What Happens When People Speak Truth About The Bible

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

TLDR: The author shares their reaction to people who commented on an article they wrote about mistranslations in the Bible. They use this opportunity to assert that “truth” springs from one’s beliefs, thereby making anything one believes true for that person. They then suggests that Christians may find greater satisfaction in learning to discern the Bible’s distortions from its wisdom.

The Bible. It’s a book. It has inspired a lot of hatred and killing…ironically. But it also has inspired and does inspire a lot of love.

And this is the point of physical reality: We see what we train ourselves to see. Furthermore, once we’ve trained ourselves, it’s very hard to see anything else. That’s definitely the case when it comes to the reality that is the Bible.

But we can choose what we see. Even after our “seeing” rigidifies. Whatever we choose to see shapes what we see. It also prevents us from seeing anything else.

This past week, I wrote a story about a documentary. The documentary moved me. That’s why I wrote the story. The film told of a distortion in the Bible, a mistranslation made in the Revised Standard Version (RSV). The documentary is powerful. My characterization of it in my blog echoed that power. It also asserted that while this mistranslation was not malicious, it still created tremendous suffering, and does so even today.

Some things change. Others remain the same.

That previous story ranks as one of my most popular. In this story, I look at some responses people made to that story. The responses show exactly what you’ve just read: Our world springs from our beliefs. And the more we hold to those beliefs, the less open we are to seeing the world differently. Which suggests we should be very careful about what beliefs we adopt, doesn’t it?

There is no one “truth”

Some responders thought my story was about me trying to change people’s world view, especially Christian people. Perhaps that’s why a few commenters pushed back rather hard, calling my supposed attempt to change people’s minds “ridiculous”. One person even advised I “get on my knees” and ask “God to show you what is truth”.

Little do these people know, I once was a fundamentalist Christian. I belonged to no church, but I carried my Bible everywhere and believed Jesus was my personal savior. That was my truth at that time.

Today, however, after navigating through many “truths”, I’ve come to my own thinking on spiritual matters, as well as “truth”. A direct, personal, private conversation with Infinite Intelligence supported that navigation, which is primarily responsible for my client work today as well as the Positively Focused Practice or Way.

Since I’ve walked this path, I see that word “truth” brings a lot of danger if it’s misunderstood. No “One Truth” exists. Thinking that way gets people into a lot of trouble. One only need look around to see that. Whether in politics, religion, families or love, people who think they know the truth, while also thinking others don’t, sow the seeds of conflict.

There is no one truth. Any belief anyone holds will become “truth” FOR THAT PERSON. That’s why people do really outrageous things, like blowing themselves up as an expression of religious truth, or shooting up a pizza restaurant while believing something truly nefarious goes on behind the pizza ovens.

In fact, for every point of consciousness there exists an infinite number of truths. Which truth is true? All of them are, for that point of consciousness holding them. What we believe creates reality. Reality becomes truth, but only truth for those holding beliefs which gave rise to the reality. When it comes to the Bible, a lot of people believe they have the truth.

Make truth non-threatening

Of course, holding our intimate truths born of our beliefs is harmless to others. That is, until we believe our truths compel us to push them onto others. That’s when trouble starts. And unfortunately for many Christians following what they think the Bible teaches, those people believe their job is making others adopt what they believe is the truth.

On a walk the other day, I came across a group of very young women. They offered people passing by Italian sodas. When they offered me one, I declined.

Then I changed my mind. My soda came with a Christian flyer. I refused the flyer, not because I disliked the message, but because I didn’t want to carry a piece of paper. One I’d later probably throw away.

Instead of accepting the flyer, I invited any of the young women to give me the 30-second Christian pitch. One person did, and boy, she knew her truth. She ticked all the boxes: original sin, saved by the blood of Jesus, etc. But not once did she offer anything relevant to me. Not once did she ask me any questions to make her pitch relevant. What is the saying? “Know your customer”. She was utterly clueless.

Which brings me to a comment on my story last week. This one was brilliant. The person writing told a great story about his experience with a conservative pastor on the subject of evangelizing:

The point is, if we think our truth matters more than others’ (they don’t, but whatever) it makes sense to offer our truth in non-threatening ways or in a way that resonates with the listener. I don’t fault the young ladies for their naiveté. They are young. They have very little life experience.

I don’t even fault commenters who asserted the documentary, 1946, was inaccurate, even without having watched it. Or people who think I need to get on my knees and ask god for the truth. Our truths are powerful. As I wrote above, our truths will not allow anything other than what we believe “in”.

That’s why I didn’t write the story to change anyone’s mind. The story was about a film that moved me.

It’s all good

Several commenters wrote in support of what they thought was the purpose of the story. I believe they thought it was about condemning the Bible, Christianity and, more generally, religion. I appreciate their support.

That’s not what the story was about though. It was about a documentary that moved me. A documentary that fleshed out something I didn’t know before. The documentary moved me because I am queer. When I was a Christian, I didn’t believe the crap from churches that I was condemned to hell. I knew better. I also knew the Bible was a book written by man and subjected over time to a ton of interpretation.

Therefore misinterpretations must exist in the book, I thought. That this documentary came along confirming my thoughts, I saw as a manifestation of a long-held knowing. That’s why I wrote the story. I felt moved.

I don’t dislike or hate Christians. Nor do I dislike or hate religion. Religion, like science, is based on beliefs. Beliefs create our realities. So, therefore, what’s to dislike or hate? Instead, I revel in the variety of life experience. That phenomena gives rise to enormous diversity, something I call “expansion”. And all of it is good.

And isn’t that what the Bible says god said when “he” created the world? It was all good. Indeed.

Which brings me to one particular comment that struck me. It was so complete, clear and on the mark. The details the writer, Tom Gough, expressed moved me as much as the documentary did. I want to conclude with it because it sums up a lot of what the documentary said, yet, didn’t explicitly say.

Followers of Paul, not Jesus

Tom responded by affirming that mistranslation exists in the RSV, then he continues:

“This was the RSV which, problematically, is a translation depended upon by Liberal Christians and loathed by Evangelicals. The texts in question should never have been translated as homosexual, (which is a term of identity rather than a specific activity), but -arsenokoites- is a word of Paul’s own construction that literally means “Male Beds” and has historically been translated as “Men having sex with men.” Paul also used the word -malakos- which means soft or effeminate and, again historically, has been used to imply a catamite or other male receiver of male sexual attention.”

“So, while it would be nice to imagine that all the anti-gay rhetoric coming out of the various church institutions is a matter of unfortunate translation, it isn’t. Paul was never a Pharisee but a gentile who attached himself to the Sadducee’s High Priest , and thus devoted to ritual and sexual purity. More than that, Paul is a homophobe. He is also an erotophobe who finds every form of sexual expression to be icky and only tolerates sex in its absolutely least offensive form in marriage. “You may have a child together, but otherwise do not touch yourself or anyone else ever.” Paul clearly has issues. He is also not Jesus. Jesus never said bupkiss about gay folk, and in fact appears to have a much more expansive and inclusive attitude toward the variety of sex and gender expression than the culture in which he lived (Matthew 19:12 for example).

It is pointless to try and rescue Paul from his own pathology. The real question (apart from why believe any of it?) is why Evangelicals, and other Christian Authoritarian institutions, so clearly prefer to follow Paul rather than Jesus. It’s because they are themselves, by nature, Sadducees seeking wealth and oppressive power, just like Paul – and because Jesus asks too much tolerance, compassion, and love from his followers, while Paul gives his a broad and vicious invitation to prejudice in the the name of purity.”

Still holding out hope

That last paragraph is spot-on in my opinion. It’s pointless trying to change anyone’s mind, until they’re willing to have their mind changed. Changing people’s minds, therefore, was the farthest thing from my intent in writing last week’s story. Evangelicals and other Christian Authoritarians ARE following Paul instead of Jesus. They are sycophants lusting after as much power as they can get. That’s antithetical to what Jesus offered.

Which explains why some of the most vocal, political Christian leaders do not offer messages of tolerance, compassion and love. Especially towards gay and trans people.

But I don’t think these people hate gay and trans people. I think, actually, that they don’t care at all about them. What they care about: amassing power, wealth and the attention of religious sycophants. Their focus on gays and trans people will end, as soon as they realize the religious sycophant tires of that as a polarizing issue.

And tire they will. Because consciousness doesn’t like staying in one place. Anyone who has ever tried meditating knows this (LOL). So, in time, these people will all move on to another group. And the world will be better for it. The LGBTQ world at least.

In the meantime, I still hold out hope for more Christians to realize their main text contains distortions. It’s also full of divine wisdom. And so I also hold hope that more Christians will learn to discern the latter from the former. When they do, the world will be better off.