I’m not sure when I stopped worrying about what the Bible says.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that book. It is filled with the stories of my spiritual journey. It has provided the construct for my theological questioning. This book challenges me to look deeper and think harder. To question myself and to question Godde. So I am not dismissing it. Nor am I saying that I accept the New Testament but not the Old. If I did, I would miss too much wisdom, too much poetry, too many stories that speak to the deepest parts of me.
What I mean when I say I stopped worrying about what the Bible says is I’m not sure how young I was when I stopped thinking of it as a dictation of rules and behavior. Unlike some, I never had the misfortune of thinking it contained the secrets that would keep my out of hell. My relationship with Godde negated the idea of hell.
Godde is too big for the Bible and I don’t think the writers’ intention was to capture Godde in its contents. Rather, it is the story of a people grappling with their relationship with Godde, one that assumed ongoing revelation – personal, communal, and political.
In seminary I learned to wrestle with the languages of the Bible (Greek and Hebrew), to parse meanings of words, to contextualize the stories, to do literary criticism – basically to engage with the text in intimate and creative ways. Thanks be to Godde. And for myself, after years in ministry, I love this text that is both flawed and profound, beautiful and horribly misused.
Do you want me to make an intellectual and spiritual argument for, oh say, the rights of women or LGBTQ rights using the Bible? I can. And another can use the text to refute my arguments. I think if I hear one more time that you can prove anything with the Bible I might scream. It demeans the Bible to use it as a proof text to reinforce what one already believes.
I am left with the question of how to minister with people who have been beaten up with the Bible being the whip that scars the soul insisting on the brutality of self-hatred. How do I minister with those who need a new way of seeing for their wounds to begin to heal?
Fundamentalists, it seems to me, have turned the Bible into an idol, replacing direct relationship with the Divine with the rigidity of rules over compassion for the human condition. The psychology of using a peoples’ fear to control their behavior is deeply disturbing. I am often asked by my fundamentalist friends if I am not afraid of going to hell. And then I’m asked why would people be good if there were no hell.
1 – I am not afraid of going to hell. I am afraid of hurting people with religion. I am afraid
of religion used to manipulate people in their deepest vulnerabilities. I am afraid of
the permission to hate in the name of Godde.
2 – I believe, as Ann Frank said, that people are basically good. That we are communal
folks who want and need to live together in society. I believe the Bible is filled with
stories of people trying to figure out how to live together.
3 – I am grateful for a book that has stories of Jesus in it. A revelation about how
we might all embody the love of Godde, and in doing that, change the world.
My invitation today is to let Godde out of the Bible box and the Bible out of the Godde box. Don’t be afraid. The peace of Christ be with you.