Using the Bible Wrong

Although I greatly appreciate the sentiment expressed through the cartoon above, there simply isn't a right ot wrong way to read the Bible. The Bible genuinely contains things that can inspire hatred, and things that can inspire us to renounce hatred and choose love instead. The Bible is a collection and it doesn't come with a guide to interpretation attached to all copies of it. There is no way to harmonize all of it into a single coherent viewpoint.

And so, if the Bible is important to you, it is still up to you to decide what to do, what to embrace and what to reject. And so why not choose to maximize love and minimize hate?

That may not be “what the Bible says” without remainder and without contradiction, but it is most definitely one of the things the Bible says.


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  • spinkham

    Everyone wants the good. Most everyone wants to love others.

    The difference between us isn’t “we’re loving and they’re not”, it’s how we conceptualize love. People who are looking to marginalize gay people do it not because they hate them, but because they honestly think that’s how you create “God’s best” society for all of us to live in, which is the most loving thing they can think of.

    Of course, a number of the parables attributed to Jesus (and teachings of Paul) are in fact about defining love as direct action towards the good of the people in front of you over ritual and ideological purity, but there’s also some material that can be used to justify such purity focus, at least with other Christians if not the larger culture.

    Anyway, I just wanted to register my disagreement with the comic that the issue is “we’re loving and they’re not”. The issue is “how should we love each other”, and for all of us it starts with understanding the other’s perspective and refusing to demonize them. Just like LGBTQ individuals, conservatives are people too. 😉

    • I think that’s a good point — I know lots of Christians who are opposed to homosexuality and they think they’re loving their homosexual neighbors by opposing a ‘lifestyle’ that they believe is harmful to individuals and society. But . . . in my conversations with them (at least the evangelical variety), love is very rarely the primary reason they give me for their position. They talk much more about sin, obedience to God’s laws, etc. What I’ve found particularly odd is conservative Christians who say things like “I really wish I could tell my gay friends that it is ok for them to be gay and get married, because I realize how happy they would be. But the Bible says it is wrong, so as much as I may not like it, I need to stand on God’s truth.” For me that says that their ethical positions are not ultimately being driven by love for their neighbor, but out of a sense of duty to their tradition’s interpretation of a a few lines in an ancient book. But I still appreciate your point — it’s not always as simple as “we love our neighbor, you don’t.”

      • John McCauslin

        Maybe a more positive approach is to stop using the term ‘God’s law.’ My understanding is that ‘Torah’ can be interpreted into English as ‘teaching.’ ‘Teaching’ is at once less declarative and more profound in its meaning thatn ‘law.’ The issue then becomes more about the whole of what God is communicating to us than the specific of what God is ordering. God is no longer feared policeman and becomes beloved teacher, and the substance of the message becomes more wholistic and less narrow.

        Lately I have recoiled against the use of term Law because so often when people use it they are seeking to compel compliance rather than working towards reconciliation.

        • Adam Pack

          I’m not sure if this is a little tangential, but I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday about why she hates maths and I love it; it’s basically because she was made to learn stuff by rote whereas I was taught it as a way of understanding the world. Maybe that’s analogous to the distinction between ‘law’ and ‘teaching’?

        • But you’re a lawyer!