Sunday, October 24, 2004


Fueled by the enthusiasm of the Christian Right, I recently embarked upon the task of reading the Bible from stem to stern. It is not an easy task. One is treated to a rather simple way the world is supposed have emerged from yawning nothingness, but then one immediately runs into the Begats.

Evidently, these Biblical people lived for hundreds of years and spent most of their time begatting, which may prove why they didn't invent the light bulb or the coat hanger or any of those items that make life easier.

Once one gets through the Begats and tries to make sense of who sired whom, the Old Testament seems to be filled with exciting tales, many of them just about as believable as the complete book of Nursery Rhymes read to your toddlers.

I was intrigued by Lot's wife, who was turned into a Pillar of Salt because she looked behind her after being instructed not to do so. Evidently, or so I am told, the scene she was to avoid concerned the first Biblical reference to homosexuality. She was definitely not to sneak a peek at a scene like that, and when she did, it was the Salt Box for her.

After I had waded through several tales like this, and continually felt sorry for the sacrifice of lambs, I gave up on the Old Testament and went to the New. The story of Jesus and his birth is a beautiful, inspiring one. The instructions left by Jesus seem sensible and clear. If one reads the Golden Rule, the Sermon on the Mount, the Ten anything else needed? The Bible is very difficult to interpret, with scholars still stumbling over its meanings. Many phrases seem to have dual meanings. It was written back when people believed the world was flat and that sailors could sail off its edge into a bevy of monsters. It was written before Wonder Drugs, mini-skirts, nuclear weaponry, electricity, automobiles and thousands of other inventions. Yet we are supposed to follow its every word as the Gospel, the Truth, the Final Solution.

To me, Jesus seemed extremely liberal. He clearly said, "You are your brother's keeper." He was a simple man, a carpenter, a man of the people. He walked among the poor, the sick, the crippled, the needy. He loved and forgave them all. It is depressing to think that, should he reappear today, without fanfare to announce his arrival, he would be dismissed as a "left-leaning kook".

You can understand the Ten Commandments, at least until you run into that "not suffering a witch to live" business. But much of the Bible is indecipherable and to literally believe that everything that is mentioned there is true is stretching the imagination beyond the point of human capacity. I cannot believe anyone would turn to salt. I cannot believe Noah took all of the world's animals on the Ark. I cannot believe in a fiery hell. And I find it terribly hard to believe, when history tells us the average lifespan years ago may have been around the age of 30, that some people lived 900 years.

Am I a heretic? No. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in following his instructions. But I do not believe in the Bible, or at least, in our feeble attempts to interpret it. I do not believe it answers the questions of modern day marriage, women's right to choose, environmental concerns, etc. In this day and age, sacrificing a lamb just doesn't cut it. To place some human being on an altar a few steps over his congregation and listen to him preach his interpretation of a book that defies interpretation explains the dissatisfaction of the world's young people with church-going. Unless some meeting of Biblical times and Modern times is offered to our young, they will continue to drift away from religion. Posting the Ten Commandments on school walls is not enough. What would be better would be more emphasis on compassion and Christlike caring, and less on a world of greed and envy.

And I believe that many of the troubles we humans have inflicted upon ourselves have been caused by people who try to take the Bible, or their religious beliefs, whatever they may be, and force the world to live by their interpretation of what it all means. Throughout the centuries, wars have resulted from religious beliefs. Even today, we are allowing that to happen.

I get irritated at God. If he had to leave behind a "historical account" of the world, why didn't he make it a bit clearer? Any modern writer creating such gobbledegook wouldn't sell a single book. So, once again, as I have many times before, I abandon my stem-to-stern research of the Bible and try to figure out my own course through this life.

There are lots of shadows on this path, along with the sunshine, many questions, few answers, but as long as we keep walking, a step at a time, we should reach some destination in the end.