Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Modern Millstones

Luke 17 : 1-2
Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offenses will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

Matthew 18: 6
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea

I believe that many modern leaders of the religious right / Christian evangelical movement would be better off, for their own sake, with millstones around their neck. Although Jesus is referring to children in these versus, I believe it is easy enough to extrapolate that he probably also meant anyone who is a child of God. So many modern Christian leaders have led from their pulpits such an unrivaled persecution of gays and lesbians, driving them from the church and the love of God that they will be judged harshly for their crimes.

What is hard for me to understand is how they rationalize their hatred and seeming hold on the truth. The Bible offers much advice, some of it seemingly contradictory. How so then can these people be so sure that it is their interpretation that is the right one? Of course this kind of irrationality is nothing new; it is as old as time.

However, Biblical literalism is fairly new. The literal interpretation of the Bible is a 20th century invention and obviously creates many problems. As "Steve Falkenberg, Ph. D, professor of religious psychology at Eastern Kentucky University, says, 'I've never met anyone who actually believes the Bible is literally true. I know a bunch of people who say they believe the Bible is literally true but nobody is actually a literalist.' 'Taken literally, the Bible says the earth is flat and setting on pillars and cannot move (1 Chr 16:30, Ps 93:1, Ps 96:10, 1 Sam 2:8, Job 9:6). It says that great sea monsters are set to guard the edge of the sea (Job 41, Ps 104:26)...'" (from Wikipedia entry on "Biblical literalism")

Ultimately, I am arguing for what Professor Ehrmen, Biblical scholar and author, calls for in his radio interview (below), a tolerance for diversity and difference in interpretation. And furthermore, a rational and studied understanding of what the text actually says in opposition to the anti-intellectual approach of literal misunderstanding. Literalism has done nothing but hurt the church and hurt so many others, most recently and particularly gays and lesbians.

For the Bible Tells Me So movie website - an excellent documentary dealing with Christianity and homosexuality (and what the Bible really says about it), including "ex-gay" therapies and following the stories of several families

Diane Rehm interviews Bart Ehrmen, author of Misquoting Jesus (audio)
This interview is an excellent discussion of how the Bible was constructed and even touches on briefly scriptual meaning relative to women in the church and passages on homosexuality.

On the Heresy of Literalism (article)

An evangelical minister discusses the hypocricy of modern evangelicals (Christianity Today, 2005)

Friends of God HBO documentary on the modern evangelical movement

Encyclopedia Britannica entry on modern Christian fundamentalism

Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Revised and Updated: A Positive Christian Response

What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality

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