Friday, November 18, 2011

Bible Questions and Answers

Whenever we enter the political season, politicians like to make hay (and other farm byproducts) by speaking about their desire to legislate out of the Bible. Naturally, this causes many in their audience to ask a lot of questions.

The Bible is not a simple document, and is has a long, proud history of not being a simple document. Not everyone understands what it really says and how it applies to modern life. After all, the context of the Bible is not a world that included the internet, refrigerators, and working knowledge of deoxyribonucleic acid. It can be tough to apply all those old rules and regulations to modern life.

This can lead to a lot of tricky questions. These are bound to come up in conversation, particularly if you happen to be using the Bible as your sole argument as to why everyone shouldn't be allowed to do things you don't approve of. The following is taken from from forwarded emails on the subject, a satirical series of questions about the Bible, aimed squarely at those who want to legislate Biblical rules.

Bible Questions

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. I'm looking into purchasing some Canadians. What's a good price for them?

2. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

3. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

4. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle- room here?

5. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

6. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev.24:10-16.) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

Rather than address each item on this list, I want to make a larger point, one that goes to a very important question that faces all Christians: what is the Bible to us? The easy answer (or Sunday School answer) is that the Bible is God's Word and thus we should obey what it says. However, as someone who regularly eats bacon and shrimp, clearly I'm not following it to the letter, so again I ask: what is the Bible to us?

Is the Bible a set of rules we are meant to impose upon others? That's how many try to use it, but I disagree with that notion. For starters, when Jesus taught on the mountainside, (or sitting in a boat because it provided great acoustics) His lessons were not about imposing our beliefs onto the world. We were not commanded to rule or judge people's private lives, mainly because Jesus knew we'd be bad at it.

Why do you think he commanded us to look at the planks in our own eyes before daring to examine the specks in other people's eyes? He knew that people are naturally hypocrites, and trying to legislate others' morality only breeds greater immorality in ourselves. (Who do you think that many of the very same people who speak out against gays are themselves caught up in scandal after sex scandal?)

What, then, do we do with the Bible? The Bible is for us. It is for those of is who choose to follow Christ. And the primary thesis of the Bible is this: God loves us, so let's love everyone else. That's it, that's the core of the Bible.

What's the point of the rules in the Bible? Why do we still have them if they aren't the point? Because the rules, all the commands that we fail to live up to, show us the need for grace. It shows us that we need grace from God. And it shows us that we need to extend that grace, mercy, and love to others. It shows us that we aren't any better than anyone else, and that's one of the most dangerous attitudes in the world. So much evil has been done by people who sat in judgment of everyone else.

If you want to impose Biblical values onto others, there's only one value that's applicable. It's not morals, it's justice. When we fight for justice for all (and there are no exceptions to that) then we are truly living out the values of the Bible. Justice is the only Biblical value that can and should be imposed by us on the world. Justice for the poor. Justice for the rich. Justice for both victims of crime and the criminals who perpetrate them. Justice for sweatshop workers. Justice for children and the elderly. Justice for widows and orphans and all others that society considers to be the lowest of the low.

The list makes several satirical comments about slavery, but the sad truth is that slavery is still very real in today's world. If anyone needs justice, it's those who are enslaved today. Those are the people who we are called to fight for and love.

Morality is for Christians. Justice is for everyone else. 

That's what Jesus fought for, and that's what we should be doing. After all, that's why the greatest commandment, after love God, is love your neighbor. We are to be loving to the world, and that means making sure everyone is treated fairly and respectfully.

The old rules are included in the Bible to give us a clear picture of what life is like without God's love, mercy and justice.  The Bible offers us a choice: do you want to learn to love each other, or do you want to live under three hundred pages of rules and regulations?  Which one sounds like freedom and which one sounds like a real pain in the ass

As for the rest of the rules, they're there for us, and it's between us, God, and our spiritual elders to figure out how to follow them. And the reason those rules are there is simple: we have better lives when we follow them. They save us from hardships, imprisonment, and death. They keep us from destroying our families and other relationships, and they give us peace as we navigate a very unstable world. However, we have to willingly follow these rules, because you won't reap the benefits if you are forced to follow them.

So let's try to use the Bible correctly, and that means that we don't use it as a weapon against people we don't like. It means we don't get to use it to justify attacking others' faults while we ignore our own. Instead, it's about love, mercy, and justice for everyone.

And if God didn't want the modern world to eat bacon-wrapped shrimp, He wouldn't have given us refrigerators.

If you want to see more of my writing, check out Guardians of Suncast Dale, a satirical fantasy adventure on Kindle. You may also like my Christian Scripts which approach faith from both funny and serious angles. (As well as acute and obtuse.)

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