I've been watching Facebook posts by high school and college classmates who quote the Bible in their political tirades. When called out on misogynistic, homophobic, racist, Islamophobic or jingoistic views, their response is, "Don't be a hater. These are God's views too. I'm just repeating what the Bible says. Because it's the Word of God, I have to say and believe these things, and so should you." Actually...
What you are saying is NOT the Word of God. It is your conditioned interpretation of cherry-picked passages from Scriptures composed by men writing about their experience of God from their Iron-Age cultural perspective.
When a position no longer commands logical or moral respect, the last resort is to trot out a Scripture passage. The Bible has been quoted with deep sincerity to support any number of positions which we now deem downright sinful, such as denying women the right to vote (I Timothy 2:11-14), slavery (Colossians 3:22), and a callous disregard for those living in poverty (John 12:8).
While most of my former classmates use Scripture to "prove" right-wing political stances, a radically different perspective can easily find standing in Scripture:
- What were the Sodomites doing that so offended God that God incinerated them? Ezekiel 16:49 - "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." The sin of Sodom sounds more like a gathering of Congressmen with their behind-the-scenes funders than the elderly lesbian couple trying to get married in your state. If anything, this Word of God would denounce laws and policies that further fatten the wallets of the military industrial complex, oil companies and pharmaceuticals...and thus fatten the wallets of their executives...at the expense of peace, the environment, and the health of the general public. Instead, the true "anti-Sodomite" Word of God calls for a livable minimum wage for all workers.
- Leviticus 24:22 - "You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God." and “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt." Exodus 22:21. How should those whose ancestors were once foreigners treat foreigners now? How can those who benefit from a self-created system that legitimizes and rewards their own status treat those who lack any status? In these passages, the Word of God calls for a path to citizenship for all resident aliens (yes, amnesty), the elimination of squalid detention camps for immigrant mothers and their children, the extension of the Affordable Health Care Act to undocumented workers, and a little humility about our own status here in the land of the free.
- Exodus 22:25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest." The Bible does not endorse a specific economic system, but it certainly is no friend to unfettered capitalism. This Word of God would require mega-banks to open branches in impoverished neighborhoods and offer no-cost loans to businesses and individuals trying to rebuild their communities. During the mortgage crisis, the Word of God would have demanded that bailout money actually bail out families struggling to keep their homes rather than enable the ongoing folly of Wall Street's gambling addiction.
Thus says the Lord!
Scriptures violate the Spirit that sparked them when they are used to crush the soul, institutionalize oppression, or uphold the status quo at the expense of the common good. Without that Spirit, a semantically accurate rendering of a text fails to be God's Word for us today, and a seemingly literal truth becomes patently false.
The Bible turn us upside down with an experience of God, of Christ, of Spirit that ever-expands compassion, joy, inclusivity, reverence for Mystery, commitment to justice, and a sense of communion with all life. Scripture inspires the embodied knowing that neither we nor anyone else are ever beyond the embrace of the Divine.
Any use of Scripture conflicting with that Spirit is not the Word of God. It's merely a human opinion hiding behind a fading religion.