Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Quotable Bible

My first pastorate was in upstate NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill mountains.  In a closet that was clearly long forgotten, I happened upon a most interesting artifact: a book entitled "The Quotable Bible". Someone had gone through the Bible and omitted verses, chapters, sections, entire books that were deemed "unquotable"! It was very interesting to read familiar passages and note what parts the editor felt was extraneous and what needed to remain in the text.

Well, according to the Huffington Post, another group of people have decided to go through the Bible in order to remove its liberal bias.  This has caused me to scratch my head and wonder what would be left!  Economic justice is one of the rallying cries in the Bible (forgive debts, share one's resources, do not hoard one's wealth but give to the poor...). Is this a liberal or conservative bias?  If these mandates are ommitted, what's left?

Is the love of neighbor a conservative or liberal bias?  Does healing the sick (even the sick without health care) reveal a liberal leaning?  Would Song of Solomon be considered a liberal celebration of wanton sexuality?  What would they do with that wild woman, the woman at the well?  What about Judges 19, which is a text some folks use to condemn homosexuality while overlooking the rape and dismemberment of a woman? Oh yeah, and then there's Jesus himself, who broke rules, overlooked religious laws, touched the untouchables, and hung out with outcasts. Conversative behavior or liberal behavior?

It is not just as simple as discarding the parts of the Bible we disagree with. What makes this ancient book a modern, living document are the tensions that exist within it.  When I read the Bible, I am challenged, pushed out of my own comfort zone, forced to see beyond my own limits and biases as I listen for God's Word.  The contradictions, the offensive and distasteful parts force me more deeply into text and tradition, into the story of faith, and invite me to participate in it.  To sanitize the sacred book robs it of its transforming power.  Why would anyone want to do that?

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