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What Is The Bible (Book Review) June 9, 2017

what
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
More than once.
I’ve read much of it dozens of times, and some of it hundreds of times.
I’ve studied it.  Meditated on it. Dissected it.  Taught it.  Preached it.
Made it much the focus of my life.
Eventually, to some degree, I discarded it.  Dismissed it.
I’ve considered that it may be a book to be banned.
(OK.  Not really. The book shouldn’t be banned.  But many people should be banned from owning a copy until they learn some responsibility.)

How I wish I had had the eyes to see, and the ears to hear the kinds of wisdom, insight, approach, and understanding that is represented in Rob Bell’s profound book “What Is The Bible?

 

A lot of the basic understanding here is understanding I’ve had for awhile now.  Some of this was addressed in Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” But, the specific perception of various individual passages that are discussed here are really, really eye-opening.
You’ll revisit stories with which you thought you were well acquainted.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham and his son.
Jonah and the big fish.
The parable of The Good Samaritan.
The “take-away” on these stories has (at least in my tradition) almost always strayed from the real point. But, they will take on a breath of fresh air as you understand them the way the original audience would have understood them.  And we find out why Americans often miss the major themes of the Bible!

There are stories we look at and think, “How backwards and barbaric!” And a lot of it was backwards and barbaric!  But, looking closer, in the midst of this we can see actual steps forward in the evolving understanding of God.
We go through lots of passages, Old Testament and New.   We get into all the violence that causes some to pronounce “There is no God,” and others to just accept it (or even appropriate it, so to speak) and use it as a justification for their own hate.  There’s a chapter titled “What’s the Worst Question to Ask When You’re Reading the Bible?”
It’s a question that believers and atheists both ask!

One portion discusses the word and concept of “sin.”  It’s become, for many of us, a cringe-worthy word.  Here you’ll find what may be the best material on the subject I’ve ever seen.
Rob also addresses many of the standard questions he gets, like “Did Jesus have to die?” “What about all that wrath?” and (concerning Abraham) “What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?”  I LOVED the answer to that one!
The last chapter, “A Note on Growing and Changing,” has some great advise for those of us with family and friends that dont see things the way we do.  (And who doesn’t fit that catagory?!?!)

I once suggested a book to someone thinking he might enjoy the unique perspective.   He didn’t read it (which is fine) But, what he did do was “analyze” the book based solely on it’s title, and then arrogantly proclaim “Book solved!”  I remember thinking, “WTF?”

This is not a book to be solved.  This is a book to be eaten.
Chewed slowly.  Swished about like a fine wine.
Will you agree with everything in it?  Not likely.  Can you find (or make up) reasons to tear it apart?  Of course you can.
Can you be inspired, encouraged, educated and entertained?
I sure was.  There is just so much here!

I wish every atheist and fundamentalist evangelical would read this book (and, well, everyone else).
It’s been my experience that both tend to approach the Bible in the exact same way.  But, as is often the case, many who could benefit the most will shun this book as either heresy or fantasy.  Religion has a long history of calling truth heresy, and intellectuals have a long history of dismissing anything “spiritual.”
Still, for those who let it, it can be another compelling part of their journey.  With lots of “ah-ha” moments.

I suppose once you’ve read “What Is The Bible”, that you can leave the experience unchanged.
But I can’t see how.

 

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

Some Quotes:

  • It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you by appealing to your religious convictions.  (Read the story of Peter in Acts, chapter 10!)
  • You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.
  • The deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
  • I’ve heard people say that they read it literally.  As if that’s the best way to understand the Bible.  It’s not.  We read it literately.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • [In the story of Jonah] the dude who sees himself as us is furious because of how chummy God and them have become.  He’s so furious he’d rather die than live with the tension.
  • I would often hear people say, We need to get back to how they did it in the early church.  But reading the Bible, you learn that it’s not about trying to be something you’re not.   We open our eyes to the divine invitation right here, right now in this [world].
  • When people debate faith vs. science they’ve already missed the point.  Faith is about embracing truth wherever it’s found, and that of course includes science.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • To make broad dismissals of the scriptures as having nothing to say to the modern world about what it means to be human is absurd and naïve.  These are radical, progressive, open, expansive, extraordinary stories… told from the perspective of actual people living in space and time.
  • The divine is always at work.

And, a few golden oldies:
“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.
This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
― Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians

“Eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God.
Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
― Rob Bell, Love Wins


Critical Praise for “What Is The Bible”

“Rob Bell is at it again. Love him or loathe him, the theological provacateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.”  — Relevant

“With pastoral prodding, Rob Bell helps us see that scripture is a masterpiece of penetrating subtleties crafted by ancient authors with a transformative vision for humanity. Bell reminds us that the Bible is neither simple nor mundane, but worthy of our full attention.” — Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty

“To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at times.” — Robert

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

 

Bono’s Message (And My Comments) May 24, 2017

[Top section is from a Huffington Post article by Carol Kuruvilla.  My comments follow.]

U2 musician Bono has spent years reading and learning from the poetry of the Psalms, a book of the Bible that contains ancient hymns.
If there’s one thing Bono has realized from [studying the Psalms], it’s that art always requires honesty.
“I would really like this conversation to unlock some artists,” the singer, a devout Christian, said. “Because I think there are trapped artists and I’d like them to be untrapped.”
[Bono] found modern-day praise music to be sorely lacking. He argued that some contemporary worship music lacks the range of raw emotions that’s contained within the Psalms.

He also critiqued the impulse to label music as “Christian,” or not Christian.
“Creation screams God’s name. So you don’t have to stick a sign on every tree,” Bono said, suggesting that just because a song isn’t explicitly called a “Christian” song, that doesn’t mean it isn’t spiritual in nature.
“This has really, really got to stop,” he said. “I want to hear a song about the breakdown in your marriage, I want to hear songs of justice, I want to hear rage at injustice and I want to hear a song so good that it makes people want to do something about the subject.”
“I want to argue the case for artists or potential artists who might be listening in on our conversation and are not giving expression to what’s really going on in their lives because they feel it will give the wrong impression of them. We don’t have to please God in any other way than to be brutally honest.”




— MY COMMENTS:

AMEN & AMEN.
I remember listening to music and being bombarded with questions like “Is that a Christian song?  Is that a Christian group? Is that a Christian record?  Is that a Christian record needle?”
I also remember things like being given a shirt by my sister that wasn’t allowed in my shared apartment because it had “Capricorn” on it. There were other completely innocent items that weren’t allowed in people’s homes.
We talked a good game when it came to grace, but bottom line is we were elitist and judgmental! And I say “weincluding myself. We thought we were so progressive with our long hair and Christian rock.
As someone else stated, either we were co-opted by, or morphed into the Religious Right.

I’m not really being negative.
We were where we were. The past is the past. It was all a part of our journey.

I AM saying we need to recognize the many ways we may still do those very same things.
And the point isn’t just whether or not we’ve changed this view or that view. The question is “Have we changed the way we approach our faith, so as to help eliminate those things from happening in the first place?”  Have we learned we can love the Bible, and still approach it in a more responsible, realistic and intellegent way? Do we have the humility, as our past should surely have provided by now, to say:
“I totally believe this, but I could be wrong.”
Sure, hold fast to the truth. But it’s time we realize and acknowledge that so much of what we held fast to was never true to begin with.


 

Tired Of All The Negativity February 20, 2017

So, I keep seeing social media posts from people talking about how tired they are of hearing all the political rhetoric and negativity concerning our current administration.  Here’s the thing: Most of these posts, not all but most, are from older white Protestant males.  I, too, am an older white Protestant male. So I have no problem talking about this group. [Most of the younger ones are white males, as well.  And many of the ones from females are still also white Protestant.]

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being white, or Protestant, or male.  BUT, this is the group of people that are the least negatively affected by our “Nightmare  on Pennsylvania Avenue.”  It’s like when I hear white folks say “Yes, racism is an issue, but now we’ve gone too far the other way.”
Really?  After years, decades, centuries of being the oppressor; of being the privileged class, we’ve gone too far the other way because other people are finally standing up for themselves?  They’ve endured all these many many years, and you can stand the heat for barely a second.  Even when “the heat” is not being able to discriminate against others.

It’s so damn easy to say “move on” when you’re not the one whose marriage is being threatened. When you’re not the one who’s being told what to do with their body. When you’re not the one whose families are being torn apart because of deportation!

Instead of being tired of the political posts and so-called negativity, you should be a part of it!  Because, it’s not negativity.  It’s social justice activism!
If you have a decent bone in your body, you should be standing with total outrage against all the insanity that is currently going on in the White House. Vocally, actively  standing!

By now you’ve probably seen the post that goes something like this:
“People  say, ‘If I was alive back then I would have…’
Well, you’re alive now. And what you’re doing is what you would have done!”

I’m especially tired of the group that most vocally claims to speak for God also being the group that is the least like Jesus. They’ve pretty much lost all claim to credibility or godliness.

So, yeah, you’re tired of this. You’d like us all to just get over it.
It’s nice to have that luxury, isn’t it?

 

Are You Pro-Life, Or Just Anti-Abortion? November 16, 2016

I know that a great many people voted for Trump based predominately on the fact that Hillary Clinton “supports abortion.”
But,  I’ve heard Ms. Clinton clearly state that she is personally against abortion, but remains pro-choice.  Actually, that’s how most of the pro-choice people I know view themselves.
That’s how I view myself.
If you believe that being pro-choice is the same as being pro-abortion, you are gravely mistaken.

Also, if you have true concern for lowering the abortion rates, there are a couple of articles at the bottom of this post with information you should seriously consider.
You want to reduce abortions?  Well, for one thing, get over your supposed moral objection to sex-education and contraceptives.  Abstinence?  Fine.  Teach that, too.  But I’ve seen time and time again, in churches I’ve attended, children who were raised with “abstinence only” education ending up pregnant. They likely would not have if someone had taught them to use contraceptives.  No, that’s not condoning premarital sex.  It’s just preparing them for life.

Many I know who are anti-abortion, show through the other issues they support that they are clearly not pro-life.  Just like being pro-choice doesn’t mean you’re pro-abortion, being anti-abortion in no way means you are pro-life.  I, too, used to have this single-issue mentality, and it completely blinded me to the bigger picture of reality.  The more I looked at the issues, the more I realized that just making sure babies are born isn’t necessarily the most moral choice. You can’t just overlook a slew of major moral issues, ignore racism, misogyny, incited violence, homophobia, xenophobia and more in a candidate,  vote because they oppose abortion, and then say you’ve made the best moral choice.  Well, not and be consistent with your professed “faith.”

Side Rant:
I really find it odd that old friends and family explain their fundamentalist positions like I’ve never heard them.  Folks, I understand those arguments.  I taught those ideas.  I’ve been through the Jesus movement which for the most part transitioned to the Religious Right.  I’ve been a Sunday school teacher.  An elder.  A lay-counselor. A worship leader.  A co-pastor.  “Ordained” a few times.  Sure, I can learn from you, but with these issues I already know just about any point you wish to make.  I held those beliefs for most of my life.  I ate, drank, slept and lived that.  I also know that we were trained well in apologetics.  We never really considered that some of our beliefs were wrong.  And the only understanding of other beliefs we had were superficial.  We wanted to know  about “them” only to the degree we could shut them down, and “prove” how wrong they were.  There was sadly very little desire to truly listen and learn.  We knew that maybe we could have some non-Christian friends, but those few weren’t so much friends as they were projects.  People targeted for conversion.
Look back.  If you’re honest, you know for the most part that’s how it was.  So yes, I already understand your position.  Do you truly understand those you disagree with?  Have you actually, really considered their views, or just tried to find ways to prove them wrong?

OK.  Back to “Choice.”
I know women who have had an abortion. I’ve know women who’ve, after standing against abortion, seriously considered having one during an unwanted pregnancy.  Some go through with that procedure.  Some I know, after much thought and soul-searching, chose to not have an abortion.  But, for those who were in turmoil, and eventually chose to have a baby, the key remains the same:  They Chose!
They didn’t have some government mandate telling them they had to remain pregnant.  They didn’t have a bunch of old white guys deciding they would be legally punished (as Trump has stated they should be) if they chose to end the pregnancy!

Making that decision should always, always be the woman’s choice.  You may think it’s an awful choice.  Fine.  You have every right to think that.  You don’t have any right to impose that on a woman who’s going through that.  ESPECIALLY if you claim to be a follower of Christ.  (Quadrupedal if you’re a male!)
Imagine, for a moment, if you  had no choice; if the law required you to have an abortion even if you didn’t want one!
No choice.
That’s the law.
Well, that’s exactly what you are doing to others.
And no, as one dear friend suggested, this isn’t like a law requiring you to wear a seat-belt.  It’s just not.


———

Oh, here are those articles I mentioned:


The Republican and Religious Right’s focus on criminalization and overturning Roe may makes proponents feel good, but it does not help the unborn.

The states where public opinion is pro-life are already the states with lower abortion rates.
those conscientiously concerned about reducing abortion should not view support or opposition of Roe v. Wade as the only — or even the best — measure of one’s concern on life issues.
————–


Another side note:
I know you think you’re standing up for the unborn.  But (and you’ll hate this) the Bible doesn’t teach that life begins in the womb.  I already know the verses you’ll piece together, but they just don’t teach that.  I’ll come back later and post a link discussing that.  Even if that were true, that does NOT negate anything said here.

 

I’m Too Old For That November 11, 2016

My wife recently expressed concern for my safety and well-being.
You see, I’ve decided (for a while at least) to leave my “Hillary” magnet on my vehicle.
Kathleen believes that in this time of Trump-sanctioned acts of violence, I may be inviting hate-crimes against myself or my property.
She’s right, of course.
And I have considered removing it for just that reason.  Seriously, I really don’t want to get beaten up or spat on.  In my younger days I did take a number of beatings (many from my younger brother. 🙂 ).  But my bones weren’t nearly as brittle then.  Now, I don’t know that I could survive such an incident.  I’m too old for that shit.

Still, I’m leaving the magnet on my truck.  Yes, I have a little fear in doing so, but I will not be ruled by that.  Now is not the time to go into hiding.  Now is certainly not the time for anyone to stay in their closet (unless they’re praying).
No, now is the time to stand.
To stand tall, vigilant and proud.
I will display my support for social justice on my vehicle, my clothing, and any other way I can.  I will be more bold than ever.
Hate-crimes are increasing by those who believe they have the government’s blessings.
We need to stand up for ourselves, and whenever possible, intercede on behalf of anyone we see being harassed, belittled or abused.
We’ll all have to give more to the causes of social justice.  Time, or money.  Both when possible.  We need to keep our camera phones ready to record when needed.  We must be unafraid to speak out against discrimination and hate.  Especially hate that comes from those claiming to stand for God.  Yes, that’s hard to do if you fear for your safety.  It’s been hard in every civil rights movement of the past, and it will often be hard now.

We may not be using swords, rifled-muskets or breech loaders, but we are in a civil war. Hillary won the popular vote (by quite a lot, really), but Donald won the electoral college.  Either way, This was a tight race. We are living in the Divided States of America, and we can’t just all get along.  The opposition will often use physical violence.  We MUST use what author and activist Mel White calls “The Practice of Relentless Nonviolent Resistance.”  Love still trumps hate.  It sounds trite.  It’s not what I want to hear or say right now.  But it has to be.  It just has to.

Yes.  Hate won.
Hate won this battle, but the war for justice and equality goes on.
And by the grace of God, I will stand.
As of yet, I’m not too old for that.

– dave


I don’t know who put this together, but I like it:

if-you

 

Now, Can’t We All Just Get Along? November 8, 2016

“No.  We can’t.”

As many others have said, this election cycle has brought out the worst in people.  It’s exposed an underbelly of America that we’ve long been told was no longer a big issue.
I can still love friends and family with whom I disagree.  That doesn’t mean I can respect their beliefs.  It doesn’t mean I can agree to disagree.

Yes, I’m talking about Trump voters.
Especially “Christian” Trump voters.
This man’s campaign was based on, and filled with racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and unadulterated hate.  A straight, white, protestant male will be largely unaffected by a Trump presidency.  But all kinds of minorities will suffer dearly.
How am I supposed to agree to disagree with that.  We can’t just “move on.”  It would be like watching a man beat his slave, and have him tell me, “Well, we just have to agree to disagree.”
It would be like seeing a public servant refuse to do her job of issuing marriage licences, putting loving couples through the ringer, and saying, “She’s just following her convictions.”
No.  I can’t do that.
She can follow her convictions by resigning from a job she refuses to do!

And let me just say that not tolerating intolerance is not being intolerant.
JESUS didn’t practice or advocate forcing your convictions on others. That’s not something his followers do. That’s what Pharisees do.

Christian slave owners were just following their convictions.  Men who didn’t want women to vote were just following their convictions.  Many who’ve inflicted torture in the name of God were just following their convictions.
I’ve had friends tell me that the only people it’s OK to be intolerant of is “Christians.”  What I actually see is that Christians are one of, if not THE most privileged groups in America.  In fact, they’ve been so privileged for so long that to them, not being allowed to discriminate feels like discrimination.  Not being able to legislate their beliefs, and force them on others, to them feels like oppression.   It’s not enough for them to live by their convictions.  They want the rest of us forced to do the same.  Trying to show them they’ve been used and manipulated, of course, doesn’t do any good.  Thank God, their are millions of Christians who are not part of the “religious right.”

So how do you just get along with racist, religiously intolerant, homophobic, xenophobic, “good-old-boys?”  Frankly, you don’t. “Agree to disagree” is not something I can do in cases of social injustice.

We can not come together as a Nation at the expense of the marginalized; the ones I believe Jesus would have stood up for.  (His greatest enemies were the “Religious Right” of his day.)
You may be my friend.  You may be a family member.  And I may love you dearly.  But if you’re a part of the problems I’ve mentioned (inherent with voting for Trump), I will fight what you stand for, legally, socially and non-violently, with every fiber of my being.
I do want unity and peace as a Nation. But sadly, as long as these age-old attitudes of oppression are alive and well, we can’t, actually, just all get along.

—————

 

Just Sayin’ November 3, 2016

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