Bible Study Surprise

Cast

Me = myself (assumed to be conservative Christian until the study starts)

ML= my lover

BP= big pastor

PW= pastor’s wife

CP= children’s pastor

HW= house wife

HWH= house wife’s husband

kids

Two days prior, PW asked me if I would lead the Bible Study for our small group on Sunday. Saturday night I decided to have us watch For the Bible Tells Me So and discuss it.

Scene: BP & PW’s house Sunday afternoon

HW: There is this boy in my kid’s kindergarten class who wears pink crocks to school everyday. The other kids make fun of him. I think its terrible.

Me: Yeah, kids can be so mean. I’d be upset too if all those kids were bullying someone.

HW: No, I meant it is terrible that the boy wears pink.

CP: Well, pink did used to be a boy’s colour, so I don’t think its a big deal.

 HW: No!

Me: And blue was a girl’s colour, in the Middle Ages. There is nothing inherently masculine about blue.

HW: Well, I still think people can take things too far.

Adults go downstairs, kids stay upstairs. PW looks at the DVD I brought and decides she will stay with my lover and watch the kids. I ask her why.

PW: I think the DVD would be too compelling. I’m scared.

Down with the other adults…

HWH: I was thinking about age appropriate Bible stories. I was reading the kids about Cain and Abel and wondering if it was giving them an excuse to fight with each other. But on the other hand, it really bothers me when people pick and choose. We have to learn the whole bible.

Me: The Bible is hardly G-rated. I would not tell my kids the story of Jephthah.

CP: I still think we can be age appropriate without leaving anything out.

Meanwhile, upstairs with the kids, PW is reading the tale of Esther.

kid1: Why would Esther be killed for talking to the king without permission? Weren’t they married?

PW: Um.. Well, he was the king and that was the law.

kid2: Is it ok for other husbands to kill their wives?

PW: No. Lets keep reading.

kid1: So, it was ok to kill Haman because he wanted to kill the Jews?

ML: Do you think this story is appropriate for the kids? There is a lot of killing.

Back to the Basement…

Me: Lets read these verses in Matthew, Mark and John were Jesus tells us to love the outcasts, love each other, and to love our neighbours. I want you to keep Jesus’s words in your hearts as we watch this film. This will give us a practical application for Jesus’s commands.

Film Rolls. HW is getting visibly upset. The film is stopped half way.

HW: I am mad at you. You tricked me. We should have been told what we were going to see. I have no wish to think about homosexuality.

 Me: Well, I didn’t send out an email because I only decided last night what we were going to do. Forgive me for ‘tricking’ you, but I didn’t have the confidence that you would watch this unless you didn’t have much warning. Perhaps I underestimated you?

BP: We forgive you. We love you. I found this fascinating! I loved the part where they talked about Leviticus.

HW: Homosexuality is a sin. What do you say about it?

Me: You want to know what I think?

HW: Yes. Do you think homosexuality is a sin?

Me: No. A mutual relationship between two consenting adults is hardly damaging. I am much more concerned with any relationship, heterosexual marriage or otherwise, that is abusive.

HW: Aha. So you are putting a degree on types of sins.

Me: sigh. In case you are wondering, this film did not change my mind regarding homosexuality. I had my views prior to watching it.

HWH: I have been thinking about this issue and wondering what I would do if one of my kids was homosexual. Of course it is a sin, and they would have to abstain, but I still want to love them. I had a gay uncle and he was the one who made sure we got to church when we were little. I have great respect for him.

CP: You know, I lived with my husband before we got married and my mother stopped speaking to me. Of course, it wasn’t the best thing for us, but if my kids made some decisions that weren’t the best I would still want them to feel loved by me.

HW: The bible is against homosexuality. It is clear! Read this passage on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Me: Well, if you actually read it, you will see that homosexuality wasn’t the sin. The sin was breaking the hospitality code. The people refused to offer shelter to the strangers and instead wanted to abuse them. If it was about sex, then why was Lot still considered righteous for offering his two young daughters to be gang raped by the mob? That is righteousness according to God?

BP: She is right. When Ezekiel talks about the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, he says it was because they were unkind to the poor. It wasn’t about homosexuality.

HWH: But, if we stop following the Bible’s rules about sex, anything is ok. What if I started liking 10 year old girls?

Me: Well, according to the Bible, that is ok. As long as you pay the girl’s father for it. Better if you marry her after, though.

 HW: What! No!

Me: Read it. There is no law against pedophilia. Honestly, I would have put that in there. But I wasn’t consulted when the Bible was being written.

Shocked silence. Looks of scandal.

Me: That was supposed to be a joke. Funny, not consulted… Ok. Well, I for one do not want to be on the side of the Pharisees. Do you know that there are Christian groups who are glorying in the high rate of suicides of GLTB teens? It is Christians who are spreading hate – how is that like Christ?

HWH: But it was Christians who opposed slavery.

Me: And it was Christians who fought hard to keep slavery. And used the Bible to justify it.

HWH: No!

BP: She is right. Of course, we find lots of rules about slavery in the Bible.

Me: Which they took to be God sanctioning slavery.

BP: Yes. But I see it as God’s rules for an imperfect world needed for that time.

Me: Why can’t we apply that to other rules in the Bible?

BP: Well, we can’t just pick and choose according to what we like.

Me: Well, according to the Leviticus passage, homosexual acts are just as much an abomination as to wear mixed blend clothing, cut your hair a certain way or to menstruate. So if we aren’t picking and choosing, either they are all bad or we don’t follow those rules any more. Lets be honest; we don’t give everything in the Bible equal weight.

BP: I think we should keep everything in the Bible as equal importance. I think there is a danger in elevating one part of scripture above another.

Me: Ok, well which birth story is right then? If we give them all equal weight then some of the accounts are wrong. Same with the resurrection.

HW: Wait, what do you mean the stories don’t match?

BP: They don’t. The details are different, you know, who did what and when, how many. That has always fascinated me. Well, I think you are in real danger of missing who God is if you don’t take the whole bible seriously and with equal weight.

Me: Well, I came from a literalist church. I cannot take the entire Bible literally or I am left with an evil schizophrenic god who condones gang rape, genocide and murder of children. By allowing myself to read the Bible differently, I can still find a loving wise god who cares for the outcasts.

HWH: Well, back to the Christians promoting slavery. They weren’t real Christians.

Me: They thought they were. Who has the right to say who is or isn’t a Christian?

HWH: I do.

Me: Ok. Who is a Christian?

HWH: Someone who believes and who doesn’t have any idols before God.

Me: Are you a Christian according to your definition?

 HWH: No. I mean. I am not perfect. But Jesus… (silence)

CP: You know, that is something I struggle with. Being a Christian is supposed to be about the heart. About grace. But, then there are all these rules. I don’t know how they fit together. I guess I’m just not that smart to figure it out. God is a mystery.

Me: Lets think about grace and love then. We have run out of time. The rest of the DVD is very good. I suggest we finish watching it and discussing it next time.

HW: I don’t want to see any more. Homosexuality is a sin. You can’t change my mind.

Me: I assume everyone here is an adult and can make up their own minds.

On that note, let us pray for greater love and understanding. May we grow more and more like Christ this coming week.

End Scene.

Afterwards:

BP: You know, I am more liberal than many think and more conservative too because I base my beliefs on the bible. For example, I get my views on women in leadership from the bible. I’ll be praying for you. Umm. Can I borrow that DVD?

Sigh. Now I’ve reinforced the slippery slope. Let a woman lead and the next thing you know we will be accepting homosexuals into churches and then people won’t even be reading the bible literally and the atheists win! On the other hand, let a woman lead and learn about empathy and compassion, rigorous study of the bible and intellectual honesty. We’ll see where they fall. This church is teetering on the edge of becoming more fundamentalist or more liberal. They’ve already lost a significant number of attendants because they weren’t fundy enough. I don’t envy them.

17 thoughts on “Bible Study Surprise

  1. Ahab says:

    You ROCK! You did an awesome job by showing “For the Bible Tells Me So” and challenging their views on homophobia and scriptural inerrency. I’ll admit, you showed more patience that I could have in that situation.

  2. prairienymph says:

    Of course, I laughed about it afterwards. Including about how they ‘forgave’ me for tricking them into thinking about how to be more Christ-like. Good thing the lights were dim since I was smirking a lot, especially about the whole ‘you can’t pick and choose what you like from the bible, but I can’ conversations.

  3. All through this I kept thinking, “You rock! You’re awesome.” But Ahab beat me to it. This truly made my whole day though. You are my hero! I am an atheist but would totally reconsider my aversion to Bible study classes if we lived closer. Best entertainment of the week!

  4. prairienymph says:

    I’m an athiest too. I figured I only had one chance to lead a bible study before they found out, so I had to pick my issue.

    We have been slowly letting the group know we are on a journey, but they have deliberately misunderstood. Pastor’s Wife is coming over this week and I’ll see if we are still welcome at bible study. I don’t enjoy the study much anymore but I do like visiting with everyone. We’ve been avoiding the studies and trying to just social events, but that has been hurtful too. Actually, PW thought that my husband was leading me astray 🙂

    It seems like I’m mourning already. This group has been like a family and I really care about them. I want to support BP and Pastor’s wife in their caring of the community and not cause them deep stress.

    I guess we’ll see if I can be honest and still be friends. I don’t think we’ll be close friends anymore though.

  5. You little subversive person, you!
    I am surprise that PW would read Esther to young kids if she was so unprepared to explain it to them; had so little knowledge of the history and culture of the times. The bible certainly is NOT G-rated.
    Religious ideologues twist the bible to suit their political needs, as they have always done. Those who abolished slavery were not Christians, they were liberals. Those who promote tolerance and acceptance are not Christians they are liberals. They may be Christian, Hindu, Muslim even atheist but none of those are the defining characteristic. It is liberalism.

  6. theo(il)logical says:

    LOL! This “transcript” reminds me how I similarly tormented a certain someone during bible study. Anyway, just some thoughts I had while reading:

    To strengthen your argument, PN: Pink was a “boys’ colour” much more recently than during the Middle Ages. Try the 20th century: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink#In_gender and http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/aug/25/genderissues That more recent history is much more difficult to dismiss than the Middle Ages. In any case, you did well to point this fact out.

    I found PW’s response to your insistence re: watching the documentary to be very irritating and irrational: “I think the DVD would be too compelling. I’m scared.” It has never ceased to amaze me when Christians behave as if the Truth is so fragile that a potential untruth can destroy it. To me that is no Truth at all! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Isn’t it strange that God could defeat Satan some 2000 years ago, but that God still struggles against modern science? Seems to me that this kind of religious faith is deeply flawed. (Note, I’m not saying that religious faith itself is flawed.)

    I’d be interested in hearing why HW thought she had a right to judge who is and who isn’t a “real Christian?” Perhaps there was an opening in the Holy Trinity everyone else was unaware of!

    @Blogg Fodder: I’m not convinced that liberalism is the magic answer either. Liberalism has a dark history of its own. One which historians and political theorists (often liberals themselves!) have been compelled to address in recent years: http://www.amazon.com/Liberalism-Empire-Nineteenth-Century-British-Liberal/dp/0226518825 and http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120157 And then there’s that whole “neo-liberal” thing . . .

    • prairienymph says:

      I think the reason HWH thought he could judge who was or wasn’t a Christian was only because he wanted to distance himself from anyone who was pro-slavery.

      And I actually found PW’s reason for not watching it honest. She at least had the courage to admit it was her own irrational fear instead of finding a lame excuse. She is a peace-maker type person who avoids conflict if possible and is aware of that. Some day I’ll bring it up again one-on-one.

      And I doubt Blog Fodder thinks liberalism is a magic bullet! He is too aware of politics to be so idealistic about any ideology. The fact that liberalism is more responsible for abolition of slavery than mere Christianity is a good point though, and one I did not bring up since in this conservative city, ‘liberal’ is a bad word. I did not want to sidetrack the conversation, and honestly, if I was openly on the side of liberal anything, I knew minds would shut off even faster.

      I’d love to lead another study, but I think that was my last shot. The last one I did was a year earlier when I asked people to bring passages about the character of God that they loved or hated to discuss.
      Supposedly, we are all to take turns but I have noticed that the women rarely lead studies, and I love to do it but have only done about 1 a year.

  7. grasshopper says:

    You’re a brave lady.

    I’ve been considering getting that DVD for my parents but after the conversations I had with them over the holidays I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t help. A lifetime of indoctrination has left them incapable of thinking outside the limits set for them by the church, and they’re afraid to even try.

    I’m glad you got that ball rolling, though. Maybe a little seed will sprout in their minds.

    • prairienymph says:

      You are in a frustrating conversation, grasshopper. :p Congrats on your engagement btw!!

      A friend of mine whose right-wing religious mother stopped speaking to her after her divorce (full of abuse and neglect) actually listened to her recently and had a conversation with her about her current ‘lifestyle’ choices. (She is bisexual.) She asked to lend her mom the DVD next, but I doubt she would have even a year ago.

  8. Ahab says:

    By the way, will you be facilitating future Bible studies with this group? If so, what other materials will you be sharing with them?

    • theo(il)logical says:

      May I suggest “Jesus of Montreal”? It’s about a secular/non-religious group of actors who are hired by a church to direct and perform the annual passion play — and give it new life. As the actors explore the narrative and do research they come up with a play is at odds with the church and that challenges the authority of the church itself. In short, the movie becomes a kind of post-Christian passion play about a passion play in which the church are the pharisees and the secular actors become the early church. It’s the ultimate post-modern, post-religious passion play you’ll ever see; and it can be upsetting for religious conservatives (or for those who utterly detest subtitles).

  9. Grace says:

    Great post. The exchange kind of speaks for itself.

  10. HeIsSailing says:

    Beautiful, prairienymph. This excange reminds me of some of the home Bible studies that I lead when I was secretly leaving Christianity. The leaders would not stand for such subversion for very long, so enjoy it while you can!

  11. “Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things…every one! So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, ‘Liberal,’ as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won’t work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor.” — Matt Santos, The West Wing

  12. DoOrDoNot says:

    I enjoyed reading the dialogue immensely. Wish I could have been there. It’s too bad that it is often so difficult to have honest, dispassionate exploration of potentially divisive topics. I admire your courage. The closest I’ve come is leading a book club at church on topics converging around science and religion, such as evolution. But, I began by hand picking the first participants, so I felt safe enough to have controversial discussions.

  13. HeIsSailing says:

    DoorDoNot says:
    “Wish I could have been there. It’s too bad that it is often so difficult to have honest, dispassionate exploration of potentially divisive topics.”

    Doesn’t it suck that in home Bible studies, we have to be so careful about what topics to discuss and how we are going to go about discussing them? I remember in one held in our house, this teenage boy who always attended with his parents, and who was mildly autistic, had a bit of a jolt when somebody mentioned in an offhand manner slavery in the Bible. You had to be real careful what you said around this autistic kid, because he took everything that was said seriously.

    “Dad, is it true? Is there slavery in the Bible?”

    OH man, you could have felt the tension in that room – we all waited a second for his dad to collect his thoughts and see how he was going to answer. Isn’t it amazing that an innocent question was asked about the Bible, and we all got a bit nervous about it? Some Holy book…

    “Yes son, there is slavery,” said very carefully.

    “Why? Why were there slaves?”

    “Some of them were prisoners of war. Some of them were slaves to pay off debts.”

    “Oh. Okay.”

    Conversation was over. We all breathed easier when he did not persue that uncomfortable subject.

    • prairienymph says:

      I wouldn’t say it was dispassionate…

      Amazing, hey, how scared people are to look at the Bible.

      With my old church we would often have studies with topics such as “the role of women” or “headcoverings” or “intelligent design”. There were some good discussions, but in the end the elders could trump anything we found in the Bible or extrabiblical historical material by claiming the Holy Spirit had given them special knowlege and we were to submit to their rank.

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