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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2 responses

24 01 2019
Lisa Donovan

I love you. Thank you for this. Please move to MA so I can join your church!

24 01 2019
Bob Melone

Thanks Lisa – Hope you had a nice trip to FL. My parents loved seeing you! XO

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