I’m Allergic to the Bible

I think I’m allergic to the bible. I’ve had many many people tell me to stop listening to everyone else and just read the bible, and I’ve tried again to read it consistently in recent months, but it’s no use.

It’s not like I’d be reading something new anyways. I grew up saturated in the bible. We believed it was the literal word of God. We listened to it on tape, we read it everyday as a family, I read chapters upon chapters every day by myself. I have large portions of it memorized. I know what it says, I know what it teaches. I’ve read it in several versions.

But right now the only parts that don’t send me spiraling into depression are a few of the Psalms and parts of the Gospels.

Take for example the story of Abraham and Isaac and the sacrifice. If I EVER had a feeling that god wanted me to make a human sacrifice of one of my children, that would be the last day that I served that god. Instead, Abraham trusts and submits, and so does Isaac (This story is used in many fundamentalist books to justify god’s demand for older children to have blind obedience to parents. After all Isaac was about 20 when this story took place, and apparently he completely trusted his father an let him tie him onto the alter.) After god steps in at the last minute, he reveals that it was all a test to “see if Abraham really loved him”. Yeah, the “all-knowing all-loving” god had to do a little test to make sure that Abraham wasn’t getting to attached to his kid. The thought makes me gag.

I’ve mostly given up on reading it at all. But recently I tried again and got a few child’s versions. My almost 4 year old has been asking about Jesus, and loves to read bible story books and look at the pictures. I got a simple child’s bible that is wildly popular, it has a picture on every page and is directed at ages 2-5.

The stories were simple to understand, things were going OK. Until I got to the chapter telling of the crucifixion titled “The sad day”.

“Jesus knew he had to die, it was part of God’s plan.” My chest tightened up. Why would they use those words to describe why Jesus died? “God’s plan” I remember my Dad explaining and justifying a god that “beats you over the head with a 2×4 until you get with the program”. You are practically helpless without god, he controls everything. Even doing daily tasks demands “relying on the spirit” and everything will be destined to go badly if you dare to step outside of god’s will/plan. I tried to shake the old messages off, maybe it was just hard to sum up the crucifixion in a few sentences? I decided to to give the bible the benefit of the doubt and try again.

So I got a different bible. This one was supposed to focus heavily on Jesus, written for ages 4 and up. The pictures were beautiful and every story did seem to point towards Jesus. I was excited, maybe this one would be different. We read the nativity story at Christmas time, and it was descriptive and sweet. Remembering the other child’s bible, I decided to look ahead to the crucifixion and see how they explained it.

My stomach started churning as I read about the garden of Gethsemane. The book describes Jesus sobbing in he garden, begging god to find another way to “get rid of the poison” in people’s hearts. But no, there is no other way other than Jesus having all of the “poison of sin poured into his own heart” god would have to “blame Jesus for everything that had gone wrong”, every sin ever committed as well as the sickness in peoples bodies. So Jesus becomes submissive and quiet, “like a little lamb” And says “whatever you say, I will do. I trust you.”

In the next chapter Jesus goes to his death, and from the cross he screams for his father as tears roll down his face. “And nothing happened. god didn’t answer. He turned His face away from His boy.” and on the next page it explains how this was the only way god could vent his fierce anger about sin without destroying the people whose hearts are filled with sin. Instead he destroyed his own son.

I felt physically sick reading it. I felt dark for several days afterwards. Once again, god is portrayed as a petty, twisted, narcissistic, evil god. He can barely contain his human-like rage over people breaking his rules. Nothing but complete surrender and quiet submission will do for this angry controlling god. Hearing this message over and over, from parents, sermons, multiple songs, books, and now a children’s bible, makes me seriously doubt my hopes for a loving God.

I already struggle to believe, and whenever I read the bible I feel decidedly Atheist. Or at least ready to kill myself rather than try to come to terms with the existence such a sick god. When I saw bloggers “resolving” to read more of their bible in 2011, I wanted to scream in the comments “Don’t do it!!! Let it gather dust on your shelf! You won’t have a relationship with God left after you read it!”

I can’t read the bible. I cannot imagine trying to teach my children about that god. I can’t believe in that god.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15864953064301451142 Arual

    I can relate to your feelings here. I think I would have to give up my integrity and soul to believe again, some days.

  • Dianne

    perhaps it would be better if helpful friends suggested more uplifting passages for you to read. I'm not a big bible reader by the way. However, I know that, when something is true, it doesn't matter whether one believes it or not. It is still true.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07937118630051040096 Carmen

    I have never had any experience with fundamentalism, but I seem to have come up with some of its crap all by myself. Thanks for showing me I'm not alone in my feelings about the Bible.

  • KatR

    I can't tell you how much I relate to this. I was having a conversation about how I think the only way I can come back to God is to divorce him from the Bible. But how do you have "proof" of Jesus without the Bible?

    I don't know the answer, so God and I remain estranged.

  • Annie C.

    I know the feeling.

    If you ever want to talk about life after God, I'm willing to share.

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    I have a hard time imagining how anyone could twist 1 John (or John's Gospel for that matter) into something bad. People made me question whether or not I should give Christianity another look, but more than any other single thing (though still part of a host of things) those two books convinced me I needed to try to practice this faith and see what happened. Sigh.

    I would be disgusted with the descriptions you described as well. I see no fault there.

    Maybe instead of reading the Bible directly, it would help if you went back and read patristic discussions and interpretations. You certainly won't find them saying that Jesus was paying off God on the Cross. In fact, you'll find the ones who even conceived of such an idea vehemently rejecting it.

    You'll also find the Old Testament always interpreted in light of Christ. They emphasize not the demand that Abraham sacrifice Isaac, but the fact that God, who did sacrifice his Son to rescue us, did not demand such a sacrifice from Abraham. (And, as Hebrews says bluntly, Abraham never believed God would really take Isaac. Even if he was killed, he believed God would raise him — which again is taken by the Fathers as a type and foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Jesus.)

    Works by the Greek Fathers can be hard to find. You'll find where I've worked through some of them on my blog. They can be hard to read. They didn't write in English or in any sort of modern setting. But I've found it worth the effort. St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Basil the Great, St. Isaac the Syrian, and St. Maximos the Confessor are all ones I would wholeheartedly recommend.

    You don't need to read the Bible. You need to learn to "hear" it differently. I never had that particular problem. I was just trying to understand this thing called "Christianity." That's why I read them. But I can guarantee their voice is very different from the voices you describe.

    In fact, I've heard Fr. Thomas Hopko (I think) say something to the effect that the best thing some people can do is stop reading the Bible until they can learn to read it with different eyes.

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    Talking about the Old Testament and Fr. Thomas caused me to remember that he's doing a series right now on his podcast on Ancient Faith Radio about God in the Old Testament. I've been enjoying it, though I tend to be different enough that I never really know if other people will find something that I consider helpful also helpful for them.

  • Katie

    My husband's spiritual director has been having him go through a spiritual de-programming as he calls it, but just choosing a prayer to say each day, saying it once daily, and ending any expectations there. If he feels like reading something or praying something else, fine, but no obligation. He didn't have the same upbringing as you – his struggles are different and were brought on more by his own expectations, but it has helped him so tremendously, that I thought I would share. That second children's bible sounds a little bit questionable – I don't have problems with the bible and I would certainly have a problem with that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    I used to feel guilty about not wanting to read my bible anymore, because I understood it to mean I wasn't a "real" christian. But I've been far more encouraged by written prayers, the writings of saints, as well as the liturgical calendar.

    Sometimes I feel as though I have only a tiny spark of faith left, and the bible is the "wind" that everyone thinks will fan my faith into flame. But I know that it will just blow it out. I'm just trying to protect that spark from the wind right now.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18393369001411222505 LysistratasDaughter

    You might also try reading St. Athanasius On the Incarnation for a totally different interpretation of the crucifixion and resurrection. More along the lines of Christ breaking down the gates of death to save us from it.

    I grew up seventh day adventist, and I couldn't stand thinking about the crucifixion until I encountered the Orthodox Church. I love, love, love the icon of the resurrection: Christ in glory raising Adam and Eve, with a host of Old Testament saints surrounding them. At the bottom of the icon, the gates of hell are shattered and the devil is bound in chains. Nothing about paying off a pissed off God.

    Those children's Bibles are appalling. And wrong. I had a similar experience with the Bible that you describe–I had a hard time reading it without hearing all those cruel interpretations. It's fine to stop reading it for as long as it takes for you to hear different, more graceful voices when you read it.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. I've been reading your blog and that of Elizabeth Esther lately. I've never before encountered this fundamentalist experience of Christianity. I'm a cradle Catholic and was always taught that man's understanding of God developed. God was not cruel and violent as depicted in some OT stories; rather, people thought he was and expressed that in their stories. We needed Christ to begin to understand who God is – the OT can only be seen and understood through the lens of the New Testament.

    I am so sorry you have to deal with this garbage. I wish we could sit at the kitchen table, share a pot of coffee and talk about the goodness, beauty and truth of God. I am so blown away by the beauty of what the Catholic Church teaches; I wish I could share that with you.

    Hugs to you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Lysistratas- Weirdly enough, I think my husband may have a copy of St Athanasius somewhere, I'll have to dig around for it. The Icon of the ressurection sounds beautiful!

    Anonymous- "Mans understanding of God developed" Wow! That is awesome! Thanks for your comment, you give me hope that I can raise my kids in the church without them hearing the crap I heard.

  • http://justsimplymolly.wordpress.com/ justsimplymolly

    I too like the notion of developing an understanding of God. I hope that you continue develop in your relationship to him and work through dealing with many of the ideas your upbringing left you with.

    I think the best you can give your children in their religious upbringing is stability and discussion. Do not enforce beliefs on them without discussion and reason and they will grow up with a much healthier experience of their religion. Do not be afraid to not have firm answers (you're not the omnipotent one in this world) and encourage them to develop their own relationship with God and their beliefs. I say this because I see many of the issues you deal with in your faith as an adult steaming from the enforcement of blind acceptance and not enough self discovery.

    Though I'm not Catholic, one of the reasons I'm open to my children going to mass and a Catholic School is that even though I have some issues with the Church at large, they do encourage personal knowledge and discovery.

    I also think that our daily, weekly, yearly needs of the Bible can be different. It's almost like reading the newspaper, some days I devour the whole thing and want to know every controversy and negative/positive thing that goes on in the world and some days I go right for the comics and stop there. There are some days when I can dive into Bible studies with a voracious appetite, some days all I want or need is just a specific passage.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10619634019229377839 Amy

    Young Mom, I agree with Anonymous.

    My son had the same issue with the Bible, the O.T part, and I encouraged him to stick with it to the end. He was 16 at the time. His relationship had to develop.

    I, too, was raised in a fundamentalist cult and had to come to terms with my relationship with God. It took years and years.

    I cannot promise that you won't continue to have problems but I can promise it gets better.

    Finding someone who genuinely loves God and can help you walk through the Scriptures will help tremendously.

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    The idea that man's understanding of God developed and that the Old Testament foreshadows Christ and can only be understood through the lens of Christ is more or less what I had in mind in my earlier comments. And there's a sense that God worked with what he had available in mankind.

    Fr. Thomas Hopko's podcasts that I mentioned are here in case you're interested. They're the ones on war, violence, sex, etc. in the OT. I thought they were pretty decent summaries, but then I tend to like his rambling style. You may or may not.

    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko

    Some of that requires an understanding of the "will of God" and the synergy with our will. The best discussion on that topic I can remember hearing was by Matthew Gallatin several years ago. It's in four parts and is old enough I'll need to put in the specific links to each. I can almost guarantee from your description of the way you were raised that what he says will be different from much that you've heard.

    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/pilgrims/discovering_the_will_of_god_part_1
    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/pilgrims/discovering_the_will_of_god_part_2
    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/pilgrims/discovering_the_will_of_god_part_3
    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/pilgrims/discovering_the_will_of_god_part_4

    I love St. Athanasius and I particularly love his treatise On the Incarnation. I'm amazed that he was a young man when he wrote it. The whole story of his life and his battle against Arianism is also interesting. I have reflections I wrote on it a while back if you're interested in reading someone else's thoughts as you read it.

    http://faithandfood.morizot.net/category/faith/church-history/incarnation-of-the-word/

    I don't normally like to leave links in comments on the blogs of others, but you sounded genuinely interested in your last comment, so I thought I would offer them this time.

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    Hmmm. And a podcast that's never really on any specific topic, but which I've always loved and which I think you might is Molly Sabourin's "Close to Home."

    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/closetohome

    One in particular that, for some reason, brought tears to my eyes as I listened to it the first time is an old one. It's her podcast on Forgiveness.

    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/closetohome/forgiveness1

    Just popped into my head after my last post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04738076740941616678 Rebecca

    I'm so glad Anonymous got here before I did (I read your post on my phone last night, but due to a certain puppy's love for power cords, I have no computer/internet access at home right now). I'm glad she got here before I did because 1) she said what I would've wanted to say SO much more succinctly and clearly than I could have and 2) to see that her reply gave you hope!

    I am one of the people who have made reading my bible a resolution and I'm so sorry for helping to stir up such emotions in you. Your experiences break my heart, as I know God through Jesus who teaches love, forgiveness, and kindness. I can see where learning of another god would be fearsome and my heart breaks for you. You will be in my prayers as I read and learn.

    Oh, and I don't think it's the bible that is THE answer to growing your faith, I've made a complete reversion to my Catholic Faith and it's through the Church's teachings of love that have grown my Faith.

    I'm sorry for rambling, I want to say the exact right words, but I know I probably won't. I will pray for you, because your soul and heart are examples of what it means to be a good Christian.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle

    YM – My heart swells for you. Truly. I have never experienced this hateful god that you apparently were subjected to and abused with. That is truly horrible. Also, I cannot believe those children's bibles! I have never seen such interpretations…but I am a cradle Catholic. My feelings on the crucifixion are all focused on Jesus' free will, and since He was Man-God, He loved us so much that He died to take away our sins and save our souls. It is always in the context of this huge, freely given gift that we don't deserve…could NEVER deserve, but yet, it is the biggest gift of LOVE. Never a spiteful, or angry thing.

    You are in my prayers.

  • Anonymous

    I think, as a former fundamentalist, that I was always taught to relate to God as first and foremost, JUDGE. It was always the "Sinners in the hands of an ANGRY God" variaty. And it scared the snot out of me that I "got saved" I don't know how many times. But I could never feel safe because what if I hadn't done it right etc.

    Now I am learning to relate to God first and foremost as Father. And His attitude toward me as the type of parent that I wish I could be. And judging really doesn't fall anywhere on the list.

    And there are so many things that I cannot understand and reconcile, but I am realizing that I don't have to. I am also realizing that the Bible's purpose is to show me Christ and He is in the flesh showing me what the Father is like. My favorite description of Christ is that "a bruised reed he will not break nor a smoking flax will he quench". And if that is what Christ is like, that is also what the Father is like.

    But I still have a hard time reading the Bible. With all the study Bibles in my past, the dogma is always with me. We were talking with a friend about this last night and he said it took him 10 years to get it all out of his head and he wasn't in a cult or fundamentalist group. So I don't know how long it is going to take. But I am learning not to worry about it.

    It would be so nice to sit and talk about these things together. It helps just to know that others out there are having similar questions and to be able to draw comfort from others.

    Leigh Ann

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17592869961433973844 be

    I completely relate to these feelings.

    Scott and LysistratasDaughter – I have found that while I often end up feeling angry and defensive when I read Jerome or Augustine, it is much easier to read the Greek tradition without these feelings. I don't know if this is because eastern mistakes have had less opportunity to harm me, but it does seem to me that they are less inclined to use Christianity to attempt social and cultural control (which is such a Roman thing to do).

    The other thing that has helped me when I've had the opportunity to put in the required effort is approaching the books of the Bible outside of their current religious context, before thinking about why they were later chosen to be part of the Bible. On the Bible's own testimony, it wasn't written just for us by people who had everything figured out! Fundamentalists taught me that higher criticism was a dishonest attempt to discredit the Scriptures, and I do think that there's something to that historically — but there are also honest scholars with no particular axe to grind who really want to understand who wrote wrote these texts, why, and what other traditions they were competing with at the time. The writers of the Bible didn't exist in a cultural vacuum – other cultures contributed significantly to the ideas they expressed. So I also really relate to Anonymous's phrase "man's understanding of God developed".

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05354424704358588553 lissla lissar

    Young Mom, I was going to suggest that you read secondary sources if you're having trouble with reading the Bible directly. My husband's been reading John Paul II's Theology of the Body (or rather, listening to the Christopher West talks about it) and has been blown away by the beauty and love in JPII's theology.

    I am a cradle Anglican and convert to the Catholic Church, and I was never taught the things you've written about, and the sections from that children's Bible make my stomach churn, too.

    Have you ever read The Dream of the Rood? It's a Dark Ages poem about Christ's going to the cross as a conquerer to the battle. It's very beautiful, and the wiki page about it is interesting.

    Hugs and prayers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00539628551735497651 Rach

    I just wanted to send virtual hugs your way, momma. I do believe the Bible should be taken literally but that no one passage (the OT passages that are violent, for example) can be divorced from the whole. God's revelation of Himself in Scripture seems to me, to be one of utmost grace. I still struggle with many OT (and a few NT) passages, but …. I guess that's where faith comes in. But I do see what you're saying. And I feel for you. I've questioned the same stuff in the past.

  • Emily

    I think it makes perfect sense for you to have an aversion to reading the Bible. It was used as an instrument of abuse against you. As someone who has also been spiritually abused, I can relate to this strong distaste and distrust of God. It's one thing for a parent to use his own will against you, but to use the name of God to assert his will is disgusting and worthy of a millstone.

    The Word of God is greater than the Bible and it is perfectly fair to request another avenue of communication when this one is wrought with pain and lies that currently seem inseparable from it.

    If one is sexually abused growing up, sex is going to be attached to all sorts of wretched memories and beliefs about oneself–even with one's own spouse. Telling someone "Oh, just have lots and lots of sex with your husband, you'll be healed and see the beauty of it" is stupid advice. Sometime, saying "Oh, just read more of the Bible" is stupid advice too.

    And those "children's versions" of the Bible you're reading sound sick and twisted. What a disturbing reduction of the Christian message "You suck and God had to bail you out…and you still suck"

  • Anonymous

    I don't think you are allergic to the Bible. I think you are allergic to your (mis)understanding of it. You seem to want to reject Fundamentalism, yet you are only able to read the Bible through a Fundamentalist lense. Your take on the story of Abraham is surely not the correct understanding, as I think Scott pointed out. He made some great suggestions. Anyway, I really believe you'll be able to come back to the Bible through the Church with new eyes.

    It makes such good sense for the Church to teach about Scripture and Tradition. Left to our own fallen intellects, we aren't able to interpret all of Scripture correctly. Especially since it was written 2000+ years ago.

    Are you familiar with the Jeff Cavins Great Adventure Bible Study? It's wonderful!

    Peace!
    Pilgrim

  • Anonymous

    P.S. If it isn't wise for you to read the Bible right now, do you suppose it's a good thing to assume no one should read it? You seem to be placing your own experience on everyone else, as many of us tend to do, and I question whether that is wise. Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts!

    Pilgrim

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    JustMolly- There was discussion in our house growing up, but anything but what my parents had “discerned in the spirit” was discounted and wrong. And there was ALWAYS an answer; I can’t remember my Dad ever saying “I don’t know”. I think that a lot of my frustrations are tied to many of the wrong things that were done in the name of God.

    Amy-Thanks, it’s good to hear that it can get better.

    Scott- Thank you so much for sharing!

    Rebecca- Don’t feel bad, you weren’t the only one blogging about bible reading! And I’m glad I published this post, because the conversation has been very encouraging for me.

    Michelle- I could hardly believe it was a children’s bible! Later I found out it is published by a reformed company (even though I found it recommended on a catholic blog) so that may explain why it’s twisted. Without free will, the whole idea of Christianity becomes a sick joke.

    Leigh Ann- Yep, God was always filled with anger. (Righteous anger of course) I love what you said about God being the parent you wish you could be, you are right, no judgement would be involved.

    Lissla- Secondary sources have been very encouraging for me.

    Rach- For me, literal meant that God had pretty much written the bible exactly as he wanted it to be interpreted, like the writers were just puppets completely removed from their context of time or culture. The biggest thing that jumped out at my in the Anonymous comment about God being revealed over time, is that the writers were writing down what they perceived God to be, which of course would be shaped by their time and culture. The bible being people’s interpretation of who God is, makes so much more sense to me than the bible being 100% accurate/literal. Because people will always be flawed!

    Emily- I love your analogies. And the “You suck and God had to bail you out… and you still suck” made me laugh! That is pretty much exactly what I was taught, and what is taught by reformed and fundamentalist churches.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Pilgrim- It's not that I think that no one should read the bible. Obviously many people get great comfort and encouragement out of it. I've just seen so many people transform into judgemental angry people after subscribing to "scripture alone", because you are right, none of us are truly able to interpret scripture by ourselves.

  • Dianne

    Young Mom, I am so impressed by the comments from your blog readers. I see so much love and great advice being offered to you, and so much for me to gain as well! May God bless you on your faith journey!

  • Anonymous

    I read this and was saddened to read of your struggles. I have been raised in a Christian home from day 1. I know at times that it is hard to read the more graphic accounts such as those you have mentioned. Rather then always focusing on the one half of the story-think about the other half. God asked Abraham to do that-but honored him for his faith, he didn't kill Isaac-he provided another sacrifice, a lamb. God blessed Abraham more than any other man in that time. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, and though he asked God to "remove this cup from me-he said not my will, but thine be done." He KNEW that the end result would be the salvation of ANY who believed in him. Wouldn't you sacrifice your life, even a horrible death if it meant the saving of your children's lives? Also, there are many stories that I know would be encouraging to you, think of the men in the fiery furnace. They chose death rather than renouncing God, he rewarded them and rescued them from death, Daniel in the lions den. Think about all of the people that Jesus healed, raised from the dead…God isn't only about sacrifice and death, he is light and love, and a Father. I know that it is hard to understand the way He works at times, but please don't give up on Him. Jesus knew what was before him read this: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
    I will pray that you will will have healing from all of the hurts you have encountered, and that you will be given joy and understanding through the Word of God.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03792937108732259684 priest’s wife

    Young Mom- hugs to you- It must not be fun right now being in ministry with these questions.

    I read a little of the Bible every day- but I have not had the feelings like you have in the past. Reading the OT just makes me thankful for the NT- as a Byzantine Catholic, I really love the early Church fathers (even if they are a bit old-fashioned)- you might like them

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01133668737743486061 Jack

    Dear soul, I said this elsewhere to your description of this on another blog.

    The idea that God was so pissed off that He had to take it out on somebody or just bust, so God had to kill God to satisfy the supposed justice of God, while a reductio ad absurdum of most western Christianity, is till the theme of many sermons I heard as a Baptist.

    Eastern Christianity, and Orthodoxy in particular, totally rejects this idea as a slander against God.

    As far as the Bible, read the parts that help you and leave the rest alone.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Dianne- I agree!

    Anonymous- I would sacrifice myself for my children, in a heartbeat. But I find the "Jesus had to die if he wanted to appease the fierce anger of God and rescue people" protrays a God I wouldn't want to serve. I am more OK with "God chooses to battle with evil and defeat death so that we do not have to die."

    Priest's wife- I have the hardest time in the womens bible study right now. It feels like I am the only one who thinks there is a possibility that God could be loving.

    Jack- Thanks for confirming that I am not imagining this.

  • http://thegospelarmor.com Lightdancer

    First off trying to understand God through a childrens bible is never a good idea. Second I can understand your emotions, but you simply do not understand the crucifixion. When Christ was in the Garden he was asking if this cup could pass from him. What cup. The cup of wrath spoken of in Revelation, not the crucifixion, at least not the directly. The cup is one of wrath that is poured out upon those that hate God.

    God did not abadon Christ on the Cross. When he said my God my God why hast though forsaken me he was quoting scripture. Read Psalms 22.

    As for Abraham and Issac. This of this: God came and promised Abraham that he would have Issac. God said that through Issac the seed would be called. Abraham knew God and knew that God would not renig on his promise.

  • Rebecca in CA

    Wow, I can't believe something like that would be published for children! I wouldn't even classify those books as "the Bible" and I wouldn't hesitate to burn them.

    Are you familiar with Tomie de Paola's books for children? I love everything he writes/illustrates, and so do my kids. The artwork is not realistic but not cartoony either, and it's really beautiful in an almost iconic way. Anyway, he has a book, "Stories from the Bible" which is just a smattering of the stories from the Old and New Testament, and each one is told simply and in a page or two, using just the text of the NRV. Some of those stories are definitely a challenge and a mystery, but the last thing we need for our kids is someone's sick, sad interpretation. Anyway, De Paola also has two books on Jesus, the Miracles of Jesus and the Parables of Jesus, very sweetly illustrated, as well as several books on saints which are very engaging. He is very well-known and well-respected among secular children's authors as well, for his series on Strega Nona, etc.

    For yourself, maybe put down the Bible for a bit and pick up someone like G.K. Chesterton–authors like him are the perfect antidote for all that is dark and dreary and harsh.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09723067016206324874 Claire

    I noticed one reader mentioned Jeff Cavin's "Great Adventure" study. I have not had the chance to do it personally, but have friends who highly recommend it as a wonder-filled journey along God's loving path of salvation. Jeff Cavins was a protestant pastor for I believe 12 years before he became Catholic… not only is he a highly knowledgeable Theologian and Scripture Scholar, but an entertaining, down-to-earth teacher motivated by a foundational understanding of the profound LOVE of God.

    Ditto to the G.K. Chesterton suggestion, too. :)

    Kind of like someone mentioned earlier…if a person experiences something good in a twisted way, a great deal of hope and healing resources are necessary to let them experience it for what it really is. Sexuality is a strong example: a GOOD gift from God, but if it's misused — either by misguided free choice, or by abuse — out of its ordered context of loving, committed marriage, a person will have a very wounded and negative view of what is fundamentally postive and humane.

    Likewise can Scripture, if misused, misinterpreted, or taken out of context, (even by well-meaning individuals) cause a wounded, negative view of what fundamentally postitive and humane.

    That is why I feel so gratefully secure as a Catholic: Mother Church is there to lovingly interpret for me, from Christ, this text that is so deep I might drown if dropped into it on my own.

    (There: water is another example! A necessary substance of life, but frightening to one who's had a life-threatening experience it in. That doesn't make the water any less valuable, nor the individual either…it simply means the individual needs the right training and guidance to experience the water healthfully).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02711137394143200105 michelle

    i struggle trying to explain some of the stuff to my kids. It seems so ridiculous when i say it all so simply.

    but it is one big ridiculous story. with some pretty hard stuff to swallow.

    but i do. and i mean it. and i keep trying. there is some really good stuff in there too.

    kudos for such an honest post. keep wrestling.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18185954714426587340 Cara Coffey

    Paige,

    When I was almost being driven insane, I worried about reading the Bible. My wise mama told me not to read it.

    Don't read it Paige. It's okay. And know the Lord is pleased with you. He loves Paige. He always does. He never leaves or forsakes you no matter what, whether you can read the Bible or not.

    You may be allergic to Christianity and Religion in the Body of Christ, too. And sadly that is something that many are in this country though I do not wish to make smaller what you are going through. But I say that because I hope you can be comforted to know at least you aren't alone. It is hateful to be alone on the inside, and please know you aren't.

    Please forgive us, Paige. I ask you to please forgive us. Oh God, bind up the brokenhearted. Do not allow the wicked to overtake the turtledoves any longer (Psalm 74:19). Oh God, I cry out for Paige.

    Much love from a sister in Jesus Christ,
    ~Cara

  • Evelyn

    A great post, YM, but sad that it needed to be written! I came from EE's blog. I definitely subscribed to the theory that human's perception/knowledge of God changed and grew, particularly because I see how my own knowledge of and relationship with God has changed. Before I was Catholic, the struggle wasn't so much with being the only one who could believe that God was loving, as it was trying to believe that I was actually lovable. So much was about us being so awful but God loved us anyway, the whole snow-covered-dunghill thing. Blah.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13325242010077520818 ekbell

    Your post reminded me of a pair of books my parents gave me as a teen.

    _A Stone for a Pillow_ and a book of poems _A Cry Like a Bell both by Madeleine L'Engle.

    In them she stuggles with the same difficult passages as well as discussing the difficulties caused by what she call a 'forensic' view of God.

  • http://dawehsbeloved.wordpress.com dawehs

    I have valued your words so much over the last year, as I've wrestled through similar feelings and thoughts. For me, the experience was different: the culture of faith of my childhood was very free, very joyful, very filled with God's love. But I became involved with a very legalistic denomination as a teenager, and over time was really sucked into the law of that church. It ever warred with the freedom in Christ I had once experienced–but I became so afraid! I remember distinctly sobbing to my husband (also from that denomination) one day that I didn't know what was happening to me, I'd become so afraid of God–salvation no longer meant JESUS, it now meant JESUS + (Fill in the blanks).

    Eventually we left but it has been a harrowing journey. It was if I had been spiritually and mentally and emotionally raped. It took a LONG time for me to be able to relate to God without fearing I was doing it WRONG. Faith, for me, comes in seasons. As for the Bible, it has taken years of detoxing for me to be able to read it without hearing the interpretations of the teachers of my youth. For a long time, I couldn't read it. I never experienced fear of the stories, though I know people who have. For me, it was an insane fear of getting it wrong, whatever IT is.

    I remember sitting in my living room a year ago or so, and reading Romans for the first time in a long while, and suddenly sobbing because I WAS READING THE WORDS WITHOUT HEARING THE VOICES of all those teachers who'd raped my brain. I couldn't believe it!

    I just bought a new Bible a couple of days ago. Something finally clicked in me, and the season changed. Suddenly, I'm ready for it, I guess. I bought a different version than I'd read before. It's funny. I had been so afraid for so long that I would never be able to read it again, and then suddenly, I am.

    God's merciful like that. He heals us so gently, and I agree: If the Bible was used against you, by all means, stay away. Sometimes space is needed to heal.

    Anyway, I didn't set out to write all that. All I'd intended to tell you was this: I came to love Jesus' words on the cross ("my God, my God, why have you forsaken me") when I really read Psalms 22. I see Psalm 22 as a Psalm of victory: David cries out his feelings, and by the end of the song he's rejoicing that indeed, God never forsook him at all, but instead is bringing him victory. I started to see Jesus' choice of words as an expression of faith. He quotes the first verse of the Psalm, but he must have known the whole song. He must have known how it ended. And furthermore, those listening to him must have known as well. I imagine him crying out those words as a great claim of faith–truly feeling them, I am sure–but claiming the over-arching victory and good intent of God's heart toward his Son. I simply love thinking of those words in that way.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12557248434888642114 Melanie B

    Young mom, My heart aches for you when I read this. You will be in my prayers. I love Scott's (and others) suggestion of learning how to approach the Bible again via secondary sources.

    Have you read Pope Benedict's book Jesus of Nazareth (Part 1 and Part 2)? I find his reading of the Gospels has really helped me to understand them in a new way. Also to understand a bit of the history of Biblical scholarship, how people have read the Bible over time and how our understanding has developed. Pope Benedict is a wonderful teacher and I find his books are very easy to read. I read the first one Jesus of Nazareth last Lent and I'm looking forward to reading the second book this year.

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    I read again your excerpts from the "children's bibles" (which neither sound like the bible nor suitable for children to me) and thought the best antidote might be a quote from St. Gregory the Theologian. Here are his words, which are better than anything I could say.

    "The question is: to whom was offered the blood that was shed for us, and why was it offered, this precious and glorious blood of our God, our high priest, our sacrifice? We were held captive by the evil one, for we had been ‘sold into the bondage of sin’ (Romans 7:14), and our wickedness was the price we paid for our pleasure. Now, a ransom is normally paid only to the captor, and so the question is: To whom was the ransom offered, and why? To the evil one? What an outrage! If it is supposed not merely that the thief received a ransom from God, but that the ransom is God himself – a payment for his act of arbitrary power so excessive that it certainly justified releasing us! If it was paid to the Father, I ask first, why? We were not held captive by him. Secondly, what reason can be given why the blood of the Only-begotten should be pleasing to the Father? For He did not accept even Isaac when he was offered by his father, but He gave a substitute for the sacrifice, a lamb to take the place of the human victim. Is it not clear that the Father accepts the sacrifice, not because He demanded or needed it, but because this was the part of the divine plan, since man had to be sanctified by the humanity of God; so that he might rescue us by overcoming the tyrant by force, and bring us back to Himself through the mediation of the Son, who carried out this divine plan to the honor of the Father, to whom he clearly delivers up all things. We have said just so much about Christ. There are many more things which must be passed over in silence…"

  • Rebecca in CA

    As a former Protestant I kind of wonder about the whole ransom thing–it seems like the reason it becomes problematic in the way YoungMom is saying (seeming like God is saying "I need blood") is that there is too much separation between the Father and the Son, as though the Son is not really God Himself. If you look at it from the angle of God giving His life Himself for us, it makes so much more sense on every level. In St. Thomas' hymn he says that one drop of His blood would have been more than sufficient to redeem mankind, and if you think about it, even the process of birth, the discomfort in the stable, the cries of the Baby–that suffering of God was more than enough to atone for sin, but He was determined to show us how great his love was for us, and how powerful his forgiveness, that it could conquer even death, even His own death. I get the sense from the fathers and saints' writings that it was not so much that God could not forgive without blood, but that He simply chose to do so, to become one of us who are suffering and to suffer the worst kinds of suffering, to become close to us, just as a lover would go into exile, suffer any fate, to be near the one he loves. He became unimaginably close to us in uniting Himself to our nature, but then, even more so by uniting His suffering to ours and ours to His. Nevertheless, it is still a great mystery to me, why suffering is valuable, why it is the sprinkling of blood that cleanses.

    I agree with the commenter who spoke of the Psalm 22 (21 in modern Bibles?) as beginning in seeming despair but ending in great hope. Those around Jesus knew their Psalms, and the whole thing would have sprung to mind when he called out the first lines, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." The interpretation of that children's "Bible" is terrible! It is surely true that at the time of his death He chose to suffer in His humanity a loss of spiritual consolations; he allowed Himself to experience the suffering in all its intensity, but He had the beatific vision from the moment of His conception and it is impossible that God could "turn his face" away from Him, because He WAS God.

    Wow, you're getting a lot of comments on this one, aren't you!

  • http://exlaodicea.wordpress.com berenike

    These kiddy Bibles are, by the sound of it, more like kiddy tracts in some warped theology. Everyone else has said many helpful things, I just want to second their comments.

    :)

    Thanks for writing this blog.

  • http://blog.earthlingshandbook.org ‘Becca

    I'm so sorry for all you've suffered in the name of God! I think it may be best to put the Bible aside while you're healing, until you feel called to pick it up again.

    As for your children, forget the books and TELL them the stories! Then there's no spin but your own. This is how I explained the crucifixion to my son when he was 3:

    "At that time there were Jewish priests who were very powerful. They said they knew everything about God. They said God wants us to follow a lot of rules–rules about when to work, rules for what to eat and when to eat, rules for lighting candles, even rules for how to wash your hands! Then along came Jesus and said those rules aren't important; what God really wants us to do is to love one another and be kind and share things. He even said that everyone can pray to God on our own, so those priests were nobody special! Well, of course the priests did not like that! They liked being so important, and they were afraid that people would follow Jesus instead of paying lots of money to the temple. So they lied to the government, saying Jesus was trying to overthrow the government and become king, and soldiers arrested him and put him in jail. [explanation of what crucifixion is] Jesus knew that God could stop it. He even prayed to God to stop it. But he understood that God had planned this very horrible thing to make the people realize just how horrible things had gotten: Not only were they letting criminals be crucified pretty often, but they would even let it happen to the Son of God, a man who had been trying to teach them to love one another and be peaceful! They had to see that. It had to be a big deal that they would remember and tell to their children. And Jesus loved the people so much that he was willing to suffer to teach us. He knew that this life on Earth is not the only life we get. This one day of suffering was just a little tiny part of his eternal life. He prayed, 'God, forgive them; they don't understand what they are doing.' He forgave even the people who were laughing at him and calling him names as he was dying! He forgave every human being for all the awful things we could ever do, because he loves us THAT much."

    Does that help at all?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Thank you so much to everyone for sharing your stories and sending me links and encouragement. You have no idea how much you've built me up this last week!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17643380271746322697 Kristen

    Hey there Young Mom!
    Been praying for you this week. It is so interesting to me, that as believers in Christ, we can have such incredibly variable ideas of who He is due to how we have been brought up in the church. My heart aches for you and all that you are working through. I applaud you for seeking out the answers and I do know that you will be rewarded with the answers, in time.

    I was reading this, this week and thought of you. Sometimes, just seeing something thru a completely different lens can change a perspective. It is from Tim Keller and it may be helpful – it really changed my idea of reading the Bible.

    http://www.eucatastrophe.com/blog/archives/2005/03/14/moralism-vs-christ-centered-exposition-by-tim-keller/

  • Anonymous

    I've definitely been where you are. The recovery from legalism is difficult, but you can do it. For me, focusing on some gentler theology, Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican, has been very helpful.

    You might want to check out "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time." It helped me clear out a lot of cobwebs.

    I also read more commentary now than Bible, but I have so much of the Bible memorized from my fundamentalist days (I'm an Anglican Christian now) that the point for me is not to read the Bible, the parts that I'm so familiar with, but to be able to see it with new eyes that are not blinded by patriarchal legalism. I love reading things by NT Wright, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan: kind theology, theology that doesn't crush the spirit, theology that allows me to live truthfully and joyfully rather than by acting joyfully to cover the truth that patriarchal legalism is spiritual tyranny.

    Blessings on your path. There is a way out.

    PlainJane
    http://www.theribshack.blogger.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10172668433266809905 Janet Oberholtzer

    Hi, found you via JesusNeedsNewPr today.

    I've had many of the same questions you've had …

    I've been going through a major body, mind and spirit transition for about 6 yrs now. It began after I almost lost my life … and my leg in an accident. Obviously, I had a tough physical recovery, but I also had a tough emotional and spiritual recovery (still happening) kinda due to some of the things people said to me … God caused the accident and my major injuries to discipline/train/equip/etc me. Or he knew I was 'special' and could handle it and could be a light to others. And I said, "Excuse me, that's a god of love … I don't think so." So I've been rethinking all of it …

    Have you read Leonard Sweet's book "Out of the Question…Into the Mystery" for a different view on the Abraham/Isaac story. He thinks maybe Abraham should have negotiated with god when god requested that of him … I read it some time ago, so forget all the details, but it was good to read another viewpoint on it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09895441887701955298 David T.

    What's the point of even being a Christian. Not to go to hell? To go to heaven? I've found I don't care about hell and heaven anymore. I say all this because you seem to be searching for meaning where there may be none. Maybe God isn't involved and we make our own meaning. I have been studying Epicureanism and it makes sense in so many ways Christianity does not–especially American Christianity. A good site is http://www.epicurus.net/ . As it stands now, I have one foot in Christianity and one foot out–a brutal position to be in.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09851077598314983920 St

    Here from Jesus Needs New PR. First I have to say how funny it is to see Jeff Cavins mentioned here. He was my pastor! I remember the day he announced that he was leaving us to return to the Catholic church. Small world.
    This will no doubt horrify some of your readers but I was in the very same boat as you recently and I am now an agnostic. If there is a God, I cannot believe it's the God portrayed in the Bible. I can't tell you the freedom I experienced when I realized that a bunch of people believing something doesn't make it true. I don't reject the idea that I may one day return but right now I'm happier with my spiritual life than I have ever been.

  • Beth

    Wow!! I can relate. It was only recently that I realized the whole Abraham story-the bit about him having sex with his slave and her bearing his child and them him sending her off when Sarah didn't want her around anymore. Didn't he have sex with other women as well? I refuse to tell my kids the story of Isaac and that God would ask a parent to kill their child (and then tell them–oh I was only kidding–just wanted to see if you would obey.) Parents who think God are telling them to kill their kids are psychotic. The OT is wacked out and you really need a creative lens of translation to get the meaning of it.

    I am a cradle Catholic and have been serious about my faith for over 20 years. I know you are drawn to the Catholic faith and it does have so much beauty to embrace so I encourage that. However, there is something called Catholic fundamentalism that is just as bad as what you protestant fundamentalism.

    My relationship with God is good, strong and enduring. My relationship with the hierarchy of the church is not good. Yet I truly believe God wants me in the Catholic Church.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07937118630051040096 Carmen

    The sermon at my young adult group focused on OT scriptures last night and then Rachel Held Evans (do you read her blog? I love her) was writing about some of her struggles with the OT. I had to come here and read/re-read this post/these comments so I could breathe again. I LOVE the idea of Man's understanding of God developing. Thanks YoungMom/commenters for all of it!. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07632005486245515873 Calah

    I guess I'm a little late reading this, but I can totally empathize. I was raised super Evangelical and often felt that God just seemed nasty, mean and selfish, and that there must be something wrong with me. At first, when I was in the process of converting to Catholicism, I used to fume about those priests back before the Reformation and before Wycliff and the like were translating the Bible, priests who didn't want to let their congregation read the Bibles themselves. I (very slowly) came to realize that it is because the Bible may have been inspired, but it was written by men, men who were incredibly influenced by the theology of their times. And so this God that you get when you read the Bible yourself seems uneven. That's why people talk about two different Gods, the OT God and the NT God…because they were written from two different perspectives.

    When I began to let go of the belief that everything in the Bible should be believed verbatim, at first I felt panicked, like I had nothing left to hold. But gradually I've come to feel liberated…when there are things in the Bible that seem bizarre and horrible, now I can understand that they may be examples, or metaphors, or things that made sense to those people at that time but don't necessarily translate across the years. (I don't mean that I pick and choose what to believe…I don't. I just know that the Bible is an incredibly old collection of manuscripts that we will probably never fully understand, and we might as well do the best we can with them.)

    Anyway. You're in a tough and horrible spot. I wish there were more to say, but this one you'll have to work through on your own. I'm so sorry. I wouldn't give up on God altogether, if I were you..remember that what you're reading is "God as told by X person thousands of years ago and re-interpreted by hundreds of people since then, all of whom have taken out and inserted things willy-nilly to suit their own beliefs." God as He is is something else altogether, and He can't be confined to a few words or stories. I hope that helps, truly. And I really do feel for you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02270396127498411004 Shannon

    There's a wonderful book called "Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality" by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM (easy to find on Amazon). Here's the book's description from there:

    In this exploration of central themes of Scripture, Richard Rohr transforms the written word, discovering in these ancient texts a new and vital meaning, relevant and essential for modern Christians. He uncovers what the Bible says about morality, power, wisdom and the generosity of God in a manner that demands a life-changing response from believers. Rohr offers his readers a Christian vision of abundance, grace and joy to counteract a world filled with scarcity, judgment and fear a vision that can revolutionize how we relate to ourselves, others and the world.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13211182794921080338 Rae Brown

    I have also struggled with not having any remote desire to read my bible. But as far as this specific example, have you ever seen/heard anything by rob bell about the subject?? I watched the "the gods aren't angry" and really saw the whole sacrifice thing in a much different light. The problem with us reading something that is 6,000 ish years old is that our world is so vastly different it's almost incomprehensible. If you ever get a chance to watch it, please do! i bet you could find it on youtube.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04061806043261042303 The Diva

    Young Mom,
    I was raised in the same kind of house you were raised in. I knew I was in HUGE trouble when I walked in from school and found my mother sitting on the couch with her bible in her lap. "Doubting" anything you read in the bible was a sin. Doubting there was a god was a sin. I was raised Baptist by a mother who was raised Pentecostal. Lots of "god punishing" the horrible sinners abounded.

    I babysat for a Quiverful/homeschooled family as a teen and just found the whole concept foreign and like a mini-military with the eldest daughter bearing the brunt of most of the work. The second mother, if you will, who wasn't even twelve years old herself. Totally unfair as she did not really have a childhood.

    I am now an Episcopalian (like many that have posted above) still living in the buckle of the bible belt and I only wish that you could find an Anglican or Episcopal church near you to talk to someone. I have came out of the translating the bible literally school to the using your God-given Reason school. In the Episcopal church, I was told that doubting and questioning was actually a virtue of faith, a strength…because it meant that you gave a crap about the things you believe in and want to know the truth. The Episcopal/Anglican church is big on not focusing on the "angry god", big on interpreting the scriptures, looking at the whole picture, finding the meaning, not taking them at face value and accepting EVERYBODY in the church. At my church we have a lesbian priest who is out and open, living with her partner and their son. We have people from all lifestyles. I love my church and am learning to say, "I don't know what I believe about that." Still learning. In my opinion, you would benefit from a friend in the ministry that isn't a snarling zealot and who you could talk to about adjusting your adult view of the bible from the views that were forced upon you.

    Love and happiness to you,
    Cindy

  • http://njoyingnsanity.livejournal.com/ njoyingnsanity

    You know for the time being maybe in your case until you've had a chance to heal agnosticism is just what you need. You could always look into other faiths and religious beliefs maybe you will find peace in another faith, or maybe it will give you fresh perspective and new ideas that will help you to come back to the Bible and read it either new wiser and more enlighted eyes and then you will be able to decide if you can accept God and Christianity again or if you need something else.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04823677196422789086 micah

    Wow, I've found this blog late. A friend introduced me to your blog via your recent universal healthcare posts which are making their way around facebook.

    I grew up Conservative Jewish and essentially gave up religion in college. What I find interesting is so many (religious) people find it difficult to believe that you can be a good person without religion….any religion.

  • Anonymous

    They say the fastest way to make an atheist out of a Christian is to have them read the Bible. And it's really not a joke. I read the Bible many times as a teen, and found that any God like that would not deserve worship.

    As for all of those that seem to think that you MUST have a religion to be "complete", why? Religion != morality You can be a moral person without religion. It is not a requirement for a complete human being.

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  • mrhowell2002

    God wanted to see abrahams faith… the scripture says the letter killeth and the spirit there is life… is you fast and pray before you read the bible … ask God to show revelations as you read.. if not your just reading a book!!!! b blessed

  • mrhowell2002

    and stay away from churches that dont preach the cross,love and daily repentance…and especially do not listen to the athiests..they dont believe in God because they want to justify their lifestyle…liva a holy life for jesus was holy it’s not easy but i promise you if you put your faith in Jesus and repent your sins, and love one another you will b blessed in this life and the next…


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