Monday, August 31, 2020

The Inspired Word or Men with Agendas?

There was a time not too many years ago when I never questioned my faith or what would become of my soul once I'm gone from this life. Attending weekly services at Hosanna (the megachurch a mile from home) was oftentimes the highlight of my week. I had a reading plan that would take me through the entirety of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible within the span of a year and I did this for many years on end. I was all-in with my Christian faith. Jesus was the answer and the only way to receive the gift of eternal life. There was nothing more to discuss or consider, or so I thought. 

I don't know if I should feel sad or relieved, or possibly even angry, but I'm no longer that person. 

I've been slowly but steadily drifting away from the moorings of my faith for a number of years. Initially, it was realizing that the more I read my Bible, the more I questioned what I was reading—especially what's written in the Old Testament. I could no longer read the first 5 books of the Bible (those authored by Moses) without questioning if what I was reading was truly God-inspired or more likely, Moses's interpretation of how he deemed life should be. My first inkling of this occurred when reading Leviticus 18 where Moses writes about sexual sin. He lists numerous forbidden sexual scenarios but never once does he mention abuse of one's own child. This blatant omission seemed odd to me and caused me to begin to wonder about the authenticity of what I was reading—was it truly God-inspired? 

Easily the most troubling verse in the Bible for me is found in Deuteronomy 22, verses 28-29 where it talks about a virgin woman who is raped and how the rapist shall pay her father 50 shekels and she shall marry her rapist. My understanding of this scripture was that back in biblical times, a raped woman was considered to be damaged goods, whose prospects for acceptance by others in society were greatly diminished. Better for her to live a life of torment at the hands of her rapist than to die destitute on the street. I didn't accept that explanation and wondered why God didn't simply instruct the Israelites to not shun the woman and to make sure she was provided for. Wouldn't that make more sense? Apparently, not to Moses. 

There were many other instances in the Bible that flew in the face of my understanding that "God is love" and I couldn't help but notice them jump off the pages at me as I'd work my way through the ancient writings. Was I wasting my time continuing on in what seemed to be a futile effort to make sense of so much that seemed to disagree with my understanding of Christianity—with what I'd been taught about the faith I'd practiced all my life? King David was a revered leader who we're told was always seeking after God, yet he was a vile man who killed thousands of people and had hundreds of wives and concubines. I thought of him when the senior pastor at our church, Bill Bohline, fired his lead cook for being in a same-sex relationship. It made no sense when put in context with what's written in the book that embodies our faith while lifting up people within it for us to admire; King David being one of them. It was just another brick removed from the crumbling foundation of the faith I embraced.

I think it would be foolish to not question the motives of the authors of the Bible, especially when I see the way the church has been corrupted by conservative politics. Can you imagine the Bible being written by people involved in the church today—by the same people who hold up Trump as some sort of good and honest man who is fighting the forces of evil—the "deep state"—in our country today? Would they write about the way he gave tax breaks to the wealthy while taking from programs designed to benefit the neediest among us? Would they write about his dishonesty, his narcissism, and bullying? Would they write about his lack of leadership—how he played golf in the face of a global pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands in our country, all the while fanning the flames of hatred and racism that are tearing our nation to shreds as a way to help him retain power? Is he their King David of our times? Would they write about our bloated military and the obscene amount of money we throw at it while many go hungry and have little means to pay for healthcare? Would they take a pass on the story of Gideon because of its inconvenience to their narrative of the need for a strong military? 

When I finished reading my Bible for the 7th time, I was left with more questions than answers and decided I was done with it. I was no longer going to try and force the square peg into the round hole. Sure, I could just ignore those passages that are troubling to me the way the church ignores them but that seemed disingenuous. The Bible is either the word of God or it's just a collection of writings by various authors, all with their own stories to tell and their own agendas to put forward.

I have a fairly good idea that a Christian Bible written today would bear little resemblance to anything a loving God would inspire. And so I'm left wondering if the Bible used in churches and embraced by Christians around the world today was also influenced by men with an agenda who said they were inspired by God? I'm quite certain I know the answer. 

Pascal's Wager is intriguing but how does one pretend to believe in something?

Instead, I acknowledge that there's a higher power, unseen, possibly unfathomable from my perspective but out there. Reincarnation now holds a place in my ever-evolving belief system alongside my belief that there are powers of both good and evil at play in the world. 

I pray daily and in those prayers, I pray to Jesus. I don't expect that will ever change for me. It's part of who I've become and I'm not desiring to leave that part of me behind. My belief in a higher power, though, disregards a lot of the noise in the Bible. It's a book written by men, often for the benefit of men—literally, men. 

It's where my thinking is at these days for when I return here to what I've written years from now to see how my life has evolved.

Switching gears.

I've been getting in more golf than ever, sometimes teeing it up well before sunrise with Wally at CreeksBend Golf Course. I have to laugh because it's nearly impossible to follow to flight of the ball on the first tee but we've never failed to find our shots in the fairway, at least not yet. I never imagined myself being an early morning golfer but I've become one. It's the only way to go when the hot, humid air settles in by mid-morning. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's round of golf. Steve and I are meeting in Winona to play The Bridges Golf Course. It's an awesome course that I've played twice in the past, two years ago. The weather promises to be outstanding!

My riding has taken a bit of a back seat to my time on the links and I'm okay with that. I can ride year-round but golfing comes to an abrupt end in about two months. Here are a few ride videos since last updating my blog.

That's all I've got.

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