The sign in the window of the Catholic Book Store was very clear: Discounted Bible Sale. To me, it was a confession, an admission that while they revered this text, they just couldn’t bring themselves to accepting all of it. They’d never admit that verbally, yet this Freudian Slip of a sign in the window spoke volumes about how willing they are to believe everything in that book.
I can imagine taking the sale Bible to the store clerk, prepared to purchase it at the lower price. The clerk scans the barcode, takes my money, bags the purchase, then leans in close. She says very quietly “we don’t believe everything in this Bible; science has already proven some of it to be wrong, other parts we just don’t understand, and we think a lot of it is just plain fiction. A man with 700 wives? Please, most men have trouble keeping just one woman happy.”
So why do Christians, Catholic and Protestant, have those segments that find it necessary to claim that every word, every story found in this particular book is not only true, but dictated by God to the humans charged with being the heavenly stenographers? Are we to turn a blind eye to the 2 creation stories found in Genesis? Are we supposed to believe that an ass really did talk to Balaam? Could a man build a boat big enough to hold 2 of every animal on the earth? Weren’t many of those animals natural predators? Didn’t they think about eating each other while they were on the boat?
Now before you think that I’ve become some kind of heretic, let me say this: I am a Christian; I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. However, because humans have had so much input and control, I tend to believe that the Bible is not perfect. I think it contains some history of God’s interaction with humans, it contains fictional stories that illustrate lessons to be learned, it contains beautiful poetry that describes human interactions, as well as spiritual engagement between God and God’s children. The Gospels give us a great, but incomplete, record of Jesus’ life on earth. So much included in the prophetic books speaks to a certain group of people at a certain time. It is nearly impossible to say with certainty that any particular character, no matter how many heads it has, represents this country or that country.
Here’s my little soapbox speech on all of this: It’s not important that I believe every single word as it was written. What’s important to me, as a progressive Christian, is that I believe one thing. It is the question that Jesus asked Peter: Who do you say that I am? Like Peter, my response is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. With that confession of faith, I can do no more and no less than follow the Great Commandment to Love the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind, and Love my neighbor as I love myself.
Having said that, let me take this a bit further by saying that the message Jesus brought us (see previous paragraph) is often lost because Christians like to focus on the crucifixion and the placing of blame for that event. I don’t mean blaming the Jewish race for the death of Jesus, but rather, the idea of our personal sin that caused his death. I have trouble with the concept that Jesus had to buy us. If that is so, who owned us? From my fundie upbringing, I can tell you the “right’ answer is Satan. That begs the question: Is God not powerful enough to conquer Satan, so he had to pay him off?
There is another way to look at it: Jesus message of unconditional love was so radical, so world-changing, that the religious leaders of the day could not allow this message to take over. The natural consequence of Jesus words would be his death. Jesus died bringing us the message. If the message is that important, then it’s time we started paying attention to it, started applying it in our lives on a regular basis.
Discounted Bibles: There’s plenty to discount thanks to people with less than pure motives who may have dabbled with a word here or there as they translated. Ministers continue to interpret those words to confirm their own prejudices. The message that the Bible brings to us cannot be discounted: Love God, Love your Neighbor. It’s pretty simple and not only difficult to discount, it’s impossible to put a price on it.