An essay donated by "Linda"
Reading the Bible
Most people, when they decide to sit down and read a good book, will open it to the beginning, and start to read. If the book deals with some historical theme, many will also do a little research on the time period, etc, to aid in their understanding of the story. So when they have finished the last chapter, and close the book, they have a pretty good idea of what they have just read.
There is one book though, that is almost NEVER read that way by the millions and millions who claim it is the MOST important book, a guide for our very lives, and the blueprint for our salvation, and that book is the Bible.
The usual approach is where a person joins a church that they like, and in the course of Bible "study", they are introduced to a series of Scriptures that seem to reinforce the church's teachings. Because they respect the leaders of their church, they usually don't question WHY a Scripture is getting a particular interpretation, but they usually learn to quote it on demand.
This to me, is an asinine way to read ANY book that one is trying to understand. For example, let's say I wanted to read Gone With The Wind. I have no working knowledge of the Civil War, or why it was fought, or who the characters are, etc. And I begin by reading the last chapter, then reading a few sentences from chapter 3, then add a few lines from chapter 7, and also a few passages from chapters 2-8...If that is going to be my approach, then I'll bet folding money that¬ I could read it for the next 30 years, and have NO CLUE what Margaret Mitchell was talking about!
Well, if the Bible really IS that important, shouldn't you be reading it VERY carefully? I'll bet most so-called Christians read their morning paper with more discernment, and the New York Times isn't going to help with your salvation! Shouldn't the Christian be "testing" the teachings of their leaders with Scripture? When the pastor or whatever stands there and tells you that God condemns the homosexual, shouldn't you be calling him/her on it? "Show me WHERE you get that." is what you should be demanding. And you shouldn't be settling for a mere re-quote of the Scripture, you should be demanding the leader to explain the greater context of the Scripture. Instead of allowing him/her to requote Romans 1:26 and go "See? It says it right there.", you should demand that he/she discuss the entire chapter, and explain where they get an anti-gay message from a chapter that is clearly discussing idolatry. And any Christian that is quoting texts from Leviticus in order to condemn another believer should be forced to address what Christian teaching has to say about "judaizers" who did this exact thing during the early days of Christianity. (hint: they weren't given medals for their ability to quote Scripture..)
Unfortunately though, most Christians have an appalling lack of knowledge about the book they claim is so important. This makes it very easy for "wolves in sheep's clothing" to mislead the flock with "strange teachings", and the "doctrines of men", and to spin fanciful tales that¬ blind the flock to the real teachings of Christ, and substitute a "new Law code" for the grace that the Christian has been promised.
I think I have it a little easier than many. Although I recieved a traditional Christian education when young, I fell away from religion for a long time, unable to deal with the hypocrisy and other BS. So, I wasn't 'drilled' the way some are. I'm also an avid reader, and¬ was disturbed and angered by¬ the approach to reading the Bible used by most churches, where Scripture was so grossly misinterpreted with no consideration at all for context. So, when I decided to actually read the thing, I found that I did NOT get the same message from Scripture as they did. In fact, I DEFY anyone to justify many traditional Christian teachings with Scripture alone, I'm sorry, but many of the most cherished beliefs that Christians hold, esp. when it comes to social issues, are simply NOT there. The Scriptures must be torn apart and reassembled in order to make their case. And, in many cases, other writings, non-Scriptural, must also be drawn in and given the same weight as Scripture in order to complete the argument.
I wrote this because I have grown very weary of seeing God "hijacked" by groups with an agenda. And the only way to prevent this is for the Christian to arm himself with knowledge of what God wants from us. So, READ the Bible, for yourself. The proper way, that is, in it's entirety. Learn about the historical context, as many incidents cannot be understood without knowing the background.¬ Meditate on what you have read. If you see something that seems outrageous, look deeper into it. WHY is this being said? To whom? What's the background? Is this something that is also¬ addressed elsewhere?
You cannot leave it to your leaders to do this for you. When your time comes to stand before the Great Judge, those leaders are not going to be there with you like some kind of defense attorney. Trust me, they are going to have their own issues to worry about, you are on your own. You'd better be able to explain yourself