Mixing God and the Bible

“I will keep the Bible, which remains the Word of God for me, but always the Word as heard by generations of human beings as flawed as I.”

~ Barbara Brown Taylor, an author and priest and self-labeled “spiritual contrarian” (How great is that?!)

How do you feel about church?

When you were a young Christian, if your parents were big-time church attendants, then it is likely you sat in a Sunday School room or two every Sunday, probably being bored to death.  

It’s okay to admit that. For whatever reason, the Church can’t seem to come to grips with how boring they are–they’d rather blame that on your sinful nature–and so they either just keep chugging along with their lame-o selves while church attendance falters or they ramp up the entertainment until there’s little “reverent-fear” left in the building. (It’s why I’m not the biggest fan of mega-churches. Give me a good piano hymn, a lighted candle and stained-glass window any day of the week.)

My family of origin had HUGE issues with the Church. 

For starters, we couldn’t seem to find any in our town that fit my father’s liking. One was too liberal. One was too liturgical. The one we landed on was full of cheaters, child-molesters and bullies that beat up my brother pretty regularly.

They also really never accepted my family, since we were poor and all. 

Didn’t matter. My dad was hell bent on taking us to church and that church was gonna be Southern Baptist, the only true Christian religion in the South. So off we would go every Sunday, being bored to death and slightly ashamed and terrified, only to return home to my mother and father arguing, Mom angry once again that we were attending a place that didn’t even really want us there to begin with, Dad convinced my mother was just being “rebellious,” and my brother and me left running to our rooms, knowing what was coming next: usually, screaming, physical violence, and my father gathering up any Biblical materials we owned and throwing them to the curb out of frustration.

My father’s temper tantrums would lead to weeks without God in our home.

Oddly, when my father wasn’t practicing religion, my parents were much happier, and our family life was much more “normal.” 

We’d watch movies together, play games, laugh and enjoy one another’s company. 

My brother and I felt safe and able to just be ourselves. Life was good for that temporary sliver of time.

However, my brother and I were well aware of a pattern, and it went like this:

  • Attend Church. Feel like crap. 
  • Mom and Dad fight. After a night spent at a hotel somewhere because Mom drove Dad so crazy that he got drunk and hit her. He throws our Bibles to the curb. 
  • No more Jesus. 
  • Life is good. 
  • Dad reads Decision Magazine, talks to my Uncle Sonny (a closeted homosexual back then who is now out and proud and no longer practices religion), and watches Meet the Press and Rush Limbaugh again. 
  • Slowly the Evangelical World rears its ugly head once more. 
  • Dad makes us go back to Church. We feel like crap. 
  • Rinse and repeat. 

This scenario lasted a good few years, until my mom finally said, “Enough!” and my parents divorced. The rest of their relationship (shocker: it was non-existent), is theirs to tell, but this gives you a pretty good idea of why I grew up cynical of Church and all that comes with it, and why I make absolutely no apologies for it.

As the saying goes, if they wanted me to tell a better story, they should have acted right.

I’m happy to report I’m not alone in my cynicism. As you know, Jesus was pretty cynical of “church.” (In his day, this was the synagogue.)

Imagine that, huh? The God of the Universe, who we’re supposed to be worshiping in Church (that is literally supposed to be the whole point), had issues with what man had made worship about.


It’s so important to make clear here that Jesus isn’t talking to the “world,” as your modern Sunday preacher would like you to believe, but to the Jewish synagogue leaders, AKA, your Sunday morning pastors. It makes you consider for a moment that an atheist’s biggest issue with Christianity isn’t its tenets of faith, necessarily, but that its leaders can’t follow them. 

If you read only Jesus’s words (and I mean Jesus, not Paul), what you find repeatedly is that throughout the Gospels, Jesus constantly criticizes the Jewish “Church.” 

And why? Because they had replaced worshiping the Creator with modifying everyone’s behavior–except their own.

  • They wanted to lift the synagogue, not The One who created the synagogue. 
  • They wanted to elevate the leaders, not The One the leaders should have been sitting under.  
  • They wanted to raise their own positions, not the positions of the poor and desperate. 

They wanted to appear perfect, not to recognize that human beings aren’t capable of perfection. 

Behavior modification was the Jewish leaders’ means of feeling safe and certain in an unsafe and uncertain world. 

We do the same thing, right? 

Here’s a very interesting part of the Jewish religion that gets lost on modern-day Christians: Jewish leaders needed their people to follow the laws. They needed it because the Jews were lower-class pee-ons in the world’s ecosystem. They were constantly battling other nations for a piece of the abundance-pie, but more on that later.

Which makes it pretty easy to understand why their Jewish OT God seems vastly larger and more wrathful than Jesus.  

And that’s something that the average Christian knows but refuses to deal with. But if you’re going to call Jesus God, then you have to face reality.

Clearly from what we’ve read of how Jesus talked to and talked about Jewish leaders he had issues with the conduction of worshiping God (or Himself) in his day.

If that’s the case, one would assume that after Jesus’s death, the Apostles radically changed what worship looked like. They did, right? 

Ummm, no. Instead, they returned to doing worship the old way, except they bickered over cutting skin off a guy’s man parts and whether a believer was required to follow other Jewish laws, like eating kosher and wearing a Yarmulke. 

Perhaps Peter and Paul did away with the laws they didn’t care for, while sticking to a whole bunch of laws they liked and/or needed, such as any law that kept women and slaves where they belonged. 

And from the looks of the many letters Paul wrote to various churches, no matter how hard he scolded them, church people just couldn’t stop sinning. 

Darn humans. 


To dig a bit into the history of the capital C Church, we must first talk about power

We could start with the Christian Church, but I want to once again go back to the Jewish synagogue, or the community of people who would claim the Creator of the Universe as their own and worship Him as if He belonged only to them. 

History.com says that today there are about 14 million Jews living on planet Earth. That may seem like hella people, but keep in mind there are about 7 billion people on Earth, total. 

The Jews begin their lineage claim through Father Abraham, not through Adam, as commonly thought. (Remember, between Adam and Abram is the story of The Tower of Babel, where God supposedly says, “let us go down” to divide the people. That’s a tale for another study.)

This rag-tag crew of Jewish DNA-sharers supposedly defeated major armies, conquered land and people groups, and got skirted off to other nations because of their sin. That’s how they explained being captured, anyway.

They claim to worship THE God, except, they can’t seem to stop worshiping those other gods, too! And that, my friends, is because polytheism was the common thought-process of the cultures surrounding them—many gods, who reigned over different parts of society to keep the world from going to pot.

The God of the Old Testament appears at face-value to be a rather harsh, dictatorial Creator, who tells his people how kind and loving He is, but who also destroys his people and the surrounding nations on the daily. 

In reality, the characteristics of the God of the Old Testament were common to the time, as were the ways the Jews worshiped Him. 

In the early Jewish nation’s eyes, God’s characteristics were more human, like the other gods, so His capacity was just that–He could get mad at the drop of a hat, change His mind, etc. 

The Jews could appease Him by following “His” laws and by giving portions of their crops, land, etc to Him at appointed times, such as festivals and holy days. 

It is not until much later that writers revealed God as the one God, Yahweh, or YHWH, He is called. I AM, He tells Moses at the burning bush. This name becomes a symbol of a personal God who is coming to Earth and meeting with His creation, a foreshadowing of the day He would take on flesh. 

That’s where the rubber meets the road, and that road gets real sticky. Obviously most Jewish people do not believe that Jesus was God. Christians believe Jesus was God, although the earliest Christians were super fuzzy on this and had to gather at council just to decide on that fact, something we take for granted now.

But both Jewish and Early Christians shared one thing in common: 

They needed a God because He protected them here on Earth and gave them something to look forward to in the future. 

For ancient Jews, life was a constant battle because battle was the buzz-word of the time. Our world was changing, and before language and writing took a stronghold, the method of communication was fighting and conquering. 

For the early Christians, life wasn’t much different. 

And this hippie Jesus guy seriously threatened the Jewish synagogue’s power over their people through the use of purchasing forgiveness (you know, when Jesus flipped the tables at the marketplace–such an outstanding move). 

But something we talk little about because it doesn’t fit into the Evangelical narrative is that Jesus also threatened Rome.

We know this because the Jewish leaders wouldn’t have chosen crucifixion to kill Jesus. That was the typical punishment for a person who went against Roman law. 

I won’t go into this in this particular Bible study–maybe I’ll do another–but the Romans had a good thing going. I mean, not for anyone else; they decimated everyone around them. They very much lived in a macho-man culture similar to America’s. (Google the culture of Rome and you’ll find that America and Rome have a lot in common. Also, Rome fell. So think about that.) 

Jesus’ followers were a bunch of peace, love and happiness-bringers who weren’t for the capitalist lifestyle and wanted everyone to be welcomed equally at the table. They shared their goods and meals. They forgave instead of killing, and they did weird things, too, like tried hard staying married to one person, as opposed to engaging in sexual relations with young boys or prostituting themselves at the temple, the way Romans did. (Jesus was super big on women and children. Super.)

Both Jews and Romans hated Christians, and they didn’t much care for them, in return. Christians accused the Jews of murdering the Messiah, and for centuries after discriminated against them. They despised Roman culture and all that came with it, partly because they had to pay taxes. (Taxes are a big hang up for some folks. Imagine having to help pay for roads and libraries and people who are struggling.) 

As a result, Romans persecuted Christians as badly as the Jews had been back in the day. They burned humans at the stake. They killed whole families and used them as sport to be eaten by lions while people cheered. 

Terrifying events happened to this new group, and it wasn’t until Constantine came in the 300 ADs and made the Roman Empire a “Christian Nation,” that the Christians stopped being persecuted in large swaths. 

I don’t have time to get into it, but trust me, the man did not become Christian because he had some kind of radical heart change, though he claims he did, and I guess we could take him at his word. It’s more likely he issued the Edict of Milan because he saw that the world was going to hell in a handbasket, and the current leader of the free world needed to step in and do something. (Maybe I’m cynical, but I’ve seen more than a few political leaders use Christianity to their advantage.)

Two things occurred because of this major historical event:

One was that the Church and government merged–not a good thing, despite what you may think. Merging the two led to a crooked Church, the Crusades, and eventually, the Protestant Reformation. 

Another was that the Christians finally got a little taste of power, and a little taste of power goes a long, harmful way. 

I love the way Jesus turns this thirst for power against them:

[John 10] 31 Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. 32 Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?”

33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ 35 And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ 36 why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. 37 Don’t believe me unless I carry out my father’s plan.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the God of the Universe has some kind of humor!

See you soon,


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