The Rev. Dr. Bob Gallagher
---- — At the very start of my first Sacred scripture class at seminary, the Jesuit professor stated:
“There is no God!”
A collective gasp from the entire class!
But the scripture scholar instructor persisted:
“There is no God — and Holy Writ proves it. Look it up for yourself in Psalm 14:1.”
An academic panic ensued and pages of Bibles flipped wildly and crisply.
Moments later, a student replied with a tad of a snicker:
“You’re correct, professor! The Bible says, ‘There is no God,’ BUT you’ve got to read the whole thing! ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God!’ You’ve got to read the whole thing!”
My first seminary lesson in Sacred scripture: Reading the whole thing can liberate; taking an excerpt out of context can oppress!
(You’ve got to love those Jesuits!)
Over the past month, a rich dialogue of some 30-plus memos has replied to Ron Johnson’s (July 1) letter, “Darkness is destroying this country,” one of which was my own July 5 response of “God’s light is redeeming this country.”
I love the institutional church when it embraces the moral presumptions of sacred scripture, i.e., all creation is good; all people are equal in God, human life is precious; the unity of the human family; the reality that all humans are imperfect and finite; love and justice are central; avoid idolatry; and, favor the poor (CTS Christian Moral Vision, Brill, 1979).
I worry about the institutional church — whatever the denomination:
When it is more denominations than spiritual
When it is more legalistic than compassionate
When it compiles a list of those going to heaven and those going to hell, with the lister, of course, being on the heaven-bent list
When it focuses more on sin than on grace, more on the Devil (who can and does quote Scripture) than on the Savior, i.e., when it acts and speaks as if sin has the last word
When it stresses what we’re supposedly doing wrong at the expense of what we’re doing right, i.e., when it devalues find the good and affirm it (Alex Haley)
When it underscores “sins” of the flesh while remaining silent about sins of the mind
When it spends more time spying into folks’ bedrooms than it spends dialoguing in folks’ living rooms
When it readily cites excerpts from Paul at the expense of the wholistic Christ of the Gospels
When it chooses to exclude from the Communion Table the very same folks whom Christ fed at the multiplication of loaves and fishes (no tickets required)
When it refuses to feed certain classes of individuals at the Communion Table despite the fact that Jesus fed both Peter and Judas at the Last Supper, knowing full well that they would deny and betray him
When it takes a unified group of worshipers at a funeral and proactively chooses to divide the community at Communion time (whatever happened to do no harm?)
When it accentuates excerpts from Paul’s letters re women and human sexuality while devaluing Paul’s insistence that except for Jesus rising from the dead, all else is garbage
When it determines that the unifying factor is Rome, Canterbury, Geneva, Constantinople ... rather than baptism of water, blood, and desire
When it continues to put teens on a guilt trip for doing individually what comes naturally in the privacy of their bedrooms while transferring and covering up for clerics who violate those very same bedrooms
When it attempts to shove its God and its values down other citizens’ throats via civil legislation
When it values its robed and vested males while devaluing its grassroots nuns on the bus
When it seeks to intrude into decisions between a woman and her doctor while remaining silent over social injustices re equal pay for men and women and equal access to the voting polls
When it declares the human body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit while invading the very same bodies with unprescribed ultrasound
When it affirms sacred scripture and tradition for formation of conscience at the exclusion of other God-given means such as reason, experience and culture.
When it states that the Bible was written to tell folks of all ages how to behave at the present moment while missing its primary goal of bearing witness to God’s saving acts in history.
When it judges in a spirit of righteous indignation rather than in a spirit of humility and compassion
When it ignores the fact that God is already on the record as BOTH pro-choice and pro-life (having given us both life and free will) and that when choice and life conflict, we need to respect the conscience of the woman involved
When it negatively replies to the devil-as-perceived-in-our neighbor rather than joyfully respond to the promises of a good God
When it “marginalizes, intimidates, punishes and ostracizes anyone who dares to think “‘differently’”
When it acts in such a way as to lead seekers to the conclusion that there is no god
Yup, sacred scripture is a wonderful gift, BUT the Jebbies are right: We’ve got to read the whole thing!
The Rev. Dr. Bob Gallagher lives in Salisbury.