11 July 2012

My Bible

A bit of a Twitter conversation started me thinking about The Bible (tm) vs My Bible. That is, there are people who take literal readings of as many stories as possible and treat them as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And then some of them, they don't. And usually, they do it without any historical context. And then there are some people who view the Bible as just a bunch of bullshit stories told by a bunch of superstitious assholes trying to control their society. Most people are somewhere in between, I think.

So, as you might have guessed by the title of this blog, I'm Christian. What that means for me is that I follow the path of Jesus in the stories of the gospels. I really like that Jesus guy. I don't know if he was exactly who was described in the Bible. Probably not. But what I know is that I love the message. I love the love. I love the sacrifice he made for his principles and faith. For me, that's the core of it. The love. So when I hear or read the stories of Jesus, it doesn't matter a whole lot to me if they happened exactly as written. The power of it is in the words of the story. Hell, it doesn't matter to me if it is complete fiction. Not that I think it is, mind you, but it doesn't matter. I mean, if someone, somehow, could show me absolute proof that there was never any Jesus of Nazareth, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, Peter, et al., it wouldn't matter that much to me. I would still enjoy the stories, and I would still try to live my life in a way that I think the Jesus character (as that's what he would be then, a character) would approve of. Because it's an excellent way to live.

All that being said, I do think there was a Jesus of Nazareth, and I do think he did some pretty magnificent things. I think he had a nice tap into the divine spirit and that he came to tell "us" (i.e. anyone who would listen) that we were doing things wrong. He needed to tell us that God didn't need sacrifices, or for us to obey kosher laws, or any of that stuff, that his sacrifice would be enough.

Quick aside: Some people seem to really have a problem with a God who would send his son to die as a sacrifice. I get it. But I also understand it as the only way people would listen. I mean, if Jesus had grown up, told his stories, shared his Good News and lived to a ripe old age, would any of us ever heard of him? And I don't know if God so much sent him to die, as knew it would happen and that it had to happen. [NOTE: The person who inspired this has pointed out to me that Buddha lived to be a ripe old age, and we still have his teachings. Interesting thought. I'll have to noodle that one.]

So then there are the letters from Paul. Most biblical scholars agree that those letters weren't written all by the same dude with all the issues with women, but let's assume for the sake of simplicity that they were. The writings of Paul were Paul's opinions and Paul's ideas about what God wanted, about what Jesus wanted. Paul was not infallible. Paul was not God. Anyone who takes Paul's word as God's word is elevating him to a position above human. I'm not really okay with that. Does that mean there's nothing to be learned in the letters? No, of course not. Just as I can learn from anyone's opinions, I can learn from his.

That's the Greek scriptures... on to the Hebrew.

The Hebrew scriptures, the old testament, is a collection of stories of our ancestors in faith. For me, they are tools to learn what they thought about God, and what their mythology was. Anyone of science knows that the creation stories are mythology. That's okay. They were stories that people told to explain that which they didn't understand. Every culture has them. It's only in the last couple hundred years that this obsession to take them as literal truth has started. It's bizarre, really. Especially since there are two creation stories and they don't mesh. I mean, did God make man on the 6th day and then rest? Or did he make Adam, then make some animals for companions, figure out it wasn't working, and build Eve from his rib? Come. On. They were stories. Stories to explain, moral stories, ideas about how to behave and ideas about what they thought God wanted. And they're really neat stories, with lots to learn from. And no, not to be taken as the inviolable Word of God. And if you think that, ask yourself when the last time was that you stoned someone for being an adulterer or if you want that law coming back? Are you hiding out at covens to kill the witches? Are you keeping kosher? Wearing only cloth of one fiber? No? Why? Because Jesus came to end that, right? So then, why take the rest of it as something you still need to adhere to?

And there are some stories of prophets, people who seemed to know of things to come. True? I have no idea. But again, I can most certainly glean some truth from there. There is truth in almost every story. And there is certainly wisdom in them.

So, at the risk of being accused of cherry-picking my beliefs from the Bible, I say, there is truth in there, there is fiction in there, there is mythology in there, there is power in there. And the only way to tell what's what is to  hold it up to the law "Love One Another", and if it fits, it's golden. If it doesn't, it was something to learn from.