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Entry 12 – “Cherry Picked” Bible Verses – to follow or not to follow

November 7, 2009

From last time,  I mentioned briefly that I don’t believe most followers of sacred texts said to originate from supernatural beings adhere to all the tenets of said respective texts.  They do a fair amount of “cherry picking” if you will of which rules to follow and which to ignore.  For example, the book of Leviticus is very clear on how to deal with people who blaspheme ‘the Name’ (ie. ‘Yahweh’).  Here is the New International Version or NIV (a very popular translation of the Christian Bible) of what happened to Shelomith’s son who made the mistake of cursing God (Chapter 24):

10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them.

 13 Then the LORD said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: ‘If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.

A disturbing tale to say the least.  I don’t even want to disect it really, except to say that I think most Christians and Jews today would find such practices reprehensible, and a bit much in terms of punishment.  I hope that is the case anyway.  In essence then, this verse has been ‘left on the tree’ so to speak.  It wasn’t ‘cherry picked’ for obeyance (ie. it’s not followed by today’s Churches).  We don’t see ‘blasphemer police squads’ running around on Saturday nights taking people out of the bars who are cursing God for various and sundry reasons to have their heads essentially bashed in by stones or their internal organs bruised beyond repair by quartzitic sandstones hurled with violent force.  And again, for that I am so grateful. 

Instead what most Christians do is take a lot of the Old Testament, call it essentially ‘Old Skool’ if you will, still good, still God’s “Word”, just ‘We don’t do that kind of thing anymore”, “That was Then, This is Now” kind of a retort.  Most Christians today go with the more socially acceptable, peace loving parts of the New Testament; the Joel Osteen-ey, feel good Jesus-isms from the New Testament.  For example, Jesus heals a crippled woman on the sabbatth in Luke Chapter 13 of the Christian Bible.  The Jewish leaders were none too pleased and basically just came out and said he had disobeyed the law of God.  Jesus’ fiery comeback to these “indignants” is “You hypocrites!” and goes on to excoriate them for thinking what he has done was a violable act.   In essence, Christians “cherry pick” this very rebellious, yet compassionate move by Jesus in disobeying the rules of the Sabbath in the New Testament and say that it is OK to help people even on Sundays.  Jesus has made it OK and created an exception to the very strict rules for sabbath adherence set forth in the Old Testament.  Again, quite grateful that this cherry picking is going on. 

But here is the ultimate rub with sacred texts and their respective religions.  Which statements out of these sacred texts are the majority of people going to follow and which ones are going to be ignored?  Is there any verse in the Bible where one can read that there has been an expiration of the need to stone people for blaspheming “the Name’?  Someone who doesn’t know any better could turn to Leviticus and say, “Well, I guess according to this text we need to get this guy who just used God’s name in vain outside and start pumping him full of sedimentary rocks!”  Granted, most people have enough sense in our culture to not do that.  Again, very thankful for that.  Still, we have a sacred text that doesn’t have any kind of expirations on these laws.  Last time I checked Leviticus is still a part of the Jewish and Christian sacred texts; canonized, often cited, widely read, and continually studied. 

And I am only keying in on one verse amongst a sea of verses in the Christian and Jewish sacred texts.  I’m even not venturing into the realm of the Koran or the Upanishads in Islam and Hinduism, respectively.  There are countless morally questionable treatments for how to deal with ‘wrong doers” in all manner of sacred texts that it is impossible to know which “cherries” to pick and which ones to leave on the tree.  Which brings me to my own conclusions on this matter…we shouldn’t rely on these sacred texts for how to behave in a decent manner to our fellow human beings and other carbon based life forms on the planet Earth.  Rather we should strive every day to use logic and reason to come up with just punishments for people who don’t behave decently toward one another.  In essence, we do that on a regular basis already by participating in a democracy/republic/parliament, you name it.  As far as I can tell, we don’t need a supernatural being to be involved in these proceedings of the “halls of justice”.  Not that the supernatural being CAN”T be there, just that we are perfectly capable of coming up with our own naturalistic ways of meting out humane and ultimately progressive punishments for the citizens of our world that disobey the law. 

For next time, I’d like to make a few comments on a book that was given to me by a family member, the very popular best seller, “The Purpose Driven Life”, by Rick Warren.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2009 3:12 pm

    “Most Christians want it both ways. They want to be able to proudly declare they are believers in the Bible and yet simply ignore those parts they find too difficult or too inconvenient to believe.” –Dan Brown, “The Lost Symbol”

    • Anonymous permalink*
      November 14, 2009 6:46 am

      Thanks, Rob, for that comment. Very apropos and timely from Mr. Brown.

  2. November 8, 2009 6:29 pm

    One of my favorites from Romans 1:

    26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

    Modern day interpretation:
    Homosexual activity = damnable, unforgivable offense
    Gossiping = standard Sunday-morning-church activity

    • Anonymous permalink*
      November 14, 2009 6:51 am

      Thanks again, Rob, for sharing your thoughts. I’d forgotten about that verse in Romans. Nice example of cherry picking for sure. I often wonder how Christianity might have developed so much differently had the interjections of Paul been “voted off the island” so to speak.

  3. Kat Goodwin permalink
    November 13, 2009 6:04 pm

    As you point out, religion does not utilize logic, but rather fear to control people. Fear creates all the non-fruits of the spirit. Logic, reason, critical thinking are our friends as homo sapiens. Another asset we each possess as human beings in the struggle to make the “right” choices on a daily basis is our own heart, which I have found, when I tap into it sometimes does not seem logical either. So, I cannot put the grey matter alone on a pedestal. I try to funnel my choices from my head through my heart…

    *****************

  4. Anonymous permalink*
    November 14, 2009 6:56 am

    Point well taken, Kat. Thank you for sharing that. I think we often get caught up in the logic of an arguement, and forget about the very real, very raw, emotional aspects of the same. Would like to explore this dichotomy you bring up of the “head” versus the “heart” in a future blogpost. Thanks again!

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