“I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. You take whatever works from wherever you can find it, and you keep moving toward the light.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, “Eat, Pray, Love”
“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words
and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have a colleague who self-identifies as “Christian-ish.” I’ve never pressed them for a formal explanation of the term; but based on what I know of this person, I have a pretty good idea of what it could mean. My colleague loves the teachings of Jesus, and at the same time they find beauty and wisdom in the teachings and practices of other religions. In other words, they take whatever works from wherever they can find it so they can keep moving toward the light.
And if we were honest, I think most of us would admit we do the same thing.
Consider this. Religious conservatives who oppose marriage equality often point to the “sanctity” of marriage, and insist that allowing LGBT people to legally wed would somehow destroy that sanctity. At the same time, a January 21st article in the Religious News Service points out that divorce rates tend to be higher among conservative Protestants than their more religiously liberal counterparts. This, despite the teaching of Jesus in Mark chapter 10 that basically forbids divorce. In Matthew chapter 19 Jesus allows a loophole for “immorality”–but only for the guys.
In the Old Testament, religious conservatives point to a verse in the “Holiness Code” of Leviticus, and they misinterpret the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to “prove” how unhappy God is with homosexuality. Yet, when presented with all the other prohibitions in that same Holiness Code, some of these folks are quick to reply that the dietary and other prohibitions were part of the Ceremonial Law and the arrival of Jesus negated those laws. But that verse about a man lying with a man as with a woman? Oh, no! That law is part of the Moral Law and the Moral Law is forever.
Of course, those of us who identify as religious liberals do the same thing. For example, we love Jesus’ teachings about peace and turning the other cheek–until someone actually slaps us, that is. We like quoting the bible’s teachings about our responsibility to care for “the least of these” in the world. Yet the story of Jesus and the Rich Young Man (Matthew chapter 19 and Mark chapter 10) where Jesus instructs the young man to sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor and then follow Jesus causes religious conservatives and liberals to jump through all kinds of interpretive hoops. And that story in Acts 2 where the earliest communities held everything in common? Nice story; at the same time, just how do you think that would work in the 21st century? After all, we religious liberals do tend to like having our own stuff and “space” as much as any religious conservative.
So let’s be honest, OK? None of us–liberal or conservative–really believe and follow everything to the letter that’s written in the bible. As a matter of fact, some of those stories are horribly offensive–at least to me. So what do we do?
I think Ralph Waldo Emerson has a great idea. Why not consider making our own “bibles”? Why not take the wisdom and practices of the world’s religions, humanism and science–wisdom and practices that help us move forward toward the light of love and peace and that deepen our connection to the Universal Presence many of us call “God?”
Or better yet, why not strive to make our lives “living bibles”–reflections of the best the world’s religions, humanism and science have to offer?
Just something to consider…
Blessings on your journeys!