Parsing the Bible – In A Democracy

Jesus, as far as anyone knows, never said a word about stem cell research, never a word about abortion, or never a word about homosexuality. But our American fundamentalist Protestant churches seem suspiciously intent on finding vague and ambiguous meanings in a few isolated verses to support, what I allege, are their preconceived and biased points of view regarding these issues. And they do this while completely missing the overriding message of Jesus. They form churches that act more like country clubs without the golf courses, and pretend that sitting in the pews an hour each week gives them the moral superiority that will convey them to the front of the line at the Pearly Gate.

Few of these churchgoers can abstract themselves for a moment and realize the circularity of, in the case of Southern Baptists for instance, of having their elderly pious male deacons carefully select each of their pastors such that this bias is perpetuated and even accentuated.

These same congregations, that will not welcome a loving committed gay couple, will have a large percentage of their congregants who are divorced – clearly adultery was something Jesus did speak to – and to ever disavow the lifelong commitment of marriage professed in holy matrimony, is adultery.

And these same churches will still pick and choose their scripture to meet the comfort level of their congregation. Just one example is from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church”.

Any ambiguity in that?

I don’t support that verse, as God gave me common sense and I know that the Bible was written in a time and context. However, I don’t pick and choose verses to suit my bias either. Rather, I know from my childhood faith that Jesus brought a message of inclusion, charity, tolerance, caring, love, and humility. These are the basic tenants of Christian faith that seem to be entirely forgotten by bigoted, arrogant, and self-righteous fundamentalists who find some sense of superiority by trying to impose their views on the rest of the community. We don’t have today the same consequences of these right wingers – there are no Inquisitions with torture or all the other excesses of this tradition that have stained the history of Christianity all over the world and throughout time. But today, in America, we still have the racist, homophobic, and intolerant underbelly of the inerrant Bible reading religious fundamentalist nuts who maintain an inordinate control over the message of Jesus and through subtle and less-subtle manner perpetuate bias towards those of different races, religions, or sexual orientations.

And often they justify their positions on the preachings of their Southern Baptist ministers, who in this circularity, are chosen by them to perpetuate this cycle of ignorance.


BML said…
Many religious folks go to their holy writings to find comfort that their notions / prejudices are right -- that way, they don't have to stretch and grow...
Eukolos said…
While I don't disagree with your basic premise that there are serious and prevalent flaws among fundamentalists, I wonder if Jesus' message of charity and love (and patience!) does not also apply to our attitude towards those fundamentalists? Having grown up among them, I can attest firsthand that the vast majority of them are sincere people who desire to honor God. Sadly, though, they have not been given the tools to think for themselves since their subculture consumes their lives, never allowing them to go out and actually interact in any meaningful way with those of different backgrounds & beliefs. There is a difference between one who is arrogant and one who is simply ignorant.
Bill Garnett said…

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. And I agree with you, as I have many family members who are both solid fundamentalists and who are basically good and caring people.

However, our legislators are informed. They have access to information, facts, and resources. And they place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution, not place their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.

Our forefathers, having experienced the problems religious interference brought to government and the intolerance of people who had different religious views, created a secular government that historically was to be based on reason and rational debate. It hasn’t been a perfect form of government but it has over time proved to be more and more inclusive.

I can understand that fundamentalists might believe that the Earth is flat, or is the center of the universe, or that it is only a few thousand years old – but in the face of solid scientific proof, I have little respect for those who hold to superstition and insist on religious parable being truth and reality,

Today, in 2007, the best science and medicine conclude that homosexuality is not a moral choice but is a state of being. Our legislators know this and in spite of this pass laws that continue bias, prejudice, and intolerance against this community within our midst. Ignorance in this case is NOT an excuse.

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