I believe that ‘scripture’ (which is a posh word for ‘writing’) can be dangerous. It can be dangerous because (a) it is written by humans and (b) it is interpreted by humans. And humans are, dear Reader, a very dangerous species indeed. Someone once said that if there were no religion, good people would still do good things and bad people would still do bad things – but only with religion do you get good people doing bad things. Why might that be? Dodgy exegesis, that’s why.
My father believed that Adam and Eve actually existed. And why wouldn’t he? He was raised to have blind faith and whatever a priest said was, often literally, gospel. My father didn’t know that the creation story is an etiological cult myth from Mesopotamia. Nobody told him and even less encouraged him to indulge in independent study. My father set great store on loyalty. His Catholicism was that of the unquestioning soldier. He chose the hymn ‘Faith of Our Fathers’ to be played at his funeral.
But I don’t think leading a good life or even A Good Life is about obeying orders. The history of religion might in many ways be the history of Doing What You’re Told but that’s so misleading. Jesus rebelled. Buddha found his own path. Neither would let a tradition or scripture stop them doing what needed to be done.
So … what is the point of scripture? And are all scriptures the same?
Well, there is the question of who decides what is scripture and who decides what is considered the ravings of lunatics.
Who? Guess what? It’s them pesky humans again.
Scriptures seems to be the stories of enlightened men and women. Men generally – hmmm…see that huMAN thing again? Mark’s Gospel was written 36 years after Jesus died. That was practically live streaming in those days. The stories of Jesus are both humbling and inspiring. Love them to bits. But these are stories about Jesus. They are not Jesus. The map is not the territory.
People talk about the Bible as if the very word ‘Bible’ were sacred but it comes from Latin ‘biblia’. The Latin word is from the Greek one, ‘biblion’ which means paper or scroll. It means paper, people! The map, again, is not the territory.
The Bible is full of inspirational stories. I adore Ecclesiastes! But being a good person, being a loving person is far, far from having our faces between the pages of the Bible.
And isn’t it odd that God would communicate to people who largely could not read with a book? He would need..oh, hang on…a caste of literate elites to propagate and (oh dear!) interpret the message. And is it unthinkable that sometimes elites look to their own interests? Surely not, right?
And the thing is. And this is the thing. I don’t think we need all that weight of books. All that scripture. I think, if we understand Jesus just a little bit, we know what we have to do, how we have to be. I think we can find God’s voice in other places.
‘There’s nowhere you can be which isn’t where you’re meant to be.”
It’s easy. All you need is love.