Hate! (the Bible tells me so)

By |2005-06-23T09:00:00-04:00June 23rd, 2005|Entertainment|

The Sins of Scripture (Exposing the Bible’s text of Hate to Reveal the God of Love), by John Shelby Spong; HarperSanFrancisco; 2005; $24.95
There are 33,830 Christian denominations, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia – all claiming unique or special theologies, doctrines, rituals, dispensations, or interpretations.
“I am now convinced that institutional Christianity has become so consumed by its quest for power and authority, most of which is rooted in the excessive claims for the Bible, that the authentic voice of God can no longer be heard within it,” says Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong in “The Sins of Scripture.”
Spong, author of “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism,” has been intimately acquainted with the Bible and biblical scholarship for over 50 years. Many of the chapters are lectures that he has given following his retirement in 2000.
There are hundreds of marketed translations of the combined Hebrew and Christian scriptures. [Among with the familiar King James and Revised Standard Bible versions, there is the lesser-known, camp “Queen Jane’s Version,” which uses x-rated slang in keeping with the original salacious biblical language.]
The Bible is the most widely read book in the Western World, followed by Shakespeare’s works, and the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie – all perennial best sellers. In spite of ubiquitous Bible dissemination (“no motel without a Gideon at your bedside”), few have actually read its 66 books from cover to cover.
Most churchgoers can quote isolated scripture verses – usually out of context; and most rely on their minister, preacher, or TV evangelist for exegesis, or interpretation. (Every fundie quotes John 3:16 and harangues vindictively of Sodom and Gomorrah.)
Fundamentalists believe the Bible is free from error. (Thomas Paine – the American patriot/pamphleteer most responsible for advocating independence from England – disagreed. In 1795, he wrote “The Age of Reason,” a devastating critique of the biblical inerrancy.)
Those who have actually read the Bible “begat by begat” tend to be generous and forgiving readers. The god of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, for example, is a vindictive tribal deity who demands “an eye for an eye” and occasionally the foreskins of conquered warriors for tribute.
Even some of the Psalms are laced with bloodcurdling threats of his divine retribution for those oppressors of Yahweh’s chosen people. Men, women, and children are killed on his orders. (Little wonder God Hates Fags! signs are common today.)
The Bible is a mixture of history appropriated from other ancient cultures, sublime poetry (Song of Solomon; Corinthians 1:13), fanciful storytelling (Jonah and the whale), downright silliness (Balaam and the talking ass), faulty cosmology (Joshua commanding the sun to stand still), and psychological superstition (mental illness is caused by demons).
The Bible has been used to disenfranchise women, support slavery, apartheid and segregation, oppose science, evolution, and humanism, advance colonialism, denigrate other religions, support environmental abuse, encourage homophobia, fight same-sex marriage, and, of late, bulwark the Republican Party with right-wing theocratic mandates and legislation.
Spong envisions a Christian religion free from the shackles of oppressive dogmatism and hidebound interpretation of dehumanizing scriptures relevant to times that were excessively primitive and highly ethnocentric by modern standards. “The use of the Bible to justify our prejudices must be abandoned,” writes Spong.
“We do not abandon that sacred story in which the sins of scripture are embedded in the ‘terrible texts,’ however. We rather claim it for our own. We recognize its humble birthplace. We celebrate its growth, its breaking of barriers and boundaries. We watch it move from tribal deity to universal deity, and even beyond.”
Whatever one’s personal belief system as a gay person, “The Sins of Scripture” is an important reference tool for use in combating the fanaticism and inherent evils of right-wing Fundamentalism and the allied failures of Evangelicals to “judge not” and “to love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
The Bible – believe it or not – is a dangerous and sinfully wicked book. Spong reverently tells us why, so that “no fool may err therein”.

About the Author:

Charles Alexander