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Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Bible Readers... The Danger of Being Piously Convicted and Marginally Informed
From my perspective, Isaac Asimov had it correct when he noted that the Bible is the best evidence against itself. Many Christians are excellent Bible READERS. Minister types in this area excellent Bible READERS. They can jump from one scripture to the next with finesse. For any scholar you could quote, they would quote one that confirmed their perspective. However, in some areas of the country you really just have to quote the Bible and skip the scholar part too.
It never ends. The reason it never ends is that for one the NEED to believe the inerrancy of the Bible is more than important. The NEED for the Bible to tell one consistent story and be totally true in its conclusions is WHO they are at this particular moment in time. One local minister when he saw I was reading a quantum physics book asked me what that had to do with the Bible. I said, "Nothing, it doesn't need to have anything to do with the Bible." He said, "Oh yes it does, the Bible is the greatest science book ever written." He needed to believe that and he was very wrong.
On the other hand, there are those who have passed through the literalism and inerrancy of scripture to see it for what it is. It usually takes a traumatic religious experience to provoke the change. My pastoring past supplied more than enough impetus for me to examine what I used to teach. It's not a matter of stacking your scholars against my scholars to see who wins the argument because personal growth is an inside job. Spirituality comes from within.
Religious belief comes from examining what a scripture SAYS and assigning it a meaning. People who assign scripture the same meaning for them as a group usually form a church or a denomination, but that may not translate into a real spirituality. I personally feel that most Churches sift out according to personality. Angry and fearful types tend toward the exclusive "we only" mentality, read the Bible like a newspaper and hold such beliefs as an everlasting form of punishment for deeds done in a very finite amount of time. Of course, it will be YOU that experiences the eternal punishment or punishing and not them. Other Churches are shame (I'm a bad person) and guilt (I do bad things) based, with most being a combo of both. We have social churches where the minister had better mind his own business and control churches where you know he is about to mind your business for you. It's always a "he". At the other end of the spectrum are churches of people burned by religion and desirous of spirituality only. They don't want to hear the phrase "God says", or "The Bible tells us..". Those phrases are burnout for them. These are perhaps the Unitarian types who don't argue doctrine and just be who they are for now. Leading Unitarians is a bit like herding cats. I myself consider myself Non-Condemnational. That's about all I can come up with at the moment.
Spirituality is not about scholars vs. scholars. It's personal and often painful. We can all find someone who backs our "position". I don't find Bible READERS very often the kind of people I feel comfortable around anymore. I don't spend time with them and rarely engage them in a discussion because the Meme (mind virus) of conditioning is firmly in place. There is no discussion. Only arguing and pushing back. One sees very quickly that most minds come preloaded with their own form of truth. Frankly, if we took religious caused conflict and mayhem out of the news, we'd only have ads from Wal-Mart to read.
Recently a fundamentalist tried every way she could to save me and to convince me that the bible was the BEST science book, the Best psychology book, the BEST history book, the BEST guide for morality. I asked her if so, why did Israelite soldiers get to save the virgins of other nations for themselves, i.e. for sex, and kill everyone else or why Moses, upon returning with the big ten got really angry and had over 3000 people killed for not waiting or getting really angry when people in the DESERT felt a need for a bit more water and food. ...she mumbled something about the justice and judgment of God and changed the topic. One could ask hundreds of questions like that about both Old and New Testaments. At any rate, she told the others around me that I was making up a God in my own image to suit me and said they should shake the dust from their shoes when around me. (I ain't kiddin!). I knew I had made progress when is simply was able to smile and go about my business.
Scholars, mine or yours have a place, it's how we learn and get to make those personal decisions about how it may actually be in the realm of spiritual truth and growth. I don't care if Elaine Pagels and I agree (which we do) near as much as I appreciate that she is so adept at explaining the EVOLUTION of God in the Bible from Canaanite storm and fertility gods to what we have today in three major religions.
If I had to pick a book that actually said what I had always wondered about it would be John Shelby Spong's book Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. He simply and with great insight said what I was already noticing about the Bible. I understood I was not crazy for noticing stories and teachings that seemed at best ignorant and at worst contrived. For others, it simply made them angry and feel threatened to the point that a woman hit John Spong over the head with her umbrella from behind at his own wife's funeral and others to wish the next plane he took to crash. I consider the former types to be religious and John Spong to understand spirituality and reality at it's best. It's difficult to argue with a spiritual person. Religious people thrive on arguments. It drives them nuts when you don't feel the need to.
The "my scholar vs. your scholar" mode of spiritual awakening has never worked. Spirituality is always an inside job perhaps only understood best by the person experiencing it.
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