Unlike Jesus, my father tried to follow the Bible. So there were two ANGRY MALES in our house, Dad (Francis Schaeffer) and our Jewish/Christian “God.” I grew up trying to do the best I could to hide The-God-Of-The-Bible’s and Dad’s true character from myself and from their followers and help my parents convert people to believing in this “God” by pretending that our “Deity” was nicer than he is.
The sexual dysfunction and anti-feminism that unleashed the culture wars sprung from the heart of the Bible. When Wheaton College went to the Supreme Court to ask to be allowed to deny women insurance for contraceptives they were just the next institution to do to women what my father did to my mother when he hit her. Christianity breeds violent misogynistic men. When Wheaton decided to attack women’s rights they were “doing what the Bible says.” When Dad hit Mom he was just being the “head of the home” just like the Bible says.
The more Christians believe that the Bible is without error, the worse they treat women. That includes the self-loathing women who want to “submit” to their husbands. And the more they follow the Bible the less they can follow Jesus who was pro-woman as I explain in my new book WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace. In the Chapter 9 I write:
Every time Jesus mentioned the Torah [the “Bible” of his day], he qualified it with something like this: “The scriptures say thus and so, but I say…” Jesus undermined the inerrancy of the scriptures in favor of his version of pragmatic empathy. Every time Jesus undermined the scriptures it was to err on the side of non-judgmental co-suffering love.
Jesus certainly was not a “Bible believer,” as we use that term in the post Billy Graham era of American fundamentalist religiosity that’s used as a trade-marked product to sell religion. Jesus didn’t take the Jewish scriptures at face value. In fundamentalist terms, Jesus was a rule-breaking relativist who wasn’t even “saved,” according to evangelical standards. Evangelicals insist that you have to believe very specific interpretations of the Bible to be saved. Jesus didn’t. He undercut the scriptures.
The stories about Jesus that survived the bigots, opportunists and delusional fanatics who wrote the New Testament contain powerful and enlightened truths that would someday prove the undoing of the Church built in his name. Like a futurist vindicated by events as yet undreamed, Jesus’ message of love was far more powerful than the magical thinking of the writers of the book he’s trapped in. In Jesus’ day the institutions of religion, state, misogyny and myth were so deeply ingrained that the ultimate dangerousness of his life example could not be imagined. For example his feminism, probably viewed as an eccentricity in his day, would prove transformational.
No one in our Evangelical circle (in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s) thought that “spanking” children was wicked (let alone criminal) because they, too, were following our dreadful, vengeful little God, Who “inspired” pro-torture child-smashing garbage such as Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (diligently).” And Proverbs 19:18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” Or take Proverbs 23:13: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.”
The “God” Who “said” these things—because we believed God “inspired” (i.e., virtually dictated) the Bible—wanted us to beat our children so severely that a reasonable parent might worry that the child would die. I never even came close to doing that because, like most people, I was much nicer than the so-called God-Of-The-Bible, but that’s not saying much.
So much for my kids.
In case you’re wondering, here’s what I was taught by example about how to treat women: I lay in my bed at night listening to Dad’s voice screaming at Mom and hoping he would keep yelling because when his voice fell silent, sometimes the next sound I heard was the thud of his fist. Given what the Bible says about women a pastor hitting his wife was no big deal. No wonder that Jesus confronted and contradicted this terrible book.
“And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” (Leviticus 21:9)
“When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)
“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.” (Leviticus 12:2) … “But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.” (Leviticus 12:5)
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (I Corinthians 11:3)
“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (I Corinthians 11:8-9)
“Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:22-23)
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” (Exodus 22:18-20)
“Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.” (Judges 19:24-25)
“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:11-14)
“If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;” (Deuteronomy 22:22)… Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22:24)
“If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silvers, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35)
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16)“Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.” (Hosea 13:16)
“Give me any plague, but the plague of the heart: and any wickedness, but the wickedness of a woman.” (Eccles. 25:13)
“Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die.” (Eccles. 25:22)
“If she go not as thou wouldest have her, cut her off from thy flesh, and give her a bill of divorce, and let her go.” (Eccles. 25: 26)
“The whoredom of a woman may be known in her haughty looks and eyelids. If thy daughter be shameless, keep her in straitly, lest she abuse herself through overmuch liberty.” (Eccles. 26:9-10)
“A silent and loving woman is a gift of the Lord: and there is nothing so much worth as a mind well instructed. A shamefaced and faithful woman is a double grace, and her continent mind cannot be valued.” (Eccles. 26:14-15)
“A shameless woman shall be counted as a dog; but she that is shamefaced will fear the Lord.” (Eccles.26:25)
“For from garments cometh a moth, and from women wickedness. Better is the churlishness of a man than a courteous woman, a woman, I say, which bringeth shame and reproach.” (Eccles. 42:13-14)
The sexual dysfunction of the Evangelical and Roman Catholic communities that my wife Genie and I grew up in is evident in the larger world as surely as that dysfunction was built into both Genie’s and my childhoods. The moralistic denial of healthy heterosexual and homosexual sexuality has also unhinged the Evangelical leadership as much as it long ago unhinged the Roman Catholic “celibate” popes and bishops and those body-fearing nuns who “instructed” Genie.
I mean when the Gordon College president D. Michael Lindsay, wrote to President Obama demanding exemption from civil rights laws protecting gay men and women from discrimination, he was just mirroring the sexual dysfunction of all those Evangelicals who refuse to follow Jesus and believe in the Bible instead.
After learning what sane humanity was about from my wife Genie, I eventually left the insane Evangelical/Jewish/Christian netherworld of violence and sexual dysfunction and slowly changed for the better. I decided that one can follow Jesus or be an Evangelical “Bible Believer” but not both.
Jesus was right to reject the Bible (Torah) in favor of (as I put it in my book, “Planting and empathy time bomb.) No matter what the Bible says about itself, it is an unreliable book and that if there is an actual God—say, one who made loving, lovely, strong, intelligent, and forgiving females like my wife, daughter and granddaughters, and endowed them with levels of common sense, altruism, and mercy beyond description—He, She, or It must want us to use our brains to discern barbaric lies from truth.
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Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace