An Eye For An Eye Makes the Bible Blind

2016-05-15_11-08-13.pngHaving dipped into theology for a ten year period I learned that some have been studying the Bible for centuries and have a name for almost every concept that it might contain. The ‘flat Bible’ is a new one for me but the concept is one I most adamantly disagree with.  Putting every word in the Bible as being of equal importance make absolutely no sense to me. Here is a little about that from my friend at Red Letter Christians.

Only a ‘flat Bible’ perspective can justify living in such a blind way. Instead we must recognize that the ‘red letters’ of Jesus—especially in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’—call us to another path. A path our fear-mongering politicians hope we’ll ignore. A path that calls us to embrace radical grace and love and forgiveness. A path that remains much harder to follow than merely swinging for someone’s eye.

SOURCE:  An Eye For An Eye Makes the Bible Blind – Red Letter Christians

I know my Baptist friends for the most part view their Bibles as flat. I’m sure there are many others.  To me the Bible refutes itself in so many instances to make the idea of all the words have equal important simply ridiculous.

It is easy to realize that the  “an eye for an eye” concept on the Old Testament bible is responsible for much, if not almost all, violence in the world today.  The Israelis and the Palestinians are killing each other everyday based on that belief. Religious extremism, at least the ISIS version follows the same logic.

I have studied enough theology to understand that the Bible is a very difficult document to get a high level view of.  Too many latch on to one or two sentences in it and then ignorantly go on to treat the rest of it as if it totally condoned their tunnel vision.

In The Beginning…. And Then…

2016-03-20_11-22-18.pngIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He created the birds of the air and the fish of the sea and the beasts of the land.  And then he created man,  and it was down hill from there on out….

Forgive me that this is not an exact quote from any bible but for the purpose of this post you get the idea where I am going.

The very first family that God made ended up with a murderer. One brother killing another. That wasn’t a very good start to humanity. It seems that the seven deadly sins were created at the very beginning.

A few generations down the line God threw up his hands and decided to start over again. Not with everything, just with people. He was determined to get it right this time but it is obvious he didn’t make much of an improvement the second time around either. I know all the theologians can give thousands of reasons for it that don’t challenge the idea of God’s perfection. They have honed that skill through a couple of millennia. If you work on something long enough you will eventually cam come up with enough excuses to rationalize almost anything you want.  I’m talking about the theologians here not God.

It kind of make me wander, if things were so perfect  before man came along and he is made in the image of God just what kind of shape is God himself in? Now before any of you start flaming me I am saying this in 90% jest. And then there is the other 10%..  😉

To keep things in perspective I take the bible as a collection of stories about man’s relationship with God. The absolute truth thing came much later by human theologians. That keeps me from having to make up excuses for God and how his creation turned out.  I kind of think that God did get all this started in some fashion but then he left it up to us to carry on from there.

Another aspect of the bible being stories is that it is kind of like “Downton Abbey” which was such a hit on  PBS recently.  It was about British Aristocracy and the distinct divide between the ruling class and everyone else.  The story line was fascinating but anyone who know much about it realizes that it showed almost exclusively the fairy tale side of British life in those years.   The bible is kind of like that, it tells the good side for the most part but eventually some of the bad stuff shows up to confuse things.

The Bible is certainly an interesting book to try to read…

 

Evolving Faith…

I think for too long we’ve made Jesus just one character or episode in the Bible. If we want to see God, we look to Jesus. In Hebrews 1:3, the writer says that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. So I think that if we could recapture that centrality of Christ in our churches through our teaching, our worship, our way of life, well then, what would change? …  We aren’t bringing Jesus into our lives: he’s welcoming us into his life. Years later, I still feel like the only place that makes sense is in his presence, the only place I want to be is in the dust of his feet….

Rather, I was more telling stories of the places where I have evolved and changed because I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to do that. I do have areas where I can’t imagine changing but I hold even those loosely now. My catalogue of Right Answers has grown smaller over the years, for sure, and I see God as much more wild and wonderful and generous than I could have ever imagined years ago.

Source:  Evolving Faith: An Interview with Sarah Bessey – Red Letter Christians.

I very much mirror almost everything mentioned in the above quote from my friends over at Red Letter Christians.  For me it is all about Jesus and his words. Everything else in the Christian Bible is very secondary if even that important. I evolved into this attitude over time to where it has become the cornerstone of my spiritual life.

I don’t particularly like the phrase “What would Jesus do?” Instead I live by the idea of what would Jesus have ME do? I can’t possibly imitate Jesus in most matters in life but I can take what he teaches me in both my heart and my actions.

I remember in 2008 when I started my now archive blog at RedLetterLiving I got a comment from a fairly high authority in the Lutheran church organization I belonged to at the time that totally confused me.  I admit that I didn’t really read much of my church’s writing so I didn’t realize the extent of my differences with them.

Getting back to the 2008 comment, the person asked me why I was concentrating on the words of Jesus!  He said all the words of the Bible are equally important! So, to him the words about not eating meat from animals with cloven hooves was just as important as Jesus’ messages of loving each other!  I was shocked by his comments but eventually discovered  that is pretty much the attitude of the clergy in the Lutheran church I belonged. To me they just seem to be  more of a “club” type association (they call it fellowship)  who focus on adoration of their Bible rather than focusing like a laser beam on the person of Jesus.

Needless to say these revelations started me down the road asking too many questions and  correspondingly being expelled from my congregation; in the end that was probably a good thing…. it allowed my faith to evolve to the next level.

2015-12-30_10-09-20.pngIf anyone is interesting in going deeper with this topic of evolving faith I would highly recommend the book shown here by Philip Gulley. Despite what some say, it is a normal process for our beliefs in God evolve as we mature. If they don’t then we are not growing in Christ as we should. Don’t get stuck in one static place just because someone tells you they have all the answers.  Question everything even your spirituality. I think God expects us to do just that…. and He is certainly up to the questions.

 

 

How Well Do You Know Religion?

2016-01-01_10-21-27.pngIn fact, religion is invariably a tangle of contradictory teachings — in the Bible, the difference between the harshness of Deuteronomy and the warmth of Isaiah or Luke is striking — and it’s always easy to perceive something threatening in another tradition. Yet analysts who have tallied the number of violent or cruel passages in the Quran and the Bible count more than twice as many in the Bible.

There’s a profound human tendency, rooted in evolutionary biology, to “otherize” people who don’t belong to our race, our ethnic group, our religion. That’s particularly true when we’re scared. It’s difficult to conceive now that a 1944 poll found that 13 percent of Americans favored “killing all Japanese,” and that the head of a United States government commission in 1945 urged “the extermination of the Japanese in toto.”

It’s true that terrorism in the 21st century is disproportionately rooted in the Islamic world. And it’s legitimate to criticize the violence, mistreatment of women or oppression of religious minorities that some Muslims justify by citing passages in the Quran. But let’s not stereotype 1.6 billion Muslims because of their faith. What counts most is not the content of holy books, but the content of our hearts.

Source:   How Well Do You Know Religion? – The New York Times.

The main reason I am posting about this article is the quiz that you can take to see just how much you know about religious documents. It was personally very enlightening to see the answers. Click on the source above to take the quiz.

I got 11 of the 14 questions correct because I have spent quite a bit of time studying this topic. Some of the ones I got wrong were mainly because I didn’t know the particular chapter or verse relating to the question. I admittedly am not a “bible thumper”.

The point of all of this is to say that most of our holy documents are strewn with violence no matter your religion. Taking these writings literally is where the major fault lies. If we view them for the history lessons they contain they are very informative. If we treat them as literal truth they can be very damaging…