Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jim Palmer - 6 Things I Said About the Bible that Received Hate Mail

I like Jim Palmer - I only very recently discovered him on Facebook and began reading his blog. He is as close to a secular Christian as I have ever seen (his motto is "Life Is My Religion") - and as a secular Buddhist, that really appeals to me. He is founder of the Religion-Free Bible Project.

This post will give you a sense of why I resonate with him and his work.

6 things I said about the Bible that received hate mail


“From the very beginning, there was no attempt at creating a single orthodoxy with the Bible. If there’s one thing that’s clear is that the editors of the Bible incorporated different and diverse traditions about such things as the creation story, the stories of the patriarchs, the story of the exodus from Egypt and four different views of Jesus, each with distinctive slants on Jesus. The Bible is not a landing strip for landing on a particular belief system or theology about God, but a spiritual launching pad setting me free to explore the height, width, and depth of myself, God, humankind, life and this world.”


“The Bible is not a club that you beat over someone’s head,
it’s a cup of cool water to a parched and weary soul.

The Bible is not a book of information and doctrines about God,
it’s an invitation into the reality of love, peace, and freedom.

The Bible is not a playbook for being more religious,
it’s a story about humankind’s relationship with God – the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly.

The Bible is not a book with a message about what’s wrong with you,
the Bible is a voice, whispering how good and beautiful you are.

The Bible is not a smack in the face about what you should be doing better,
it’s a tap on the shoulder, reminding you that you are never separated from what you most deeply long for.

The Bible was not written for establishing a belief system about God,
it was written as an invaluable spiritual resource for one’s journey with God.”


9 Thoughts To Challenge Your View Of The Bible:

1. The Bible is not a religious book.
2. The story of the Bible has value for all of humankind, regardless of your religious tradition or no religion at all.
3. The Bible is not owned by any particular sect of people, including institutional Christianity; the Bible is a spiritual resource for all people.
4. Contrary to what “they” say, there is more than one way to read, interpret, and understand the Bible.
5. People need to know that the destructive and oppressive ideas they learned about God as a result of their involvement with religion are not truly “biblical.”
6. In the hands of the people, the Bible can be an instrument of love, beauty, peace, acceptance and harmony in the world.
7. Humankind needs permission to walk away from the lie we learned about ourselves that we are bad, flawed, defective, not good enough, and unacceptable to God.
8. You don’t need an MDiv or PhD in theology to embrace the simple but profound message of the Bible.
9. Jesus could not and would not subscribe to what is often passed off as “orthodoxy.”


Why we need a Religion-Free Bible

Reason #12: Toxic Claims “Spiritual Leaders” Make About the Bible:

In order to be a real Christian you need to know who the real God is, and how the real God feels. Some of you … God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is meritorious. He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you, He hates them too. God hates, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you. He has had enough.” – Mark Driscoll

  • What if a collection of writings, giving different snapshots of humankind’s relationship with the divine, were assembled into one volume?
  • What if these snapshots told a story that we somehow find ourselves in at every turn, including moments of profound beauty and goodness, and moments of deep heartache and sorrow?
  • What if the story includes chapters where people are getting God horribly wrong and justifying hatred and atrocity in God’s name, and other chapters where people are getting it right and living as powerful expressions of love in the world?
  • What if it’s a human story, a divine story, and a cultural story happening, evolving and intertwined all at once?
  • What if their is an unnamed brilliance, depth and mystery to the story that requires one to look deeper, read between the lines, and listen with your heart?
  • What if the primary plot or theme of the whole story is strangely fulfilled in the birth, life, and death of a divine nobody?
  • What if the story has the power to inspire love, peace, beauty, healing, wholeness, harmony, and goodness in the world, and transform humankind’s relationships with ourselves individually and collectively, with God, with others, and with life itself?
What if this story is the Bible?


During my process of shedding religion I put away my Bible for a season, and it’s one of the best things I’ve done for my relationship with God. I quit reading it. I tuned out preachers and others quoting or referring to it. Of course, I had enough horse sense not to broadcast my taking a break from reading the Bible, but it’s not something you can hide from everyone.

The results? God deepened his life in me during my hiatus from the Scriptures in ways I’m still coming to grips with. At the top of the list was the experience of God’s unconditional acceptance. For many years I carried inside and unspoken list of “what if” questions about the extent of God’s acceptance. I knew God loved me, in a general John 3:16 sort of way, but what if I didn’t go to church anymore… or have daily quiet times… or didn’t read my Bible? Would God accept me and love me then? Would I still have a relationship with God then? Would there really even be a God… then?

God didn’t stop communicating with me when I quit reading the Bible, which took care of several of my “what if” questions. I discovered a living God I could know and interact with in real time whenever I wanted to. The personal and intimate, accepting and loving Father God the Scriptures pointed to was real, really real! God began expressing himself in a variety of ways, which I had been oblivious to operating under the assumption that God only spoke through the words of Scripture. These spiritual exchanges between God and me occurred through such things as nature, people, art, film, music, and the still, small voice within.

For me, God went from being locked up in a book that I accessed during morning quiet times, sermon preparation, and Bible study to being everywhere all the time. It’s amazing what you can see when you’re actually looking… and that goes for hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, and feeling as well. It’s like God was always there but my radar was off, or only on during specific times and then only narrowly focused in one particular area of Scripture.

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