The Bible is a mixed blessing of great spiritual information and power along with perplexing inconsistencies and a tumultuous history of distortions and abusive use against powerless people. The Bible holds out hope in the truth about God’s unconditional love and acceptance of all people, and at the same time the Bible is being used by legalistic homophobic religions as a weapon to attack, oppress, and destroy Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender people.
How often have you heard the words “The Bible says …” followed by verbal, emotional and religious abuse, rejection and invalidation of you as a person? Did God intend that the Bible should be used to cause the human suffering that is being endured from religion by GLBT people today? Did God intend that the Bible should be used to incite self-destructive and suicidal behavior in multitudes of homosexual teenagers?
WHAT IS THE BIBLE, ANYWAY?
1. The Bible is not God and does not claim to be God. The Bible is a book. The word “bible” is the word for “book” that comes from Greek “biblos”, the term for the bark of the papyrus plant, which was used for writing material and which also was linked to the name of the Phoenician city of Byblos, where book making materials were developed and one of the places where books began to take the form of stacks of pages bound on one edge (codex) instead of the ancient form of scrolls.
2. “The Bible is not the fourth member of the Trinity. You are.” This statement in my web site material on the Bible has brought a lot of criticism, ridicule and hate mail my way! Jesus in John 17 made clear his intention that his followers would speak for him and represent him and God as living messages of love and truth. Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:1-3 called his readers “living letters” that communicate God’s message more effectively than words written on stone or paper.
3. In John 1:1-14 Jesus is called the “word of God.” The Bible as a book never calls itself “the word of God.” Remember that the early church accepted the New Testament writings gradually, beginning with the Four Gospels and Acts and adding Paul’s letters and other writings until about A.D. 1000, when the book of Revelation was accepted in all of the churches.
4. Warnings against distortions and the abusive use of Scripture are found throughout the teachings of Jesus. Paul, especially in 2 Corinthians, warned against distorting and misusing his letters. 2 Peter 3:14-18 issued a strong rebuke against “unstable and untaught” Bible abusers who distorted Paul’s writings as well as the rest of Scriptures “to their own destruction.”
5. The Bible was not necessary for Christianity. The early spread of Christianity throughout the Roman world took place before the Bible reached the form that it had at the time in A.D. 325 when Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. The message of Jesus was taken to the world personally by word of mouth before it was written down and organized into the present New Testament that we have today.
6. The Bible is a collection of ancient writings produced over a period of approximately 1000 years that express and reflect many different languages, cultures, philosophies and human experiences. Out-of-context and incorrectly translated passages from the Bible have been used for centuries to teach conflicting and contradictory interpretations of God and religion. The result has been both a splintering and a discrediting of the true purpose and message of the Bible. For Christians, Jesus is the obvious Bible corrective to abusive uses of the Bible and religion to hurt and destroy people. Misuse of the Bible is heightened by the fact that not a single word used in the Bible means exactly the same thing today that it did when the Bible was formed 2,000 years ago.
7. The Bible and other major world religions have often been used to teach and enforce ideas that build and sustain religious and political control over people. Especially in times of war, nations turn to religion to motivate soldiers to fight to the death, from the extremes of suicide bombers in World War II and religious teachings that convinced armies that death in battle meant immediate transportation to heaven to the religion based patriotism of both sides in the U.S. Civil war and in every war since.
Soon after the Bible reached its present form in the fourth century, the Roman Emperor Constantine began to adapt Christianity to fit the existing religious, political and military forms of the Roman Empire. As Christianity spread throughout the Roman world, pragmatic politics combined teachings of the church with various cultures, philosophies, societies and religions along the way. By the time of the Reformation in 1517, the Bible had been used not to find truth but to justify and explain a vast system of religion, politics and power that had taken fifteen hundred years to develop.
The use of the Bible to justify and explain existing culture, religion and politics continues unabated today in spite of great advances in every field of research and knowledge. Even in our present “information revolution” brought on by computers, the Internet and a rising flood of fresh new information, the Bible is being used by many people to justify and explain misinformed and illogical beliefs.
PRESENT PROGRESS FOR GLBT PEOPLE
Our present progress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender self-acceptance, self-esteem, and acceptance in society and religion is just one step on a long, long path to the light at the end of the tunnel. The clear message of Jesus is multi-dimensional and flexible enough to be experienced and expressed in millions of individual ways. Human diversity is encouraged and enhanced by the life and message of Jesus. The use of the Bible to limit and control human diversity is a contradiction of the Spirit of Jesus. “Where the Spirit of Jesus is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17.
In view of the life and message of Jesus, how could anyone maintain that God intended that the Bible should be used to humiliate, condemn and destroy people because of their sexual orientation? How could anyone justify the use of the Bible to teach Gay and Lesbian teens to fear and hate themselves so much that they develop self-destructive and suicidal thoughts and behavior? When will misinformed hateful distortions of the Bible finally cease and the Spirit of Jesus prevail?
The author of Invitation To Freedom and Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse, Rev. Rembert S. Truluck served in Metropolitan Community Churches in Atlanta, San Francisco and Nashville from 1988 to 1996. He earned a doctorate in sacred theology from Furman University, serving from 1953 to 1973 as a Southern Baptist preacher. He resigned as a professor at Baptist College at Charleston (now Charleston Southern University) and became an MCC pastor after being outed to the college’s board of trustees.