[Here’s another preview from the book I’m working on. Putting the Bible in Its Place: Off the Pedestal. Out of the Trash Can. Back on the Table. Let me know what about this excerpt interests you.]
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As a preacher I tried to make offensive biblical passages less so, even palatable. I could spin an irksome passage. I had a few exegetical and semantical tricks up my sleeve. But, alas, trickery can take you only so far. I grew weary of my byzantine justifications.
So I took another approach.
When I stopped defending the Bible as THE WORD OF GOD, I could finally say: THE BIBLE GOT THAT WRONG. For example, in various parts, the Bible condones slavery, genocide, subjugation of women, and condemnation of homosexuals. All morally despicable. Just flat-out wrong. Period.
But the Bible also gets a lot of things right. Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Love your enemy. We can find similar gems in The Way of Tao, the Bhagavad Gita, Hamlet, Middlemarch, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Epiphanies await us in all manner of literature, art, and music. Why limit ourselves?
We can approach the Bible as we would a collection of ancient Greek and Roman writings or a collection of ancient Chinese and Indian writings—respectfully, but critically. We don’t take Zeus literally. Why should we take Jehovah literally?
In my book I trek across old terrain but with a fresh perspective and a set of literary tools unavailable before the 19th century. I explore this terrain the way Charles Darwin explored his terrain: with an open mind. In his time, geologists had developed tools and methods that enabled a more informed understanding of the earth and its creatures.
Like other scientists of his day, Darwin left the supernatural out of his explanations for the existence of the natural world and the formation of its diverse species. He wanted to see and understand the world as it was, not as others said it was.
Darwin’s approach to the natural world inspired my new approach to the Bible.
One thing I discovered, much to my surprise, is that Eve is a hero, not a villain as Christendom has preached and taught for 2,000 years. Eve defied authority and gave humanity the gift of sight and knowledge.
And that wasn’t the only surprise.
See Paula’s photo (“Hydrangea Season”) on the home page. Posted August 7
I have been reading the I Ching*, the Book of Changes, all my life. In my opinion, other spiritual documents omit the core principle, Change. The manipulation of the yarrow stalks is a meditation in itself, bringing back the smell, sound, and feel of the meadow; and stimulating an open state of mind similar to chanting. The resultant readings are randomly selected, and uncannily pertinent to the moment. The long term cumulative perspective is an ancient weaving of living planetary and human attributes and forces that no other reading in my experience has provided. (*I prefer the Wilhelm-Baynes translation.)
Looking forward to the book! Keep those excerpts coming!
Sometimes when the Bible got something wrong, it also got it right. Slavery, for example. While the Bible does not condemn slavery, it does set out rules for more humane treatment of slaves, and even a means of emancipation for a sub-set of slaves. Looking at it this way, the Bible — and especially the writings in the Old Testament other than the prophets — is a recounting of history and the movement to a more humane society.
On the other hand, I confess I am confounded by the the commandment not to murder and other instructions of the deity to simply wipe out populations.
I am grappling with these things, and will grapple with them more after the election (with which I am consumed because of Hannah’s candidacy).
Enjoying so much your ideas & perspectives on reading the Bible and other writings with an open mind and open heart… early on I learned to be discerning & not try to swallow as truth what didn’t make sense of feel right. It is so liberating!
I especially loved Paula’s photo & your vision of Eve as hero… thank you both… looking forward to your book!
What I find interesting is your underlying assumption that the Bible is still a book we should be interested in. Yes, it gets some stuff right–and a lot of stuff wrong. But, as you point out, so do a lot of other texts. So what I’m wondering–and what I’d like to see you tease out more–is what, from your perspective, makes the Bible worth our time today? How, what, why, when, and where can it contribute to a better world?
You finally have molted and stepped out as the agnostic we both knew you always were. Any society that can’t accepted positive metamorphosis is doomed to die. A static condition in nature is the same as accepting the existence of a vacuum, where everything freezes in time and space. That’s death, but real death isn’t static. Big wheel keeps on turning. 🙂
Is any church “better” than another? What about Friends meetings? I am 69. I am not guaranteed any huge time but I will work for it. Simply sitting in the pew with no outward focus is insufficient. But am i better off finding my own missions locally and being active or staying with a church that is content making the budget? Reflections.
This post sent so many wheels whirling, I took a day to consider it. I know that anyone who refuses learned knowledge or wisdom because of fear from or of faith is a fool. Anyone who thinks they understand the divine is a fool too. What if the Genesis is the creation story of the Jewish people as much full of the culture of an indigenous desert tribe? It solves the problem of initial incest, multiple definitions of the divine and competitions between multiple iterations of the “holy.”
Regardless, I decided to try to follow the hard-handed carpenter & stone mason who taught God Is Love and however we treat the least amongst is how we treat the Most Holy.
I always thought of her as a hero. My mother was named after her!
I am new age whatever that may mean … and have always been an empath. I use those skills to today – and have learned how to block when necessary.
My great grandmother was a 7th daughter of a 7th daughter. She taught me those ways long before “I knew” Christian meaning. I honor Grammy in her shared ways.