I went to church the other day, the first time in a very long time. It was a contemplative service at the local Uniting Church. It was contemplative in as much as several bible readings and songs occurred followed by contemplative pauses.
I felt the singing was a bit awkward. The bible readings appeared to be a bit disjointed, they were the prescribed readings from some book or other. But the silent pauses were great, exactly what I was looking for. It is a very different thing to sit in silence by myself or with someone close than it is to sit in silence with a group of people from outside of my personal comfort zone. It was indeed contemplative but also an experience of unconditional collectivism. I was not alone in my meditation.
After each bible reading and contemplative pause people were encouraged to share their thoughts about the passage if they wanted to. One of the passages was an excerpt from the Song of Solomon and, in the midst of this small group of contemplators, a theological disagreement arose. One member said that the song was an allegory for Gods love of the land and people of Israel and this lead him to consider the situation of people in exile from their god given land. I assume he was thinking about Aboriginal Australia also with this comment.
My contribution on that passage was that it is a love poem between a man and a woman. I did not say any more because that would have broken the contemplative momentum. But what I thought was…….
The Christian church and Judaism have long debated whether the Song of Solomon is an erotic poem or an allegory for God and Israel. I believe it is the former and that allegory theory was devised to disguise the obvious sexuality in ancient Hebrew culture and theology, but I could be wrong.
This is how I see it –
The Song of Solomon is an erotic poem and it relates to the wisdom of erotic love. However it is not just personalised erotic art, it is not just about sex. The song is intensely political and this is its central importance.
Who was Solomon? He was the king who inherited the legacy of his father David. Solomon reigned over an established and prosperous kingdom. Solomon’s task was not to win wars or capture territory; his role was to maintain peace. How did Solomon maintain peace? He married women from the ruling families of his neighbours, such as Pharaoh’s daughter.
Solomon loved his enemies rather than fighting them – this is how he maintained peace.
However the story is not so simple as it was Solomon’s wives that became Solomon and Israel’s downfall, when he allowed their foreign idols and temples (and therefore cultural and economic systems) into Israel. Everything fell apart after that.
But in terms of both the peace and the corruption of Solomon’s Kingdom I believe it is very relevant to understand, or at least contemplate, the erotic wisdom of the Song of Solomon.
Anyway, church was a positive experience and I will return.