[The following popped up in my Facebook Memories today. I originally wrote it on October 23, 2009, on what used to be called Facebook Notes (which has since been discontinued). I thought it was worth sharing here on my personal blog.]
With all the recent news about the Conservative Bible Project, and reports of people burning Bibles other than the King James Version, I got thinking about how we read the Bible. All Christians seem to agree that reading the Bible is a good and useful thing to do. But so many Christians read the Bible and come to completely different conclusions about life. Conservatives often complain about liberals "twisting Scripture" to support their agenda; liberals accuse conservatives of the very same thing. I have talked to many Christians who say something like, "Well, I don't know about liberal or conservative...I just base my life on what the Bible says." What does the Bible say, and why do so many people disagree about what it means?
As I pondered this, something occurred to me. We should be suspicious any time we read the Bible, and find that it says exactly what we thought it would say. In other words, way too often, we go to the Bible with our position on a subject firmly in mind, and find Biblical proof to bolster than position. This is the old "proof-texting" that fundamentalists have honed to a fine skill. If the Bible makes us feel comfortable, then I think something is wrong. I'll point out a biblical example to illustrate. When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, I think his audience was already absolutely firm in their belief of what "neighbor" meant: "someone who lives where I live, and shares my values." Then Jesus told his parable, and used an example that his audience would have found shocking--a Samaritan as the hero of the story? Outrageous!
I think we all make this mistake; I know I do it all the time. I have in my head an idea that I'm starting to feel comfortable with, I go to the Bible, and there it is! God is in complete agreement with me! DANGER! I don't think there's a problem with turning to the Bible for comfort, but if we begin to feel comfortable, rather than comforted, something is wrong. The Bible should challenge us, the Bible should make us reexamine our previously held notions, the Bible should make us feel uncomfortable. In short, the Bible should convict us.
The biggest problem I see with the conservative/liberal debates about the Bible is that both sides have already made up their minds, to a certain extent. They hold up the Bible as proof, they beat their opponents over the heads with it, they use it as a weapon. But they rarely listen to the Bible, they are rarely humbled by the Bible, they rarely submit to the God who speaks in the Bible. So, the next time you go to read the Bible, and you're feeling pretty comfy with what you read there, ask yourself, "Am I really listening to what God is saying to me here, or am I listening to myself?"
(adj.) wild and frenzied; from Greek κορυβαντες (Korybantes)