That's Me in the Corner
Feeling Like You Are Losing Your Religion?
by LA Jamison
Thinking today of when I began to wake up from my naive belief that the Bible was an unquestionable document. When my comfortable world, ideal world of fundamentalism began to shatter. I realized that it didn't happen over night but was a process.
Step One: You learn that Christmas Story didn't happen exactly that way nor all at once. For example, it took the three kings much longer to make that trip. It is just one of many examples.., but okay, no problem. So it's more a summary.
Step Two: You learn of the inconsistent story between the 4 gospels, but someone points out that every person has a different perspective. Okay, whew! As you examine these gospels, most of it appears to have differences that aren't earth shattering but some things are big differences. Such as the passage in Mark about handling snakes: you learn it was thrown in later. Okay, now you have small twitch but you are still okay. You even like the idea of getting four Apostle's different views. I determined my favorite was John's Gospel (and it still is).
Step Three: You learn that is possible that the four gospels weren't really written by the Apostles--its up in the air--because they were written decades later. You learn that authorship wasn't the same as today. If you wrote something that the person might say, you could put their name to it as long as it sounded like something they might say. Who regulated that? You don't know. Oh fricken hell! So you put your stock in the fact that oral tradition back then was their CNN of today. They depended on it much more. In addition you learn a few books that are said to be written by Paul probably weren't because the styles are different so scholars aren't sure. And then comes The Book of Revelations. The final book and scholars aren't sure who wrote it at all but John was added because it sounded like him. Okay, I guess if it sounded like him, then... Well then you learn only the wealthy could transcribe and learn how to write.
The one comfort you have is the stories do uphold the downtrodden so you hope things weren't lost in translation. But that comfort is also muted when you hear about the zealots who kept biblical documents secured and that they were the ones to edit them. To top it off, there were other books and other groups of the same faith that believed differently, such as whether we were born without God in us or whether life was just about connecting with a God within that was already there. Many things were burned by the Jerusalem Church (one in which the Apostles were part of but Paul kept his distance) as heresy. This is the same the Church that brought you the law that Christians must be circumcised and eat and live up to Jewish law. IF it wasn't for the Armenian Church, we wouldn't even know what some of these documents contained at all. How is that for God inspired documents that surely wasn't tainted by human motivations? This is really the big turning point that you know things might not be as "literal" and on the surface understandable and believable through your own lens as you had once thought.
Step Four: You learn the cultural influences and political influences behind the texts that on the surface appear to condemn groups of people like homosexuals but it is all lost in translation and minus the context of the culture in which it was written. You find that the same Bible has been used to condemn black people, mixed marriages, music, dancing etc. So, for the first time, you see how things can be misinterpreted but also how you yourself had been taught to read this book with no reference but your own ignorance and gut instinct on what it says. Thank you church!
Now that your panties are split down the middle from the shock, you may also learn that the Bible wasn't written in English but translated from Aramaic to Greek and into English. That words have been changed over time. You learn that it is pretty well contended that stories such as Pontious Pilot could have been politically motivated to make the Jewish people appear more guilty and the Romans appear more like "geeze, why him?"in order to get more converts to leave their Jewish influence totally behind. History shows Pilot a very violent man who it is highly likely would not have hesitated to have Jesus killed or anyone else due to a conviction of conscious. The man clearly showed that he had no conscious. Those that wanted one story out there, rather, had an intention of making Jewish people out to be the only bad guy.
Step Five: You see your faithful brethren make central core debates over a 7 day creation or evolution, abortion, speaking in tongues, the rapture and all sorts of things that really don't matter in the face of world needing love and attention. How did Mary and Joseph feel being rejected at the Inn? What was Peter and Paul's relationship really like? Let's dig into our Bibles shall we and get to the meat of all these questions and debates. Meanwhile, Syrians are being a wiped out in a genocide and millennials have left the church entirely. You realize that with a different church on every corner that believes something slightly different than the next could easily surrender those differences and come together. You see, if you live in America, that what has went amiss is this worship of the Bible. From literalists to non-literalists, there has been no unified interpretation. Just close look a-likes that won't have anything to do with each other much over petty ripples in the water.
And this my friends, is when you get back to basics of faith, hope and love. I haven't lost my faith, you don't have to either. Spirit has always called us to move past the barriers of man, even religious ones. As much as we have little differences, there are also a lot of consistencies even between religions. And one consistency is that it is the spirit and the heart of God and man that matter, not issues of text. Where will this take me, you? I don't know but I do know "the greatest of these are love" and without love, "everything else is a resounding gong". It could be that these elements, this faith, hope and love thing, is what God has wanted to get us focused all along. Perhaps the "chaff" is for those who have no interest in those things to begin with. Our focus needs to be on the main thing. God isn't in a book or from 2000 years ago. God is now and we can be God's hands and feet when we are rooted in love even if we can't get ourselves to call it God anymore. Cuz if we are in love, and God is in love, it really doesn't matter what we call it.