Most Christians will agree that racism, sexism, and social class has affected Christian doctrines throughout the centuries. But we often believe that we are in a generation that is finally freed from false interpretation of Scripture. However, this is not true. Many preachers and Bible teachers still turn Bible stories into simplistic "good guy/bad guy" stories based on subtle racism, xenophobia, sexism, and societal or class issues. Certain Bible characters are either treated with extreme disdain or with such glowing praise that a listener wonders if the Bible hasn't been reduced to a book of sacred cows and scapegoats.
The rigidity, dishonesty, and facile judgmentalism we encounter in Bible studies turns many Christians - new and mature - away from the Church. Christianity is not simply a "moral" religion which tries to lay down the law of good and evil. It is a way that shows people that even the good are flawed. Reading a Bible study in which we can understand or not easily dismiss someone like Potiphar's wife, or Cain or would open our hearts to others. We have had too many men, too many powerful, too many rich, too many secure people interpreting Scripture for us and we have swallowed their interpretations without thinking.
Scapegoats in Bible studies come in two wide categories: those people we dislike because they were in opposition to one of God's people whom we have raised to the place of "sacred cow." This kind of scapegoat is a scapegoat by association because if a sacred cow is created, then those who "oppose" him must necessarily be considered evil. This category of scapegoats includes people such as Hagar, Michal, and Job's wife.
The other kind of scapegoating is much subtler. These Bible characters are usually people who have truly done something reprehensible and evil. Thus, on the one hand, they really should be disliked. Yet, the scorn and dislike heaped upon them seem a bit excessive when God's loving grace and other characters in the Bible are studied. Often the character's evil is very like our own but because we have so demonized them we cannot see our similarity to them.
One of the major purposes of the Bible is to show humanity its sin, its lack of faith and lack of love. It was not written as a fairytale with good and bad characters. Creating Bible studies which seem to be done by rote or traditional patriarchal interpretation leads to writing that is judgmental. I love the Bible and desire to see more compassionate Christians and more compassionate honest Christian discussions. ?
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