God is not an ass. (Love as much as you can.)

In the mail the other day, I got a scary brochure entitled “Revelation Today: The End Time Is Near.”

Apparently, the Reverend Myckal Morehouse has an important message for me. He was prepared to provide free admission, free parking, free childcare, and free study materials so that I could listen to him detail how the Bible predicts that the end of times is near.

It’s not.

I have read the Bible, I have read many scholars’ understandings of this book, and I have prayed about it.

Two things I know for certain about the Bible: 

  • The Bible is not a Nostradamian prediction book about the future.
    • Sure there are people who will tell you that it has made amazing predictions about some things in the past 2000 years, but I can also find you people who will tell you the earth is flat and that they don’t fear Vampires because they have never seen one.
    • The prophets of old expressed truths about the immorality of the day and predicted their civilization’s downfall. And, their civilization did downfall. It just wan’t in most any of their lifetimes. 
  • (2) The Bible’s central message isn’t hate, it’s love – love for the oppressed.
    • Count the number of times love and the less fortunate are asked to be protected
    • Learn of how (1) the other cheek, (2) walking the second mile, and (3) giving your second garment were acts of sedition and brilliant fighting power with love. (My mini-course.)
Reading in, taking out
The Bible is a vast, disjointed work and not a cohesive narrative; that means one can read into it and find what one is looking for.
  • Eisegesis = Reading in
  • Exegesis = Taking out
Eisegesis is looking at one’s own point of view and reading that into the text. Exegesis means taking what is in a text and finding out what it means.
Most eisegesists (people who do eisegesis) claim that they’re doing exegesis, that this is what the text truly says. But, I’m a firm believer that there really isn’t such a thing as exegesis. I believe that we all approach a text with our own point of view, and we bring that point of view to the text.
Reading a notion of original sin into the Genesis story is eisegesis. Reading into the Genesis story that the devil was the one tempting Adam and Eve is eisegesis. These elements are not written into the text. The word “sin” isn’t used in the Bible until an untranslatable sentence after the expulsion from the garden. The devil isn’t mentioned in the Hebrew Bible until the book of Job. They are ideas that are brought into the text. I have had many discussions with people who told me that the serpent in the garden was the devil and that eating of the fruit was original sin. But, to me, these are moments of eisegesis.
A phrase I heard in rabbinical school: “a donkey reading the Bible will find all the passages about donkeys in the Bible.” What’s in the Bible depends on what you think you are going to find in the roughly 750,000 words.
In his book Rabbi Jesus: an Intimate Biography, Bruce Chilton explains that disparate groups all point to the same book to prove their own certainty.

…the apocalyptic fervor of the Branch Davidians; the mystical disciplines of Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen; the insistence upon full immersion in water and in Spirit among the Baptists; the charismatic healing of revivalists, whether under tents or on television; the political activism of Liberation theology; the ethics of Albert Schweitzer and the compassion of Mother Teresa; the compulsive socializing over meals, whether in the formal liturgy of the Mass or in covered-dish suppers in churches all over the world.

The truth about the Bible
I will be as honest as I can be and tell you that this is exactly what I am doing, as well. I’m reading into the text what I want to find in it. And, I firmly believe that when you take the context of the times into account, the text shows God being eternal, open, non-particularistic and about love.
Of course, the Reverend Myckal Morehouse and the folk on the other side are equally certain.
And, as we know, being certain only means that you are certain, not that you are right.
God is not an ass
From how I understand the Bible, it’s not about hatred. God’s not an asshole.
Thomas Paine said, “Belief in cruel God makes for a cruel humanity.”
Let’s anthropomorphize for a moment. For the Reverend Myckal Morehouse to be correct, that there are hidden messages in the Bible that show God disillusioned with humanity and willing to destroy the world, God would have to be a dick. Only a dick would put a secret message in a book for only a few people to receive and damn all others to eternal torment.
I don’t see the world as cruel. And, therefore, I don’t see the message of the Bible or of God as such. I see that our job as humans is to live and to love.
God is not an ass. (Love as much as you can.)
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40 curiosity-satisfying, soul-nuturing messages from rB
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