Hermeneutics of Appreciation
I hear some scholars of religion oppose the hermeneutics of suspicion (which I obviously support) by appealing to a hermeneutics of appreciation. The idea is that we should teach our students (hermeneutics of appreciation is almost always linked to pedagogy) to appreciate a wide variety of cultures. Sometimes lurking behind this is the idea that teaching students to appreciate diversity will result in a greater degree of tolerance in the world (which is assumed to be an intrinsic value).
I want to say to these people (although I resist, and will continue to resist giving in to this desire until I gain more social capital in the academy), “Do you use a hermeneutics of appreciation when you read Mein Kampf, or the works of India’s RSS, or the writings of Osama bin Laden, or the stuff about idol worshipers in Deuteronomy?”
If the answer is yes (“of course I apply the hermeneutics of appreciation across the board!”), then forms of oppression or domination are thereby allowed to reproduce without challenge.
If the answer is no, then you’re applying your hermeneutic selectively, in ways that are uncritical, and in ways that probably reproduce the social order you desire (i.e., you probably employ a hermeneutics of appreciation when it comes to people you think deserve toleration, and you probably employ a hermeneutics of suspicion when it comes to people you think deserve critique).
If you are an exceptionalist (excepting some from critique but not others), are you putting your criteria of selection out there (which may render it subject to criticism), or are you making it invisible by leaving it unstated?