Friday, January 8, 2010

The Bible is not a Club

I like the bumper sticker that says: “Stop using my religion to sell your politics.” Looks like every election in Alabama each candidate tries to out-Jesus his or her opponent. A good example is Bradley Burne a Republican gubernatorial candidate. He was quoted as saying recently: I believe the Bible is true—every word of it.” Weeks before he was in New Hope speaking at the Piggly Wiggly. That day he said: “I believe there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not.” His enemies immediately jumped on him for being an unbeliever so he set the record straight. You would think we were voting for Pastor in Alabama and not the Governor’s seat. I’m not particularly picking on Mr. Burne—almost every candidate can be seen in church just before election time singing their hearts out.

If hopeful-Governor-to-be Burne (and his opponents) believe every word of the Bible is literally true we are in bad trouble. What about all that pre-scientific stuff we find in the Good Book that was accurate in the time ion which it was written. Like? The earth has four corners. That snakes talk. That Jonah was literally swallowed by a whale. Axe heads float. Those who dash the heads of little children against the rocks are called blessed. What about the sun standing still? Or parents of very sick children who refuse medical treatment saying they have to go by what Leviticus say about blood transfusions. And what of those passages about those caught in adultery where the culprits are both to be stoned to death. Gays along with blasphemers get the same punishment. Murders will be put to death and if you are injured the attacker gets the same as he gave. And we haven’t even gotten to the subject of polygamy. Some of those old timers had a whole lot more wives than the lead character on Big Love—not to speak of the concubines.

This doesn’t even touch the New Testament. All those passages about women keeping silent in the church, making sure their heads are covered and if they want to know what’s going on they are to ask their husbands at home. What about those verses on slavery that were used to keep black folk down for centuries? And later the proof-texting that was used to keep black folk from infecting white churches. You can believe the Bible with all your heart and still not take each word literally.

I would stand by Mr. Burne’s original statement: “I believe there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not.” I hope he will rethink this matter and tell his opponents to go fly a kite. The Bible is not a club to be used in political campaigns pro or con. The Bible is God’s word written by inspired human beings as flawed as we Christians today. They wrote out of their own cultural biases as we do today. They saw only partially as we do today. In the Bible we find poetry and history and parables and ethical instructions that have stood the test of time. Jesus got into trouble by updating the basic rules his people had followed for decades. “You have heard it said…but I say unto you…” The highest standard for judging the Bible is Jesus Christ. Everything in the book is to be filtered through Jesus’ loving, all-embracing life and teachings.

I would say to all the political candidates stop using our religion to sell your politics. Let us know what you believe about health care. Will you help us write a new Constitution we desperately need in Alabama? We want to know your stance on education, on equal opportunities for men and women and how you feel about pay-day loans. Tell us your convictions on taxing food which cripples many families in this state. Go back to that Piggly Wiggly Store in New Hope, Mr. Burne. Take your opponents with you. Tell those that are trying to check out and those that would throw rocks at you: “Folks, I believe the Bible. But that’s not the issue. I am not running for Pastor—I am running to make this a better state and I refuse to use the good book as a club or a smoke-screen that ignores the crying issues in Alabama.” Now—that is the kind of candidate, Mr. Burne I could vote for.

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