Because faith is so personal, I try to avoid looking at it objectively or commenting on religions that are not my own. Additionally, I readily admit I’m not a scholar of one or of many religions. I read and study the Christian Bible because I’m a Christian and I believe my personal walk with Christ requires that I know what he said. When it comes to commentary, however, I prefer not to make it, but rather to stick with memoir and share my personal experiences.
But sometimes, I know something said or done in the name of religion—any religion—is wrong, and I have to say something about it.
Even as I wrote my recent op-ed, I was thinking about caveats to the right of religion and conscience arguments I agree with. You must be allowed to carry out that which you believe with your actions, but you can’t stone adulterers and homosexuals, either. In other words, and in sad irony, we need laws to prevent us from using our faith to harm others and to protect us from those who would use their faith in such a way.
I would think that any respectable faith wouldn’t need laws outside of its own to tell its people how to act towards one another. Unfortunately, we live off of translations and interpretations presented by flawed human beings, and I’m convinced—more by humans’ actions towards one another (and like the people who curse at me via email to tell me my views about morality are wrong [*plank in your eye much? geez*]) than by anything else—that many times, we heard God wrong.
I’m trying to get it right. In the midst of this ridiculous birth control debate, I decided to search for something biblical that could explain why the Catholic church prohibits the use of contraception. Maybe the answer is in the Apocrypha, because after searching several different versions (King James, New International, New International 1984, Amplified and The Message) of the Christian Bible, I couldn’t find a law. I found verses that, when removed from their biblical, cultural and historical context or otherwise stretched, would justify the prohibition. I found a story (Gen. 38:8-10) that could easily be interpreted as prohibiting men from having sex without the intention of getting the woman pregnant. (Oddly enough, this verse is used to condemn masturbation.) But Song of Solomon comes along and refutes that. I also found, unsurprisingly, a profound sense of the sanctity of human life. But nothing so strict as to yield the culture wars that repeatedly overtake our political discourse.
I had a thought about my own faith: Most of what we use to apply Christianity directly to our everyday lives comes from Paul, a man who got to know Jesus in much the same way Christians today know him—after he died and rose from the grave. Most of the disciples who walked around with Christ every day for a few years didn’t take notes. Or no one thought their notes were worth saving.
So I’m making it known to the world, and in this way holding myself accountable, that I’m going to take a close look at what the bible says without Paul’s letters. That means looking at the gospels, Acts (written by Luke), first and second Peter, James, Jude, first, second and third John and Revelation. I think Christianity would lose a lot without Paul’s teaching, but I doubt anything will be drastically different.