I grew up in a subculture that assumed it’s understanding of scripture passages equaled “God said it, that settles it.” I bought into that for decades. Questioning such things was not allowed and usually resulted in condemnation and ostracizing (typical cultic tools to insure conformity).
When I finally had enough serious questions that I actually started asking them… AND getting satisfying answers… well, I saw “the man behind the curtain” for what he was – not a wizard at all, but just a guy who had opinions and was confused about how authoritative his opinions were.
To this day when I see people trying to make “biblical arguments” as if their understanding of a collection of scripture passages is “Truth” for all time in all cultures, I want to engage them but they are so deep into a paradigm I’ve discarded that communication on their topic is almost impossible.
You see, they have to start with so many assumptions about the nature of scripture, the validity of their understanding of it, and the quality of their implications about it. In other words, they start off by strongly assuming they are “right”. So what could have been a discussion about actual ideas becomes a serious threat to a cherished paradigm that provides safety and structure to their lives. It used to provide that for me… used to. Whether the topic is the distant future, the distant past, or sociological issues like abortion, homosexuality, feminism, etc., it is incredibly challenging to discuss it across paradigms.
I now view scripture as written by men in their times and places with their evolving understanding of God and the universe. I think it’s obvious as I scan scripture that thought patterns changed from author to author. My job is to try to understand what the authors thought and were trying to communicate to their culture, and to compare that to what we have learned since. I don’t think God was changing at all throughout scripture, I just think humankind had the wrong ideas about God (starting from a place of fear and violence rather than love and restoration). We go to the scriptures to gain insight and wisdom, whether or not we agree with each author’s perspective.
It’s my contention that the words and life of Jesus are the best example of what God is really like. So when I look at who he loves (and how), when I see who he corrects or scolds (and how)… I do not see the smug condemnation and use of fear, shame, & guilt that I have seen all my life in religious circles. That tells me a LOT. I appreciate those who try to follow his way of living, especially the outwardly religious types because they are the few who don’t give “Christianity” a bad name. These are the ones who understand the new commandment Jesus gave his followers before his death: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
That’s the kind of person I want to be. It takes time, effort, and lots of forgiving yourself because failure is guaranteed. Lots of it. Please be patient with me, and I’ll do my best to be patient with you as we aim to exude the kind of love that restores rather than divides, that heals rather than injures, that comforts rather than terrorizes.
Love. Maybe that’s the way to communicate across paradigms. Maybe that’s the bridge. It’s the one I aim to cross at least.