I’ve been struggling a bit with my faith lately. I’m not doubting God’s existence and I’m not wondering if I still consider myself a Christian, because the answers to both are yes and definitely yes. My struggle, or confusion rather, is dealing with The Bible.
I’ve been listening to Christian songs, Bible verses, and sermons since I was an infant. I attended an array of Christian churches from nursery age up until now, and went to a private Christian school for elementary and middle school. Needless to say, I have memorized a few Bible verses in my day. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve started exploring the Bible in different ways, and looking into scripture that I haven’t before.
John 3:16 (for God so loved the world), Phillipians 4:13 (I can do all things), Romans 3:23 (for all have sinned) – these among many others are the well known verses, the ones that are plastered on Sunday School walls, spewed on mission trips, and printed in church bulletins. But what about the verses that are not discussed as much, the less popular ones? 1 Timothy 2:9-14, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Deuteronomy 13:5, 13-21, Leviticus 19:19-37. Not familiar with any of them?
9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
5 A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this. 13 If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her 14 and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” 15 then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin.20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.
19 Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. 23 When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. 27 Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. 28 Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
I’ve never really questioned the Bible before, it didn’t feel right. For nearly 27 years I’ve been taught that it is the absolute truth and the ultimate law according to my religion. I accepted it and when people would question my faith by throwing out verses like the ones above, I would ignore their claims and respond, “I believe what I believe, nobody is perfect. We all break God’s rules, but we try to be better every day.” AKA, a mild form of Christianese.
I would write off their disbelief and challenges because I didn’t want to think about it, my entire life’s belief system in question was and is scary. I do believe that you can’t fully trust in something until you’ve doubted it at some point, so I am taking advantage of that motto- I am diving into the pool of questioning, challenging, and exploration head first without the fear I’ve felt surrounding it for so long. I am not doubting that the Bible is God’s word, I’m just doubting how practical many parts of it are for our current society. Because possible more important than anything else, I LOVE my men’s Nike sweatpants. I can’t really do without those, sorry Deuteronomy 22.
Some believers say “it was, is, and always will be relevant, that’s the great thing about The Bible.” I’ve even said those words myself, but I no longer think that is realistic, or even true. If that were the case, why do devout Christians get tattoos, wear jewelry, braid their hair, and let women speak (or *GASP* even preach) in church? Who decided that those commandments are okay to ignore, but homosexuality and premarital sex, to name two of the “doozie sins”, should not be messed with? If the Bible says sin is sin and all sins keep people distanced from God, shouldn’t the cotton/polyester sweater I’m currently wearing be just as sinful as cheating on my husband or stealing from my neighbor? Why are certain commandments dismissed in the eyes of many (read:most) Christians?
Now, I do believe that many of God’s commandments have practical application to our lives, even if you don’t believe in God or The Bible. Not committing adultery, loving our neighbors, respecting our parents, abstaining from sex until marriage,
and stoning non-virgin brides are generally good guidelines to help our lives maintain less chaos, distress, and STD’s. But how can I, as a Christian, believe in every single story, idea, and commandment that the Bible preaches when there are so many verses that are ignored and labeled as “not relevant to today’s society.”
In doing some research on Christian responses to seemingly irrelevant Bible verses, I discovered some very interesting essays. One of them was by a man who calls himself “The Bible Thumping Liberal”, hah! His post titled “You Can’t Quote Leviticus to Prove God Hates Homosexuality” is particularly intriguing.
If someone uses Leviticus 18:22 or 20:13 to prove that God hates homosexuality, challenge them on it. Tell them, “Don’t quote Leviticus to me. In Galatians Paul says we are no longer under the Law. Paul said Leviticus is the yoke of slavery, Galatians 5:1.”
Please note: I did not say that the Old Testament is irrelevant to us. And I did not say that the Law is irrelevant to us.
The WHOLE Bible is relevant.
All I said is that you cannot legitimately quote Leviticus to prove that God hates homosexuality. If you make people accountable to obey the Law, you bring them under a curse. The Apostle Paul said so in Galatians.
While the above excerpt from his post is mostly in regards to homosexuality, I think it can also relate to other rules and teachings of The Bible too. I think it does anyway. To be honest, after reading several sermons, blogs, and semi-awful Yahoo Questions responses, I may be more confused than I was to start with.
I’d love to hear some thoughts from people of all walks of faith, and those with no faith in a higher power whatsoever. I am open-minded and would love to hear some different perspective, something that will help me maybe understand. I know that inside, it feels better to believe that The Bible is a guideline as opposed to the absolute and complete law, because I just can’t wrap my mind around parts of that. I believe that I am a Christian and I do talk to God often- however I don’t believe that other religions or even sects of Christianity are “doing it wrong” because they don’t believe the exact things I believe. The same way I don’t want other religions thinking I’m “doing religion wrong” because I interpret The Bible differently than they do.
Didn’t God give us each beautifully diverse minds and spirits so we can view life and matters of the heart differently? Why then would He look down on the many, many different religions and say “no, most of you are doing it wrong. Only the United Methodist Church (or insert other religion or denomination here) has it right. Shame on the others who are so stupidly practicing their faith too loosely (or too strictly).” I just don’t believe that.
I think religion (and faith in general) is personal and should be experienced differently by every single person. So my questions and internal struggle still remains- how should I interpret and follow The Bible when so many parts of it seem…irrelevant?
How have you structured your life around your individual belief system, if you have one at all?