the same time, I understand that for some, saying that the Bible can support something like same-sex marriage is like saying that there’s a rainbow where most people only see a vase and faces.

Point taken.

However, take a look at this image:

Image by: Fred Hsu
(Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Some people will say that there’s nothing there but a bunch of moving dots. But people who are familiar with random dot stereograph (aka Magic Eye) images will say that they can see a swimming shark.

Similar to the Rubin vase, both images are there, but unlike the faces/vase illusion, the swimming shark in the stereograph isn’t as readily apparent. It takes a bit of training and coaching to get someone who’s never seen such an image to see the shark.1

In this case, it’s easy to empathize with someone who says, “that’s an image of moving dots and that’s it. There’s no other way to see that image and anyone who sees a swimming shark is just flat out wrong.” And we can understand where they’re coming from because we know that it takes a bit of work to see the shark.
In the previous two posts, I used the fictional example of Jane – a Christian in a long-term, married relationship to Janet.

For some Christians, the Bible is clear on the matter: it’s sinful for Jane to exercise the full range of her sexuality as a lesbian in her relationship with Janet, whether she’s married or not. I actually used to feel this way about this issue and the Bible, myself. However, after doing a lot of prayerful thinking, reading, and study, I’ve arrived at a place where I believe that the Bible does fully support and affirm Christian LGBT sisters and brothers like Jane and Janet – all of them, including their sexuality.

And I’ll admit that moving from one position to the other was a long, fraught process because, like the stereograph image, I didn’t think there was a shark there – I didn’t think the Bible could be read in a way that supported same-sex marriage. But eventually I began to see. And now it’s as clear and easy to for me to see as the shark. But it was a long process and so I completely understand why it is that other Christians have a hard time seeing the issue the way I (and other open and affirming Christians) do.2

Now if you want to read a bit more about how I came to the position I currently hold regarding the Bible and same-sex marriage, you can read this post, but I’m not going to explain my shift in position here because that’s not what this series of posts is about.

And I’ll say more about what I’ve been trying to get at through out these posts in the next installment.

If you like stereogram images, check out this music video!

1 If you can’t see the shark, try the techniques on this site (warning, fugly website): http://www.vision3d.com/3views.html.

2 In the case of the stereograph shark image, the shark image is there – it was purposely embedded there by the person who made the image. In the case of the Bible and same-sex marriage, I don’t think the matter is as clear. The question of whether God really meant for people to be able to read the Bible in a way that supports same-sex marriage is one that’s still up for debate, but the point I’m hoping to make is that it is up for debate – it’s not a settled matter yet and so the church should, at the very least, make a safe place to have this discussion rather than saying that the case is clear and closed. More on this in my next post.


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