Saturday, May 14, 2016

Time to rewrite the Bible?

The current debate about which bathrooms transgender folks may use is the last straw. The time has come. The Christian canon or Bible must be revised.

“Canon” derives from a Greek word referring to a standard of measurement. Religious canons are standards against which people measure their faith, writings believed authoritative within that faith.

For 2000 years the Christian authoritative writings include the New Testament. But that canon has apparently proved too difficult to understand for many Christians. There’s a part of “love your neighbor” they’ve not been able to grasp. “Judge not, lest you be judged,” confounds people accustomed to helping God with quality control. Some employ the Christian canon as a weapon, beating others over the head with it, quoting it to support notions and prejudices about women, the poor, persons of other faiths, racial minorities, gays, lesbians, and transgender people.

The New Testament must simply not be clear enough. Jesus’s message about turning the other cheek and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you has been lost on too many Christians.

For some, the Book has become a graven image of God, an idol. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and then departed. Some tired of waiting for his return. If he isn’t coming back, they feel the need to judge others in his stead. As the children of Israel crafted a golden calf when they tired of waiting for Moses, these Christians have their own idol.

Jesus said you couldn’t serve two masters. You cannot serve God and the Bible simultaneously. You’ll be, as Matthew 6:24 says, “devoted to the one and despise the other.” If you use the Bible to justify marginalizing some of God’s children, you’ve chosen the Book of God over the God of the Book.

There were ancient believers who thought it a mistake to reduce the rich oral history of the faith to writing. They argued that once you write about God, you are making God in your own image. They thought it was supposed to be the other way around. 

Those who wanted a written canon won the argument. Criteria were established to determine which writings would be canonized. Canonical writings must have withstood the test of time and have been accepted by a sufficient number of people to be considered worthy.

As Christians consider a new canon, that criterion seems helpful. Cervantes’s “Don Quixote” or Manzoni’s “The Betrothed” might qualify but Franklin Graham’s sermons and Pat Robertson’s prophecies would not.

To be considered, books should have a clear message. God loves all the children. Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in God’s sight. God loves them all including those who are gay, lesbian, transgender, Muslim, Buddhist, uncertain, or atheist.

Who would be on the decision-making committee? Jesus’s choice, I’m guessing, would be people on the margins of life. Membership would be open to the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.

It would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for most politicians, TV preachers, or Wall Street predators to be at the table. There’d be prostitutes but no one who questions why prostitutes were participating. There’d be addicts and others who were hurting, homeless or hungry. There’d be refugees but no one who built walls to keep them away. Lazarus would be there but not the rich man. Neither gender nor sexual identity would bar anyone from taking part. There’d be people of every faith and those with none.

Seated at this table would be only those who could imagine no countries, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. They could imagine no possessions, no need for greed or hunger but instead a brotherhood and sisterhood of God’s creation sharing the world.

Imagine. Imagine the standard these folks would establish for measuring our faith in God and one another.


  1. Early on a Sunday morning, I am so grateful to find this piece. I plan to share it, though I know that for certain of my friends the very title will be off-putting. To them, the Bible is sacred, and not be questioned. But that's the point isn't it? It is good to be reminded that a faith that has over 2000 years "Bible-based" is actually "based" in writings--things of our own making, graven images if you will. The Peace of Christ be with you, Rodger.

  2. And also with you my friend. Thanks for your comments