Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#39- Reading the Bible and its effect

Adam and Eve
I set out to read my Student Bible after setting aside what I've heard about it growing up.  I wanted to read it from beginning to end because I was at war and had the time to do so.  I also had good reason to think that I was going to die and wanted to know what would happen after I arrived in heaven.

I had a notepad that I wrote every question that came to my mind no matter how off-the-wall it was.  The questions soon piled up and I decided to read on thinking that the answers were in the pages ahead.

I read about Adam and Eve, The Tower of Babel, Lot and his daughters, Noah, Abraham, and much more.  I knew of these characters in passing but it was exciting to learn the full story behind what I've been told for so long.

I liked the Student Bible version because it had annotations and notes that gave insight or alternate meanings or names to words and stories.  It was obvious that the publishers were targeting a younger audience and attempted in directing their perspective on the book.

Noah's Ark
I underlined and highlighted much in my Bible.  I couldn't wait to have an intelligent conversation with any Bible literate person especially my Pastor.  However, the more I read the more it became obvious to me that the story was a narrow account of a few people from one general tribe.  It was not an account of world affairs.  I thought that the story of how Egypt became so great was included.  I knew little of the migration and achievements of the Chinese and expected some mention of that in there but I was disappointed.

Abraham about to murder his (second) son Isaac for God
There were boring and dry parts to get through but I found the reading fairly easy.  I wondered why I or other people have always assumed that we needed the help of chaperons to read the book.  As I got into the story of Exodus things got disturbing.

Exodus had special meaning for several reasons.  I flew over the Nile River and the Sinai peninsula on my way to Jordan.  I spent some time near the Euphrates River which is one of the four rivers mentioned in the Creation story.  Some soldiers took advantage of the situation and either got baptized or circumcised because Iraq was a historically rich land with strong Bible roots and references.

After Moses received his mandate he went to rescue the Hebrews from the Egyptian pharaoh.  This was supposed to be a classic good-versus-evil showdown.  The problem is that I read that it was God who caused the problem that he was sending Moses to solve.  This was not mentioned in church.  I also learned of God wanting to kill Moses for no reason.  Moses was rescued by his wife who he would later dismiss as if she had not ensured his survival.

Most alarming of all was the killings Moses ordered which were either condoned, endorsed, or outright praised by God.  Moses also institutes slavery and a host of other bizarre or outright wrong practices and statues among the Hebrews.

Crossing The Nile River of Exodus
Things went from bad to worst when Moses was replaced by Joshua son of Nun.  Joshua went on a terror campaign to kill all native Canaanite men, women, and children.  I was shocked and speechless.  Here I was in a land at war with rules of engagement that restricted our activities and I was reading of slavery and genocide by God or the people of God.

I knew that I could not have gotten away with the actions of Joshua and his soldiers today.  The earmarks and tell-tale signs of the flaws of the Bible vibrated within me.  The Hebrew soldiers were ordered to kill not too long after the famous "Do Not Kill/Murder" law was established.  This was a clear double-standard.

My background was tailor-made to be opposed to Exodus.  I was Haitian and thus was sensitive to slavery.  I migrated to the United States and knew that America was formed by strangers who essentially murdered and took land from the indigenous people.  I was a soldier who knew enough of the Nuremberg trials and the current rules of engagement to behave like the Hebrews.   I was a tolerant liberal who believed in peace and an omnibenevolent God who would never behave like the God of the Hebrews.

I pushed on through the book and learned a lot more information.  I learned of the famous Old Testament stories that are sanitized for contemporary consumption.  The Bible is a hodgepodge of stories that were mixed in their benevolence, barbarity, usefulness, evil, and poetry.  I finally stalled in Isaiah by the time I was to return to the United States.  I looked forward to getting the chance to speak to my Pastor at long last.  Maybe I was mistaken about a few things.  Maybe he could shed light and justify the things that I read.

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