“The Bible says…”

10027 CH But the Bible says TRACTWhenever I hear those words today, I find myself cringing. I believe the person who says them is serious in what they are saying, but far too often those three words seem to introduce a mindset that says something similar to what I’ve seen on a bumper sticker: “God said it…I believe it…that settles it.”

do believe that the Bible is scripture and I find it of value in my spiritual life. However, I do not believe that it is fair to the biblical writers–or to us–to put the Bible (or any other scripture) into a box that simplifies what it says.

The Bible says a lot of things…many of them ideas that we no longer follow today…and even more importantly, many of them contradicting each other. So what are we to do?

This is where I believe scriptural literacy is important. Not scriptural literal-cy…scriptural literacy. Just one little letter, but it makes all the difference in the world.

Scriptural literal-cy is found far too often today, I believe. It basically seems to say (and yes, I realize this is definitely a simplistic definition) that God dictated every word of the Bible in English (King James’ English, no less!) to those who wrote it, and that all the laws and rules (and history and science) have not changed since the books were written. They are correct for today and should be applied exactly as written. It sees life–and Scripture–as completely black and white, with no exceptions.

Scriptural literacy calls us to look at the times and the context of the writings…to understand that many of them came through centuries of oral tradition before they were written (and they weren’t originally written in English). It challenges us to accept the contradictions found in them and to use them as springboards for discussion about the principles that were being established. It allows us to understand that these are the records of many different tribes and peoples, sharing their best understandings of their experience with the Divine. Scriptural literacy calls us to look for the underlying principles…not to get caught up in the particulars that were often for specific times and situations.

This is an ongoing challenge–and it’s not easy. It’s far easier to say “Well, the Bible says…” But pulling verses out of context is unfair to what those early writers were trying to share. Yes, some of what is in the Bible is ugly. Some of it we would rather ignore. But it’s all there–and those of us who accept it as scripture, if we are going to do so with integrity, have to struggle with those issues. In doing so, we find ourselves united with those through the ages who have tried to find the best way of sharing their understandings of the Divine–and, just perhaps, we might then find ourselves less dogmatic and certain about our own understandings of the Divine and willing to dialogue with others who are also struggling with similar issues.

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How to react….?

In the last few months I’ve had a couple of situations that have left me uncomfortable and uncertain how to react.

The most recent one had to do with my love of books. There is a particular author whose Victorian mysteries I have thoroughly enjoyed reading. She does a wonderful job of creating the time period and the social classes and attitudes.

Because I do a lot of reading, I’m always on the look for new books–and when I was looking at choices for online reading on my tablet, I found a title with this author’s name in connection with a horrible murder. I thought that surely this must be something about how she got started in her writing…and it was–but not in the way I anticipated. Instead, it’s the story of two teenagers who killed the mother of one of them in a brutal murder in the 1950s. Interviewing people involved in the trial and looking at the documents that are available, the author of this book created a horrific story of narcissism and psychopathic behavior. The girls were found guilty and sentenced to prison for an indeterminate amount of time–eventually released. The daughter of the mother who was killed seems to have spent her life trying to make amends for her part in the murder…living a solitary life and eschewing publicity. On the rare occasions when someone has found her to raise questions, she has taken responsibility for her actions.

The other girl is the author I have enjoyed. Far from eschewing publicity, she has given interviews in which she seems to see the murder as merely a horrible teenage action…but instead of taking responsibility, she seems to have made a habit of creating excuses for her behavior. Granted that the upbringing of both girls was difficult–and this girl especially was both physically and emotionally abandoned by her parents at various significant developmental times in her life–this individual, while acknowledging that she had been expecting to be found for many years, seeks to place the major responsibility on the other girl and to excuse herself because of medicines and/or other reasons.

The other situation had to do with the breakup of a marriage. I had been sorry about it but had no knowledge of the reasons, nor did I want to. Eventually, though, I heard one side of the breakup, and while recognizing that there was undoubtedly another side to the story, what I heard seemed to place most of the blame on one individual. However, later I heard another side of the story–a very different one involving both physical and mental abuse.

Both of these situations have impacted my feelings toward the individuals. I’m not sure that I really want to read any more of the author’s murder mysteries…and I’m not sure I really want to see the other person again. I do believe in the power of repentance and forgiveness…but when there doesn’t appear to be any signs of that, I really have a queasy feeling in my stomach. Am I enabling repulsive behavior? Or–because there is no way that I can know the complete story because I’m not inside the heads of the individuals–do I treat them as I did before I knew more of their stories?

I’m not sure. It’s something I’m really puzzling over and trying to decide how to react. How am I going to feel most at peace?

 

Time…

There’s a song I remember from my teenage years that Jim Croce sang – “Time in a Bottle.” It’s a rather wistful song, both with the lyrics and the tune. The lyrics include these words: “But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them.”

Right now I’m feeling the truth of those words!

We’ve just bought a house and will be moving from where we’ve lived the last three years. We’re trying to do it in a more organized way than previous moves…especially since we don’t have to be out of our current place at a specific time. So we’ve been slowly packing big items, moving them, and unpacking them. We’ll do a major push later this fall.

But besides doing that sorting (sort of!) and packing, we’re also watching our 1-year-old granddaughter–who is really keeping us hopping!  I don’t always have a lot of time to get other things done during the day, because we’re reading, dancing, playing games, chasing her up and down the stairs, etc., etc., etc. It’s great fun watching here–but I’m not sure I really need much other exercise!

On top of that, I’m the Registrar for our local chapter of the American Guild of Organists…responsible for music at my congregation…dealing with MS…wife, mother, grandmother, minister…

Help!!

And yet…I do find the time to do what I really want to.

So maybe the question isn’t so much that there isn’t enough time to do the things you want to do. Maybe it’s really taking the time to find the things that you want to do–because once you determine what they are, you will find time.