Lately I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to judge the entire character of a person based on an isolated comment on social media – especially if it’s related to politics. All the assumptions you can make, the stereotypes, the judgments, come easily. Intent and inflection are utterly lost.
I was talking to my mom recently about how hard it’s been to maintain certain friendships since Trump was elected, and which political views, if any, ought to be considered relationship dealbreakers. She said something that really got me thinking (I forget sometimes that she still has much to teach me): “There are some people I’ve made a conscious effort to keep in touch with even if I find some of their politics abhorrent, because I have the ability to see the whole person. The same people who voted for Trump also made meals for us when your father was sick, walked our dogs, and helped out in other ways when they didn’t have to. I have to think that there’s still goodness in them.”
I have the ability to see the whole person. The whole picture. In a roundabout way, I realized that that is the same way I feel about the Bible: some parts, like the rape, the genocide, and misogynistic laws, I find abhorrent. Other parts, like the Psalms, the Beatitudes, and parables, are beautiful.
When it comes to relationships with people, you can’t discard the parts of them you don’t like — you take them or leave them as they are. The Bible is the same way.
In the same way that long-term relationships allow you to see the entirety of a person, flaws and all, we have the ability to see the bigger picture that Scripture points to. We can see the good, the bad, and the ugly laid bare between two covers. There is beauty and ugliness and progressive steps forward and regressive steps back, but with an arc that bends toward justice — towards the good.
With people, we can see their progressive revelation, if you will, from young and naïve to mature and well-rounded. We witness their bad choices and how they learned from them. We see how they can screw up and still do good things.
And in biblical history, we see how the influences of a violent and patriarchal culture affect Israel’s understanding of God, and how He worked through them anyway, because He, too, saw the Bigger Picture. The entirety of what they were and what they could be.
Maybe that’s a simplistic way of looking at it, but that conversation gave me much to think about. I don’t expect people to be perfect before I can love them, and I don’t need the Bible to be a warm and fuzzy book throughout in order to still be useful for teaching, rebuking, and growing.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
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3 thoughts on “Seeing the Bible the way we do people”
The problem with today’s political , social and religious discourse is that it is besieged by people who base their view and their view of others upon absolutist assumption of what they think and what they think the other thinks and a absolutism into any and every sphere that makes everything tribal, whether it’s something mundane or something vitally important .
For example in respect to politics I voted for Brexit. This in a British context puts me , in the eyes of the” liberal left” , before I’m even explaining my view point , as automatic racist, xenophobic, uneducated, easily deceived, poor , but even worse , hypocritical (as my grandparents were immigrants ,although I never based my Brexit vote on immigration) , a sort of creature from the blue lagoon, on a par with Genghis Khan. As a collary to this and in an American context , I’m automatically and magically assumed to be a “Trump supporter” (of which I’m not).
In addition , there’s an underlying assumption based upon an archetype of a person with a particular view , which morphs into further assumptions about my other political / social views.
If one identities as left or right , you must be further “yoked” to the entirety of the package, which has been decided by someone else for you. Having an independent or otherwise view isn’t having the capacity to make your own mind up but an insincere “cherry picking” person who isn’t a true believer . If you agree with Trump on just one policy you are a “neo Nazi”. If you agree with democrats on one policy you are a “lib tard”
In respect of my absolutism comment, I mean that you cannot seem to escape politics or at least the worst kind of poisonous politics that goes beyond policy or philosophy into something primordial and tribe like. It drips like fat on a bbq onto non political forums.
So if I want to chill and take time out from politics and discuss my favourite pastime of science fiction ; true, it does cover a certain amount of politics and social commentary, but in which cleverly done sci-fi, will allow the reader to make their minds up . But instead we get a social- politics discussion by proxy. So instead of discussion on whether or not star wars is any good , it’s replaced by mountains of rantings about “SJWs” and “political correctness”, which then is countered by accusations of bigotry, sexism,” you’re obviously a Trump /Brexit supporter”. That’s before I log onto a Dr Who forum and its all about the fact the character has changed into a woman and not about the quality of the plot or acting.
This is probably why I don’t bother with a lot of forums. Except yours😃
That’s what I love about the Bible – no “fake news” or propaganda there!
Beth, excellent analogy. I never thought of scripture quite this way. Now I will! Thanks.
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