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Bishop Spong On: The Terrible Texts

Adapted from: The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Discover the God of Love

John Shelby Spong on the Terrible Texts of the Bible

RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY:
“No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6)
This text has helped to create a world where adherents of one religion feel compelled to kill adherents of another. A veritable renaissance of religious terror now confronts us and is making against us the claims we have long made against religious traditions different from our own.

ANTI-SEMITISM:
And the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children’” (Matt. 27:25)
No other verse of Holy Scripture has been responsible for so much violence and so much bloodshed. People convinced that these words conferred legitimacy and even holiness on their hostility have killed millions of Jewish people over history. Far more than Christians today seem to understand, to call the Bible “Word of God” in any sense is to legitimize this hatred reflected in its pages.

SEXISM:
For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” (1Cor. 8-9)
The message of the Christian church was once that women are evil to their core and it was built on the story of Eve. She was taken out of man and was not his equal, but his helpmeet. Evil entered human history through the weakness of the woman. She was made to bear the blame and the guilt. She was the source of death.

HOMOPHOBIA:
“…the men of Sodom…to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.’” (Lev. 18:22)
This story that portrays all of the men of Sodom as eager to gang-rape two heavenly visitors has been used to condemn faithful and loving homosexual relationships. A story in which a father, in order to protect the Middle Eastern code of hospitality, can offer his virgin daughters to be gang-raped, and still be regarded by both God and the author of this story as righteous, has been turned by the prejudices of later interpreters into an anti-homosexual text that feeds the basest side of our humanity. How is that possible unless prejudice overwhelms rationality and moral judgment?

The church has sought to portray Jesus as sharing an anti-female bias that includes a commitment to celibacy. But there is a repressed tradition that counters this teaching, in the story of Mary, the sister of Martha, anointing Jesus’ feet (John 12:1-8). The only thing that would have made such an act acceptable in that day is the knowledge she was his wife.

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT:
“Do not withhold discipline from a child….If you beat him with a rod, you will save his life from Sheol” (Prov. 23:13, 14)
It validates our own violence, since when we abuse others we are only acting after the example which God has set for us. God even required the crucifixion of the Son. The punishing God is thus replicated in the punishing parent, the punishing authority figure and the punishing nation. Violence is redemptive. War is justified. Bloodshed is the way of salvation. It all fits together so tightly, so neatly, and it justifies the most destructive and demeaning of human emotions.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION:
“Be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth” (Gen. 1:28)
We human beings are not some alien visitors who happen to be on the planet earth. Our human life is part of this planet. Heaven is not our home. The earth is. Once this supposed divine command was seen as necessary to enable the human race to survive. Now it must be seen as nothing less than a prescription for human genocide. If followed literally, this “Word of God” all but guarantees our annihilation.

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