Monday, September 21, 2009

Blades and Bludgeons

One thing that invariably surfaces in any ongoing conversation with a fundamentalist (hi Mark!) is their assertion that every single word of the Bible is the Word with a Capital Wubbleyou. Every last word must be equally important, because it was all written down by God. Therefore, we must all show equal deference to every text, and view every one of the books that make up the Bible as saying exactly the same thing.

They don't, of course, which is why literalism spends so much time creating a swirling defensive frenzy of meticulously interlocking rationalizations. But as I was musing over the repartee I've had recently and in the distant past, I was struck by something. When literalism brings scripture into an argument, it tends to be used as a bludgeon. Because it's approached like a large, univocal mass, it too often gets wielded like a blunt instrument. You must accept all of this! Whack! All of this! Whack! Every! Whack! Last! Whack! Iota! WHACK!

In debates, the literalist approach is typically to just pound people over and over again with the Bible, with the idea that eventually they'll yield. Or run away. Or just carry their deep bruises around for the rest of their lives, along with the conviction that Christianity exists primarily to hurt people.

Unlike some of my progressive brethren, I'm perfectly willing to take up our sacred texts when the time comes to battle. If you understand it, scripture can be a potent thing. But not as a bludgeon. Not ever.

Used properly, it's a blade. It's got an edge. The edge of the blade is...well...the heart of the Bible, it's finest point. It's not so much a club as a sword, or better yet, a scalpel.

And like a scalpel, it's purpose is not to pound folks into submission, but to heal.