Category Archives: Bible
Train up a child
Our children and grandchildren were homeschooled in loving, caring, academically challenging environments; so, I’m certainly not opposed to homeschooling. On the other hand, there is a strong homeschooling movement among conservative fundamentalist white evangelical Christians in America that is unbiblical and abusive.
Parents are taught to inflict physical pain with their hands, with switches, wooden spoons, and belts on children beginning when they can crawl – placing objects they should not touch in front of them and hitting them when they try. This is done to “break the child’s will” because children are seen as born evil and rebellious. Children are corporally punished for the slightest perceived transgression throughout their childhoods. They are taught that public schools are evil bastions of anti-Christian indoctrination, that the government, educational system, and public libraries are controlled by elite people determined to destroy righteousness, and that America was founded by dedicated Christians who feared God. They are taught that guns are a God-given right, that science is not to be trusted (especially when it comes to vaccines, evolution, and environmentalism), and that women must submit to men.
Absolutely none of that is biblical. Those positions are based on cherry-picking verses out of the Old Testament and justified by ignoring the teachings of Jesus. Christians do not live by the laws of the Old Testament. We don’t stone or beat our children.
Children are not born evil. They are created in the image and likeness of God, innocent. “Total depravity” is an invention of the Middle Ages. Yes, as we mature, we all sin; we all miss the mark. That’s why Jesus came. Because of the cross, sin is off the table – forgiven, gone forever.
Christians do not believe or spread conspiracy theories. Science is not a threat to faith. All truth is God’s truth, whether that truth is found in a laboratory or in the Bible. Speaking of the Bible, Christians interpret all scripture in light of the teachings of Jesus. The New Testament trumps the Old; the red letters trump everything.
So, what did Jesus say about child-raising? How did Paul interpret what Jesus taught?
- “Invite the children to come to me; don’t prevent them.”
- “Come like a child… of such is the Kingdom of God.”
- “It would be better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea than to offend one God’s little ones.”
- “Fathers, do not provoke your children, but raise them in they way they should go.” (The way theyshould go – not the way you think they ought to go.)
- “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is gentle.”
Children are indeed a gift. Treasure them. Love them. You cannot love a child too much. help them discover the glories of creation. Teach them to think critically. Let go of conspiracies. Embrace the wonders science has discovered. Be tender and kind. Support public schools. Trust educators. Stop banning books and trying to rewrite history. Truth sets people free. Saturate your home with unconditional love, mercy and grace. Get out of your silo. Love God. Love others (all of them). Love the natural creation. Love yourself. Gently lead the young.
God kills puppies?!
God killed every person and every animal on earth except a handful in a zoo boat. Saw something to that effect on social media recently. They were referring, of course, to the biblical story of Noah’s flood. Scientifically, a universal flood is impossible. There isn’t enough water. Theologically, it is even more problematic.
God is exactly like Jesus. Jesus is the perfect reflection of who God is. He said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Jesus loves, forgives, brings life and grace and mercy. He doesn’t drown innocent children and puppies.
So, what to make of the flood story? It’s a sacred myth, repeated in different forms in many cultures around the ancient world. It’s based on a collective memory of a terrible flood that devasted the world as they knew it. Most likely, it’s based on a number of catastrophic local floods. Like all sacred myths, it teaches profound spiritual lessons. Lessons about caring for the earth, about the evils of violence, about selfishness, and hatred. And, lessons about mercy, new beginnings, hope for the future.
If you would like to explore the science, check out: https://biologos.org/resources?query=flood.
Some thoughts on the theology of the flood: https://reknew.org/?s=noah
God never ordered anyone to slaughter anyone
God never ordered anyone to slaughter anyone else. How do I know? Because God is exactly like Jesus. There is nothing unchristlike in God. Jesus is the perfect revelation of who God is. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” And, “I and the Father are one.” And, “I do always those things that please the Father.” God is exactly like Jesus and Jesus forgave his enemies, refused retaliation, and rejected violence as a solution.
Yet, in the Old Testament, we have passages where it says God ordered genocide. How can that be? In the Ancient Neareast (of which Israel was part), you honored your god by ascribing all victories to him/her/it. The ancient Jews did the same. They claimed YHWH slaughtered the Canaanites, Hittites and Jebusites. Of course, they knew right well that they did the killing. God told them to possess the land. They assumed that the only way to do was to invade with swords drawn. There’s evidence that if they’d simply trusted God, God would have persuaded the people who lived there (people created in God’s image; people God loved) to move on their own accord. Instead, the ancient Jews invaded, slaughtered, and gave the God of cruciform love the credit.
Jesus also invaded Canaan. In Matthew 15, the story is told of Jesus in Syrophoenicia. Jews and Syrophoenicians didn’t get along, mostly for economic and cultural reasons. A Syrophoenician woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter. Using a bit of street theater, Jesus acted exactly as any Jewish rabbi would be expected – he ignored her. She pressed in. He said he had been sent to lost sheep of Israel. She said even dogs get crumbs. Jesus ended the theater and responded as we knew he would, with grace, love, acceptance, mercy, and healing. His Jewish followers had to be astonished.
Joshua and the ancient Jewish tribes invaded Canaan with sword and genocide. Jesus invaded Canaan with cruciform love. A new kingdom has come.
Deconstructing without throwing the baby out with the bathwater
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, thought as a child, acted as a child. But when I matured, I put away childish things. The Christian life is about being transformed – becoming more and more like Jesus. More loving. More forgiving. Kinder. More gracious and tolerant. Less judgmental. Humbler. The process is called spiritual formation. If we cling to old ideas and old habits, we will never grow.
For example, early in my Christian walk, I was taught that every word of the Bible was literally true. I was taught that God was mad at humanity and that only those who cognitively said a sinner’s prayer could escape eternal conscious torture. I was taught that the earth is about 6,000 years old and that God created everything in it in six 24-hour periods of time. I was taught that there are no errors in the Bible. I was taught that women could not be pastors or preachers. I was taught that America was specially chosen by God, that capitalism was godly, and that killing was justified in times of war, self-defense, or as a punishment for murder. I was taught that the world was going to get worse and worse until Jesus snatches his people out of it and returns in brutal, violent vengeance. I pictured God as stern and unapproachable. I no longer believe any of that.
Stuff happened to challenge my beliefs. I studied biology and genetics. I listened to Christian voices from other cultures. I studied the Bible in the context of the cultures it was written for originally. I saw white, evangelical Christians like me supporting immoral, dishonest, authoritarian politicians. I heard preachers rant condemningly against all sorts or people – immigrants, minorities, LGBTQ+, Muslims, liberals, Democrats, public health officials. I heard them fume against gun control, abortion under any circumstances, and vaccines. I saw them supporting wild conspiracies. I saw mega-churches built on marketing techniques putting on massive shows. I watched as multitudes of millennials and Gen-Zers dumped Christianity. I asked myself if the Jesus I was taught about was really the true Jesus of the Bible. I looked at the fruit and found little cruciform love.
So, I started deconstructing my faith, taking down my assumptions, questioning my preconceived ideas. At times, it felt like death. At times, I was confused, disconcerted, unmoored. But I was never tempted to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. My theology was like I had built a house around my conversion to Christ. The house worked for me when I was younger. Now, it was tattered and falling down. It needed to be torn down and a new house built. My theology needed to change.
What did not change was the core at the center of the house – the foundation – Jesus.
It would be inaccurate to describe me today as a conservative fundamentalist. I’m growing. I’m seeing more clearly who Jesus really is. I am, day by day, loving him more deeply and knowing him more intimately. I find myself loving others, forgiving more easily, caring about those Jesus called “the least” of his siblings. I’m freer, more connected, more understanding, more loving, more teachable. Now, I have a long, long way to go. I’m not what I should be, but thank God, I’m not what I used to be.