Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sometimes I get real crazy and radical and think to myself, "I wish the Bible didn't exist."

You gotta admit, that book has been used to justify oppression and violence for thousands of years. Within the confines of the text, people have found whatever idea or theory suited them best. The God of love and forgiveness and new life gets reduced to a vengeful deity that will stop at nothing to segregate people, oppose gay marriage, support entrenched racist and elitist structures, and show no mercy to the unbelievers.

Whether or not this or that is "Biblical" seems to be the primary argument people have against gay and lesbian people. They stand in sanctuaries, in front of the masses, in conference rooms, shaking the Bible like a blunt object in the air. They remind me of Mandy Moore's character in the movie Saved that, while throwing the Bible in the air towards her friend - hitting her square in the back in the process - yells, "I am FILLED with the love of Christ!"

Funny, yes. But that far off? Not really. I have been in rooms where people have grabbed that ancient tome and shaken it fiercely while saying, in effect, "I am right, and this proves it!" How dangerous that is, to cling to a document to prove your arguments. I was under the impression that we prayed to a living God, One that is ever-changing and always present in our lives. My theology professor pointed out that the Jewish people have the Torah, in the original text, rolled up into huge scrolls, therefore unable to swing it around like some sort of holy and faultless monkey wrench.

But Christians have never shied away from taking the Word alone, apart from anything else, and closing their eyes, ears, and hearts to anything else. Then they are freed to pass judgment on every person that doesn't meet their standards, instead of being forced to turn that judgment on themselves. Because when the Bible stands as the only thing to which we are bound, we become worshippers of an idol - the words of the Bible - instead of the dynamic and living God that is before us, around us, within us.

I think I should give a caveat here. I love the Bible. I take it, as Marcus Borg says, "seriously instead of literally." There are beautiful stories, works of poetry, socially-relevant commentary, and sharp critiques on the powers that be (or, rather, were) in the Bible. But instead of taking it as the literal word of God (it always strikes me how the literal word of God could have been given to 1st century men, writing within their Jewish context and framework, and somehow still be inerrant), I look at every word as part of a magnificent story of God and God's people. Specifically, how God has intervened in the history of human activies to save God's beloved children.

I think that if we took the Bible seriously, then we'd have to face the fact that Jesus talks consistently, incessantly - damn-near annoyingly - about the poor and disenfranchised in his society, ordering his followers to pay attention to them. You notice I use the term 'order' instead of 'suggest'. Indeed, his command to "Love your neighbor" is just that: a command, not a polite suggestion. If Jesus is taken seriously, then all of the sudden we are taken to task for many things that infect our society and tear us away from God.

And - in a side-note - it's hard for me to imagine that a same-sex couple who love each other and raise children are much more estranged from God than a straight man who beats his wife. Yet, in the anti-gay campaign, that is exactly what is being inferred.

So, that being said, when we take the Bible seriously, we aren't dismissing it as an irrelevant thousand-year old document, nor are we basing our everyday actions on its every word. (Because, if we did so, we could never be 100% consistent. Just read every word of Leviticus, and tell me if a pious Christian does every single one of those.) We, instead, celebrate it as the living Word, a collection of stories and instances that remind us that God has chosen us, loves us, and has made promises to us. To everyone. To all.

Then we are freed to be the beautiful human beings that God has created us to be. Wow. How amazing is that? It is indeed good news, in my opinion. God, after all, is 'doing a new thing', and we are privileged to be a part of it.


At 10:33 AM , Anonymous David said...

While I don't take every word or statement literally, the Bible is the Word of God to me. Somewhere along the way it loses it's inerrancy, but I've got a theory that this occurs somewhere between an individual hearing/reading it and then interpreting it.

The problem with the Bible isn't actually in the Bible. All the issues (even Homosexuality) are there, but it isn't until some sinful person (aka anyone) comes across a passage and decides that instead of living in the Word and letting the Word live in them, they decide to chain the Word up. To use bits and pieces of it to arm a campaign they've been longing to organize. Be it against a race, culture, orientation, group or individual, they will cage and mutilate the Word of God until it looks and behaves the way they want it too.

It is shameful. It is disgusting. It is blasphemy. And it happens way more often than any believer is willing to admit.


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