Srikanth T. Rao sent me to this article at CNN’s religion blogs.
The Bible is a gritty book. Very raw. Very real. It deals with people just like us, just as needy and screwed up as we are, encountering a God who would rather die than spend eternity without them.
Yet despite that, it seems like Christians are uncomfortable with how earthy the Bible really is. They feel the need to tidy up God.
For example, look in any modern translation of Isaiah 64:6, and you’ll find that, to a holy God, even our most righteous acts are like “filthy rags.” The original language doesn’t say “filthy rags”; it says “menstrual rags.” But that sounds a little too crass, so let’s just call them filthy instead.
And let’s not talk so much about Jesus being naked on the cross, and let’s pretend Paul said that he considered his good deeds “a pile of garbage” in Philippians 3:8 rather than a pile of crap, as the Greek would more accurately be translated.
God’s message was not meant to be run through some arbitrary, holier-than-thou politeness filter. He intended the Bible to speak to people where they’re at, caught up in the stark reality of life on a fractured planet.
I believe that Scripture includes such graphic material to show how far we, as a race, have fallen and how far God was willing to come to rescue us from ourselves.
God is much more interested in honesty than pietism.
And that’s what he gives us throughout Scripture, telling the stories of people who struggled with the same issues, questions and temptations we face today.
Jesus never said, “The Kingdom of God is like a church service that goes on and on forever and never ends.” He said the kingdom was like a homecoming celebration, a wedding, a party, a feast to which all are invited.
Only when the Bible seems relevant to us (which it is), only when the characters seem real to us (which they were), only then will the message of redemption become personal for us (which it was always meant to be).
We don’t need to edit God. We need to let him be the author of our new lives.
Read the comments for some amusing takedowns of this rubbish (sorry, I mean ‘crap’. I wouldn’t want to sugarcoat anything).
While the general observation that we have become a race of euphemisers is valid (here’s George Carlin’s take on this; nobody does it better), the rest of the article is full of crap.
Reading religious scripture literally is the quickest way to making people atheists. However, the more likely explanation for why scripture includes the graphic stuff is that the people who wrote god’s lines needed to wank off once in a while, and to do it without getting called wankers.
The ‘Bible’ has no ‘original version’. It’s been a work in progress for two millennia. And ideas get progressively more refined (and less stupid) with time. People are eventually going to realise that you don’t have to tell stories of how entire towns were raided, the men and boys killed, the women raped, and the girls kidnapped, in order to instill morality in your children. In fact, morality is best instilled entirely devoid of religion; but if that isn’t your cup of tea, surely the rapes and murders are better left out than in.
And whatever else is true about our failings, the human race has (or at least most parts of it have) come a long way from the age of the middle-eastern shepherd from two thousand years ago. We do not struggle with the same issues and temptations as people then did (“the Old Testament includes vivid descriptions of murder, cannibalism, witchcraft, dismemberment, torture, rape, idolatry, erotic sex and animal sacrifice.”). Not everybody has to constantly fight the temptation to torture, murder, dismember, and eat the person next to them. And the only complaint people today should have about erotic sex is that they don’t get enough.