Friday, December 02, 2005

The Shameful Blasphemy of the Religious Right

In the 1930's, when I was but a child, my aunt was married to a travelling evangelist who presided over camp meetings and she was very proud of his work. She loved telling me of his "miracles" of healing, saving souls, and casting out demons. She used to sit me down and tell stories of things that she had "witnessed" at his meetings. Being a simple country child, I asked questions and, over time and after following her urging to read the Bible "cover to cover", I developed a healthy skepticism toward believing what I was told and have spent a good deal of time in the informal study of the Bible, its teachings, and the history of these sacred writings. Especially at this time, when religious leaders have such close ties with the politicians and share their aspirations, it is most important for Christians to study carefully what they are being told and search the scriptures to learn the truth for themselves.

I was verbally instructed, first, that the first five books of the Old Testament as it is known today were written by Moses under divine inspiration, which allowed him to write of events concerning and after his own death. Even to a small child this simply did not compute! Later studies showed that the history of this entire period of time was created by "scribes" from ancient, (even at that time), writings which were translated and collected into what became the Jewish Torah and are the basis of the beliefs of the Jewish faith. The Old Testament is now an anthology of the history of the Jews, including the prophecies of such seers as the oft-quoted Isaiah, Micah, and Malachi.

As with any book, the events documented therein must be taken in context. The Ten Commandments, for example, are the basis for Jewish Law and were validated in the teachings of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5:17, He exhorts his followers to keep the Law but follows that statement by instructions that mere lawfulness is not enough and the rest of the chapter is a list of caveats about personal behavior which is even more stringent. Some even now attempt to abide by the dietary restrictions which were given to the Jews as they began their forty-year trek through the desert, prohibiting those foods which could quickly spoil in the heat or might be dangerous if under-cooked. They fail to include Romans 14:14 where Paul tells the Faithful that "nothing is unclean of itself". This is a problem with the present-day "prophets and seers". They pick and choose those chapters and verses which comport with their personal viewpoints and delete the rest, relying upon the laziness of their listeners to assure that they accept those words and do not bother to read the rest of the pertinent writings.

A prime example of this is their excusing the hatred of those of the Muslim faith and to justify killing them for no reason but that of their faith. They quote Genesis 16:11-12 wherein God, as punishment for the disobedience of Hagar, places a curse upon Ishmael, condemning him to be a "wild man: his hand will be against every man and every man's hand against him", and neglect the later passage of Genesis 17:20 wherein, at Abraham's supplication, God relents and blesses Ishmael and promises to make him "a great nation". Later, in chapter 25, he joined Isaac in burying their father and, in chapter 28, it is mentioned that his daughter married Esau, the son of Isaac who sold his birthright to Jacob for "a mess of potage". However, it is only verses 11 and 12 that are quoted, ad nauseum, as justification for the incessant killing of Muslims thousands of years later.

Much of the Bible is written in allegories, parables, and exemplars and it is important to determine the context of each individual passage. Even in the New Testament letters of Paul to various churches at a distance, the advice given is in response to particular problems which existed in that church at that time and are not neccesarily commandments by which we are bound to live. God gave us a brain capable of reason and Jesus bequeathed us the privilege of discerning for ourselves the motivations of those who would lead or mis-lead us, but it is our responsibility to exercise these gifts. I have never seen a scripture wherein ignorance would be accepted as an excuse good enough to get us through those "Pearly Gates" and to attempt to excuse our sins by saying, "Jerry Falwell said so," just couldn't result in a good outcome. The good Reverend will account for his own sins but we are responsible for ours.

Those who elevate themselves and claim to teach the true Word of God need to spend some time in prayerful contemplation of II Timothy 2:15, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth ." The Bible should be studied by each individual who wishes to follow its precepts and they should not accept as "Bible truth" every sermon that is pronounced from a pulpit but should read far before and after the text which is prescribed by someone else. Thus, we learn that pastors and evengelists are merely human as we are and are not infallible beings who know the Word of God and preach it infallibly. We must "beware of false prophets" who just may be skewing the facts in order to make their own points of view acceptable to us rather than telling us "the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth".

It is fortunate that , in this age of enlightenment, it is no longer appropriate to stone to death those who pervert the Word of God to their own ends under the Law against blasphemy, but sometimes, at moments of great frustration, it may seem to be a good idea. We will just have to pray about that!

1 Comments:

Blogger VL Carey said...

The most honest, forthright, and "on the mark" essay I have read in a long time!

VL Carey
purplepew.org

10:23 AM  

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