I was going to write a nice long piece on how to read the Bible. Then I read this. And it was good. And I would encourage you to read the post. The author suggests several important elements to reading the Bible.
And then I read this wonderful article by Brian Zahnd and found this gem of a quote:
If we suggest to serious-minded, good-hearted people that the Bible is a word-for-word, verse-by-verse perfect revelation of God and God’s will, thoughtful readers will eventually run into some serious problems. At that point the Bible, instead of being a nourishment for Christian faith, can become a deadly toxin to Christian faith.
Oh so true, Brian! Oh so true.
The other day while I was driving, I scanned through the radio and stopped on a “Christian” radio station. Two guys that I presume were pastors of independent churches were having a conversation about the Bible. I stopped scanning to listen. It went downhill pretty quickly. I started yelling my usual “It doesn’t say that…” at the radio when they started making claims that the only way that Christianity can be saved is through the preservation of certain American attributes and ways of living. Yes, they were equating America as essential to the survival of Christianity. I can’t make this stuff us.
Why not throw in an endorsement for a political party and leader on top of it just for good measure? Since when did Christianity’s survival rely on human made political arrangements? Yes, even American ones.
Maybe the people on the radio missed this past Sunday’s Gospel lesson in which Jesus asks Peter – “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responds by saying, “You are the Messiah, Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16) Peter didn’t say, “you are Jesus, but our faith is really in the nation and certain political leaders. Don’t worry Jesus, they have your back.” Maybe that version is in another book – say Wisdom of Sham where Jesus gives his Polititudes. Most of the Polititudes start off with Blessed are the politicians, for they shall save everyone, not Jesus. You know, good wholesome stuff that Jesus never said.
Maybe the guys on the radio aren’t aware of this coming Sunday’s Gospel reading in which Jesus says “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) I don’t see anywhere in that verse where Jesus says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny the basic foundation of following me and take up the platform of a partisan political ideology and follow it.”
It’s becoming a lot easier these days to hear really bad theology for what it is. When the Bible is used as a political tool, that’s bad theology. That’s a poor reading of the Bible. When the Bible is used as a support for a nation, then that’s bad theology. It places the nation as the foundation and the Bible as a mere support of that foundation. It’s mixing something human-made with something divinely inspired. No where in the Bible is America. Or our partisan political parties. Or our Constitution. They aren’t divinely inspired. People can debate how good the country is and what direction it is heading in – that’s fine. But please don’t use the Bible as a political tool to advance your own beliefs. That’s just poor theology. We have enough really bad theology that is mass consumed already. We don’t need to wrap it in the flag on top of it.