"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105
In spite of the controversies surrounding it, and the seeming disinterest by many in our world, the Bible continues to be the best-selling book of all time, outselling all others each year. I wonder if the debates drive the demand? Our United Methodist Church is facing a split, not over accepting gay people as traditionalists say (wink-wink, nod-nod), but over who is more faithful to scripture. Of course, being faithful to scripture is what allows some to turn the Bible into a weapon that demonizes, excludes, and shuns people. It's hard to talk about using the Bible without acknowledging the way the Bible has been misused.
One of the worst examples of the Bible's misuse is the picture above. That is a photo of what came to be known as The Slave's Bible. One of the ways slavery was made to appear acceptable in America was to encourage Christian plantation owners to convert their slaves. That made human trafficking and exploitation ok in their eyes. Slaves will at least learn they can have a better life in heaven (with a separate section no doubt!) by learning the Bible and turning to Christ.
So The Slave Bible was developed just for slaves. How nice of those owners! But there was a problem, parts of the Bible talked about God's desire for liberation and the way God loves all people the same. So to make sure slaves didn't get any ideas, those parts of the Bible were taken out, parts like the exodus story under Moses. Owners didn't want slaves thinking equality and freedom were something for this life. The Slave Bible stands out as one of the most disgusting misuses of the Bible in history.
Yet, here's the peculiar thing. Slaves still found hope in the stories of scripture. People like Harriett Tubman found inspiration to escape and become a liberator of other slaves. Despite human efforts to distort the message, God's word of truth prevailed.
It still does.
This Sunday, we will consider the importance of scripture in our faith journeys. There are many ways to tear down the Bible. You can find inconsistencies and human flaws throughout. You can point to the way the Bible has been misused. Yet what makes the Bible powerful is not what people do with it but what God does with it. With all of its troubled history and past, God still speaks words of hope, comfort, and challenge to people through these ancient words. God still uses the Bible to help individuals see a picture of their lives worth living for, and a picture of our world - worthy of our best efforts to bring about change. This Sunday, we will explore the power of the Bible and how we as centrist-progressive United Methodists take a high view of scripture.
So don't miss this Sunday...and BYOB (bring your own Bible)!