Scriptural Gymnastics

22 01 2019

1609788_441480776029221_1016595601943781699_nIt happens all the time!  Well-meaning people take stances on a variety of issues, and then in an attempt to appear Biblically literate, they point to a Scripture passage to support their position.

So . . . the Bible says “before I formed you in the womb I knew you” which means that abortion is sin.  The Bible says that “a man who lies with a man as with woman is an abomination” which means that homosexual marriage is sin.  The Bible says “slaves are to be subject to their masters,” which for a long time meant that White people could actually own Black people.  And the Bible says that “a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the Church” which means that a married woman needs . . . a second head!?

For generations, Scripture has been used to justify all kinds of societal and cultural practices, many of which have done little more than hold certain people groups down, exclude those who are not ‘like us’, and attempt to control those whose beliefs and doubts call into question decisions that the majority considers to be settled.  Bible verses are torn out of context and inappropriately used to prove a point.  And I know this, because I’ve been there!

Fortunately, time has passed; and while there are no doubt occasions when I fall back into the trap of ‘proof texting’, more often than not I have learned to look beyond the Bible to explain and justify ways of thinking and believing.

So . . . I’ve learned that the majority of embryos formed in their mother’s womb are spontaneously aborted and never grow to become a child; which means either that life isn’t all that sacred, or that woman have the right to control their own  bodies and that sometimes abortion is a valid option.  I’ve learned that the passages in the Bible that appear to condemn homosexuality are often dealing with pederasty and the abuse of younger boys by older men, and actually have little if anything to do with the kind of committed, same-gender relationships that most have come to accept today.  I’ve learned the obvious: that colorism has no place in a faith community that teaches it’s children “Red and Yellow, Black and White . . . all are precious in God’s sight”; and so confronting white privilege is one of the 21st century Church’s greatest greatest challenges.  And when it comes to women, I’ve discovered that no one had greater respect for and trust in women than Jesus; and in him, there is no male or female!

As hard as it may be to admit, Scripture can be used to justify almost any position, on almost any issue. The Bible has been translated from its original languages and then retranslated, twisted and turned, interpreted and reinterpreted, all until it is molded and shaped to fit whatever we think and/or believe.  And any interpretation that dares to violate our textual gymnastics is considered to be nothing less than heresy.

Which is why I’m giving up trying to use the Bible – a unique, but nevertheless human document – to support all of my beliefs.  Because in the end, the Bible was written by men, who were born into and lived in a dualistic, and color and gender biased world, where sexual mores and behaviors were ill-understood, and where science and mystery tripped over one another all the time. As a result, sometimes Scripture just got things wrong!

Yes, you read that correctly: sometimes the Bible is just wrong.

Now I know – that is a slippery slope for many people.  But ya’ know what? Jesus lived on slippery slopes!  And our doing the same – while hard, and dangerous, and sometimes extremely awkward and uncomfortable – is precisely where we too are called to live.

In one of Richard Rohr’s recent “Daily Meditations” he boldly reminds us that Jesus openly disagreed with the Scriptures, consistently flouted Scripture’s sacred taboos, minimized and at times even replaced Scriptural commands, freely reinterpreted Scriptural law, and most memorably, reduced the Bible’s 613 commands down to two: love God and love neighbor.  Jesus knew that sometimes, perhaps more often than we would like, the Bible simply fails to address each and every issue with which we all struggle.  And even when it does, there are times when it doesn’t offer very sound advice.  So can we please just admit that?  Can we freely acknowledge that sometimes Scripture messes us up?

I know there is a pretty good chance that this realization may make our lives more difficult, because learning the discernment process is not an exact science.  But it is precisely in the midst of this tension that we find the holy?  It is right smack in the middle of our attempts to discern whatever is before us that we learn, with Jacob, this profound truth: it is in our wrestling with God, that we are afforded the opportunity to look into the face God!

No! The Bible doesn’t take a position on private, public, or charter schools. It doesn’t address prayer in those schools, or whether or not the teachers in those schools should be armed with guns.  The Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not it’s appropriate to take a knee during the playing of our National Anthem, or when Christ-followers have the freedom NOT to be obedient to their governing authorities. The Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not Christians should marry Muslims, have premarital sex, or divorce an abusive husband.  And even when we think it does speak to these, or countless other issues that are just as difficult, it sometimes offers answers with which Jesus disagrees or history and science have revealed to be inaccurate or unjust!

We’re not going to stone our disobedient children, and we’re not going to tell slaves to be subject to their masters.  We’re not going to tell men to get married if they can’t control their passions, and we’re not going to tell women to be silent in the Church.  And equally offensive, we’re not going to try and explain away these Biblical commands by saying that they’re simply misunderstood because of the cultural differences between then and now!

What we ARE going to say . . . what we need to learn we have PERMISSION to say . . . is that sometimes the Bible just gets it wrong!  So let’s skip the Scriptural gymnastics; and instead, hold very loosely to all the positions upon which we are seeking to build our lives.  Let’s be willing to grow and change, and let’s give others permission to do the same.  Because the world would actually be a much kinder, gentler, and more Christ-like place if we simply remembered those two commands of Jesus: to love God, and to love one another. For in the end, isn’t that really what the Bible is all about anyway?

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Another ‘Modest Proposal’ – Build the Wall!

8 01 2019

swiftBecause mine is a faith that is all about change and development, let me here and now confess to the transformation of my thinking with regard to the truly American desire to build a wall along our southern boarder; and in the spirit of Jonathan Swift, to offer our divided government a twenty-first century “Modest Proposal.”

Where Swift, in 1729, satirically suggested that “the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies”; so do I, here and now, propose that America, similarly threatened by “immigrants and their children who are becoming a burden” to our country, build a wall in order to keep out all who would try to enter illegally.  This proposition is born in a desire to reduce crime, to increase the number of jobs available to Americans, and in no small way to maintain the type of society that for 243 years has served to make America great!

Although the CATO Institute, one of America’s top-ten “think tanks”, reported in 2018 that that both undocumented and legal immigrants commit far less crime that native born American citizens, why would anyone believe an organization that has the word “think” in its description? We are all familiar with the comment made by Iowa Representative Steve King back in 2005, that “since 9/11 more than 63,000 violent crimes had been committed by illegals aliens.”  The statistic has been proven false over and over again, and King is known to be the one member of Congress who consistently makes false, racist and xenophobic comments; but why be troubled by the facts . . . especially when we can politicize the tragic killings of Brandon Mendoza and Mollie Tibbetts by illegals. The image of a wall ‘protecting’ American boarders and keeping unwanted criminals out, gives us a sense of security and makes us all feel safe.  And who doesn’t make important decisions solely on the basis one one’s . . . feelings?  So let’s build the wall: an attractive barrier, made of either concrete, or steel beams if that is more appealing to the majority of Americans.  However let’s build these barriers not just along our southern boarder with Mexico, but in other places as well.

What I call “The Great Wall of the South” is merely Part 1 of my “Modest Proposal”!  Part 2 involves building a second wall around the state of Florida: a state with one of the highest percentages of undocumented workers in the country, AND a state with one of the highest number of citizens over the age of 65.  The goal here is to prevent any new illegals from moving to the Sunshine State, and hopefully to encourage illegals already there to leave!

Now this will undoubtedly force residents of the state to begin to better care for one another, but that is the job of the church and other social services organizations.  The government’s job is to protect and secure American territory and that is what this wall is designed to accomplish.  Fewer immigrant workers may mean that there will be fewer people to care for residents of nursing homes and retirement facilities, to cut grass and meet the landscaping needs of residents, and to work in the states two most important industries, namely agriculture and tourism.  However accommodations will be made Grandma’s inability to pick oranges as quickly as younger workers, and Grandpa’s need for riding lawn mowers to cut grass.  It is essential that we never incentivize illegal entry with jobs — regardless of the fact that they are jobs Americans appear to believe are beneath them.  Eventually, due to excessive immigrant populations, similar state fencing will also be placed around the states of California and New York; and fencing around the state of Texas should also follow,  for countless other reasons not addressed in this proposal!

Part 3 of my “Modest Proposal” involves Floating Water Fences, or FWFs; and will be placed around the Ports of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  This fencing will be made of coals panels, at least 35 feet high, and made of coal from West Virginia’s reopened coal mines.  Netting attached to the bottom of the panels shall prevent penetration of anything under the surface of the water, and the coal panels shall prevent penetration from anything above the surface of the water.  The FWFs in Los Angeles and New York will prevent any further immigration from points south of the United States of America, and Chicago’s FWF shall prevent entry from any immigrants coming from our socialist, Trudeau-loving neighbors to the north.

Finally, Part 4 of this proposal involves asking the CATO Institute to determine the exact percentage of illegals committing any kind of crime in this country, and then building walls around any American city that has that very same percentage of . . . yes . . . white males!  (This has nothing at all to do with illegal immigration but rather is all about keeping America safe again!)  Since the vast majority of mass shootings in this country are carried out by Caucasian men, keeping our nation safe should involved walling them into the cities where they congregate, and no longer allowing them to freely move around the country where they might force their dis-ease upon an innocent population.  Granted, this may adversely affect those few non-violent men that exist in these cities, as well as other non-White-male residents; but we also need to put safety and security first, always before freedom and liberty!

I conclude by declaring that I am well aware that ‘walls turned sideways become bridges.’  But American is our home.  And homes require walls, not bridges!  I am also well aware that ‘this nation was built by immigrants,’ but those immigrants were from places like Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Denmark: and they were people who looked like us, worshipped like us, thought like us, and dressed like us.  Such people will still be permitted to to come to our shores, for who would NOT want to leave the mere ‘happy’ places of Europe, for a country where 20-year-olds are burdened by student loan debt and 70-year-olds are burdened by the cost of prescription drugs and health care?  But all other immigrants will be denied entry!

Most importantly, I am also well aware that to some, the building of walls may not be very Christ-like.  But Jesus told us to respect our government, and to honor our leaders.  And if we fail to adequately guard and protect the boarders of this Christian nation for which so many have given their very lives, we may not have a nation to guard and protect very much longer.  Which is why walls are the only way for us to to move forward.

Therefore, be it resolved that on this day, January 8, 2019, as our nation prepares to hear the wise and thoughtful words of a beloved president, let’s stand together as a purple country, and accept this twenty-first century “Modest Proposal.”

Build the wall!

Build lots of walls!

For this is what will make America great again!