Oh, Really? What else does it say?
Growing up in and continuing to live in "Southern Baptist-Land" the phrase "the Bible says" is one I have endured my entire life. The vast majority of the times I heard those words spoken, they were followed with some justification for denigrating, disenfranchising or just denouncing another child of God invariably because of race, gender, gender identity/expression or sexual orientation. (There were also more subtle denunciations due to class, economic standing and the like but it was not considered polite to note such.) Rarely did I hear anything loving and caring after I heard "the Bible says."
One of my heros, John Pavlovitz, has penned one of the best articles about the misuse of what the Bible says that I have ever read. I urge you to go to Christian, Stop Blaming God for Your LGBTQ-Hatred and read it.
The Bible was used to justify racial segregation... still is, I suspect, if we are honest about it. The proponents of such a position often noted that the Bible did not forbid slavery, for example and was filled with stories about people who were enslaved. Little if anything negative was associated with being enslaved. There was little noted in modern usage of the cultural context of slavery in ancient days. The few times I ventured into the alleged Biblical justifications, I could only shake my head and note: “That’s not what that says!”
We finally came to our senses, at least in appearances, when we ended the practice of slavery in the United States. Yet reality has shown that overt slavery was replaced with a more covert version of the entity in the form of Jim Crow Laws, voter suppression, disenfranchisement and discrimination whether de facto or de jure. We have not yet redeemed our collective soul over how we continue to treat all racial minorities in this country. (If you want your eyes pried wide open, read the book “No One Is Illegal.” Some salient points seemed to have been left out of the history books when I was taught American History a few decades ago.)
The Bible was also used to justify the subjugation, disenfranchisement and denigration of women. Vestiges of that remain in some faith communities, namely those that do not allow women to teach males older than a certain age or participate in ordained ministry. I can’t find anything Jesus said or taught that would justify a woman being treated any less in the eyes of God (or humankind) than a man would be treated. It is clear that Jesus did involve women in His ministry and that much of his financial support came from women.
The closest I could find to Biblical references about the place of women were in writings attributed to Paul. Yet again, we might want to consider the cultural context of when those "references" were written. Women were property... the property of men. Ponder that for a moment. Ponder the notion that a woman was property not much differently than a slave was property. It is helpful to also note that these narratives were initially from men who most likely treated women as property.
It has been a very long time since I heard anything in a marriage ceremony about a father "giving" his daughter to her future husband. I hope we have finally understood that a man's daughter (or son) is not his property to give to anyone, including a future spouse.
Now comes the most recent group to continue to be subjected by some to "what the Bible says" thinking. It is, sadly, not unusual to hear “the Bible says” to justify discrimination, disenfranchisement, and degradation of LGBTQ+ folks, both in the church and in secular society. (Ironic that secular society might embrace a bad idea in support of discrimination based on the writings of a particular religious faith.)
I would certainly hope by now that those reading this would know that the "clobber" passages from the Bible are meaningless from having been separated from the culture in which they were written and the full narrative in which they are found. Knowing intellectually and embracing that within are two different concepts. Many of us have been so abused by the incorrect use of Scripture that we still, deep, deep down inside still believe some of the garbage to which we have been subjected. I pray for the day when we all truly understand that the God who created us loves us exactly the way we were created.
Isn’t it time that we recaptured the concept of what the Bible says? The next time someone tries to subject us to "the Bible says..." how about we smile and inquire: Have you forgotten that Jesus reminded us that the first and great commandment was to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength? Have you forgotten that Jesus then reminded us that the second commandment was like it, that we were to love our neighbor as we love ourselves? He followed that with a statement that on these two commandments hung all the law and the prophets. The Bible really says to us to love... not to hate. So you were about to tell me what the Bible says?
Bruce Garner, President
Integrity USA: The Episcopal Rainbow