In Religious Education, is our approach to diversity too focussed on the ‘positions reached’ and not enough on the ‘ways of knowing’ that led people there?

In Religious Education we often focus on trying to ensure we cover different positions both between and within traditions. But there is another ‘diversity’ that is related to religious ways of knowing, not just positions held.

So you could approach a topic like religion and LGBTQ+ issues and want to make sure all of the positions are covered, but this wouldn’t tell you much about how people got to those ‘positions’. It would emphasize the differences between the positions but not the question of the way of finding out that led there.

For around 20 years or more there has been a really interesting debate involving Catholic and Protestant NT scholars about whether the discussion around welcoming gentiles in ACTS should be interpreted as an allegory for how the Church today might welcome LGBTQ+. The argument goes the early Church set aside centuries of tradition around ritual purity in what must have felt shocking for Jewish Christians, in order that gentile converts could be welcomed. This is touched on on this page under the inclusive case. The page lists a wide range of responses.

A question underneath is whether RE should teach children about how meanings are reached, or simply what positions are held. Do we promote a kind of arbitrary relativism (emphasising identities inclusion) or the study of diverse religious ways of knowing…. (enquiry inclusion). If we don’t explore religious ways of knowing then what message does this leave pupils with about any kind of sincerity a persona has about reaching their chosen way of life?

In the question of the early Church and gentiles, the discussion is whether the allegorical form of discerning meaning could be used in the way described in the question of  LGBTQ+ communities.

There seems to be relatively little about these ways of knowing and searching in RE curricula. There is a lot about the question of religious authority, and a lot about trying to be representative of religious people, but I think we are missing something else – the ways of searching and knowing that drives people to lead life in a certain way and how that seems to provide them with something they want, choose or need to live life with.

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