Tag Archives: Bible

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You Have a Holy Book? You Have Issues

pier-perspective_1Like a perfumed letter from your mother that you keep in your wallet to remind yourself of her and because reading her words renders a presence of her; or like an old phonograph album, with its scratches and pops, that you play because that recording of that particular song or symphony is your favorite and you can still hear it despite the scratches; so is the bible.  It is not an infallible book dropped from heaven. And those who assert such a thing, name their churches after it, place it as a talisman on their coffee table, come close to bible-olatry.

Many of us are recovering fundamentalists or bible-olaters.  Some are not recovering but repress those attempts made by parents or churches to conform them to cultural norms dipped in the ink of the bible in order to give sacred stamp to what is at best traditional viewpoints and at worse,  oppressive measures to manipulate a person.  Take for example the report in the Washington Blade, “D.C. Church backs ‘shaming’ of LGBT people” of August 10.  Capital View Baptist of Washington DC apparently “adopted a revised church constitution last year that says, ‘shaming and shunning are acceptable Christian responses’” to LGBT folk.

Well, if you have a holy book, you have issues.  And here is the overarching problem:  the Holy is communicated through the lens and pens of human beings and cultures so that the person who reads a holy book must be diligent about sorting through what is culturally and historically confined and whatever Truth is being communicated.  One example is the church who encourages its members in homophobia.  It cannot reject pre-scientific views of human sexuality because it embraces pre-scientific ideas embedded in the text of their holy bible.  Mind you, that church is using electricity, its members make dental appointments instead of calling an exorcist and so on and so forth.   They cherry-pick the scriptures while munching on bacon, a food (pork) described in the bible as an abomination.  Another example is slavery. Another is the role of women.  Another is …

I invite you to identify examples and issues and join with me on Saturday August 25th in a walk & chat along the Wharf at 10:30 a.m.    We’ll meet at the end of the Recreation Pier (I’m calling this event Pier Perspective).  That pier runs perpendicular to Maine Ave. at 7th, SW.  We’ll have a nice time ambling about and talking for about one hour.  And I’ll pass along any insights I might have but especially encourage us to work out a method of interpretation so we can receive the Truth of the bible while not being entangled in views that dehumanize us.  I hope to see you Saturday!  ~PSTR

 

The Church is…

“Now, anywhere you hear or see [the Word of God] preached,

English: 500th day of birth of Martin Luther (...

believed, confessed, and acted upon, do not doubt that the true ecclesia sancta catholica, a ‘holy Christian people’ must be there, even though there are very few of them.”

I like this assertion and description of the Church by Martin Luther.  You’ll note that his definition of the Church is not institutionally based. That is, it is not dependent upon some fuzzy notion of apostolic chain of command nor it is relegated to the history of any one church (like say the Orthodox or Roman Catholic).  The definition rotates around the proclamation of God’s Word.  Hence the Reformation principle of sola scriptura.

I also like that he comments that such a true holy Christian people is not dependent upon some large number of folks.  In the United States, where bigger is better, Christians—and particularly Evangelicals—are inclined to believe that a bigger church is somehow more a church. This is nonsense, of course.  I’ve said for a long time that I’d prefer to be in the midst of a small number of devoted and authentic Christ-like persons than a horde of fools.

As this new year begins and we, Riverside Baptist Church, are faced with remarkable opportunities and solemn decisions that will configure our future for another generation, let’s keep Luther’s assertion in mind.  We are not an institution. We are not a building. We are not a creed.  We are the ecclesia sancta catholica, the holy Christian people who are formed at the point of God’s Gospel to us proclaimed.  I hope you will do your best this year to be in worship with us every Sunday, because the Word is proclaimed, believed, confessed and acted upon in that holy context.

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If It Quacks: Duck Dynasty, Free Speech, Hate Speech and Love

English: A rubber duck. Français : Un canard e...The television show, “Duck Dynasty,” is unfamiliar to me. I do not subscribe to cable tv. So I am unfamiliar with the show’s premise and neither had I ever heard of its “patriarch.”  But I am more than familiar with the hate speech that Phil Robertson spewed forth concerning “homosexuals.”  Nothing he said is new to me. Indeed his vituperative comments are of the coarsest kind.  He appears to be a hack for hatred. I have met individuals like him and on occasion, even asked them to leave my office.  You would stand a better chance reasoning with a squirrel about why it insists on eating the seed in the bird-feeder than pointing out the obvious to a squirrelly muse of hatred who deludedly believes he is the patriarch of anything beyond the compound of his barbed wire ideology. In this case, efficient use of words coincides with a sufficient response:  your hate speech is shameful and has nothing in common with Christ.

There are some who, like the current governor of Louisiana and the former governor of Alaska, take such sufficient response as an attack on free speech, thereby revealing two things of importance in regard to their grasp of such issues.  They reveal first that they are clueless about free speech.  Phil the Patriarch said what he pleased and unlike other bigots, got lots of media coverage, for having said it.  But your freedom to spew hate speech does not oblige the rest of us to refrain from calling a duck a duck.  This is where the twin governors are misguided.  They believe a denunciation of hate speech is a denial of free speech when in fact, that denunciation is also free speech!  No one is saying you can’t say these vile things. We’re just pointing out how vile and bigoted that speech is and further, that it should not be rewarded with a tv show and the adulation of anyone, much less politicians who were presumably elected to protect the civil rights of all their people.  Which brings me to the second thing the governors revealed about themselves. They rushed to defend, not free speech, but hate speech.  See my remarks above with regard to reasoning with squirrels.  They rushed to defend hate speech, not free speech. The difference tells you all you need to know about their “core” values.  Now this segues nicely into the final issue I wish to freely speak to:  “biblical” religion or “biblical” values.

 One of the most astonishing (and trite) strategies for denouncing an entire race of people is to say the bible tells you to do it.  Apparently, Phil Robertson’s family asserted he is a “biblical” man. Again, let’s work for both an efficient and sufficient response.  There is no such thing as “biblical.” The reason there is not is that the bible is made up of sixty-six books over a bout 1500 years.  To use this term, biblical, is to suggest the bible speaks in one voice on all matters. It doesn’t.  Just for fun, try reading some passages about pork while you’re chomping on some bacon.  What these folks do is to naively assert (and at the same time, reveal how misguided they have been by clergy too afraid to challenge cultural constructs) that their bible is to be read a certain way. What does Patriarch Phil think of women voting, governing, speaking their minds, holding down jobs? what does he think of slavery?  concubines?  Sorry, but you just don’t get to use the bible as a weapon against people and ask the rest of us to pretend you don’t know what you’re doing.  When you go to the bible, measure its narratives and especially its “values” by the Christ. Hey, Phil, do this: read First Corinthians chapter 13.  It is very possible that you’ve only read it or heard it read at weddings. It is not about weddings. It is about God’s self-revelation as Love in Christ. Read it and then repent. Because Phil, the duck dynasty sounds like an awful, clanging cymbal.  Let me put it another way: you’re a quack when it comes to interpreting the message of Christ. Hate speech will one day end. But faith, hope and love—these will endure and yes, Patriarch, the greatest of these is Love.  

~Pastor Michael Bledsoe, Ph.D.

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