Book Review: “Religion as Metaphor”

“All of the Bible is true and some of it happened.”
Rev Bosco Peters reviews “Religion as Metaphor”, by David Tracey

Religion as Metaphor: Beyond Literal Belief by David Tacey

I hope David Tacey’s book is another doorway into the realisation of the importance of metaphor. It rightly argues that the new atheism and fundamentalism are both misunderstanding the stories literalistically.

I regularly encounter a fear that if someone questions the historicity (or validity) of a detail in the Bible, then the whole fabric of the Bible might unravel. “You cannot believe half of it, so why believe any of it?”

Many stories in the Bible, however, are not about something that happened somewhere else at another time, they are stories about what is always happening (including here and now) – and that’s what gives them their power. The right question to ask of such stories is not: what actually happened? But: what does it mean?

More at:

Christianity: A Tree Growing Up From the Soil of Scripture – Brian Zahnd

Why biblical precepts must be interpreted with regard to historic context:

This summer I spoke to a group of teens at our youth camp. My assigned topic was, “What’s the Deal with the Bible?” I began my talk by reading this passage from the Bible. “When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.” (Exodus 21:20, 21)

Source: Christianity: A Tree Growing Up From the Soil of Scripture – Brian Zahnd

David Loves Jonathan – Westar Institute

The Old Testament is no place for wimps. It is filled with men like Joshua, who razed the walls of Jericho and slaughtered its inhabit­ants, “both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys” (Joshua 6:21). Sampson slaughtered an army of a thousand Philistines wielding only the jawbone of an ass (Judges 15:15). Even the Israelite women were tough. An especially good example is Jael, who lured the Canaanite general, Sisera, into her tent, got him drunk, laid him, and then, as he slept it off, drove a tent peg through his head (Judges 4:21).

The Four Rs of Literacy

But the toughest, cleverest, most illustrious warrior of them all was David. Remember him? His exploits are related in the biblical books of First and Second Samuel. In Bible School I learned that as a mere boy, David took on Goliath, a real live giant, and with­out sword or shield, brought him down with just a sling and a stone. Then, as the giant lay unconscious upon the ground, David drew Goliath’s own sword and cut off his head with it. The Bible says that when the Philistines saw this, they fled. When I saw the color il­lustration of this in my Bible, I thought it was cool. Another legend relates how David won his way into the royal family by presenting King Saul with the foreskins of two hundred Philistines. This was not illustrated in my Bible. Eventually, David himself would become king, subdue the Philistines, and establish a kingdom that would be the symbol of Israel’s Golden Age for centuries to come.

Source: David Loves Jonathan – Westar Institute

“When a Man Lies with a Man as with a Woman” – Westar Institute

People today widely believe that the Bible condemns being gay. They get this idea from, well, reading the Bible. When most people leaf to Leviticus 18:22 in their Bibles, they read something like this: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.” In Leviticus 20:13 they find identical words, only adding death by stoning as punishment. That seems pretty clear. End of story. In our early twenty-first-century American culture, a man who “lies with a man as with a woman” is usually thought to be gay.

But the Bible was not written in our day nor for our time. These two texts were written about 2,500 years ago in a time and place scholars generally refer to as the Ancient Near East. What did it mean for “a man to lie with a man as with a woman” in the Ancient Near East? Male-male same-gendered sex in the Ancient Near East—so far as ancient texts discussed it—had three possible meanings: domination, recreation, and religious devotion. To understand the first, one need only think today of prison sex or war-time rape, or read the news from Syria, where male rape has recently emerged as a tool of government repression. This modern thing is actually a very old thing. In the Ancient Near East male-on-male sex was usually seen as an act of violence. This was (and is) not gay sex. It was heterosexual phallic aggression. It was generally frowned upon, unless done in a context where violence and domination were the point, as in war. Today the practice is shocking. In the ancient world, not so much.

Source:  – Westar Institute

The Biblical Case for Embracing Transgender by Rev. Lawrence Richardson

Gender is a socially constructed term that categorizes people by real or perceived physical/sexual characteristics. The word transgender is a relatively new term that encompasses a multitude of gender identities and expressions inclusive of those identities and expressions that most closely resemble the eunuchs we read about in the Bible.

Eunuchs are people who, for various reasons, live a different kind of sexual reality. Some eunuchs are that way because they are born with ambiguous genitalia. Some eunuchs undergo genital modification and are made eunuchs by others. Some eunuchs make the conscious choice to alter their own physical realities out of a desire to live more congruently with a higher reality.

In Isaiah 56, the prophet lays out the terms and conditions for living in covenant with God. He begins the chapter by saying that to choose what is right brings pleasure to God. In verse 4, the prophet says that even the stranger and the eunuch, who were traditionally looked down upon by the people of Israel, are free to live in covenant with God. In verse 5, the prophet proclaims that God’s way of righteousness and covenant is extended to all and their reward will be their reputation and legacy.

Source: The Biblical Case for Embracing Transgender by Rev. Lawrence Richardson

Pope Francis again blasts moral legalism by religious leaders 

Pope Francis has criticized those who care more about the letter of the law than people’s individual situations, continuing to assert the overarching theme of the landmark apostolic exhortation on the family he issued last week.

Speaking during his homily at Mass on Monday (April 11), Francis warned Catholics against such behavior by recalling the day’s scripture reading from the Acts of the Apostles in which Stephen is accused of blasphemy by religious leaders of the day.

“Their hearts, closed to God’s truth, clutch only at the truth of the Law, taking it by ‘the letter,’ and do not find outlets other than in lies, false witness and death,” Francis said, according to the report by Vatican Radio.

Source: – CRUX

Easter Sunday: Resurrection and God’s Faithfulness

The resurrection does not solve our problems about dying and death. It is not the happy ending to our life’s struggle, nor is it the big surprise that God has kept in store for us. No, the resurrection is the expression of God’s faithfulness…. The resurrection is God’s way of revealing to us that nothing that belongs to God will ever go to waste. What belongs to God will never get lost. –Henri Nouwen, Our Greatest Gift About these ads

Source: =Bondings 2.0

Jesus in Love Blog: Day 3: Jesus has a Last Supper, prays alone and is arrested

““And during supper…one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus.” — — John 13:2, 23 (RSV)

Friends get together for an intimate dinner in “The Last Supper” from “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” a series of 24 paintings by Douglas Blanchard. The contemporary Christ figure dines with twelve people, the classic dozen disciples, but they are a multi-racial group of many ages, orientations, and gender identities. An elderly black woman sits beside a white businessman. A drag queen in high heels holds hands with a man. The face of Jesus looks almost the same as when he was preaching in the temple… impassive. He wraps his arms around the men beside him. The whole group is joined by touch, and yet they are not completely united. They express emotions ranging from surprise to sorrow, and each one looks in a different direction. Plates hold food for a Passover Seder meal, including matzo bread, a hard-boiled egg, and roast lamb. A single glass of blood-red wine stands out against the drab colors, hinting at the sacrifice to come. The room is simple, lit only by a bare light bulb. They are seated in a way that invites viewers to join them at the table.

All four gospels describe the final meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before he was arrested. Biblical accounts of the Last Supper are full of dramatic details and dialogue, making it possible to imagine what happened on that fateful night. Jesus announced to his startled disciples that one of them would betray him. They were shocked again when he identified the bread and wine as his own body and blood, urging them to eat and drink their share of it. By giving new meaning to the Passover meal, he helped prepare them for his impending death He summarized his teachings on love and gave them a new commandment: Love each other as I have loved you. He prayed for believers in the present and future. He told them that the greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends.

Source: Jesus in Love Blog: Day 3: Jesus has a Last Supper, prays alone and is arrested (Gay Passion of Christ series)

Jesus drives out the money changers and preaches in the Temple (Gay Passion of Christ series)

“He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” — John 2:13 (RSV)

An angry modern-day Christ figure disrupts business in “Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers.” Jesus, hair flying, overturns tables stacked with money. Coins scatter, bills flutter away, and the men in suits run. A crowd in the background yanks off the barred gate that separates them from the wealthy money managers. One security guard struggles to keep out the mob. Another officer reaches to grab Jesus by the shoulder. Jesus looks like a freedom fighter standing up against greed and income inequality. The setting appears to be a present-day church office or financial institution with statues, classic columns, and a hanging lamp.

All four gospels describe what is commonly called “the cleansing of the temple.” By some accounts Jesus kicked the money changers out of the Temple as soon as he arrived in Jerusalem. When he saw them taking advantage of people’s faith in God, he exploded. It was the only time that Jesus used physical violence in the Bible. Jesus poured out the coins of the money changers and turned over their tables. Then he made a whip of cords and used it to chase them out, along with the sacrificial animals that they were selling. Nothing made Jesus angrier than religious hypocrisy. He yelled, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.” It was one of many occasions when he blasted religious leaders for exploiting the poor. He talked more about money than anything else except God.

Source: Jesus in Love Blog

Jesus Enters the City on Palm Sunday (Gay Passion of Christ series)

“And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus.’” –Matthew 21:10-11 (RSV)

A crowd marches under an arch with a charismatic young man on horseback in “Jesus Enters the City” from “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” a series of 24 paintings by Douglas Blanchard. Signs for “freedom” and “justice” make it a rally for almost any cause, from marriage equality and LGBT rights to the Occupy movement or the Tea Party. The masses adore Jesus as if he was a rock star or political leader. They stretch their hands up to him, grasping for the savior that they expect him to be. The group expresses 21st-century diversity: male and female, multi-racial, young and old, queer and straight, able-bodied and wheelchair-bound. A mother and daughter lead the way, along with a black man who holds the horse’s reins. In the middle of this “triumph,” Jesus bends down to be embraced by someone unnoticed and out of view. He is focused on something that others ignore. By passing through the arch, Jesus leaves his old life behind to meet the new challenges ahead.

Source: Jesus in Love Blog