Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Stopping Bible Abuse

A woman in Indianapolis beat her seven year old son with a coat hanger, severely enough to leave thirty-six dark purple bruises striped across his back and a hook-shaped bruise on his cheek. The abuse happened in February 2016. Her kids are safe now. (Story here.)

Legal documents filed in her defense quote Scripture to justify her actions.

Yes, please go back and read that again …

Her lawyer is arguing that something called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” gives this child abuser permission to abuse children. The child abuser said, “I was worried for my son's salvation with God after he dies,” and “I decided to punish my son to prevent him from hurting my daughter and to help him learn how to behave as God would want him to.” Even leaving aside the completely illogical and ignorant statement that hurting a child will teach them not to hurt another child, the horribly twisted theology ought to appall and anger every person of faith everywhere in the world.

And then, the second layer of the defense plan is to argue that cultural differences caused her to misunderstand the law, since harsh physical abuse is common in the woman’s culture of origin. Which is bullshit. Child abuse is child abuse in Myanmar as well as Indiana. C.S. Lewis wrote, “The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard,” and that standard is “something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behavior, and yet quite definitely real.”

And so, I will confess that a whole lot of emotion came to the surface for me when I read this story this morning. I’ve been working through a lot of that emotion in the back of my head all day as I’ve been working on other stuff. As both a foster dad and also a pastor, this story has kind of captured my attention.

Look, I know that interpreting Scripture to justify horrible things isn’t anything new. It is as old as Scripture itself, actually. As long as the Bible has been around, people have misused it to wage war, keep slaves, oppress women, commit genocide, discriminate against entire categories of people, and on and on.

So if it’s all the same to you, I’d really, really like us to stop doing that. In fact, here’s a list of simple steps that I think we ought to take, that will hopefully help us stop abusing the Bible.

1) If it is hurts another person, don’t do it, even if you believe the Bible says it’s okay.
2) Admit that you do not know everything there is to know about the Bible, much less about God.
3) Stop saying “The Bible says…” and start saying “I understand the Bible to say…”
4) Interpret difficult, ambiguous, or obscure passages in the light of the Bible’s central themes, like love, grace, justice, and peace.
5) And finally, if it hurts another person, even if you believe the Bible says it’s okay, don’t do it.

Just don’t.

The divinely inspired authors of the Holy Book of the church, the scribes who copied their words, the interpreters who took it from Hebrew and Greek and brought it to the world, the editors who so diligently pulled everything together – I’m pretty sure they weren’t doing what they did so that Indiana mom could do what she did.

And by the way, nor so that invading armies could eradicate native populations. Nor so that governments could deny equal rights for people of color. Nor so that husbands could consider wives to be personal property.

And while we're at it, nor so that bakers of cakes could discriminate against gay people. Nor so that a town in Midwestern America could call their event a Christmas parade. Nor so an employer could refuse to pay for healthcare for women employees. And so on.

Let's call it what it is. It is Bible abuse masquerading as religious freedom. It is incompatible with the Gospel. It's wrong, and it needs to stop.

So can we just stop please? It’s hurting people. And so we need to stop.

8 comments:

KC Bob said...

Good stuff Andy.

Seems like another example of a person hiding behind the bible instead of standing on it.

Ronda Thompson said...

Nice job Andy. I wish the "Pastor" who yells at people in the town square would read this. I am tired of having Bible verses slammed at me for supporting LGBT, a woman's right to choose, democrats, on and on and on. Thank you for this article.

bthomas said...

Re: Child abuse. Agree. Have no use at all for it. Much less some seeking to excuse child abuse by misuse of scripture. The mother's cultural background is not western... not likely tough love nor the kinder gentler methodology of the preferred by others. But, she isn't in the old country any more. She's in the USA. It is incumbent upon her to learn and abide by the law of this land, not the culture or custom of the old country.

As to that bit about "And while we're at it, nor so that bakers of cakes could discriminate against gay people. Nor so that a town in Midwestern America could call their event a Christmas parade. Nor so an employer could refuse to pay for healthcare for women employees. And so on." Got it. The standard of acceptable or unacceptable is that of good little left-wing liberal democrats. Got it.

Anonymous said...

And the “promoting of disobedience” while bearing the title of a reverend minister of God, is any less damaging than what this woman “as a mother”, did to her own son??? You have not a clue!

Andy B. said...

Why did you include the words "good little" in this otherwise insightful and helpful comment?

Andy B. said...

Why did you include the words "good little" in this otherwise insightful and helpful comment?

Traveling Alchemist said...

When I was a child my mother told me that the bible gave her permission to kill me if I disobeyed. I was raised in the church, with all the abusive guilt trips, and so-called correct "guidance" from the word of god as to how I must behave. Frankly, I'm over it, and have no need to enter relationships with those who want to proselytize, or hold me out of a circle of love using god's word. Bible abuse? Defending the bible? Is that like other religions defending their sacred scriptures? Uhn uh.

Traveling Alchemist said...

When I was a child my mother told me that the bible gave her permission to kill me if I disobeyed. I was raised in the church, with all the abusive guilt trips, and so-called correct "guidance" from the word of god as to how I must behave. Frankly, I'm over it, and have no need to enter relationships with those who want to proselytize, or hold me out of a circle of love using god's word. Bible abuse? Defending the bible? Is that like other religions defending their sacred scriptures? Uhn uh.