Monday, September 10, 2012

Parting Ways... and what I don't (and do) believe about the BIBLE!

Did I mention I've just made the decision to pull my kids out of the Christian School they're currently attending?

A big part of the reason is simply financial.  We've been struggling to make ends meet, and it has been necessary to re-evaluate.   Then there's the fact that Hannah's social group seems to have disappeared (and it is a very small school - a factor that attracted us in the first place, and up until now has been a lovely thing!).  I've appreciated lots of things about the school community.  Both of my kids have some "quirks" (how could they not, with me as a mother!) that mean they sometimes need a bit of extra understanding and TLC - and the teachers they've had there have been supportive, gracious and caring. If I needed to look for examples of love, from people who are invested in the Christian "institution" - I could very honestly say that I have seen them there, with a consistency that can't, and shouldn't, be dismissed.  I have seen, in so many of the teachers there, the genuine love of God.  If we could stop there, I would be fighting to find the funds to keep my kids in that education community.

But...  (and it's a REALLY.  BIG.  BUT.)  I've come to the conclusion that the fundamental theology  that the school teaches, is damaging my kids' faith.   I've struggled for a long time, with knowing how to share with my kids a faith that is real and life-giving, without burdening them with the same religious shackles I grew up with, and have taken not years, but decades to recover from!  I still don't have the
answer to that - but for us, at this time, "Christian" schooling is not it.  One child has been avoiding school on the days that "Biblical Studies" is being taught.  The other has simply learned to parrot when necessary, then dismiss the content as irrelevant.  They can't stomach the rigid doctrines; they are unwilling to place their thinking into the bridle and blinkers being offered - and I wholeheartedly support them!  Signing up to a specific doctrinal stance, and swearing allegiance to a single, culturally and historically determined "interpretation" is NOT faith.  It is most definitely not a pre-requisite for a connection with God.  Dogma and relationship are poles apart.  I want my children to discover genuine relationships with others and with God.  And this religious stuff is getting in the way!!

Somehow, the very assumption that the "foundation" for "a good Christian life" is "correct (!???!) doctrine" is something I can no longer get my head around, at all.  It makes absolutely NO sense, and the reason it makes none, is the person of Jesus.

Now, I'm still meandering towards my big Jesus manifesto...  but as I write this, I'm realising it isn't going to fit into a single post, and this one is probably a bit too higgledy piggledy to be "it" anyway.  However, since the "Biblical Studies" component at school has been catalytic in our final decision to abandon "Christian education", perhaps this is a good point to think about what it is I do and don't believe, about the Bible.

As in the "Things I don't believe" list - I may tweak this over time...  but here it is, as I see it today!
  • I don't believe that the Bible is some kind of  "magic book".  There's no inherent power in the actual printed words on the pages of whatever modern translation OR ancient document you care to name.
  • I don't believe that the printed words in translations or ancient originals are "inerrent".  Face it, translations are FULL of mistakes, and the whole thing comes, and always has done, via human perspectives.
  • I don't believe that there is only one plain, clear way to read and interpret the Bible.  Contrary to what I was often told as a young person - the truth of the Bible is NOT plain and easily read.  It is a text that needs to be wrestled with.  It is full of contradictions and difficulties, and will provoke more questions than answers.
  • I don't believe that the Bible is a "rule book".  Yes, it contains the books of Jewish religious law, but these are not the whole story, or even the whole point (I actually believe that the laws speak in pictures, of greater realities - but that's a whole other study!)
  • I don't believe the Bible is a science text.  ANY of it.  It is a collection of poetry, history and various narratives.  All of its writings are embedded in their own social and historic contexts.  None of them were written with the purpose of what we would call "scientific education" in mind.
  • I don't believe that the Bible is the ONLY way God speaks, or has ever spoken, to mankind.
  • I don't believe God stopped speaking when the "canon" of Scripture was closed.
  • I do believe that the flawed, human perspectives contained in the books we call the Bibleare valuable because they are flawed, human perspectives.  If we are meant to connect, and to relate, rather than "follow rules", it is better to have a text that cannot be followed like a rule book (and much as people have tried over centuries to do just that, I think it is obvious that this really doesn't work!)
  • I do believe that the story of the Bible is powerful, because it is the story of mankind wrestling with and grappling with understanding ultimate reality and experiencing the divine response to that wrestling.
  • I do believe that the Bible is inspired.  If it is (as I believe it is) a collection of authentic accounts of humanity (in all its gory reality) encountering the power of the divine - then the shape of the divine should be discernable within it.
  • I do believe that the Bible, in it's entirety, points to the person of Jesus.  

Incidentally - this is, according to blogger - my 100th blog post!  Perhaps I should bake myself a cake!!!  


18 comments:

  1. Thankyou for posting this. I have struggled with this for many years. It has been hard to reconcile what I truly believe (deep down inside where I live)with what I have been told to believe in church. It sticks in my craw when people bleat scriptures but then judge people. As I grow older my belief is God has grown stronger, but not my belief in church. I see God the Creator everywhere I look. I will never believe the world evolved from an atom. There are too many amazing things in the world to think that an intelligent and loving Being didn't have a hand in its creation. But I have trouble reconciling a loving God with the concept of hell. I think hell is not demons with pitchforks, but rather an absence of God. I read C.S. Lewis' book "The Great Divorce" years ago, and I really felt that his concept of heaven and hell was more the way I see it. At the end of the day the Bible is about Love. Good for you, pulling the kids out of the school. I rammed religion down my kids' throats for years, and now not one of them will set foot inside a church.

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  2. Hey, Lindy - thank you for commenting. One of the things I did want to avoid, (and I hope it is clear in my post) is slamming the school as a community - it has so many great things going for it, and I have REALLY appreciated the staff there. Only recently, Toby had a bit of a problem that needed resolving, and the way it was handled by the school was absolutely fantastic. NO complaints, there. However again and again I keep coming up against the reality that what we believe as a family is NOT the fundamental dogma that is the official stance of the school - and in some ways, being Christian, but not-so-fundamentalist-anymore - is a harder line to walk than if we were a non-believing family at the school.

    Especially as my kids get older, and are thinking more for themselves - the kind of Bible teaching they are getting there does not seem to be helpful. I probably need to have a more open discussion with the school about this (I have touched on it, but not gone into detail - mostly because I hadn't nutted it out clearly enough for myself). I do have a (possibly unfortunate) habit of thinking things through on the internet - hope it doesn't come back to bite me!! o.O!

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  3. Yes, my big mouth gets me into trouble all the time. No, you certainly didn't come across as slamming the school. I know it has been great with a lot of the kids. We had a boy living with us for a while who went there. I know kids who still go and really benefit from it. The kids are really cared for.

    I am not-so-fundamentalist-anymore either. When I do go to church I feel uncomfortable, like a backslider; but we have to be true to ourselves, and I felt like a hypocrite when I did go.

    I was just reading your description of your Blog and I found it interesting that you mentioned God is Love or alternatively that Love is God, depending on one's belief system. I love it.

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  4. Hi Kerry

    Probably a good idea, regarding the kid's school.

    Here's my summation of bible belief.

    Obey the ten commandments, and you'll stay out of trouble.

    Read and try to comprehend the parables and aphorisms of Jesus, you'll be a better person.

    The rest is .. well i wont refer to the impolite word, I usually use. Its all secondary to me. None of it is miraculous.

    History and poetry, is there somewhere, but only as another book to consult.

    Stu.

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  5. Thats OK, cause God does not have grandchildren. Faith grows best in adversity, and self knowledge from opposition.

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  6. As long as Christians are open and inclusive I don't have much to say beyond "I just don't agree with that worldview." When I try to place Christianity into its historical context (the only way I am able to entertain it at all), it just doesn't seem to be a commanding element in the overall scheme of things. I am interested in the roots of the human religious impulse. I think we all might find more agreement there than in the ways the various traditions developed and evolved. But I don't personally want to build walls. I prefer bridges and (very) low-standing hedges.

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    1. Crikey!! Hope I'm not putting walls up, here - definitely don't believe in the whole "us vs. them" thing - in saying I believe there is inspiration to be found in the Bible, I'm NOT saying it is exclusive. Far from it!!

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    2. Great comment Doug, I also am only really interested in Christianity as far as the historical (and continual) influence it has had on our society. I am not religious myself. Great post though Kerry! You are such a good writer! Also 'mankind'..... Kerry I am not a man or of the 'man' kind... I am of the humankind :-) Sorry I won't be at our writers' meeting tomorrow... I am flat out with uni, but hope to catch you in the cafe one week soon ;-)

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  7. I wasn't suggesting you are a wall-builder. I was explaining that even though I don't share the Christian worldview, seeking instead to embrace the roots of human religious impulse, that doesn't make me a wall-builder with regard to the traditions I reject. I can find much common ground with progressive, inclusive Christians.

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  8. No, Doug - you are most definitely NOT a wall builder! Pardon my paranoia! I do find it is often very difficult to talk with some people about my Christian beliefs and really be "heard" - I think the same old script just plays in their heads (understandably, I guess, since it is pretty institutionalised, just about everywhere!) and they hear only what they expect to hear... And I wasn't quite sure what you meant, for the record, but just wanted to clarify in case I'd been misunderstood. (I kind of expect you to "get" it, actually! Even if you don't quite see it the same way - you're a good listener!)

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  9. Maybe you could switch them over to the school that produces this kind of cute, non-indoctrinated, student.

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  10. A better link (with some text) is here.

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  11. Oh VERY scary stuff, Tildeb - we are all a bit rattled by this!

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    1. As we all should be. The values of islam are incompatible with Western secular values (values like your religious freedom).

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  12. Mr. T - I think any religion that simply focuses on "rules" of right and wrong, is on the continuum to this kind of scariness.... I have been there - and it is not healthy!!!

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  13. But that's what religion is: granting authority to some divine figure so that the divine rules we then are to follow are righteous. And I agree: it is not healthy. In fact, it's a sign of immaturity - a fear of independence, a fear of life on its terms - when someone cannot (or refuses to) grow up, will not accept authorship for the rules to be chosen and implemented, and refuses to leave their 'father's house'. (Care to re-read the myths of Genesis now?) It is far more difficult - and far more rewarding - to undertake the hero's journey, the quest to find meaning and purpose in life, than it is to go along with the parental rules of conduct, of someone else arbitrating what is to be done in life, what is of value, what is meaningful and worthy of our purpose. Religious belief creates the eternal surrogate parent (or the invisible but pervasive Dear Leader of the Thought Police in many cases). Is this really the legacy - the blueprint for living wisely - we want to instil in our children? To be forever dependents?

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  14. Hey, Mr T - Sorry for the slow reply... haven't been around very much, of late!

    I absolutely agree with you, that the need for rules and "external authority" is a sign of immaturity. What an incredible insight - and I totally see it!! I think you have really put your finger on something here. When we hide fearfully inside our religious frameworks and rules - it really is FEAR, not faith.

    I think though, that it could be helpful to distinguish between religion (in the sense of rigid rules and authority structures) and faith - which can be a very open and life-affirming thing, in my experience, and is something that empowers us to become mature beings.

    I still want to put together a post on who /what I believe Jesus is, and why I think he intentionally broke the power of religion - but it will have to wait until at least next week... I'm off on a little holiday, and will be "unplugging" for the next week! Talk to you after that! :)

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Feel free to leave comments - I love discussion, & diverse opinions! So comment, add your own thoughts, disagree - you are welcome.

Its okay to comment anonymously if you are shy, but I'd much rather know who you are, & always appreciate it when people "own" their own opinions. Look forward to chatting with you :)