For many people [myself especially], our traditional faith-teachings provide us with insufficient answers and explanations for many of the difficult questions that surround our human life-journey: why do some people suffer more than others? is “sin” responsible for our personal suffering? is eternal life real or imaginary? what is heaven and what is hell? why are some people “saved” and others “condemned”? how can a good G-d allow such terrible evil (and tragedy) to exist in our world? and why is homosexuality (and women clergy) ostracized and prejudiced within the Church? Our list of troubling issues reaches well beyond this short list …. the questions are endless; the answers confusing; the solutions contradictory.
Continuously, the explanations that we find – and the incomplete answers that we receive from our religious leaders and spiritual guides – provide little comfort and even less closure. Even when we turn to the pages of Scripture, we often discover answers (and examples) that speak only to our tribal ancestry. We may recognize, and accept, that these stories – and their accompanying legalisms and supernatural behaviors – speak to a generation that lived significantly different than how we live today. And we may understand that the world today is significantly different from the world of yesterday. And yet – partly out of fear … and partly out of our own insecurities – we continue to grasp for the same answers that once worked in the past. Anwers that require little thought. Answers that keep us in a comfortable place - a darker world full of the shadows of ignorance and manipulations.
I have struggled with this 'faith dilemma' for nearly a decade. Questions that never seem to find satisfactory answers in Scripture. Images that contrast a God of retribution (even hatred) with a God of love. Stories that betray logic and illustrate a world “out of sync” with our present-day understanding of nature, cosmology, and physics. Miracles that happened frequently, and extravagantly. And behaviors that promote cruelty and defy human compassion. If I am to see the Bible as a guidebook for describing our relationship with G-d, and our relationship with one another (as caring human beings), then – regretfully – I am left with a book full of examples that raises more questions than answers, and that undermines much of what I see and accept as fundamental to our understanding of science and knowledge today.
We can claim that God can do anything - our Bible, as we know, gives us many examples: stopping the sun in the sky, walking on water, sending plagues upon Eqyptians. But, in accepting such claims at face value, are we simply placing our educated heads in the sand? Why is it so hard to reject many of the Biblical claims of history? Is it fear that motivates us? Fear of rejection, isolation, eternal punishment? Or is it more of a struggle - something harder, and therefore less attractive - to think deeply and probe “outside the box”: to see the past in the context of the past ... a different culture, a different lifestyle, a people with a different understanding of life and the universe?
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