I tried posting this the other day. I sat for at least an hour typing up my thoughts about this wonderful book I discovered. Then I looked up at the screen and it was all gone. Those of you who use Blogger, don’t be fooled by their new “autosave” feature. Blogger “autosaved” what I had written, but it cut it off after the first sentence. An hour’s worth of work was gone. So now I’ve decided to draft in Word and then cut and paste it into my blog so it won’t (hopefully!) happen again. Anyway, on to my original (albeit reconstructed) post…
At the library the other day, I was browsing the "New Books" shelf when I stumbled upon the book 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You : (but can’t because he needs the job)
by Rev. Oliver “Buzz” Thomas. I’d read somewhere that it is true that what is largely understood and taught in seminaries these days rarely makes it to the pulpit because most people don’t want to hear it. So I was intrigued by the title and wanted to see what the author had to say. Here are just a few points that I’ll paraphrase (unless I indicate it is a direct quote):
* As far as the Creationism vs. Evolution debate goes, it is like comparing apples to oranges. Creationism is a religious concept and religion is about finding meaning, purpose and moral truth in life. Evolution is a scientific concept and science is about identifying observable and falsifiable facts about the world around us. It is only when we think of creationism as a scientific concept or evolution as a religious concept that we run into trouble. The two could (should?) coexist without cancelling each other out.
* Our purpose for being here is to treasure our humanity. Thomas cites Ecclesiastes with giving four directives: “(1) eat, drink, and be merry; (2) work hard; (3) enjoy living with the person you love; and (4) fear God and keep his commandments.” Further to that he discusses what might be meant by fearing God and keeping his commandments. Jesus trumps the ante when he said we should love God and our neighbors as ourselves. We can express our love for God through worship, singing, and prayer. He discusses how prayer is about being with God. It is about talking and listening…and not so much about asking (a point I really loved). The thing about prayer is that it doesn’t benefit God; it benefits us. It transforms us into people who think more like God and who work as God’s hands in the world. We must remember Jesus’ instruction to love who Jesus referred to as “the least of these”: those who are outcasts of society or who have been dealt more suffering than others.
* Thomas discusses the Bible and goes into details I already knew about (that it is made up of several different books by different authors and wasn’t put together into one book – with several different versions at that – until much later). He mentions problems with trying to read it literally as the inerrant word of God (inconsistencies and scientific impossibilities, for example). But he asserts how the Bible serves as a human witness to the experience of God at that time in history. There is a lot of wisdom contained in the Bible and you don’t have to believe that it really happened to believe it is true.
* He mentions how Christianity has historically (and sometimes contemporarily) marginalized some groups like women, slaves, and homosexuals. The Bible was once used to justify slavery (a fact which causes many people problems again with the inerrancy concept). But just like times have changed society’s opinion of owning slaves, so has its opinion about the submission of women changed since biblical times. At the time the biblical stories were being written, women were considered property owned by men. They were not allowed to participate in government, religion, etc. To stand up for women’s rights at that time would mark one as a rebel. The books of the bible were written to reflect that view. Of course, Jesus, the one person in the Bible whose example we *should* follow, obviously didn’t feel that way about women. Women played an important role in his ministry. That fact has been downplayed considerably by subsequent organizers of the religion of Christianity which speaks to attachment to the old systems of belief that still existed (exist). In today’s day and age, women are no longer considered to be lower than men by society and, therefore, should not be considered lower by the church. And the verses in the Bible that have been used to limit the rights of homosexuals did not come from Jesus. He spoke against many things: “money, lust, revenge, divorce, prayer, fasting, and a thousand other subjects (with an especially large number on self-righteousness), but there is nothing on homosexuality." Instead, Jesus spoke about the importance of how we treat each other. We should not judge others – that is for God alone to do. And he told us how important it was to love our neighbors as ourselves. That alone should be enough to tell us what is really important.
Those are just a few of the big ideas I got from this book. Much of what I read wasn’t surprising. Some of it I’d read before and most of it I’d thought before. But it was interesting to read a minister write these things. It was especially interesting to me to read in his bio that he is a Baptist minister. I was surprised to find a Baptist minister with these values. (I don’t know if he is American Baptist or Southern Baptist, but he does mention the Southern Baptist Convention a couple of times in his writing.) For me this was yet another reminder that I shouldn’t jump to conclusions about someone else’s beliefs.
I highly recommend this book to others. It’s a short read – only 108 pages – and I read the whole thing in one afternoon.
Labels: Blogging, Books, My Spiritual Search, Theology