The other day I clicked on a blog that promised to provide responses for those opportunities when literalists use single verses in the Bible to judge and condemn others. While I generally agree with the project of deconstructing the use of the Bible for condemnatory exercises, I was less than pleased with how the writer fulfilled his promises.
The writer was using his own "proof text" options to show how ridiculous it is to use verses in this way. Again, that is a project I can agree with. The problem was the careless way the author employed the verses to make his case. The tipping point occurred to me when he tried to prove that the Bible says it is okay to beat your kids. I was pretty sure he was going to use the "Spare the rod, spoil the child" verse from the Bible (see Proverbs 13:24), but NO! Instead, the author chose to cite Psalm 137:9: "A blessing on the one who seizes your children and smashes them against the rock!" (CEB translation)
If you are going to proof text, at least do it responsibly (if that is not in itself an oxymoronic statement). That Psalm does not endorse child abuse. That Psalm wishes for mass murder. If you read the whole Psalm, then you know that the Israelites have just been ripped from their homeland and forced to travel to new cities to live as a result of the Babylonian exile. You understand that they have just been forcibly relocated by an invading army, right?! And now those captors have the audacity to order these people to sing the songs of their homeland. How can they do that? The depth of their loss and pain is unfathomable. And it is likely that in the course of the invasion, their friends and family members were killed. In fact, maybe more that one baby had her head smashed against a rock. So now, ordered to sing, they find that all they can do is wish the same torment on their captors. Not their best moment, admittedly, but can you blame them? Isn't it an authentically human way to react? And isn't that profound and painful and poignant all at once?
It is not a good example for throwing in an opponent's face, lest you are seeking to ironically (though with much, much lower stakes) to echo the same feelings of wishing something horrible on someone who had just done something horrible to you.
And that is why I am starting this website. Too often the Bible is used as a source of soundbites and pithy responses rather than as a powerful and holy text where humanity comes to wrestle with our daily and deepest questions. I am tired of too little depth. I spent 10 years in formal education studying this book primarily (my husband kept asking me why I had to buy books every semester - didn't I already own several copies of the book we were studying?). I took three runs at passing my reading Greek test in PhD work so that I could prove I could pick it up in Greek and do a decent job of translating off the cuff. I have given so much of my life for this book academically, and that does not even scratch the surface of how it shapes my life.
I also realize how often this book has been used to take others' lives. Why would we treat it so carelessly then? For those who are skeptical of whether we should give this book so much authority, I get it. But for those of us who do claim it has authority over our lives, why do we refuse to engage it with any depth? As long as we aren't engaging, it will continue to be used as a weapon and not as a transcendent means of touching and knowing God.
And so here I am. Trying to make a patch of internet where I can engage on a mind and soul level with the Bible, with our world, and with others. I invite you to join me in the journey. But be aware: knowing the Bible is a profound, dangerous, at times lewd and lascivious adventure. It is not for the weak of heart.